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ACI Prensa's latest initiative is the Catholic News Agency (CNA), aimed at serving the English-speaking Catholic audience. ACI Prensa (www.aciprensa.com) is currently the largest provider of Catholic news in Spanish and Portuguese.
Updated: 2 hours 39 min ago

After AG report, Michigan dioceses clarify cooperation in reporting abuse

3 hours 49 min ago

Lansing, Mich., Feb 23, 2019 / 04:37 am (CNA).- Catholic dioceses in the state of Michigan are reaffirming their commitment to reporting sex abuse, while asking for clarifications about recent claims made by state Attorney General Dana Nessel.

Nessel claimed in a recent update that dioceses are “self-policing,” using non-disclosure agreements and “failing to deliver” on their promises to cooperate with law enforcement authorities.

In response, the Archdiocese of Detroit said the update made “broad generalizations” that call for clarity.

“The Archdiocese of Detroit does not self-police,” the archdiocese said Feb. 21. “We encourage all victims to report abuse directly to law enforcement.”

“Clergy with credible accusations against them do not belong in ministry,” it continued. “Since the attorney general’s investigation began, the Archdiocese of Detroit has not received notification from that office regarding credible accusations against any of our priests. Should we become aware of such a complaint, we will act immediately.”

“Since 2002, the Archdiocese of Detroit has not entered into any non-disclosure agreements, unless specifically requested by a survivor of abuse, as required by the Catholic Church in the United States. In addition, the archdiocese does not enforce any non-disclosure agreements signed prior to 2002. We encourage all abuse survivors to share their stories.”

Other dioceses made similar points, and some said they had not yet been asked to stop internal investigations.

At a Feb. 21 press conference, Nessel gave an update about the Catholic clerical sex abuse investigations in Michigan begun in August 2018 under her predecessor, Bill Schuette. In October 2018 law enforcement conducted simultaneous raids on the offices of the state’s seven Roman Catholic dioceses.

Nessel said these raids involved close to 70 officers and special agents and 14 assistant attorneys general.

“We did not depend on the dioceses to turn over documents, which is what primarily happened in other states,” she said. Investigators are reviewing hundreds of thousands of pages of documents, including Church procedures regarding abuse allegations and investigations.

“Unfortunately, the reality is there are predators in the priesthood that are still out there and we feel as though they have to be stopped and we need to ensure this doesn’t happen again and bad actors are consistently held accountable,” she said.

Nessel estimated the investigation will take about two years, suggesting over 1,000 sex abuse victims could be found. She did not discuss how her office estimated that number, the Michigan news site Mlive.com reports.

State authorities have received 300 tips since the launch of the investigation. The attorney general said a report will be released at the end of the investigations. She contended that the Church was currently “self-policing” and said this should stop.

“If an investigator comes to your door and asks to speak with you, please ask to see their badge and not their rosary,” Nessel said. “Victims may believe that they cannot or should not report abuse to us because the Church is going to handle it. That's simply not true.”

She cited reports from victims that they were encouraged to agree to settlements and sign nondisclosure agreements. Those who have signed such agreements have the right to speak to law enforcement, she said. Even if alleged abuse falls beyond the statute of limitations, a report can be useful in other prosecutions.

“We can, and we will, follow the trail of abuse where it’s occurred.”

First-degree criminal sexual conduct has no statute of limitations for criminal prosecution under state law. All other levels of criminal sexual conduct have a limit of 10 years from the time of the crime or from the time the victim turns 21, whichever comes later.

The attorney general’s update drew different reactions.

“We were surprised by some of the statements made this morning,” said Candace Neff, communications director for the Gaylord diocese, which pledged continued cooperation and assistance for the investigation.

“We are very grateful for the assistance of the attorney general in this process,” Neff said, adding that the diocese has not received a request to cease all internal review processes.

“We hope to receive clarification on this request soon,” she said.

Neff said the diocese looks forward to the attorney general’s final report and shares the goals of intending “to respond with compassion for victim-survivors, to properly prosecute offenders, to prevent anyone from being abused in the future, and to bring about healing for those who have been harmed in the past.”

Col. Joe Gasper, head of the Michigan State Police, said the best agents have been assigned to this “exceptionally complex and complicated” case.

“We have high standards within the Michigan State Police and I can assure you we won’t be cutting any corners … and let the citizens of Michigan down,” he said, according to Mlive.com. “We take all leads seriously. It’s critically important that we hear directly from you when you have information to provide.”

Gasper said that cooperation of Church officials varies from diocese to diocese.

The investigators’ clergy abuse hotline is at (1-844-324-3374) and available at the website mi.gov/clergyabuse

Nessel’s office has sent letters to every parish in the state asking them to tell parishioners about the investigation.

The Detroit archdiocese noted its support for mandatory sex abuse reporting laws and its education efforts of its mandated reporters. It said it has worked to help parishes publicize the state’s sex abuse tip-line.

The archdiocese said it places no time limits on reports of sex abuse of minors by priests, deacons and other personnel. The archdiocese added that the attorney general’s office has not asked it to stop internal review processes.

“These internal investigations are required under Church law, and their purpose is to restrict or remove from ministry anyone who has committed sexual abuse of a minor or vulnerable adult,” it said.

In September, Bishop Earl Boyea of Lansing said that the diocese would name priests with credible sex abuse allegations after a review from an external agency. The attorney general’s raid on diocesan offices put that review on hold, since it took possession of all clergy files, the Lansing State Journal reports.

A spokesman for the Lansing diocese said the diocese will cooperate with the investigation and with the request that internal reviews be put on hold. At the same time, he said, the diocese will conduct its own review after the investigation.

The diocese’s general counsel was recently hired after seven years with the attorney general’s office. The diocese said its general counsel “promptly reports alleged crimes to the attorney general and local prosecutors” when alleged victims report to the diocese rather than legal authorities.

“The diocese welcomes this review of our handling of abuse cases. We are confident in our processes. We have and will continue to reach out to law enforcement with these matters,” the Lansing diocese said Feb. 21. “We know of no one active in ministry in our diocese who has abused a child. The last known event of abuse of a minor occurred prior to 2002.”

“There is no place in the Church for anyone who would harm a child. It is important that anyone committing these crimes is brought to justice. We continue to pray that Christ will bring healing to all victims and to his Church,” said the Lansing diocese, encouraging anyone with knowledge of any kind of abuse to contact protective services or the police.

The Diocese of Marquette said no one presently in ministry is known to have abused a child. It encouraged individuals to report all sex abuse of minors, “no matter when the abuse occurred,” to local law enforcement and to the state attorney general’s office. The diocese is committed to “fully cooperating” with the state investigation and has “fully complied” with requests for information, it said.

In a short statement the Kalamazoo diocese affirmed continued cooperation with the investigation and encouraged anyone with information of suspected abuse to report it to the attorney general. It offered prayers for victims.

The Grand Rapids diocese similarly said it is continuing to cooperate with the investigation and reports all sex abuse allegations to law enforcement. It has not been notified by the attorney general of any credible accusations against its priests and will take “immediate action” if it is.

Some dioceses noted their past efforts at cooperation. The Detroit archdiocese said that in 2002 it turned over past case files involving clergy misconduct and committed to turning over all new allegations “regardless of when the alleged abuse occurred.” The Gaylord diocese said it “voluntarily reported all known allegations of sexual abuse of minors involving clergy of our diocese” 16 years ago.

'Unplanned' gets unexpected R rating

Fri, 02/22/2019 - 19:11

Washington D.C., Feb 22, 2019 / 05:11 pm (CNA).- The movie “Unplanned,” which tells the true story of former Planned Parenthood clinic director Abby Johnson’s conversion into a pro-life activist, has been given an R rating by the Motion Picture Association of America, a decision the directors fear could have been motivated by the pro-life message of the film.

The rating was announced Friday, Feb. 22.

"We had hoped that (the rating) would be different, but due to the political climate, and the fact that we're in Hollywood, it doesn't surprise us," co-director Chuck Konzelman told CNA.

Co-director Cary Solomon agreed, adding, “we’ve made a pro-life film in a pro-choice town. We’re very aware of that.”

By giving the film an a R-rating, Konzelman said that he believes the MPAA is inadvertently supporting the belief that “anything that has to do with abortion is an act of extreme violence.”

"Ironically, that's (also) our viewpoint," he said.  

In the United States, a film that is rated R by the MPAA is restricted to those over the age of 17 unless accompanied by a parent or another adult guardian. The MPAA said “Unplanned” earned the rating due to “some disturbing/bloody images.”

Solomon told CNA that he found it to be “absurd” that Unplanned was given an R-rating when several, far more violent, movies to be released later this year were given PG-13 ratings.

Despite the R-rating, “Unplanned”’s  directors told CNA that Christians should not worry about seeing the film alongside their children.

