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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: 1 hour 56 min ago

Planned Parenthood to lose $60 million after Title X ruling

Fri, 06/21/2019 - 09:30

San Francisco, Calif., Jun 21, 2019 / 07:30 am (CNA).- The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Thursday that new Title X rules, that prohibit funds from going to clinics that perform abortions or provide abortion referrals, can go into effect.

The June 20 decision, issued from the bench in San Francisco, means that Planned Parenthood will stand to lose about $60 million in federal funding, though the abortion provider will continue to receive close to half a billion dollars in federal funding from other programs.

In late February, the Trump Administration finalized the “Protect Life Rule,” which added new eligibility requirements for Title X fund recipients. Shortly thereafter, several states sued over the new policy, and California, Washington, and Oregon received a preliminary injunction that blocked the rule from going into effect. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that earlier decision on Thursday, calling the administration rules a "reasonable" interpretation of federal law.

The court ruled that allowing the injuction to stand would mean “HHS will be forced to allow taxpayer dollars to be spent in a manner that it has concluded violates the law, as well as the government’s important policy interest…in ensuring that taxpayer dollars do not go to fund or subsidize abortions.”

The three judges on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals who ruled on this case were all appointed by Republican presidents.  

Title X is a federal program created in 1965 that subsidizes family-planning and preventative health services, including contraception, for low-income families.

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 the presidency of Bill Clinton, allowed for health clinics that were co-located with abortion clinics to receive funds, and required that Title X recipients refer patients for abortions.

As a result of Thursday’s ruling, Title X fund recipients are immediately prevented from referring patients for abortion services. By March 2020, health clinics must be located seperatly from abortion facilities in order to be elligable for Title X funding.

Dr. Leana Wen, the president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, promised to appeal the court’s decision.

Bishops mark World Refugee Day amid 'biggest migratory crisis since WWII'

Thu, 06/20/2019 - 17:35

Washington D.C., Jun 20, 2019 / 03:35 pm (CNA).- Today, on World Refugee Day, the world marks the highest number of forcibly displaced people in nearly 70 years. In their statement marking the day, the U.S. bishops said “the world is embroiled in the biggest migratory crisis since World War II with more than 25 million refugees around the world.”

A new report from the United Nations refugee agency found that more than 70 million people were displaced from their homes worldwide in the year 2018.

The UN counts in this number anyone who was displaced from their home “as a result of persecution, conflict, violence, or human rights violations” at the end of 2018. The numbers included 13.6 million people who were newly displaced this year, which amounts to about 37,000 people who are displaced from their homes every day, the report notes. The other 67 million had been displaced in other years, and are still living as displaced persons.

“We have seen the images of the refugee crisis, and World Refugee Day calls attention to the critical need to assist our refugee brothers and sisters and make them feel a sense of welcome,”  Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration, said in a statement.

“It is imperative for us to highlight the contributions refugees make in our communities,” he added.

Refugees are people displaced from their homes who are living in a different country, after an application process. Asylum seekers are those who are still seeking official placement in another country. Of the 70 million displaced people in 2018, about 25 million were refugees, while 2.5 million were asylum seekers. More than half - about 41 million - were internally displaced within their own countries.

The report found that a majority of the world’s refugees were escaping violent conflicts in Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar, or Somalia. Four in five refugees now live in a country bordering their former home.

Since the year 2000, the world has marked the celebration of World Refugee Day, created by the United Nations to raise awareness about the plight of refugees around the world.

In their statement, the bishops noted that in the United States, “the Presidential Determination for refugee resettlement was set at an all-time low of 30,000 refugees for the current fiscal year. This comes only one year after half of the 45,000 refugees set forth by the Administration’s determination were resettled in the United States.”

According to the UN report, 16% of refugees are hosted by developed nations, while another one-third of them were hosted by “Least Developed Countries.”

In their statement, the bishops noted that a representative of the U.S. bishop’s Migration and Refugee Services, as well as a member of Catholic Charities USA, would be part of a briefing before Congress on Thursday about the root causes of forced displacement, and the impact of refugee resettlement in the U.S.

The Catholic Church has a long history of helping resettle refugees in the United States, having helped nearly one-third of all refugees received by the United States since 1980.

Indianapolis archbishop revokes Jesuit prep school's Catholic identity

Thu, 06/20/2019 - 15:49

Indianapolis, Ind., Jun 20, 2019 / 01:49 pm (CNA).- The Archdiocese of Indianapolis announced Thursday that a local Jesuit high school will no longer be recognized as a Catholic school, due to a disagreement about the employment of a teacher who attempted to contract a same-sex marriage.

“All those who minister in Catholic educational institutions carry out an important ministry in communicating the fullness of Catholic teaching to students both by word and action inside and outside the classroom,” the archdiocese said in a statement Thursday.

“In the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, every archdiocesan Catholic school and private Catholic school has been instructed to clearly state in its contracts and ministerial job descriptions that all ministers must convey and be supportive of all teachings of the Catholic Church.”

Teachers, the archdiocese said, are classified as ‘ministers’ because “it is their duty and privilege to ensure that students receive instruction in Catholic doctrine and practice. To effectively bear witness to Christ, whether they teach religion or not, all ministers in their professional and private lives must convey and be supportive of Catholic Church teaching.”

“Regrettably, Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School has freely chosen not to enter into such agreements that protect the important ministry of communicating the fullness of Catholic teaching to students. Therefore, Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School will no longer be recognized as a Catholic institution by the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.”

School leaders said that despite the archdiocesan decision, “our identity as a Catholic Jesuit institution remains unchanged,” in a June 20 statement to the school community.

The conflict between the school and the archdiocese began with an archdiocesan request that the contract of a teacher who is in a same-sex marriage not be renewed.

The school became aware of the teacher's same-sex marriage in the summer of 2017, according to a June 20 statement from Fr. Brian Paulson, SJ, head of the Jesuits' Midwest Province.

Paulson said the archdiocese requested “two years ago that Brebeuf Jesuit not renew this teacher’s contract because this teacher’s marital status does not conform to church doctrine.”

The school leaders wrote that “After long and prayerful consideration, we determined that following the Archdiocese’s directive would not only violate our informed conscience on this particular matter, but also set a concerning precedent for future interference in the school’s operations and other governance matters that Brebeuf Jesuit leadership has historically had the sole right and privilege to address and decide.”

Paulson stated that Brebeuf Jesuit “respects the primacy of an informed conscience of members of its community when making moral decisions.”

“We recognize that at times some people who are associated with our mission make personal moral decisions at variance with Church doctrine; we do our best to help them grow in holiness, all of us being loved sinners who desire to follow Jesus.”

He added that this problem “cuts to the very heart of what it means to be a Jesuit institution with responsibilities to both the local and universal church, as well as for the pastoral care we extend to all members of our Catholic community.”

“I recognize this request by Archbishop Charles Thompson to be his prudential judgment of the application of canon law recognizing his responsibility for oversight of faith and morals as well as Catholic education in his archdiocese,” the priest wrote. “I disagree with the necessity and prudence of this decision.”

The Jesuits maintain that their school's internal administrative matters should be made by their own leaders, rather than the local Church.