"For us, R means 'recommend.' Because the bottom line is that this is real life,” Solomon told CNA.

“It's time for Christians to come to the reality of the fact that (abortion) is going on. If a rating is going to keep them from even looking at this subject, then shame on us,” he added.

Konzelman agreed, and told CNA that there is no nudity or profanity in the film that would merit an R-rating.

“They're not even mentioning violence, other than the violence directly associated with the termination of an unborn human being. That's it. That's all that's in there," said Konzelman.

Unplanned is based on Johnson’s 2012 book of the same name. Johnson quit her job at Planned Parenthood in October of 2009, one year after being named employee of the year, after she had been asked to assist with a late-term abortion.

In the film, multiple scenes depicting an abortion clinic involve blood or post-abortive women. The directors told CNA that the MPAA objected in particular to a scene that depicts Johnson bleeding on a bathroom floor after taking an abortion pill.

The directors said they would not change that particular scene, or anything else in the film, as they felt it would be disrespectful to Johnson’s personal story.

“We're not going to change it. It's a true-life story. To change it just to appease the MPAA or a Hollywood entity is not going to happen. We told the true-life story of Abby Johnson, and these are the things that are happening,” said Konzelman.

Solomon told CNA that in real life, Johnson nearly bled to death in her bathroom after self-administering the second drug in an abortion drug protocol.

“For us to avoid that, for the sake of appeasing the MPAA, would make the story untrue,” said Solomon.

Even if the filmmakers sought to make changes to get a lower rating, it would be quite difficult as "(the MPAA) pretty much objected to everything, including black and white images of a sonogram,” said Konzelman.

To make any changes would require that the filmmakers “gut the entire movie,” which they said they did not want to do.

Johnson herself had two abortions prior to her ideological conversion. Since then, she has founded the organization “And Then There Were None,” which seeks to assist abortion industry workers with finding new jobs outside the industry. Since the group was founded, nearly 500 clinic workers have left the industry.

After Johnson left her job at Planned Parenthood, she converted to Catholicism. She and her husband are now expecting their eighth child.

“Unplanned” stars Ashley Bratcher as Abby Johnson. During filming, Bratcher discovered that her own mother had planned on having an abortion when she was pregnant with her, but changed her mind minutes before the procedure was to begin.

“Unplanned” was written and directed by Konzelman and Solomon, who also wrote “God’s Not Dead” and “God’s Not Dead 2.” The movie was partially funded by Michael Lindell, a born-again Christian and the founder of the company MyPillow.

“Unplanned” is the first-ever R-rated film distributed by PureFlix, and will be released in theaters nationwide on March 29.

 

'Protect Life Rule' to strip Planned Parenthood of some federal funds

Fri, 02/22/2019 - 18:08

Washington D.C., Feb 22, 2019 / 04:08 pm (CNA).- After the Trump administration finalized new federal rules on Friday, by which abortion clinics will be ineligible to receive Title X Program funding. Planned Parenthood is expected to be stripped will be stripped of about $60 million in federal funds due to the rule change.

The finalized version of the “Protect Life Rule” was announced in a  Feb. 22 press release from the Department of Health and Human Services. Title X funding was not cut as a result of the new rules, which impact eligibility requirements.

“Today, the Trump administration took an imperative first step in the right direction by preventing Title X funds from being misused by those who promote and profit from abortion,” March for Life President Jeanne Mancini told CNA.

“Abortion is not healthcare, yet for decades the federal government has voluntarily supported abortion by subsidizing the industry with hundreds of millions of tax dollars every year,” Mancini said.

Title X is a federal program created in 1965 that subsidizes family-planning and preventative health services, including contraception, for low-income families. It has been frequently updated and subject to new regulations.

Among other provisions, the Protect Life Rule requires that there be a physical and financial separation between recipients of Title X funds and facilities that perform abortions. Clinics that provide “nondirective counseling” about abortion can still receive funds.  

Previous regulations, written during Bill Clinton’s presidency, not only allowed for health clinics that were co-located with abortion clinics to receive funds, but also required that Title X recipients refer patients for abortions.

Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), chairman of the Bipartisan Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, said the new rules move Title X closer to “its originally intended purpose--the provision of family planning services, not abortions.”

Smith said that Title X funding was “never” meant to promote abortion services.

“I am grateful that the Trump Administration has affirmed human life and dignity with this pro-child rule,” Smith said in a Feb. 22 statement.

President Donald Trump announced in May 2018 that his administration had proposed a rule that would block Planned Parenthood from receiving Title X funds.

“For decades, American taxpayers have been wrongfully forced to subsidize the abortion industry” through Title X funds, Trump told the crowd.

He said then that this new rule is “another promise” he had kept to the pro-life movement.

Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser said in a Feb. 22 statement that she was thankful Trump took “decisive action to detangle taxpayers from the big abortion industry led by Planned Parenthood.”

Dannenfelser, like Smith, wrote that she felt as though Title X had strayed from its original intentions as a family planning program.

“The Title X program was not intended to be a slush fund for abortion businesses like Planned Parenthood, which violently ends the lives of more than 332,000 unborn babies a year and receives almost $60 million a year in Title X taxpayer dollars. We thank President Trump and (HHS) Secretary Azar for ensuring that the Title X program is truly about funding family planning, not abortion.”

Planned Parenthood is still eligible for federal funds that are not part of Title X. Last year, Planned Parenthood received over $500 million in federal funding.

 

Little Rock diocese welcomes Roe-triggered abortion ban in Arkansas

Fri, 02/22/2019 - 13:03

Little Rock, Ark., Feb 22, 2019 / 11:03 am (CNA).- The Diocese of Little Rock has said that a law signed Tuesday banning abortion in Arkansas in the event that Roe v. Wade is overturned is a step toward a future without the procedure.

“Act 180 is a welcome addition to the law in Arkansas and happily anticipates the day when our society can be free from the scourge of elective abortion on demand,” Catherine Phillips, diocesan respect life director, told CNA.

Governor Asa Hutchinson (R) signed Act 180 Feb. 19. The legislation had passed the Senate 29-6 earlier this month.  

The 1973 US Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade found that a woman had the right to seek an abortion in the United States. If the Supreme Court decision is overturned, then the law would automatically ban abortions in Arkansas except in cases of medical emergencies.

Phillips said the law is important because it takes a pro-life stance, especially amid a push for pro-abortion protections in other states. She pointed to a January law in New York that decriminalized the procedure and stripped it of most safeguards.

“It is important in comparison with what has been done recently in states like New York. Regrettably, other states are passing laws to perpetuate and expand abortion, but Act 180 stakes out a national position that supports life,” she said.

“Act 180 affirms that Arkansas disagrees with the finding of Roe v. Wade and stands for the position that life begins at conception and should be protected from that moment.”

Arkansas is the fifth state to ban abortion in case Roe is overturned. Trigger bans are also in effect in Louisiana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Mississippi. Similar bills have been introduced in Kentucky and Tennessee, and legislators in Oklahoma have signalled their intent to do the same.

President Donald Trump has promised to appoint pro-life justices to the Supreme Court. Were Roe overturned, states would be again free to outlaw abortion, which has led to Republican-leading states acting to ban abortion in case Roe is overturned, and Democratic-leaning states, including Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Mexico, working to enshrine abortion protections.

Since taking office in January 2017, Trump has appointed Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the bench.

Before the Arkansas Senate’s Feb. 7 vote on the bill, its sponsor, Republican Sen. Jason Rapert, said the bill reflected the state’s pro-life intentions.

"The state of Arkansas is clearly a pro-life state and our citizens have spoken clearly time and time again that we should protect the lives of unborn babies," said Rapert, according to Arkansas Online.

Arkansas currently bans abortion after 20 weeks into pregnancy. A bill has been introduced in the legislature to drop the limit to 18 weeks.

Vermont bishop: Abortion bill tests limits of human brokenness

Fri, 02/22/2019 - 05:14

Burlington, Vt., Feb 22, 2019 / 03:14 am (CNA).- With a bill to legalize abortion for any reason until birth advancing in Vermont, the local Catholic bishop has stressed that defending unborn babies is a matter of human rights.

“Do we really want to allow this? Do we really want to test the limits of where human brokenness can take us? Please God, no,” Bishop Christopher Coyne of Burlington said in a Feb. 15 statement.

Coyne cited his previous comments from January, saying the bill goes beyond Roe v. Wade and “does not recognize a viable life at any stage of pregnancy.”

“This bill will legalize infanticide. This is wrong,” he said.

The Vermont House of Representatives passed H. 57, called the “The Freedom of Choice Act,” on Feb. 21 by a vote of 106-36.

The bill had at least 90 co-sponsors in the House and has strong support in the state Senate. It claims to “safeguard the right to abortion” by ensuring it is not “denied, restricted, or infringed.” It bars the prosecution of “any individual” who performs or attempts to perform an abortion.

If it becomes law, the bill would strengthen the position of legal abortion in Vermont even if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns its 1973 decision Roe v. Wade and other precedents that mandate legal abortion nationwide.

Coyne said that advocates of the legislation claim that it will not be abused.

“But that is not what this bill says,” he added. “It says anyone has the right to kill her unborn child right up to the moment of birth, without any restriction or protection.”

While backers frame it as an issue of “women’s rights and healthcare,” he objected that the bill “allows abortions to be performed by non-physicians in non-medical settings” and “removes any rights or protections a woman might have in situations of coercion or malpractice.”

The legislation asserts that “every individual” has a fundamental right to choose or refuse contraception or sterilization, that “every individual who becomes pregnant has the fundamental right to choose to carry a pregnancy to term, give birth to a child, or to have an abortion”, and that “a fertilized egg, embryo, or fetus shall not have independent rights under Vermont law.”

The bill would apply to all branches of the state government and municipal governments.

Arguing against the bill, Coyne said opposition to legal abortion is a matter of both religion and reason.

“The Catholic Church stands for the protection of all life from the moment of conception until natural death, and therefore opposes abortion in all instances,” said the bishop.
This is “not just a matter of faith,” but “an issue of human rights.”

Bill sponsor Rep. Ann Pugh, (D-South Burlington), said Wednesday night that legislation will “reinforce a woman’s right to reproductive health care freedom.”

“The most unrepresented person or thing in the world or here in Vermont is a viable fetus that has not yet been born,” said bill opponent Rep. Robert Bancroft, R-Westford, the news site WCAX reports. “But it feels pain, it feels love and, unfortunately, we don't regard it as anything until the day it is born.”

Mary Hahn Beerworth, executive director of Vermont Right to Life, told the Washington Times that under the proposed law, notorious abortionist Kermit Gosnell could not be prosecuted.

“Planned Parenthood says trust us, and everybody loves Planned Parenthood here. They’ve dominated the state for decades,” she said. “But they’re not thinking, or they don’t care, that somebody could just move here tomorrow and undercut Planned Parenthood for price and run a Gosnell-like clinic.”

In 2013 Gosnell was convicted of three first-degree murders of babies who were born alive at his Philadelphia abortion clinic, which was kept in an unsanitary state and had not been visited by a state regulator in years. One former employee said he saw his staff snip the necks of about 100 babies born alive.

Gosnell was also convicted of involuntary manslaughter for a patient at his facility, a mother who died of a drug overdose.

Eileen Sullivan, spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, said Gosnell “ran a criminal enterprise, not a health care facility.”

“His case makes clear that we must enforce the laws already in existence that protect access to safe and legal abortion,” she said, according to the Washington Times. Sullivan contended that abortion regulations “would limit patients’ options and lead them to seek treatment from criminals like Gosnell.”

A January 2011 grand jury report on the Gosnell case found that inspections of his clinic identified violations but never required corrections up through 1993. With the 1995 transition to a governor who supported legal abortion, the report said, “officials concluded that inspections would be ‘putting a barrier up to women’ seeking abortions.”

Other legislation strengthening legal abortion has passed in New York and Massachusetts. Such legislation is under consideration in the New Mexico legislature.

Covington Catholic student sues Washington Post over Nathan Phllips story

Thu, 02/21/2019 - 12:39

Covington, Ky., Feb 21, 2019 / 10:39 am (CNA).- Attorneys for Covington Catholic High School student Nicholas Sandmann announced they filed a $250 million dollar lawsuit against the Washington Post after the newspaper reported that Sandmann harassed a Native American man following the March for Life.

The suit alleges that the Washington Post “engaged in a modern-day form of McCarthyism by competing with CNN and NBC, among others, to claim leadership of a mainstream and social media mob of bullies which attacked, vilified, and threatened Nicholas Sandmann.” They are seeking “compensatory and punitive damages.”

“This is only the beginning,” said the attorneys in a statement. Sandmann is being represented by attorneys Lin Wood and Todd McMurtry from the law firm Hemmer DeFrank Wessels.

The attorneys said are seeking $250 million as that was the amount Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos paid when his company, Nash Holdings, bought the Washington Post back in 2013.

A short video published to Twitter in January appeared to show Sandmann, who was wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat, standing in close proximity to Native American activist Nathan Phillips and smirking while Phillips changed and played a ceremonial drum.

Phillips was in Washington, D.C. for the Indigenous Peoples’ March, and the incident occurred near the Lincoln Memorial. Phillips told the media that the students had swarmed him, and had repeatedly chanted “build the wall” or “build that wall.”

The video quickly went viral, and many people called for the suspension or expulsion of Sandmann and his classmates as a punishment for their seemingly disrespectful behavior.

Sandmann’s diocese, as well as his high school, initially published statements condemning the behavior in the video.

As the weekend progressed, however, additional video was discovered that showed a far more nuanced context to the encounter between Phillips and Sandmann.

The new footage showed that Sandmann and his classmates had been harassed by members of the Black Hebrew Israelites, and began a counter-chant of their student section chants in an effort to drown out the Black Hebrew Israelites. The students denied chanting “build the wall,” and that chant could not be heard on various videos of the incident.

Additionally, video showed that Phillips had wandered into the crowd of Covington Catholic High School students - not the other way around - and had began beating a drum in Sandmann’s face.

In a statement released the day after the video went viral, Sandmann said that he had smiled in an effort to diffuse the tension of the situation and show that he was not a violent person.

The Diocese of Covington and Covington Catholic High School both withdrew their statements condemning the students. Bishop Roger Foys of Covington spoke to Covington Catholic students and apologized for his premature response to the incident.

A third-party investigation into the Covington Catholic students came to the conclusion that they had not instigated the encounter and that there was no evidence of them making any offensive or racist statements.

 

California bill would remove reporting exemption for priests in confessional

Thu, 02/21/2019 - 11:00

Sacramento, Calif., Feb 21, 2019 / 09:00 am (CNA).- A state senator in California introduced a bill Wednesday which would seek to force priests to violate the sacramental seal of confession in suspected cases of child abuse or neglect. Clergy are already mandatory reporters in the state of California, but there is a legal exemption for material disclosed in the confessional.

 

Senator Jerry Hill announced Bill 360 in the California senate on Feb. 20.

 

“Individuals who harm children or are suspected of harming children must be reported so a timely investigation by law enforcement can occur,” Hill said in a statement announcing the bill.

 

More than 40 professions, including clergy, are already covered by state law requiring them to notify civil authorities in cases of suspected abuse or neglect of children. The current legislation provides an exemption for “penitential communications” between an individual and their minister if the requirement of confidentiality is rooted in church doctrine.

 

The Code of Canon Law states that “The sacramental seal is inviolable; therefore it is absolutely forbidden for a confessor to betray in any way a penitent in words or in any manner and for any reason.” A priest who intentionally violates the seal incurs an automatic excommunication.

 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that “every priest who hears confessions is bound under severe penalties to keep absolute secrecy regarding the sins that his penitents have confessed to him,” due to the “delicacy and greatness of this ministry and the respect due to persons.”

 

Despite the centrality of the sacramental seal to Church teaching and discipline, Hill insisted that there should be no recognition of the privileged nature of confession in the law.

 

“The law should apply equally to all professionals who have been designated as mandated reporters of these crimes — with no exceptions, period. The exemption for clergy only protects the abuser and places children at further risk,” Hill said.

 

A spokesman for the California Catholic Conference told local media that the bill clearly targeted essential religious freedoms.

 

"Getting the government in the confessional has nothing to do with protecting children and has everything to do with eroding the basic rights and liberties we have as Americans," said Steve Pehanich in a statement for the conference reported by local news outlets.

 

The California bill is not the first attempt to compel priests to violate the sacramental seal. A Royal Commission investigation into child sexual abuse in Australia last year recommended that legal exemptions be removed for clergy who learned about abuse in the confessional.

Augustus Tolton one step closer to being first black American saint

Wed, 02/20/2019 - 19:49

Chicago, Ill., Feb 20, 2019 / 05:49 pm (CNA).- A Vatican committee has unanimously voted to send the sainthood cause of Father Augustus Tolton, a former runaway slave and the first African American priest in the United States, to the next stage.

Tolton was born into slavery in Monroe County, Missouri in 1854 and escaped to Quincy, Illinois with his family during the Civil War. He studied for the priesthood in Rome because no American seminary would accept him on account of his race. He was ordained in 1889 and served for three years at a parish in Quincy, eventually accepting an invitation to come to Chicago where he led St. Monica Parish until his death in 1897.

A nine-member theological commission at the Vatican voted unanimously Feb. 5 that Tolton’s sainthood cause, which began in 2010, be moved forward and presented to the Ordinary Meeting of Cardinals and Archbishops, the archdiocese of Chicago announced last week.