While the Code of Canon Law establishes that religious orders, like the Jesuits, “retain their autonomy in the internal management of their schools,” it also says that the diocesan bishop has “the right to issue directives concerning the general regulation of Catholic schools” including those administered by religious orders.

Canon law also says that the diocesan bishop “is to be careful that those who are appointed as teachers of religion in schools, even non-Catholic ones, are outstanding in true doctrine, in the witness of their Christian life, and in their teaching ability.”

The Church’s law adds that the diocesan bishop “has the right to appoint or to approve teachers of religion and, if religious or moral considerations require it, the right to remove them or to demand that they be removed.”

The Archdiocese of Indianapolis policy, which says that all school teachers and administrators have a responsibility to teach the Catholic faith, is a common interpretation of those norms in U.S. Catholic dioceses.

The archdiocesan June 20 statement notes that the archdiocese “recognizes all teachers, guidance counselors and administrators as ministers.” The 2012 Hosanna Tabor v. EEOC Supreme Court decision established that religious institutions are free to require those it recognizes as ministers to uphold religious teachings as a condition of employment.

The school's leaders claim that “the Archdiocese of Indianapolis’ direct insertion into an employment matter of a school governed by a religious order is unprecedented.”

Fr. Paulson framed the problem as one of “the governance autonomy regarding employment decisions of institutions sponsored by the USA Midwest Province of the Society of Jesus.”

“Our disagreement is over what we believe is the proper governance autonomy regarding employment decisions which should be afforded a school sponsored by a religious order. In this particular case, we disagree regarding the prudential decision about how the marital status of a valued employee should affect this teacher’s ongoing employment at Brebeuf Jesuit.”

The school's leaders added that failing to renew the teacher's contract would cause “harm” to “our highly capable and qualified teachers and staff.”

“Our intent has been to do the right thing by the people we employ while preserving our authority as an independent, Catholic Jesuit school.”

The leaders noted that they “are prayerfully discerning how best to proceed with the process of appealing the Archdiocese’s directive.”

Fr. Paulson said the province will appeal the decision, first through the archbishop “and, if necessary, [pursuing] hierarchical recourse to the Vatican.”

Canon law establishes that “no school, even if it is in fact Catholic, may bear the title 'Catholic school' except by the consent of the competent ecclesiastical authority,” in this case, the Archbishop of Indianapolis.

Brebeuf was founded in 1962 by the Society of Jesus. Its 2019 enrollment is 795 students, and tuition at the school is $18,300.

The Archdiocese of Indianapolis has previously addressed similar issues.

In August 2018, Shelley Fitzgerald, a guidance counselor at Roncalli High School in Indianapolis, was placed on paid administrative leave. An employee of an archdiocesan school, Fitzgerald had attempted to contract a same-sex marriage in 2014.

At that time, Archbishop Thompson wrote that “the archdiocese’s Catholic schools are ministries of the Church. School administrators, teachers and guidance counselors are ministers of the faith who are called to share in the mission of the Church. No one has a right to a ministerial position, but once they are called to serve in a ministerial role they must lead by word and example. As ministers, they must convey and be supportive of the teachings of the Catholic Church. These expectations are clearly spelled out in school ministerial job descriptions and contracts, so everyone understands their obligations.”

He added that “When a person is not fulfilling their obligations as a minister of the faith within a school, Church and school leadership address the situation by working with the person to find a path of accompaniment that will lead to a resolution in accordance with Church teaching.”

The archbishop concluded: “Let us pray that everyone will respect and defend the dignity of all persons as well as the truth about marriage according to God’s plan and laws.”

 

Family Research Council president elected to chair religious freedom commission

Thu, 06/20/2019 - 15:00

Washington D.C., Jun 20, 2019 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- The president of a Christian political advocacy and lobbying group has been elected to serve as chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

Tony Perkins is president of the Family Research Council and has been a member of the commission since he was appointed by Sen. Mitch McConnell in 2018.

“I would like to thank my fellow commissioners for entrusting me with the responsibility of guiding this Commission. It is an honor to work with this diverse group of dedicated professionals on such an important issue,” Perkins said June 19.

“I look forward to continuing our efforts to promote the fundamental human right of religious freedom for all people.”

USCIRF is a bipartisan commission that advises the President, Congress, and the Secretary of State on international religious freedom issues. It issues annually a report detailing religious persecution around the globe, and commissioners advocate for religious liberty protections with global leaders and domestic lawmakers.

Perkins, 56, served two terms as a Louisiana state legislator, and ran unsuccessfully as a Republican in the state’s 2002 senatorial race. In 2003, He became president of the Family Research Council,  a lobbying organization affiliated with Focus on the Family.

Although Perkins was elected as commission chairman, leaders at the “LGBT-rights” advocacy organization Human Rights Campaign told the Huffington Post that Perkins’ new role is “another weapon” in an “anti-LGBTQ crusade” perpetrated by the Trump administration, largely in response to Perkins’ opposition to same-sex marriage

Perkins has not responded to directly criticisms regarding his election.

In a June 19 column, however, he wrote that “as Christians, we must care about the plight of those suffering for their religious beliefs — even when those beliefs are very different from our own.”

“In China, the government has detained over 1 million Muslim Uighurs and subjects them to Communist Party indoctrination, forced labor and torture. Increasingly violent anti-Semitic attacks against Jews are on the rise in France. In Russia, Jehovah’s Witnesses regularly face criminal charges for practicing their faith. Iran’s Baha’i community is attacked for its religious identity. Yazidis in northern Iraq have been hunted mercilessly by ISIS, all for simply what they believe,” he wrote.

“These examples are all gross violations of the fundamental human right to religious freedom. In the face of such religious freedom violations and atrocities, it is my duty as a Christian to pray for these people and advocate for their religious freedom on their behalf.”

 

 

 

Catholic governor signs law enshrining abortion access

Thu, 06/20/2019 - 13:00

Providence, R.I., Jun 20, 2019 / 11:00 am (CNA).- Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo signed the Reproductive Privacy Act on Wednesday. The act codifies the Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade into state law.

The law permits unrestricted access to abortion at any time up to “fetal viability,” a disputed term with no fixed scientific meaning. Even after supposed viability, abortion will still be legal in cases where the life or health of the mother is at risk.

Raimondo, a Catholic, said when signing the bill that the abortion issue was a difficult one and that “there are good and principled people on both sides of the issue.”

“But in light of all the uncertainty in Washington, and frankly, around the country in many other states, there is a great deal of anxiety that … a woman’s right to access reproductive healthcare is in danger,” said Raimondo.

She described the bill as one that “preserves the status quo” in the Ocean State.

The population of Rhode Island has the highest percentage of Catholics of any state in the nation.

The Rhode Island Senate voted 21-17 to approve the bill. All five of the state’s Republican senators voted against it, together with 12 Democrats. In the Rhode Island House of Representatives, the vote was 45-29. In the House, one Republican voted in favor of the bill, and 21 Democrats voted against.

Sen. Sandra Cano (D-Pawtucket), a self-described “Catholic and pro-life” politician voted in favor of the bill.

During debate, Cano has said that she “believes that life is sacred” and that her faith is “very important,” to her.

“However, I also believe that Roe v. Wade is the law of the land and I can’t impose my faith on others,” said Cano, who is currently pregnant.

A statement from the Rhode Island Catholic Conference, published following the Senate vote on Wednesday, called the passage of the legislation “a sad day for Rhode Island, and a tragedy for thousands of defenseless unborn.”

“We applaud the 17 senators who, by voting no, exposed the truth that this is much more than a mere confirmation of the status quo. Rather, the surprisingly close vote reflects the degree to which legislators knew in their private thoughts that this bill significantly expands abortion in Rhode Island.”

The statement was signed by Rev. Bernard Healey, director of the conference, who added that the legislation was “deeply disappointing.”

Before Wednesday’s vote, Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence said on Twitter that he was praying that members of the Rhode Island Senate would vote against the bill. After the bill was passed, he tweeted that, although he was disappointed, he had “sincere appreciation” for the state’s pro-life community.  

“Your witness to the dignity of human life has been powerful, peaceful and prayerful,” tweeted Tobin. “God is pleased!”

Tobin also offered encouragement for the state’s pro-lifers in the face of shifting public opinion against unrestricted abortion, calling the law a “very temporary set-back.”

“We will continue to oppose the prevailing culture of death in our society and faithfully and joyfully proclaim the goodness and beauty of life! God bless you!”

May cooler heads prevail regarding Iran, US bishops plead

Thu, 06/20/2019 - 12:36

Washington D.C., Jun 20, 2019 / 10:36 am (CNA).- The US must avoid war with Iran and instead pursue dialogue and engagement, the chair of the US bishops' committee on international justice and peace wrote Tuesday amid escalating tensions between the nations.

“It is my sincere hope that the United States will initiate sustained dialogue with allies, world powers and Iran, in order to deescalate the current situation that is a danger to both the region and the world,” Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Military Services wrote in a June 18 letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The US accused Iran of being responsible for explosions which hit two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman last week, which Iran has denied.

The Department of Defense announced June 17 it would deploy an additional 1,000 troops to the area in response to Iran's “hostile behavior.”

The same day, Iran announced it will surpass the limit on low-enriched uranium to which it had agreed in a 2015 nuclear deal reached under the Obama administration, unless Europe would protect its oil sales.

The nuclear deal had been welcomed by both the US bishops' conference and the Holy See.

Under the Trump administration, the US unilaterally withdrew from the nuclear deal agreement and imposed sanctions on Iran.

Both these factors “seem to have contributed to a pattern of heated rhetoric on the part of both Iran and the United States,” wrote Archbishop Broglio.

“The moves have also exacerbated tensions with close allies and other world powers. For its part, Iran has continued its verbal threats against Israel and the arming of various militia groups in the region,” he stated.

“In the absence of real diplomatic dialogue, military deployments and perceived threats on both sides increase risks of confrontation.”

The archbishop called it “ironic and troubling” that Iran “has threatened to resume some activities that potentially violate” the nuclear deal “in response to sanctions.”

“The Church consistently champions dialogue and engagement as ways to resolve political crises,” he said, recalling that the use of military force is permissible only as a last resort and when there is a probability of success.

“There is little probability that another war in the most volatile region in the world, where the recent and current experiences of conflict in Syria, Iraq and Yemen are vivid, will succeed in bringing peace to the region,” Broglio stated. “A different approach is needed. The President’s recent statement that the United States does not seek war with Iran is encouraging.”

Since Broglio's letter, tensions have only increased.

In the early hours of June 20, a US military surveillance drone was shot down by Iranian forces over the Strait of Hormuz.

Iran claims the drone violated its airspace, while the US claims it was over international waters at the time.

After the drone was downed Hossein Salami, commander-in-chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, said, “Iran is not seeking war with any country, but we are fully prepared to defend Iran … our borders are our red line.”

Peace Cross can stay, Supreme Court rules

Thu, 06/20/2019 - 11:00

Washington D.C., Jun 20, 2019 / 09:00 am (CNA).- The Supreme Court declared Thursday that a large, cross-shaped war memorial on public land is constitutional.

In a 7-2 decision, the court ruled in the case American Legion v. American Humanist Association that the Bladensburg Peace Cross does not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and can remain on public land and be maintained by public funds.

The majority opinion, issued June 20, was authored by Justice Samuel Alito, who was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Stephen Breyer and Brett Kavanaugh. Justices Elena Kagan and Clarence Thomas concurred with parts of Alito’s opinion.

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor were the only judes to dissent from the decision.

The Supreme Court reversed a previous Fourth Circuit decision that found that the monument was unconstitutional due to its overt religious symbolism. The monument was installed in 1925 to honor local soldiers killed in World War I. Presently, the county maintains the grounds of the monument, which the American Humanist Association argued was an entanglement of government and religion.

Writing for the majority, Justice Alito issued strong criticism of the soc-called “Lemon Test” that has been used since 1972 case  Lemon v. Kurtzman to determine if an action creates “excessive government entanglement with religion.” Alito wrote that the test “presents particularly daunting problems” in cases that involve religious words or symbols that are primarily for commemoratory or ceremonial reasons.

“Together, these considerations counsel against efforts to evaluate such cases under Lemon and toward application of a presumption of constitutionality for longstanding monuments, symbols, and practices,” wrote Alito.

The court determined that removing a longstanding monument like the Peace Cross “may no longer appear neutral, especially to the local community for which it has taken on particular meaning.”

“A government that roams the land, tearing down monuments with religious symbolism and scrubbing away any reference to the divine will strike many as aggressively hostile to religion,” he said, adding that “Militantly secular regimes have carried out such projects in the past, and for those with a knowledge of history, the image of monuments being taken down will be evocative, disturbing, and divisive.”

While the Supreme Court did not reject outright the standards of the Lemon Test, the new decision limits its future application.

“The Supreme Court rightly recognized that religious symbols are an important part of our nation’s history and culture,” said Luke Goodrich, vice president and senior counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, responding to the decision.

“We look forward to the coming gap in cable-news programming, as atheist organizations that made bank by suing over harmless religious symbols find a new line of work and learn to look the other way.”

Andrea Piccotti-Bayer, the legal advisor for The Catholic Association, an organization dedicated to “defending religious liberty, life, and the Church in the public square,” praised the Supreme Court for its “common sense and clarity” in deciding that the monument was constitutional.

“The Constitution does not require eliminating the great symbols of America’s religious pluralism from the public square,” said Piccotti-Bayer in a statement sent to CNA.

Disgraced ex-cardinal ‘Mr. McCarrick’ remains at Kansas friary, one year later

Thu, 06/20/2019 - 06:00

Denver, Colo., Jun 20, 2019 / 04:00 am (CNA).- One year after credible allegations of sex abuse of a minor led to his public disgrace, the 88-year-old Theodore McCarrick is no longer a cardinal of the Catholic Church, no longer an archbishop, and no longer a cleric. He continues to reside at a Franciscan friary in Kansas, perhaps indefinitely.

“Mr. McCarrick continues to reside at St. Fidelis Friary in Victoria, Kansas. He is in poor health and remains under a supervision plan,” Father Joseph Mary Elder, O.F.M. Cap., communications director for the Capuchin Franciscans’ Province of St. Conrad, told CNA June 18.