There the members will take a final vote before presenting a Decree of Heroic Virtues to Pope Francis for approval.

Father Tolton would receive the title of “Venerable” after that decree’s approval, which indicates he “lived the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity and the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance at a heroic level,” the archdiocese said.

Tolton will be declared “blessed” once it is confirmed that one miracle has been granted by God through his intercession. A second miracle is typically required for canonization.

The late Cardinal Francis George of Chicago announced Tolton’s cause for canonization in March 2010, and Tolton received the designation “Servant of God,” a title given by the Vatican once a sainthood cause has begun, in Feb. 2011.

A committee of six Vatican officials unanimously approved as historically correct a document known as the positio summarizing the life, virtue, and Tolton’s alleged miracles in 2018.

The positio, sent to Rome in Sept. 2014, was the result of extensive research conducted in Chicago and included “documents, publications, correspondence, newspaper clippings, and historical facts of the era in which he lived.”

The Congregation for Causes of Saints in Rome officially opened The Acts of the Diocesan Inquiry into Tolton’s life and virtues in March 2015, and in April 2015 the Congregation approved the juridical validity of the Diocesan Inquiry.

The Vatican granted a nihil obstat to Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois in June 2016 to allow the diocese to exhume Tolton’s remains. Tolton’s body was subsequently wrapped within a new set of priestly vestments and reinterred.

Ohio doctor under investigation after dozens of patient overdose deaths

Wed, 02/20/2019 - 18:36

Columbus, Ohio, Feb 20, 2019 / 04:36 pm (CNA).- A doctor at a Catholic health system in Ohio has been fired after being accused of prescribing excessive doses of drugs to at least 30 ailing patients, some near death and some not. The accusations have also prompted the suspension of 20 hospital staff and over a dozen lawsuits alleging wrongful death.

Mount Carmel Health System fired Dr. William Husel from his job on Nov. 21, 2018, accusing him of prescribing excessive pain medicine to 34 patients in the intensive care unit. All of the patients died over the period of 2015-2018, the Columbus Dispatch reports.

“We are sorry for this tragedy, and we will continue to investigate how we responded to this report and whether there is any other information that should have led us to investigate sooner into Dr. Husel’s practices,” Edward Lamb, president and CEO of Mount Carmel Health System, said Jan. 24.

In a previous Jan. 14 statement, Lamb said the doctor’s actions were “unacceptable and inconsistent with the values and practices of Mount Carmel, regardless of the reasons the actions were taken.”

“We take responsibility for the fact that the processes in place were not sufficient to prevent these actions from happening,” he said.

The hospital said it received a formal report about the apparent behavior on Oct. 25 of last year. An employee reported the behavior out of safety concerns. The hospital said it knows of three deaths that took place from the time it received the report about Husel to the time it fired him.

Of the 34 patients who received overdoses of the drugs under Husel, 33 died at Mount Carmel West primary care hospital in Columbus, while one died at Mount Carmel St. Ann’s in Westerville. The hospital believes a few of these deaths were not caused by the overdoses.

Mount Carmel Health System is the second-largest non-profit Catholic healthcare system in the state. It is a member of the Michigan-based system Trinity Health.

Husel treated patients taken to the ICU for various reasons, including respiratory problems, infections, and gallstones. Some families said their loved ones were not terminally ill and they would have questioned the use of the medication administered under the doctor’s orders.

The Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office and Columbus police are investigating but no formal charges have been filed, NBC News reports.

The Ohio State Medical Board suspended Husel’s medical license in January.

Many of the details of the alleged victims come from lawsuits, court filings, and plaintiffs’ attorneys.

In one case, lawyers with the Leeseburg & Valentine law firm said, the doctor ordered a large dose of fentanyl - an opioid - and midazolam - a sedative - to be administered to 57-year-old Michael Walters just minutes before the patient died.

Walters had resided at a nursing home for several years after a stroke. He was admitted to the hospital on Oct. 6, 2017 suffering from respiratory failure and brain swelling, and was placed on a breathing machine. Late on Oct. 10, his family was persuaded to change his status to do-not-resuscitate. He died the next day.

The family members of Janet Kavanaugh, 79, have filed a lawsuit against the doctor and the hospital. They said she received a lethal dose of fentanyl and pronounced dead 18 minutes later.

Lawyer Gerry Leeseberg, who filed the suit on behalf of Kavanaugh’s estate, said she had not consented to the high dose. He was not aware whether she had previously been given the drug for pain relief, NBC News reports.

“We're concerned some of these families were misled into granting a do-not-resuscitate order,” Leeseberg said.

CNA sought comment from the Diocese of Columbus but did not receive a response by deadline.

The hospital released a statement and an apology on Jan. 14, the same day a patient filed a lawsuit. It removed 20 employees from patient care pending the results of its investigation, including nurses who administered the drugs and pharmacists.

Lamb, the health system head, said Jan. 24 that based on the initial report, the hospital system “should have begun a more expedited process to investigate and consider immediate removal of Dr. Husel from patient care at that time.”

More patients might be discovered as the investigation continues, he said.

According to Lamb, clinicians must provide “complete and clinically accurate” information about a patient’s condition, potential treatments, likelihood to recover and options for care. The investigation will determine whether this was the practice for the treatment of each of the patients.

“These events are heartbreaking,” said Lamb. “We are committed to being open and honest about what happened and what we are doing to ensure it never happens again.”

He pledged to respect the privacy and rights of those involved in accordance with privacy laws and to continue to cooperate with law enforcement and other relevant authorities.

For many of the patients, the doctor was able to use emergency overrides to bypass safeguards in the medication system. He was also able to avoid required pharmacist pre-approval.

A review from the Ohio Department of Health faulted the two hospitals for failing to ensure a system to prevent overrides that access large doses of “central nervous system” medications, the Columbus Dispatch reports.

The reports have already caused federal authorities to tell two hospitals in the health system they were non-compliant with Medicare standards for pharmaceuticals. They warned that the hospitals’ Medicare provider agreement would terminate on Feb. 24. Hospital leaders later agreed to a corrective plan and state oversight to ensure compliance.

 

Hoya no more: Georgetown rescinds McCarrick's honorary degree

Wed, 02/20/2019 - 11:56

Washington D.C., Feb 20, 2019 / 09:56 am (CNA).- Georgetown University announced on Tuesday that it would rescind the honorary Doctor of Humane Letters the school conferred on disgraced former archbishop Theodore McCarrick in December 2004.

“With the concurrence of our Board of Directors, Georgetown University is rescinding the honorary degree granted to Theodore McCarrick fourteen years ago,” said Georgetown University President John J. DeGioia in an email sent to the Georgetown University community Tuesday.

This is the first time the school has revoked an honorary degree.

“We are called to forge a new culture, to create a context in which the most vulnerable among us will be safe and protected, to create a context in which the abuse of power can be identified and eliminated. As a University, founded in the Jesuit tradition, we are uniquely positioned to respond to this call,” said DeGioia.

Similar to the University of Notre Dame, which rescinded an honorary degree from McCarrick on Saturday, Georgetown University had elected to wait until the conclusion of the canonical penal process against McCarrick before making a decision about his honorary degree. McCarrick was laicized and removed from the clerical state on Feb. 16.

DeGioia’s email, forwarded Feb. 20 to CNA, explained that a working group was created in the fall of 2018 to “examine a range of issues related to honorary degrees.”

“The Working Group has welcomed input from members of our community, and its work has helped to shape our response today,” said DeGioia.

A petition spearheaded by Georgetown undergraduates requesting that the school rescind honorary degrees from both McCarrick and Cardinal Donald Wuerl garnered over 1,300 signatures since it was launched in September. Georgetown has not revoked the honorary Doctor of Humane Letters the school conferred on Wuerl in 2014. Pope Francis accepted Wuerl’s resignation from the Archdiocese of Washington in October 2018.

Grace Laria, a senior at Georgetown who helped start the petition, met with the university’s working group, along with fellow Georgetown senior Julie Bevilacqua. The students urged the school to rescind the degrees.

In November, Laria and Bevilacqua spoke to CNA outside the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Fall General Assembly. The two were there with several other Georgetown students who are active in campus ministry. Laria told CNA that she had been inspired to travel to Baltimore to demand that the bishops demonstrate sort of initiative that indicates they “are willing to stand up for survivors and take action.”

Bevilacqua told CNA in November that she had been angered and hurt by the Church’s response to the sexual abuse crisis, and that she felt there was “a sense of urgency for some kind of action and for us to see some change.”

Hoya no more: Georgetown rescinds McCarrick's honorary degree

Wed, 02/20/2019 - 11:56

Washington D.C., Feb 20, 2019 / 09:56 am (CNA).- Georgetown University announced on Tuesday that it would rescind the honorary Doctor of Humane Letters the school conferred on disgraced former archbishop Theodore McCarrick in December 2004.

“With the concurrence of our Board of Directors, Georgetown University is rescinding the honorary degree granted to Theodore McCarrick fourteen years ago,” said Georgetown University President John J. DeGioia in an email sent to the Georgetown University community Tuesday.

This is the first time the school has revoked an honorary degree.

“We are called to forge a new culture, to create a context in which the most vulnerable among us will be safe and protected, to create a context in which the abuse of power can be identified and eliminated. As a University, founded in the Jesuit tradition, we are uniquely positioned to respond to this call,” said DeGioia.

Similar to the University of Notre Dame, which rescinded an honorary degree from McCarrick on Saturday, Georgetown University had elected to wait until the conclusion of the canonical penal process against McCarrick before making a decision about his honorary degree. McCarrick was laicized and removed from the clerical state on Feb. 16.

DeGioia’s email, forwarded Feb. 20 to CNA, explained that a working group was created in the fall of 2018 to “examine a range of issues related to honorary degrees.”

“The Working Group has welcomed input from members of our community, and its work has helped to shape our response today,” said DeGioia.

A petition spearheaded by Georgetown undergraduates requesting that the school rescind honorary degrees from both McCarrick and Cardinal Donald Wuerl garnered over 1,300 signatures since it was launched in September. Georgetown has not revoked the honorary Doctor of Humane Letters the school conferred on Wuerl in 2014. Pope Francis accepted Wuerl’s resignation from the Archdiocese of Washington in October 2018.

Grace Laria, a senior at Georgetown who helped start the petition, met with the university’s working group, along with fellow Georgetown senior Julie Bevilacqua. The students urged the school to rescind the degrees.

In November, Laria and Bevilacqua spoke to CNA outside the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Fall General Assembly. The two were there with several other Georgetown students who are active in campus ministry. Laria told CNA that she had been inspired to travel to Baltimore to demand that the bishops demonstrate sort of initiative that indicates they “are willing to stand up for survivors and take action.”

Bevilacqua told CNA in November that she had been angered and hurt by the Church’s response to the sexual abuse crisis, and that she felt there was “a sense of urgency for some kind of action and for us to see some change.”

Supreme Court rejects appeal to make Texas bishops release abortion communications

Wed, 02/20/2019 - 08:30

Washington D.C., Feb 20, 2019 / 06:30 am (CNA).- The Supreme Court has rejected an appeal in the case Whole Woman’s Health v. Texas Catholic Conference et al, in which the abortion provider sought to force the Catholic bishops of Texas to hand over all internal communications related to abortion.

 

The Feb. 19 decision was the last in a series of setbacks for Whole Women’s Health as they tried to compel a massive disclosure of in-house documents by the Church in Texas, in response to the bishops' support for a law which would require the burial or cremation of all aborted children.

 

In a statement released to CNA, the Texas Conference of Catholic Bishops welcomed the decision by the Supreme Court which, they said was a vindication of their religious freedom rights.

 

“The bishops are very grateful the Supreme Court has upheld the ruling of the Fifth Circuit, which protects the private religious communications of the bishops from a fishing expedition by abortion providers seeking access to our ministry information,” said the statement.

 

A 2017 law passed in Texas required that the remains of unborn children must be buried or cremated rather than disposed of by other means, including be flushed into the sewer system or sent to landfills.

 

At the time the law was passed, the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops (TCCB) voiced their support for the legislation and offered free burials for the remains of aborted babies.

 

Whole Woman’s Health responded by subpoenaing the bishops and demanded access to all internal communications regarding abortion, including any theological and doctrinal debates on the issue. The subpoena was filed despite the bishops not being party to the suit.

 

The Texas bishops released more than 4,000 pages of external communications on abortion, but applied for emergency relief to preserve their private correspondence.

 

In July 2018, a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overruled the trial court’s application of the subpoena, and the full court declined to hear the case in August. Whole Women’s Health then applied to the Supreme Court, which rejected the appeal on Tuesday.

 

In the Fifth Circuit Court’s decision, the judges described the subpoena as going “to the heart of the constitutional protection of religious belief and practice as well as citizens’ right to advocate sensitive policies in the public square.”

 

The court said that the Catholic bishops were left with a “Hobson’s choice” of either “retreating from the public square or defending its position.”

 

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represented the Texas bishops in the case, released a statement praising the outcome.

 

Eric Rassbach, vice president and senior counsel at Becket said in the statement that the court “saw this appeal for what it was: a nasty attempt to intimidate the bishops and force them to withdraw their offer to bury every child aborted in Texas.”

 

“Abortion groups may think the bishops ‘troublesome,’ but it is wrong to weaponize the law to stop the bishops from standing up for their beliefs,” he said.

 

In an earlier comment on the Fifth Circuit’s decision, Rassbach noted that “Constant surveillance of religious groups is a hallmark of totalitarian societies, not a free people.”

Supreme Court rejects appeal to make Texas bishops release abortion communications

Wed, 02/20/2019 - 08:30

Washington D.C., Feb 20, 2019 / 06:30 am (CNA).- The Supreme Court has rejected an appeal in the case Whole Woman’s Health v. Texas Catholic Conference et al, in which the abortion provider sought to force the Catholic bishops of Texas to hand over all internal communications related to abortion.

 

The Feb. 19 decision was the last in a series of setbacks for Whole Women’s Health as they tried to compel a massive disclosure of in-house documents by the Church in Texas, in response to the bishops' support for a law which would require the burial or cremation of all aborted children.

 

In a statement released to CNA, the Texas Conference of Catholic Bishops welcomed the decision by the Supreme Court which, they said was a vindication of their religious freedom rights.

 

“The bishops are very grateful the Supreme Court has upheld the ruling of the Fifth Circuit, which protects the private religious communications of the bishops from a fishing expedition by abortion providers seeking access to our ministry information,” said the statement.

 

A 2017 law passed in Texas required that the remains of unborn children must be buried or cremated rather than disposed of by other means, including be flushed into the sewer system or sent to landfills.

 

At the time the law was passed, the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops (TCCB) voiced their support for the legislation and offered free burials for the remains of aborted babies.

 

Whole Woman’s Health responded by subpoenaing the bishops and demanded access to all internal communications regarding abortion, including any theological and doctrinal debates on the issue. The subpoena was filed despite the bishops not being party to the suit.

 

The Texas bishops released more than 4,000 pages of external communications on abortion, but applied for emergency relief to preserve their private correspondence.

 

In July 2018, a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overruled the trial court’s application of the subpoena, and the full court declined to hear the case in August. Whole Women’s Health then applied to the Supreme Court, which rejected the appeal on Tuesday.

 

In the Fifth Circuit Court’s decision, the judges described the subpoena as going “to the heart of the constitutional protection of religious belief and practice as well as citizens’ right to advocate sensitive policies in the public square.”

 

The court said that the Catholic bishops were left with a “Hobson’s choice” of either “retreating from the public square or defending its position.”

 

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represented the Texas bishops in the case, released a statement praising the outcome.

 

Eric Rassbach, vice president and senior counsel at Becket said in the statement that the court “saw this appeal for what it was: a nasty attempt to intimidate the bishops and force them to withdraw their offer to bury every child aborted in Texas.”

 

“Abortion groups may think the bishops ‘troublesome,’ but it is wrong to weaponize the law to stop the bishops from standing up for their beliefs,” he said.

 

In an earlier comment on the Fifth Circuit’s decision, Rassbach noted that “Constant surveillance of religious groups is a hallmark of totalitarian societies, not a free people.”

There are alternatives to abortion, says Archdiocese of New York

Wed, 02/20/2019 - 06:21

New York City, N.Y., Feb 20, 2019 / 04:21 am (CNA).-
After a January law expanded abortion protections in New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York City has reaffirmed the Church’s promise to support any pregnant woman, regardless of her circumstances.

“We are enthusiastically committed – and have been for half a century – to providing women with a warm, embracing, life-giving alternative [to abortion],” the cardinal said.

Dolan spoke at a convent of the Sisters of Life in New York City on Feb. 18. Mother Mary Agnes Donovan, the order’s foundress, hosted the press conference, which reiterated Church’s dedication to pregnant women.

Dolan’s announcement followed the signing of a New York’s  Reproductive Health Act, which took place on Jan. 22, the anniversary of the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision.
The law limits abortions to the first 24 weeks of pregnancy but allows for abortions to be conducted later in gestation if the wellbeing of the mother is at risk. Some experts say that loophole will allow for practically unrestricted late-term abortion in the state.

The law also decriminalizes the procedure, and strips it of most regulations and safeguards. Non-doctors will now be permitted to perform abortions.

At the meeting on Monday, the cardinal expressed concern that these abortion expansions will influence women to think that abortion is the only viable option to a difficult pregnancy, according to the National Review.  