“At this point, the length of his stay is indeterminate, but he is looking for lodgings closer to his family. There is no timetable for when or if that might happen,” said Elder. 

“Mr. McCarrick follows the everyday life and routine of a friar with the exception of public ministry; he lives in the same type of room as the friars, joins in the community prayers and the celebration of the Mass, and participates in community meals and interactions,” he continued.

McCarrick will turn 89 years old on July 7. He has been at the friary since September 2018, when then-Archbishop of Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl asked Bishop Gerald L. Vincke of Salinas, Kansas and Father Christopher Popravak, the Denver-based Capuchin provincial, to make arrangements to house McCarrick.

“Regarding payment for his lodgings, the Archdiocese of Washington was paying room and board for him until the time of his laicization,” said Elder. “While Mr. McCarrick has offered to pay out of pocket, the Capuchins have declined the offer.”

In January 2019 he was removed from the clerical state, one of the most extreme sanctions for a clergyman, and which deprives him of the right to financial support normally guaranteed to clerics under church law. Without this punishment, McCarrick’s former archdiocese would still be required to support him financially.

The decision to host McCarrick in the Salinas diocese was not taken lightly, Vincke said in a Sept. 13, 2018 letter to the diocese’s faithful.

Vincke, who had only taken office in August 2018, said he believes in both justice and mercy. In saying “yes” to hosting McCarrick, he said, “I had to reconcile my own feelings of disappointment, anger and even resentment toward Archbishop McCarrick,” he explained, stressing reliance upon Jesus Christ for guidance, mercy and forgiveness.

Vincke said he was “deeply sorry” for all victims of abuse, adding “This purification of the Church by God is painful, but much needed. We need the eyes of faith as we suffer through this.”

The Salina diocese did not provide additional comment in response to inquiries. McCarrick’s civil attorney, Barry Coburn of the Washington, D.C.-based firm Coburn & Greenbaum, on June 18 confirmed that he is still the ex-cardinal’s attorney but declined further comment.

In February, sources close to the former cardinal told CNA that he has private means of support in place. While McCarrick reportedly did not draw a salary or a pension from any of the three dioceses he led, he does have a private income from savings and monthly annuities.

“While he is not without resources, they are modest, in keeping with what one might expect of a parish priest,” a source close to McCarrick said.

One source speculated that the annuities could have come from “friends or benefactors” of the archbishop before his fall from grace.

McCarrick was well-known for giving envelopes of money to different bishops and cardinals, ostensibly to thank them for their work. Such practices have come under scrutiny as a possible source of corruption and unwarranted influence.

McCarrick was a co-founder and the longtime head of the Papal Foundation, which since 1990 has given over $100 million to support projects and proposals recommended by the Holy See. After a 2018 controversy over a $25 million grant from the foundation to a legally and financially troubled Italian hospital, questions have been raised about whether McCarrick attempted to use foundation influence and assets to forestall investigations against him.

As CNA reported in August 2018, McCarrick sat on the boards of two family foundations which helped funnel $500,000 to his personal archbishop’s fund over about a decade’s time.

McCarrick was a paid consultant for Thomas Donohue, president and chief executive of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Wall Street Journal reported June 6. Over the period 2011 to early 2018, Donohue paid him over $200,000 for advice on global development and other matters.

The day McCarrick was first accused of sexual misconduct, he contacted Donohue for help returning to Washington from the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. Donohue dispatched a private jet and later compensated the Chamber more than $23,000 for the flight.

The Chamber of Commerce spends the most on lobbying of any interest group in Washington. Donohue is also president of the board of the Chamber’s affiliate the Center for International Private Enterprise, which is part of the globally influential U.S. nonprofit the National Endowment for Democracy.

One year ago, on June 20, 2018, the Archdiocese of New York announced that its investigation found “credible and substantiated” allegations that McCarrick had committed sexual abuse of a teenager. It also came to light that the Archdiocese of Newark and the Diocese of Metuchen had previously reached out-of-court settlements with several adult men who alleged they were sexually abused by McCarrick during their time as seminarians.

In July 2018 McCarrick was sentenced to a life of prayer and penance by Pope Francis pending the completion of a canonical process against him. That same day, the pope accepted McCarrick’s resignation from the College of Cardinals.

That July another victim, James Grein of Virginia came forward to say McCarrick had begun sexually abusing him in 1969, when Grein was 11 and McCarrick was a 39-year-old priest. Some of the abuse took place in the context of the sacrament of reconciliation, further compounding McCarrick’s offenses. McCarrick was reportedly a friend to Grein’s Swiss-American family and Grein was the first baby he baptized as a priest, the New York Times reported.

Grein has said his family provided early financial support for McCarrick and trips to Switzerland with family members, which could have provided a key boost to McCarrick’s ability to network internationally and to rise in the Church.

While McCarrick’s fall shocked many, some said they had long heard rumors of questionable behavior towards adult seminarians. McCarrick’s fall brought scrutiny for U.S. bishops who had served under him, with many denying they knew of any misbehavior.

Pope Francis himself has faced questions. Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the former apostolic nuncio to the U.S., has charged that Pope Francis knew of sanctions placed on McCarrick. He said that McCarrick’s alleged sexual misconduct had been known to some Vatican officials for years, eventually leading to a restriction on the archbishop’s ministry by Pope Benedict XVI in the late 2000s, and a subsequent restoration of McCarrick’s place as a papal advisor by Pope Francis.

Since the charges first emerged, Pope Francis has maintained that he will not respond to the content of the Vigano letters, and instead has encouraged journalists to investigate their allegations. Some aspects of the former nuncio’s testimonial seem to have been verified, while other aspects remain controversial or unproven, and some have proven to have been exaggerated, overstated, or unlikely.

Msgr. Anthony Figueiredo, a priest of the Archdiocese of Newark and a former secretary to McCarrick, last month released apparent excerpts from private correspondence between McCarrick, the priest, and various other Church officials. In his view, these show high-ranking Vatican churchmen “likely had knowledge of McCarrick’s actions and of restrictions imposed upon him during the pontificate of Benedict XVI.”

The excerpts seem to contain admissions of wrongdoing from McCarrick, and to confirm subsequent reports about the Vatican’s response to the former cardinal’s behavior. But some Vatican officials have said Figueiredo’s report did not fully explain the ways in which McCarrick operated in the Vatican. They painted a picture of a man expert at exploiting a curial culture and creating an appearance of conflicting instructions that allowed him to justify his travels.

The excerpts from Figueiredo’s correspondence also appear to confirm reports that McCarrick played an ongoing, though sometimes unofficial, role in Vatican diplomatic efforts, especially in China, during the pontificates of both Benedict XVI and Francis.

McCarrick’s long career began, perhaps, with his ordination as a priest by the deeply influential Cardinal Francis Spellman of New York. He later served as an auxiliary bishop of New York before becoming Bishop of Metuchen, Archbishop of Newark and then Archbishop of Washington.

McCarrick’s career included time as a university leader and service on diplomatic missions and advisory roles for both the U.S. State Department and the Holy See. He has served on pontifical councils for Promoting Christian Unity, Justice and Peace, Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples and for Latin America. Similarly, he served in the office of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See and as chair of multiple U.S. bishops’ conference committees.

 

Botched abortions at Missouri's last abortion clinic raise questions

Wed, 06/19/2019 - 19:49

St. Louis, Mo., Jun 19, 2019 / 05:49 pm (CNA).- In a legal battle over the closure of Missouri’s last functioning Planned Parenthood, state health department officials cited four botched abortions as part of the reason that they do not want to renew the clinic’s license, according to reports from the AP.

The closure of the clinic would mean the closure of the last abortion clinic in the state. Last month, Planned Parenthood sued the state of Missouri after the health department declined to renew the clinic’s license.

On Friday, June 14, the state’s health department sent the St. Louis clinic and the court “documents, a letter and statement of deficiencies,” the AP reported, which included details on the four botched abortions at the heart of the licensure dispute.

The records, which were published by pro-life group Operation Rescue in an expose, were ordered to be sealed by St. Louis Circuit Judge Michael Stelzer on Monday, June 17, after Planned Parenthood voiced concerns that the publication of the documents violated their patients’ right to privacy, the AP reported.

William Koebel, a state health department official, told the AP that the records now sealed by the court documented the failed abortions of three patients, whose babies survived after the botched abortions, and required additional surgical or medical abortions to end the pregnancies. Koebel noted that one of the patients with a failed abortion developed sepsis, a serious bacterial infection of the blood stream.

A fourth patient’s abortion at 21 weeks of pregnancy was completed at the clinic, but the patient was hospitalized afterward with “life threatening complications,” Koebel told the AP. He also noted his concerns that some of the botched abortions were done by resident doctors, who have failed to comply with the state health department’s investigation of the clinic.

In early June, Stelzer ruled that doctors, including doctors in residence, who were not currently employed by the St. Louis Planned Parenthood did not have to testify in the state’s investigation of the clinic. Stelzer dismissed the subpoena for their interviews as an “undue burden” on those doctors.

Koebel told the AP that their cooperation is “imperative” for a full investigation.

“Refusal of health care providers to cooperate in the Department's investigations thwarts the Department's ability to conduct meaningful review of troubling instances of patient care, and obstructs the Department's ability to ensure that problems will not be repeated,” Koebel said.

Lawyers representing the Planned Parenthood affiliate secured a restraining order in late May from Stelzer, which allows the clinic to continue operating while its licensure is disputed in court. The clinic’s ability to operate is up for review again on June 21.

In a separate case, on Friday, June 14, St. Louis Circuit Court Judge David Dowd ruled that Missouri’s legislature cannot cut funding from the Planned Parenthood clinic, after the clinic argued that it not only provided abortions, but other health care services, according to a local Fox News affiliate. Missouri Governor Mike Parson said the decision will be appealed.

Parson also recently signed a bill that punishes abortion doctors who perform abortions on a woman who is past eight weeks of pregnancy, with exceptions for medical emergencies which seriously threaten the life or quality of life of the mother. The law does not penalize women who obtain abortions.

Archbishop Robert Carlson of St. Louis called the eight-week abortion ban “a giant step forward for the pro-life movement.”

Analysis: One year after McCarrick, what's next for the Church?

Wed, 06/19/2019 - 18:20

Washington D.C., Jun 19, 2019 / 04:20 pm (CNA).- Exactly one year after revelations about the sexual abuse of then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick were made public, the Church in the U.S. remains in a state of serious scandal, and Catholics remain angry and discouraged. But what’s next for the Church - what happens after McCarrick - depends as much on the decisions of ordinary Catholics as it does on the policy decisions of the U.S. bishops.

In 2002, McCarrick told the Washington Post in 2002 that to address the scourge of clerical sexual abuse that had been uncovered that year, “everybody has to have a plan, everybody has to have a procedure, everybody has to have a policy."

His fellow bishops needed to begin "really tackling this in a more comprehensive way,” McCarrick told reporters.

It was April 2002 when McCarrick made those remarks. In the months that followed, he would become an architect, and a tireless promoter, of the U.S. bishops’ plans and policies to address clerical sexual abuse.

“I think we have to somehow make sure that our people know what we're doing, that the people know that the bishops are taking this seriously.”

People did not, in fact, know what McCarrick had been doing. By April 2002, Theodore McCarrick had serially sexually abused at least two minors, and sexually coerced dozens of young priests and seminarians.

Knowing now what he knew then, it seems incredible that McCarrick was celebrated in the Post as a “national leader” on clerical sexual abuse.

But he was.

In 2002, a scholar from Notre Dame told the Washington Post that McCarrick “understands the depth of the problem and the need to address it transparently...If his style of leadership were emulated, I think the church would be in better shape."

One year ago, one June 20, 2018, the Church learned far more than about McCarrick’s “style of leadership” than was expected. And the revelations about his decades of sexual abuse and coercion gave the Church a new look at the “depth of the problem.”

Since June 20, 2018, the Church in the U.S. has reeled from the Pennsylvania grand jury report, allegations of startling misconduct, neglect, or outright cover-up from many trusted or influential bishops, from the August letter of Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, international reports concerning Bishops Gustavo Zanchetta, Jose Pineda, and Franco Mulakkal, from revelations concerning large cash gifts proffered by a bishop abuser, and from a USCCB and Vatican response to these disclosures that, in the judgment of many observers and commentators, has been tepid, at best.

It seems likely, even now, that more scandals, especially regarding finances, will be soon to emerge.

One year after McCarrick, what’s next? What will the Church face, and how will she face it?

It should be noted that the U.S. bishops’ conference has, despite multiple serious setbacks, passed some norms and policies intended to respond to this crisis. Those policies, are, in the view of many experts, a good start to policy reform in the Church, though only in the limited spheres they deign to address.

Those reforms have been panned by some critics as insufficient, merely reactionary, and totally inadequate to addressing an apparently complex constellation of problems, which includes immoral sexual activity, some of it coercive, by some priests and bishops, an apparent reluctance to stridently address those matters when they arise, a clerical culture that sometimes includes self-interest and self-protection, financial malfeasance, and a lack of accountability regarding those matters.

McCarrick called for policies in 2002, and in 2019, the bishops now have policies to address McCarrick.

But just as 2002's policies did not stop the McCarrick or Bransfield scandals, the USCCB’s measures are insufficient to resolutely address the scandal’s cluster of problems.

The bishops would be wise to recognize more publicly and directly the limited impact of policies and procedures, and the importance of personal integrity, virtue, accountability, and personal holiness.

But many Catholics say that while they have heard some bishops articulate that sentiment, they remain skeptical about even the just implementation of the bishops’ own reform policies. And their discouragement over those norms reflects a broader shift.

In fact, the most striking effect of the Church’s year of scandal is the degree to which faithful and practicing Catholics - among them priests, religious, and lay ecclesial staffers - have become discouraged, demoralized, and hesitant to trust.

And it has become clear that the U.S. bishops are unlikely to regain that trust in one fell swoop - through one grand or dramatic gesture of transparency, accountability, contrition, or condemnation. They had an opportunity for such a gesture at their November 2018 meeting, when they considered a resolution calling for the Vatican to release all available material on McCarrick. But that resolution failed.