“We’re here. We love you. We welcome you. There is an alternative here,” he said.

Dolan said the Archdiocese of New York offers services to pregnant women confidentially.

“It does not matter what your marital status, religion, or immigration status might be,” he said.

“We are here to help, and all of our services are confidential. Any woman facing a difficult pregnancy and tempted to an abortion is assured of a warm welcome, encouragement, and loving support.”

The press conference included additional speakers like Christopher Bell, co-founder of Good Counsel homes in New York and New Jersey; Mother Donovan, who is also superior general for the Sisters of Life; and Dr. Anne Nolte, who runs the Gianna Center, which provides reproductive health to women.

Brhane Love, a mother and immigrant who struggled with her own pregnancy, also spoke at the event. Love spoke about the pressure she felt to abort. She said the Sisters of Life provided support in immigration, career, babysitting, and housing. She was introduced to the nuns after a man intercepted her on the way to Planned Parenthood.

“He took me to meet the sisters and I talked to them for hours. They told me they were with me, that I wasn’t alone, and that they would help me,” said Love, according to National Review.

“I love my daughter,” she added. “She changed my life. I am so happy.”

The Sisters of Life have helped almost 10,000 women since their religious community was founded in 1991. According to National Review, Mother Agnes said the sisters serve an estimated 600-1000 women a year, noting the number is growing.

As their ministry gain greater publicity, Mother Agnes expressed hope that more women will discover alternative options to abortion like the Sisters of Life provide. She said the sisters are there to work with women, providing encouragement and practical support.

“Standing in radical solidarity with a woman, during an unexpected or difficult pregnancy, the Sisters and the woman together find a pathway through fear, a path defined by realistic and ongoing emotional and practical support that she may respond with courage and dignity to one of life’s most difficult moments.”

 

There are alternatives to abortion, says Archdiocese of New York

Wed, 02/20/2019 - 06:21

New York City, N.Y., Feb 20, 2019 / 04:21 am (CNA).-
After a January law expanded abortion protections in New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York City has reaffirmed the Church’s promise to support any pregnant woman, regardless of her circumstances.

“We are enthusiastically committed – and have been for half a century – to providing women with a warm, embracing, life-giving alternative [to abortion],” the cardinal said.

Dolan spoke at a convent of the Sisters of Life in New York City on Feb. 18. Mother Mary Agnes Donovan, the order’s foundress, hosted the press conference, which reiterated Church’s dedication to pregnant women.

Dolan’s announcement followed the signing of a New York’s  Reproductive Health Act, which took place on Jan. 22, the anniversary of the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision.
The law limits abortions to the first 24 weeks of pregnancy but allows for abortions to be conducted later in gestation if the wellbeing of the mother is at risk. Some experts say that loophole will allow for practically unrestricted late-term abortion in the state.

The law also decriminalizes the procedure, and strips it of most regulations and safeguards. Non-doctors will now be permitted to perform abortions.

At the meeting on Monday, the cardinal expressed concern that these abortion expansions will influence women to think that abortion is the only viable option to a difficult pregnancy, according to the National Review.  

“We’re here. We love you. We welcome you. There is an alternative here,” he said.

Dolan said the Archdiocese of New York offers services to pregnant women confidentially.

“It does not matter what your marital status, religion, or immigration status might be,” he said.

“We are here to help, and all of our services are confidential. Any woman facing a difficult pregnancy and tempted to an abortion is assured of a warm welcome, encouragement, and loving support.”

The press conference included additional speakers like Christopher Bell, co-founder of Good Counsel homes in New York and New Jersey; Mother Donovan, who is also superior general for the Sisters of Life; and Dr. Anne Nolte, who runs the Gianna Center, which provides reproductive health to women.

Brhane Love, a mother and immigrant who struggled with her own pregnancy, also spoke at the event. Love spoke about the pressure she felt to abort. She said the Sisters of Life provided support in immigration, career, babysitting, and housing. She was introduced to the nuns after a man intercepted her on the way to Planned Parenthood.

“He took me to meet the sisters and I talked to them for hours. They told me they were with me, that I wasn’t alone, and that they would help me,” said Love, according to National Review.

“I love my daughter,” she added. “She changed my life. I am so happy.”

The Sisters of Life have helped almost 10,000 women since their religious community was founded in 1991. According to National Review, Mother Agnes said the sisters serve an estimated 600-1000 women a year, noting the number is growing.

As their ministry gain greater publicity, Mother Agnes expressed hope that more women will discover alternative options to abortion like the Sisters of Life provide. She said the sisters are there to work with women, providing encouragement and practical support.

“Standing in radical solidarity with a woman, during an unexpected or difficult pregnancy, the Sisters and the woman together find a pathway through fear, a path defined by realistic and ongoing emotional and practical support that she may respond with courage and dignity to one of life’s most difficult moments.”

 

Colorado’s Catholic bishops will open abuse records for review

Tue, 02/19/2019 - 22:51

Denver, Colo., Feb 19, 2019 / 08:51 pm (CNA).- An agreement between Colorado’s attorney general and the state’s Catholic bishops aims to investigate clergy sex abuse of minors in the state’s Roman Catholic dioceses, the dioceses’ past handling of sex abuse, and current procedures and responses to abuse allegations.
 
“The damage inflicted upon young people and their families by sexual abuse, especially when it’s committed by a trusted person like a priest, is profound,” Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver said at a Feb. 19 press conference held with the Colorado attorney general.
 
This process will involve “painful moments” and “cannot ever fully restore what was lost,” the archbishop said.
 
“We pray that it will at least begin the healing process,” he said. Transparency for the Church’s history on child abuse is needed, said the archbishop, who hoped that the programs offer a “path to healing for survivors and their families.”
 
Also speaking at the press conference were Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser, who took office in January; Colorado’s immediate past attorney general Cynthia Coffman; and Father Randy Dollins, vicar general of the Denver Archdiocese. In addition to the Archdiocese of Denver, the Colorado Springs diocese and the Pueblo diocese are parties to the agreement.
 
“It’s well known that child sexual abuse is a societal-wide problem,” Weiser said. “It demands our attention and action. I am so pleased the Church today has recognized the need for transparency and reparations for survivors.”
 
The process involves an independent review of church records, a compensation process for victims, and a victims’ support service to aid their participation in the compensation program.
 
Robert Troyer, former U.S. Attorney for Colorado, will conduct the independent review. The agreement with the dioceses gives him “full access” to their files on sexual abuse of minors by diocesan clergy, according to a Feb. 19 joint statement from Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser and the Catholic bishops of Colorado.
 
The review will examine the records and policies of Colorado’s three Roman Catholic dioceses about the sexual abuse of minors. A public report will be drafted and released to the public. The review aims to ensure that there are “no known or suspected abusers in active ministry.”
 
The review aims to provide transparency regarding abuse in the Church and the dioceses’ historic responses. The report will analyze dioceses’ current policies and procedures for abuse prevention and their response to abuse allegations.
 
The independent review aims to provide “recognition of past wrongdoing” and an opportunity for healing. The report process is not a criminal investigation, but an “independent inquiry with the full cooperation of the Catholic Church.”
 
The joint statement from the attorney general and the bishops said that they are not aware of any previously unreported criminal conduct. Should the review find any abusers, they will be reported to law enforcement immediately.
 
The report is expected to be released by fall 2019. It will not identify victims by name to protect their privacy. It will name diocesan priests with “substantiated allegations” of sexually abusing minors. It will detail these substantiated allegations, including the assignments of abusive priests and the years of the alleged abuse.
 
Misconduct with minors described as “inappropriate but not illegal behavior,” will also be included in the report, but those accused of misconduct will not be named.
 
The term “diocesan priest” does not include religious order priests, who, according to the agreement, are “assigned, transferred, and subject to the control of their own religious orders and religious superiors,” and not subject to the governance of the Colorado dioceses.
 
While sexual misconduct with adults is not a focus of the report, if adult victims of abuse come forward, the attorney general’s office will support them, Weiser said.
 
Half the costs of Troyer’s independent review will be met by the three dioceses, and the rest by anonymous donors.
 
The Catholic dioceses will also fund “an independent, voluntary program that will compensate victims of abuse, regardless of when the abuse occurred,” the joint statement said.
 
The program will be developed by nationally recognized claims administrations experts, Kenneth R. Feinberg and Camille S. Biros.
 
They were involved in compensations in the wake of the Aurora, Colo. theater shooting in 2012 and have also been involved in Catholic sex abuse victims’ compensation programs in New York, New Jersey and other states.
 
Colorado’s bishops and the attorney general agreed that the program must accept claims through the public release of the independent review, as well as for “a reasonable period of time” after.
 
Former U.S. Sen. Hank Brown will chair an independent commission overseeing the reparations program.
 