It is clear that reform, and holding malfeasant bishops to account, will be a long-term project of limited success. Catholics will continue to call for greater accountability, transparency, and for basic answers to basic questions, but it remains to be seen whether their calls will be answered. If they are not, the scandal will be prolonged, and Catholics will likely grow even more demoralized.

In the meantime, the Church will suffer the loss of some Catholics, who have or will become less engaged in the practice of the faith in the wake of this scandal.

Of course, it is not only bishops who are responsible for preserving the bonds of ecclesial communion.

The Church has before faced crises occasioned by the sinfulness of its leaders. In each of those crises, believers have had to decide whether or not to remain in the communion of the Church, and to work themselves for reform and renewal. This case, is no different.

No policies or procedures can overcome the reality of fallen humanity. Each Catholic must ask himself, in the wake of the McCarrick scandal, what it is reasonable and just to expect of a Church predicated on the premise that each of its members is a sinner in need of redemption.

This exercise should not make excuses for malfeasance and ineptitude, but it should be an honest assessment of the limits of all human endeavors for reform.

One year after the initial disappointment, and then the compounding disappointments of cover-ups, denials, and missed opportunities, Catholics must begin to ask themselves whether they will still commit to communion with a Church of woeful sinners, and whether they will commit to its mission.

And, in this moment, each Catholic must ask himself whether his righteous indignation has become self-righteous hubris. After the initial shock of the last year has worn off, a protracted hermeneutic of suspicion or reactive anticlericalism is not likely to contribute to a renewal of the Church in the United States. But those things are a temptation.

Also a temptation is endless bureaucratic tinkering, empty promises, or covering-up for a culture of cover-up. Bishops must ask themselves how radically committed they are to their promises of reform.

In short, saints will move the Church forward, and each Catholic must ask himself whether he wishes actually to become a saint.

The project of the new evangelization is that of reproclaming in the Gospel in once Christian cultures. As the influence of the Church wanes - even on the moral and spiritual lives of Catholics - the secularity of American culture is, for many Catholics, laid clearly bare.

The McCarrick scandal could be the moment in which the Church steps back, to ask more fundamental questions about why so few people baptized as Catholics practice the faith into adulthood, and what can be done about it. Some bishops seem to have seriously taken up those questions in recent years, and others have not. Some bishops will see in this scandal the bigger picture, and others will not.

But nothing precludes laity, religious, and clerics aggrieved and angry about scandal to ask that question, and to look for answers that will bear more fruit than perduring fulmination against the failures of bishops.

Answers will be diverse. They should include ongoing and serious efforts for reform, but they should not be limited to those efforts.

Doubtless, some Catholics will say that a renewal of the Church will come from a resurgence of more traditional liturgical forms. Others will make mention of ecclesial movements like the NeoCatechumenal Way or Communion and Liberation. Still others will suggest evangelical initiatives like Focus or Word on Fire. That diversity - a motley flurry of evangelical activity - is likely the key to real renewal in the life of the Church in the U.S.

The history of the Church proves that there is not one methodology or program that has the corner on evangelization - that instead various spiritualities and movements can be fruitful, if they are rooted in the person of Jesus Christ.

That focus - which points toward a renewal far beyond hurried policy documents - is the key to a fruitful and living Church after the McCarrick scandal. Some bishops may lead on those fronts, while others disappoint, or seem to miss the mark. Some scandals will be addressed, while others may long go unresolved, and new ones will emerge. The life of the Church will be often messy, often disappointing, often frustrating, and always in need of renewal, reform, and conversion. Catholics, bishops included, will face the choice of working towards those ends, or not.

But a serious commitment to apostolic and evangelic activity- to the proclamation of the Gospel - is also the best prospect for reform. A holier Church, dedicated more zealously to mission, will also be a more just and less corrupt Church.

A great deal has changed in the aftermath of the McCarrick scandal. But sin, corruption, betrayal, and failure are not new to the Church. Nor is Jesus Christ, the source of grace, justice, and renewal, who is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.  
 

 

One year since the McCarrick allegations: A CNA timeline

Wed, 06/19/2019 - 18:18

Washington D.C., Jun 19, 2019 / 04:18 pm (CNA).- June 20 marks one year since the announcement that credible allegations of sexual abuse had been raised against then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. In the months that followed, a major crisis of abuse and cover up within the Church in the U.S. was revealed, and Church officials have responded with new policies and pledges of transparency. Here is a timeline of major events in the last year:


June 20
The Archdiocese of New York announces that an allegation of sexual abuse by Cardinal Theodore McCarrick has been found to be “credible and substantiated.” In the following months, additional allegations will be raised against McCarrick, including claims that McCarrick had a widely-known reputation for sexual advances toward seminarians.

July 3
The Diocese of Cheyenne says Emeritus Bishop Joseph Hart has been credibly accused of sexually assaulting two boys after he became bishop of the diocese in 1976. A third credible allegation is confirmed a few weeks later.

July 28
Pope Francis accepts the resignation of McCarrick from the College of Cardinals and suspends him from the exercise of any public ministry. He directs McCarrick to observe a life of prayer and penance, pending the canonical process against him.

August 14
A grand jury report in Pennsylvania details allegations against some 300 priests, from more than 1,000 victims in six of the state’s Catholic dioceses over a 70-year period. The report was met with national outcry and prompted more than a dozen other states to follow suit.

August 16
The U.S. bishops’ conference calls for a Vatican-led investigation into the allegations of sexual abuse and cover-up surrounding McCarrick.

August 25
Former apostolic nuncio to the U.S. Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano releases a “testament” claiming that Pope Francis knew about sanctions imposed on McCarrick by Benedict XVI but chose to repeal them.

August 26
Asked during an in-flight interview about Vigano’s letter, Pope Francis says he “will not say a single word” on the subject and instructs journalists to use their “journalistic capacity to draw your own conclusions.”

September 12
Pope Francis calls for all the presidents of the Catholic bishops’ conferences of the world to meet at the Vatican Feb. 21-24 to address the protection of minors.

September 19
The administrative committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops announces new accountability measures, including a code of conduct for bishops and the creation of an independent reporting mechanism for complaints against bishops. The committee also calls for a full investigation into the allegations against McCarrick and the Church’s response to these allegations.

October 6
The Vatican announces that Pope Francis has ordered a review of all Holy See files pertaining to allegations of sexual misconduct on the part of McCarrick. The results of that review have not, to date, been released.

November 12
U.S. bishops gather for an annual fall meeting in Baltimore; the Vatican instructs them to delay until after the February meeting a vote on two proposals intended to be the foundation of the U.S. Church’s response to the abuse crisis.

November 14
The U.S. bishops fail to pass a resolution that would have “encouraged” the Holy See to release all documents on the allegations of misconduct against McCarrick.

January 2-8
At the suggestion of Pope Francis, the U.S. bishops hold a retreat to consider how to respond to the still ongoing sexual abuse crises facing the Church.

January 11
McCarrick is laicized. Also known as dismissal from the clerical state, he no longer has the right to exercise sacred ministry in the Church, except in the extreme situation of encountering someone who is in immediate danger of death. In addition, he no longer has the canonical right to be financially supported by the Church. A statement from the Vatican announcing the laicization is released Feb. 16.

February 21 - 24
The Vatican holds a sex abuse summit with the heads of bishops’ conference from countries around the world. The summit’s stated purpose is to educate the world’s bishops on their responsibility for protecting minors from abuse within the Church.

April 4
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith upholds a 2018 verdict finding Archbishop Anthony Apuron of Agana, Guam, guilty of several abuse related charges. Apuron is deprived of his office as archbishop and forbidden to use the insignia of a bishop or live within the jurisdiction of the archdiocese. He is not removed from ministry or the clerical state, and is not instructed to live in prayer and penance.

May 9
Pope Francis issues new experimental norms for the handling of some sex abuse allegations. The norms place seminarians and religious coerced into sexual activity through the abuse of authority in the same criminal category as abuse of minors and vulnerable adults. They also establish obligatory reporting for clerics and religious, require that every diocese has a mechanism for reporting abuse, and put the metropolitan archbishop in charge of investigations of accusations of abuse or negligence against suffragan bishops.

June 4
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, is accused of mishandling an allegation of sexual coercion made against his former vicar general by permitting the priest to transfer to another diocese and continue in ministry. The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston disputes the claim, saying the priest underwent a rehabilitation process, and was recommended to be returned to ministry by the professionals who assessed him.

June 5
An investigation finds credible allegations of sexual harassment and coercion of adults by former Bishop Michael Bransfield of Wheeling-Charleston, as well as the fostering of “a culture of fear of retaliation and retribution” that prevented his conduct from being discovered or reported. Pope Francis had accepted Bransfield’s resignation the previous September when he turned 75.

June 12-13
At their annual spring meeting, the U.S. bishops approve the creation of a national third-party reporting mechanism, directives to apply the pope’s new norms, protocol for a diocesan bishop to restrict the ministry his predecessor when needed, and a set of non-binding moral commitments pledging to hold themselves to the same standards applied to priests.

House Democrats pass appropriations bill with Hyde Amendment intact

Wed, 06/19/2019 - 17:00

Washington D.C., Jun 19, 2019 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- The House of Representatives passed a combination appropriations bill on Wednesday afternoon that renews the Hyde Amendment, preventing federal Medicaid funds from being used for abortions.

The bill passed by a vote of 226-203 on June 19 and contains funding for four separate spending areas, including the Department of Health and Human Services and the provisions of the Hyde Amendment.

The vote was cast almost entirely along party lines. All but seven Democrats voted for the spending bill, and no Republicans voted for it. A last-ditch bill amendment effort by Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) to remove the Hyde Amendment from the bill was rejected as a violation of the House procedural rules.

Democratic presidential candidates have expressed an increasing consensus in favor of overturning the Hyde Amendment, and scrapping the policy was part of the Democratic Party platform in 2016.

Former vice president Joe Biden, who currently leads the field of candidates for the Deomcratic nomination for president, recently announced a reversal of his position on the Hyde Amendment and now backs its repeal after over four decades of supporting the measure.

Despite widespread opposition to the policy within the Democratic Party, the Hyde Amendment was included in this year’s spending bill in recognition of the need for approval in the Republican-controlled Senate and be signed by President Donald Trump.

Senate Republicans have indicated that they would not vote for an appropriations bill without the Hyde Amendment, and it is considered unlikely that President Trump would sign such a bill.

The Hyde Amendment was first passed in 1977, and prohibited the use of federal money for abortions, except in cases where the woman’s life is at risk. The amendment was slightly modified in 1994, when exceptions were added for pregnancies resulting from rape and incest.

The Hyde Amendment applying only to federal funds, individual states are free to use their own Medicaid funds for abortions.

'Transgender' track rules violate Title IX, ADF says

Wed, 06/19/2019 - 15:00

Washington D.C., Jun 19, 2019 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- The governing body for high school sports in Connecticut is facing a federal complaint after allowing male students to compete in female events.

Three female students, supported by Alliance Defending Freedom, a nonprofit group advocating for the defence of religious liberty, filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights after male students were allowed to compete in the 2018 female outdoor track season.

The complaint alleges that the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC), which is a governing body for high school sports in Connecticut, is violating federal Title IX norms by allowing male athletes who identify themselves as females to compete in sports against female athletes.

CIAC member schools include many of the state’s Catholic high schools.

The two male students, who identify themselves as female, were allowed to compete during the track season and placed well ahead of their female competitors.

Since 2017, the CIAC allows athletes to compete in leagues consistent with “preferred gender identity.”

In the spring 2018 outdoor track season, a sophomore runner who had already competed in the 2018 indoor track season on the boys’ team changed his gender identification and was permitted to compete as a female.

In the 2018-2019 seasons, he, along with another female-identifying male runner, have consistently placed as the top-two finishers in their events against female runners. One of the males now holds 10 state records in female track events. Previously, these records were held by 10 different runners.

ADF is requesting that the Office for Civil Rights investigate alleged Title IX violations, and compel the CIAC to change its athlete policy.

Title IX of the 1972 Educational Ammendments Act states that "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance."

ADF asserts that allowing male athletes to compete in female events is discriminatory against female athletes.

Additionally, the ADF has requested that the CIAC retroactively recognize runners who would otherwise have won or qualified for events had they not been competing against males.

One of the three girls represented by the ADF complaint is Selina Soule, a 16-year-old from Glastonbury High School in Connecticut. Soule, who runs track, missed qualifying for the state finals in the 55-meter dash by one place. The top two finishers in the event were both males identifying themselves as female.

The other two complainants, who also run track, have chosen to remain anonymous.

“Girls deserve to compete on a level playing field. Forcing female athletes to compete against boys is grossly unfair and destroys their athletic opportunities,” said ADF Legal Counsel Christiana Holcomb in a statement posted on the organization’s website.

“Title IX was designed to eliminate discrimination against women in education and athletics, and women fought long and hard to earn the equal athletic opportunities that Title IX provides. Allowing boys to compete in girls’ sports reverses nearly 50 years of advances for women under this law.”

Speaking on Fox News, Soule said that she has received “nothing but support” from her teammates and from other athletes, but she has “experienced some retaliation from school officials and coaches.”

In a 2018 interview after the state championships, Soule said that she had “no problem with [the male athletes] wanting to be a girl,” but that she did not think it was right that she had to race males.

“I think it’s unfair to the girls who work really hard to do well and qualify for Opens and New Englands,” she said in 2018. The New England championships serve as a scouting venue for many college-level coaches.

Earlier this month, the Congregation for Catholic Education issued a document laying out principles for Catholic engagement with so-called gender theory, which posits that biological sex and gender are intrinsically mutable and seperable.

The document, titled “Male and Female He Created Them,” called gender theory an effort “chiefly to create a cultural and ideological revolution driven by relativism, and secondarily a juridical revolution, since such beliefs claim specific rights for the individual and across society.”

“There is a need to reaffirm the metaphysical roots of sexual difference, as an anthropological refutation of attempts to negate the male-female duality of human nature, from which the family is generated,” said the document.

“The denial of this duality not only erases the vision of human beings as the fruit of an act of creation but creates the idea of the human person as a sort of abstraction who ‘chooses for himself what his nature is to be.’”