The reparations program will be augmented by a victims’ support service that will be created to aid victims or survivors. The service will be staffed by professionals who can discuss the reparations, program, hear stories from abuse victims, answer possible claimants’ questions, and help support the submission of documentation to the program.
 
Coffman, Weiser’s predecessor as Colorado attorney general, initiated action investigating Catholic clergy sex abuse in Colorado in late 2018.
 
“There is a recognition that childhood sexual abuse is not specific to one institution,” Coffman said. “The spotlight is on the Catholic Church but this abuse is indicative of what has happened in other institutions. We want to shine a light on the activity.”
 
After a July Pennsylvania attorney general report compiled allegations against over 300 Catholic clergy, with over 1,000 reported victims, Coffman’s office began receiving calls from Colorado citizens who had suffered sexual abuse in the past. Some were abused in other states by priests who were no longer alive.
 
Representatives of the group Survivors’ Network of those Abused by Priests asked the Colorado attorney general to conduct a grand jury investigation into sex abuse of children in the Catholic Church in Colorado. The request was part of the group’s national effort to engage every state attorney general.
 
While some states’ attorneys general have the authority to launch such investigations, Colorado’s does not.
 
Coffman’s office began examining alternatives for uncovering previously undisclosed abuse involving Catholic priests. That effort drew a response from the Catholic bishops, who reached out to understand the effort. Her office discussed options on investigations.
 
Meeting with Aquila, Dollins, Bishop Stephen Jay Berg of Pueblo, and representatives of the Colorado Catholic Conference, Coffman said, “demonstrated their commitment to acknowledging past abuse by priests and moving forward with honesty and accountability.”
 
She voiced gratitude for their “cooperation and collaboration.”
 
Aquila referred questions about the Denver archdiocese’s current policy on abuse of minors to a website the archdiocese created to provide information.

 

Colorado’s Catholic bishops will open abuse records for review

Tue, 02/19/2019 - 22:51

Denver, Colo., Feb 19, 2019 / 08:51 pm (CNA).- An agreement between Colorado’s attorney general and the state’s Catholic bishops aims to investigate clergy sex abuse of minors in the state’s Roman Catholic dioceses the dioceses’ past handling of sex abuse, and current procedures and responses to abuse allegations.
 
“The damage inflicted upon young people and their families by sexual abuse, especially when it’s committed by a trusted person like a priest, is profound,” Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver said at a Feb. 19 press conference held with the Colorado attorney general.
 
This process will involve “painful moments” and “cannot ever fully restore what was lost,” the archbishop said.
 
“We pray that it will at least begin the healing process,” he said. Transparency for the Church’s history on child abuse is needed, said the archbishop, who hoped that the programs offer a “path to healing for survivors and their families.”
 
Also speaking at the press conference were Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser, who took office in January; Colorado’s immediate past attorney general Cynthia Coffman; and Father Randy Dollins, vicar general of the Denver Archdiocese. In addition to the Archdiocese of Denver, the Colorado Springs diocese and the Pueblo diocese are parties to the agreement.
 
“It’s well known that child sexual abuse is a societal-wide program,” Weiser said. “It demands our attention and action. I am so pleased the Church today has recognized the need for transparency and reparations for survivors.”
 
The process involves an independent review of church records, a compensation process for victims, and a victims’ support service to aid their participation in the compensation program.
 
Robert Troyer, former U.S. Attorney for Colorado, will conduct the independent review. The agreement with the dioceses gives him “full access” to their files on sexual abuse of minors by diocesan clergy, according to a Feb. 19 joint statement from Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser and the Catholic bishops of Colorado.
 
The review will examine the records and policies of Colorado’s three Roman Catholic dioceses about the sexual abuse of minors. A public report will be drafted and released to the public. The review aims to ensure that there are “no known or suspected abusers in active ministry.”
 
The review aims to provide transparency regarding abuse in the Church and the dioceses’ historic responses. The report will analyze dioceses’ current policies and procedures for abuse prevention and their response to abuse allegations.
 
The independent review aims to provide “recognition of past wrongdoing” and an opportunity for healing. The report process is not a criminal investigation, but an “independent inquiry with the full cooperation of the Catholic Church.”
 
The joint statement from the attorney general and the bishops said that they are not aware of any previously unreported criminal conduct. Should the review find any abusers, they will be reported to law enforcement immediately.
 
The report is expected to be released by fall 2019. It will not identify victims by name to protect their privacy. It will name diocesan priests with “substantiated allegations” of sexually abusing minors. It will detail these substantiated allegations, including the assignments of abusive priests and the years of the alleged abuse.
 
Misconduct with minors, described as “inappropriate but not illegal behavior,” will also be included in the report, but those accused of misconduct will not be named.
 
The term “diocesan priest” does not include religious order priests, who, according to the agreement, are “assigned, transferred, and subject to the control of their own religious orders and religious superiors,” and not subject to the governance of the Colorado dioceses.
 
While sexual misconduct with adults is not a focus of the report, if adult victims of abuse come forward, the attorney general’s office will support them, Weiser said.
 
Half the costs of Troyer’s independent review will be met by the three dioceses, and the rest by anonymous donors.
 
The Catholic dioceses will also fund “an independent, voluntary program that will compensate victims of abuse, regardless of when the abuse occurred,” the joint statement said.
 
The program will be developed by nationally recognized claims administrations experts, Kenneth R. Feinberg and Camille S. Biros.
 
They were involved in compensations in the wake of the Aurora, Colo. theater shooting in 2012 and are also been involved in Catholic sex abuse victims’ compensation programs in New York, New Jersey and other states.
 
Colorado’s bishops and the attorney general agreed that the program must accept claims through the public release of the independent review, as well as for “a reasonable period of time” after.
 
Former U.S. Sen. Hank Brown will chair an independent commission overseeing the reparations program.
 
The reparations program will be augmented by a victims’ support service that will be created to aid victims or survivors. The service will be staffed by professionals who can discuss the reparations, program, hear stories from abuse victims, answer possible claimants’ questions, and help support the submission of documentation to the program.
 
Coffman, Weiser’s predecessor as Colorado attorney general, initiated action investigating Catholic clergy sex abuse in Colorado in late 2018.
 
“There is a recognition that childhood sexual abuse is not specific to one institution,” Coffman said. “The spotlight is on the Catholic Church but this abuse is indicative of what has happened in other institutions. We want to shine a light on the activity.”
 
After a July Pennsylvania attorney general report compiled allegations against over 300 Catholic clergy, with over 1,000 reported victims, Coffman’s office began receiving calls from Colorado citizens who had suffered sexual abuse in the past. Some were abused in other states by priests who were no longer alive.
 
“There is a recognition that childhood sexual abuse is not specific to one institution,” Coffman said at the press conference. “The spotlight is on the Catholic Church but this abuse is indicative of what has happened in other institutions. We want to shine a light on the activity.”
 
Representatives of the group Survivors’ Network of those Abused by Priests asked the Colorado attorney general to conduct a grand jury investigation into sex abuse of children in the Catholic Church in Colorado. The request was part of the group’s national effort to engage every state attorney general.
 
While some states’ attorneys general have the authority to launch such investigations, Colorado’s does not.
 
Coffman’s office began examining alternatives for uncovering previously undisclosed abuse involving Catholic priests. That effort drew a response from the Catholic bishops, who reached out to understand the effort. Her office discussed options on investigations.
 
Meeting with Aquila, Dollins, Bishop Stephen Jay Berg of Pueblo, and representatives of the Colorado Catholic Conference, Coffman said, “demonstrated their commitment to acknowledging past abuse by priests and moving forward with honesty and accountability.”
 
She voiced gratitude for their “cooperation and collaboration.”
 
Aquila referred questions about the Denver archdiocese’s current policy on abuse of minors to a website the archdiocese created to provide information.

 

Notre Dame rescinds McCarrick's honorary degree

Tue, 02/19/2019 - 19:52

South Bend, Ind., Feb 19, 2019 / 05:52 pm (CNA).- The University of Notre Dame has rescinded the honorary Doctor of Laws (LL.D.) degree it conferred on former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick in 2008, becoming the latest of a growing number of schools who have rescinded honorary degrees from the defrocked former archbishop.  

“The Vatican has announced the conclusion of the adjudicatory process against former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, finding that he transgressed his vows, used his power to abuse both minors and adults and violated his sacred duty as a priest,” said the University of Notre Dame in a statement posted to its website on Saturday, the day McCarrick was laicized, or removed from the clerical state.  

“In accord with University President Rev. John I. Jenkins’ statement of Aug. 2, 2018, the University of Notre Dame is rescinding the honorary degree conferred in 2008.”

In August, Jenkins said that the school would revoke the degree if McCarrick were found guilty at the conclusion of his canonical process, but would hold off on a decision until that point.

McCarrick, who was Archbishop of Washington until his retirement in 2006, was found guilty on Saturday of charges of sexually abusing adults and minors, as well as soliciting sex from the confessional. Prior to his laicization, he was forbidden from public ministry and had been sentenced to a life of prayer and penance while the canonical process was ongoing. He is currently living at a friary in Kansas.

In July 2018, he resigned from the College of Cardinals after the Archdiocese of New York received two credible and substantiated claims that he had abused minors.

After these allegations were made public, it was revealed that the Archdiocese of Newark and the Dioceses of Metuchen and Trenton had paid two settlements to men who had been abused by McCarrick when they were adult seminarians in New Jersey. More people came forward throughout the summer of 2018 to describe a culture of abuse and sexual harassment that permeated seminaries in New Jersey while McCarrick was the Bishop of Metuchen and Archbishop of Newark.

During his time as a bishop, McCarrick was awarded honorary degrees by more than 30 colleges and universities from around the world. Since June, a number of universities have rescinded honorary degrees they had conferred upon McCarrick.

His honorary degrees from Fordham University, Catholic University of America, College of Mount Saint Vincent, Siena College, University of Portland, and University of New Rochelle were all rescinded in 2018 after he resigned from the College of Cardinals. Georgetown University is currently reviewing whether or not to rescind the Doctor of Humane Letters it conferred on McCarrick in 2004. Providence College has rescinded the degree it gave McCarrick in 1987. St. John’s University, which conferred an honorary degree in 1974 did not respond to CNA’s request for comment in time for publication.

Until Monday, the only other honorary degree that the University of Notre Dame had rescinded was an LL.D. the school conferred on comedian Bill Cosby in 1990. The school rescinded the degree after Cosby was convicted on numerous sexual assault charges in 2018 and sentenced to 3-10 years in prison.

 

Ed. note: CNA initially reported that Providence College did not respond to an inquiry regarding McCarrick's honorary degree. Subsequent to publication, Providence confirmed to CNA that it had rescinded McCarrick's degree.

Notre Dame rescinds McCarrick's honorary degree

Tue, 02/19/2019 - 19:52

South Bend, Ind., Feb 19, 2019 / 05:52 pm (CNA).- The University of Notre Dame has rescinded the honorary Doctor of Laws (LL.D.) degree it conferred on former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick in 2008, becoming the latest of a growing number of schools who have rescinded honorary degrees from the defrocked former archbishop.  

“The Vatican has announced the conclusion of the adjudicatory process against former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, finding that he transgressed his vows, used his power to abuse both minors and adults and violated his sacred duty as a priest,” said the University of Notre Dame in a statement posted to its website on Saturday, the day McCarrick was laicized, or removed from the clerical state.  

“In accord with University President Rev. John I. Jenkins’ statement of Aug. 2, 2018, the University of Notre Dame is rescinding the honorary degree conferred in 2008.”

In August, Jenkins said that the school would revoke the degree if McCarrick were found guilty at the conclusion of his canonical process, but would hold off on a decision until that point.

McCarrick, who was Archbishop of Washington until his retirement in 2006, was found guilty on Saturday of charges of sexually abusing adults and minors, as well as soliciting sex from the confessional. Prior to his laicization, he was forbidden from public ministry and had been sentenced to a life of prayer and penance while the canonical process was ongoing. He is currently living at a friary in Kansas.

In July 2018, he resigned from the College of Cardinals after the Archdiocese of New York received two credible and substantiated claims that he had abused minors.

After these allegations were made public, it was revealed that the Archdiocese of Newark and the Dioceses of Metuchen and Trenton had paid two settlements to men who had been abused by McCarrick when they were adult seminarians in New Jersey. More people came forward throughout the summer of 2018 to describe a culture of abuse and sexual harassment that permeated seminaries in New Jersey while McCarrick was the Bishop of Metuchen and Archbishop of Newark.

During his time as a bishop, McCarrick was awarded honorary degrees by more than 30 colleges and universities from around the world. Since June, a number of universities have rescinded honorary degrees they had conferred upon McCarrick.

His honorary degrees from Fordham University, Catholic University of America, College of Mount Saint Vincent, Siena College, University of Portland, and University of New Rochelle were all rescinded in 2018 after he resigned from the College of Cardinals. Georgetown University is currently reviewing whether or not to rescind the Doctor of Humane Letters it conferred on McCarrick in 2004. Providence College and St. John’s University, which conferred honorary degrees on McCarrick in 1987 and 1974, respectively, did not respond to CNA’s request for comment in time for publication.

Until Monday, the only other honorary degree that the University of Notre Dame had rescinded was an LL.D. the school conferred on comedian Bill Cosby in 1990. The school rescinded the degree after Cosby was convicted on numerous sexual assault charges in 2018 and sentenced to 3-10 years in prison.

Why the USCCB is speaking out against payday loan rule rollbacks

Tue, 02/19/2019 - 18:43

Washington D.C., Feb 19, 2019 / 04:43 pm (CNA).- The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on Feb. 14 officially proposed to rescind a rule to protect borrowers from predatory lending, prompting concern from Christian groups nationwide that the CFPB may weaken existing protections against loan sharks.

Catholic Charities USA and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops joined a coalition of Christian groups to sign a letter last week expressing concern that rescinding the so-called “small dollar lending rule” could harm low-income borrowers.

“We encourage you to take this opportunity to strengthen, not weaken, the rule,” the letter reads, penned by the group Faith for Just Lending.

“The rule as finalized seeks to protect vulnerable individuals and families in time of financial crisis from debt traps designed around their inability--as opposed to ability--to repay their loan...We believe that the rule was a step in the right direction, but more must be done.”

The “small dollar lending” rule, which the financial agency announced in Oct. 2017, was designed to protect financially vulnerable consumers from annual interest rates of up to 300 percent on so-called payday loans and auto title loans. The bureau announced Feb. 6 that it seeks to delay the rule’s implementation until 2020 and remove key requirements on lenders.

Though an estimated 12 million customers use small-dollar loans each year, the agency has long chronicled the risks these loans pose to the vulnerable. Faced with having to repay a loan along with high interest and fees, borrowers risk “defaulting, re-borrowing, or skipping other financial obligations like rent or basic living expenses such as buying food or obtaining medical care,” according to the CFPB.

Many borrowers will end up repeatedly rolling over or refinancing their loans, racking up more debt in the process and possibly running the risk of having their vehicle seized, the bureau says.  

The new rule would have required lenders to conduct a “full-payment test” to determine upfront that borrowers can afford to repay their loans within two weeks or a month without re-borrowing. It also would have capped at three the number of loans that could be given in quick succession, the CFPB said in its Oct. 2017 release.

The U.S. bishops’ conference and others said that the finalized rule would have also contained a loophole to allow customers to take out six successive 300% interest loans under certain conditions.

“This sanctioning of usurious loans not only contradicts our own faith traditions, but also contradicts the CFPB’s own reasoning laid out in its rule,” the Feb. 15 letter says.

“The CFPB recognizes in its proposal the harmful consequences of unaffordable loans, such as defaulting on expenses or having to quickly re-borrow. By the CFPB’s own reasoning, allowing six loans in a year in rapid succession, as exceptions to the assessment of a borrower's ability to repay, is too many.”

The letter notes that Scripture provides guidance for “honorable lending and borrowing,” which includes the principles of not taking advantage of the weak, not charging usurious interest, and seeking the good of the other person.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church condemns usury as theft and a violation of the Seventh Commandment, specifically mentioning the “forcing up prices by taking advantage of the ignorance or hardship of another.”

“A business that targets vulnerable people with a product that leaves most of its customers worse off does not contribute to the common good,” the letter says.

Bishops throughout the U.S. have decried the use of payday loans, and have backed legislation which would restrict the effect these loans on have on the borrowers.

In November of 2013, Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton, then-chair of the committee on domestic justice and human development for the U.S. bishops’ conference, wrote the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau about payday lending abuses, calling such lending immoral because it “preys on the financial hardship of poor and vulnerable consumers, exploits their lack of understanding, and increases economic insecurity.”

Bishops elsewhere have fought for payday loan reforms, like in Texas, where the state’s Catholic Conference has pushed for regulations at the state legislature.

Dr. Robert Mayer, a professor of political theory at Loyola University Chicago, told CNA in a 2016 interview that regulations on payday lenders could successfully curb lending abuses, but they could also carry adverse consequences for some people needing a fast line of credit, including perhaps those who have successfully paid off such loans in the past without incurring large amounts of debt.

This is where the Church and faith-based organizations could step in to help those who need emergency cash at a low cost, including local St. Vincent DePaul societies and Catholic Charities branches.

Local Catholic Charities in places like Salina, Kansas already have offices that can help customers refinance their debt after falling into a cycle of predatory lending. Catholic Charities in Kansas started a program in 2016 that provides small, low interest loans, with a maximum of a $1000, so that people who do have an immediate need are able to borrow funds.
 

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