California bishops call Catholics to 'ecological spirituality'

Wed, 06/19/2019 - 12:26

Sacramento, Calif., Jun 19, 2019 / 10:26 am (CNA).- On the fourth anniversary of Laudato Si’, the bishops of California challenged the community to grow in an “ecological conversion” that respects God, man, and creation.

The California Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a June 18 pastoral statement reflecting on Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical, “Laudato Si’: On care for our common home.”

The bishops reflected on the call to stewardship of the environment and how concrete actions are necessary to exercise this stewardship in preserving the natural beauty of California.

“The astonishing diversity of landscapes across California - formed by the dynamic interplay of diverse natural forces - moves us to recognize God’s artistry in creation,” the bishops said.

“We propose a practical application of the Laudato Si’ message of ecological spirituality - that the ecological well-being of California is meant to be deeply embedded in a spirituality that unites all creatures and all creation in praising God.”

Man is responsible for caring for creation, the bishops said in their message. They encouraged people to find ways to prevent waste and ensure sustainability. They suggested Catholics invest in energy efficient appliances, residences, and vehicles. In two examples, the bishops said families may consider adding solar panels to their homes, and businesses may reflect on the environmental impact of thee products they produce.

In addition, the bishops highlighted the importance of dialogue about environmental issues and the development of educational materials to further awareness on the topic. They called for works of art that reflect the beauty of creation in order to “inspire a culture of ecological and human care in the light of the moral applications of the Pope’s encyclical.”

The California bishops said climate change harms both the environment and people, especially the most vulnerable. They noted that Pope Francis has included the issue in his admonitions of a “throwaway culture,” which also includes consumeristic excess, abortion, and euthanasia.

“The disruption of the earth’s climate is one of the principal challenges facing humanity today, with grave implications for the poor, many of whom live in areas particularly affected by environmental degradation and who also subsist largely on access to natural resources for housing, food, and income,” they said.

It is the responsibility of the local community to work together to overcome climate change, the bishops stressed, calling particularly on young people, businesses, and public officials to be involved.

“Subsidiarity presents an opportunity for all of us to act locally, but with an eye to broader social transformation to advance sustainability and climate protection,” they said.

In recent years, California has faced significant drought, as well as the largest fire in state history, which took place last year, when more than 400,000 acres were burned in and around Mendocino County. The state’s four hottest years on record occurred from 2014-2018.

To respond to these climate crises, the bishops said, it is important to ensure that people have access to clean, affordable water and to provide proper fire education and prevention measures.

They also called for efforts to strengthen aqueducts and water ways to withstand drought, as well as greater investment in attempts to better understand the effects of climate change on water systems.

“The Laudato Si’ call to live integral ecology means listening to creation and observing what is happening in it,” the bishops said. “To live out a spirituality of the common good, we must recommit ourselves to fostering greater harmony in our relationship with the earth.”

The state bishops promised to work with pastoral leaders to spread the message of Laudato Si’. They challenged parishioners and communities to undergo a spiritual conversion and grow in virtues which will positively affect the environment.

“At the heart of all spirituality is conversion. We all need to change for the better. Conversion is not just turning back to God, but always embraces new thinking and new decisions - a new way of life as we move into the future,” they said.

“Ecological conversion challenges us to advance in culture, to grow spiritually, and to be better educated about the world entrusted by God to our care. The heavens and the earth belong to God, but we have been called to be good stewards.”

 

Families are a radical witness to hope in modern society, Archbishop Gomez says

Wed, 06/19/2019 - 09:30

South Bend, Ind., Jun 19, 2019 / 07:30 am (CNA).- The Christian family must become a “radical” sign against a climate of despair and isolation Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles said Tuesday.

Gomez, who serves as the vice president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, delivered the speech June 18 as part of a four-day conference on Liturgy and the Domestic Church at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend.

“Our society has rejected what twenty centuries of Christian civilization considered a basic fact of nature — that most men and women will find their life’s purpose in forming loving marriages, working together, sharing their lives, and raising children,” Gomez said.

The archbishop explained that in previous decades preserving and promoting the family involved a cluster of issues, including divorce, cohabitation, contraception and abortion, same-sex relationships, and the sexual confusion of society. Now, he argued, the basic human imperative to marry and have children is being abandoned.

“Many young people are debating whether it is ‘ethical’ to have kids in an age of global warming. There is an even larger conversation going on among millennials about the ‘value’ of starting a family,” Gomez said.

Just Google that simple question: ‘Should I have kids?’ It is sad, the results that come back. Not only that. It is sad how many people are asking these kinds of questions.”

“The truth is this: for whatever reasons, people have already stopped having children.”

Gomez said that the decline of birth rates, and the rejection of the concept and worth of family, is a sign of more than just selfishness: it is an indication of despair. Without minimizing the importance of climate change, Gomez said, a cultural narrative of coming dystopia has emerged, in which children are considered to be better off having never been born.

“These same kinds of bleak scenarios are being spun out daily in newspapers and magazines, in books, in the media, in classrooms,” Gomez said, and it is the mission of the Church, expressed through the witness of the Christian family, to respond.

“The question for us is: how are we going to live as Christians in this culture, and how are we going to raise our children and evangelize this culture? In these times, what case can we make for marriage, for the family, for children?”

In the Los Angeles archdiocese, he said, a community of more than five million Catholics was baptizing 50,000 infants every year. “These are not just numbers,” Gomez said, “these are souls, entrusted by God to our care. As a pastor, I do not want a single one to be lost.”

It is vital, he said, to discover and promoted the “Domestic Church” of the family, rooted in a parish able to sustain and support them.

“In my opinion, forming small faith communities is crucial,” Gomez said, while insisting that continuous sacramental and faith formation was essential to the life and mission of the Church.

“When we marry a couple or baptize a child — we need to see that as the beginning of a relationship. We need to find ways to nurture that relationship, to support that child and that couple, to help them grow in their love of Jesus and their commitment to living the Gospel in their families.”

Formation of families in the faith is, Gomez said, central to the Church’s mission at a time when the Gospel message is once more seen as antithetical to the culture.

“We need to rediscover the radical ‘newness’ of the Christian message about the family,” he said.

“Before Christianity, no one had ever spoken about marriage in terms of a love that lasts a lifetime, or as a calling from God, or as a path that can lead to holiness and salvation. It was a new and thrilling idea to speak of man and woman becoming ‘one flesh’ and participating in God’s own act of creating new life.”

The simplicity of the family, mirroring the hidden life of Christ in the Holy Family of Nazareth, offers the opportunity to evangelize by a witness to hope and to authentic human happiness – something which society is losing along with the will to have children.

“The first Christians evangelized by the way they lived. And the way they lived was to be in this world but not of this world. They lived the same lives as their neighbors, but in a different way,” Gomez said.

“They rejected birth control and abortion and welcomed children in joy as a gift from God and treated them as precious persons to be loved and nurtured and brought up in the ways of the Lord.”

“The first Christian families changed the world — simply by living the teachings of Jesus and his Church. And my friends, we can change the world again, by following the same path.”

US Supreme Court will soon decide 'Peace Cross' First Amendment case

Tue, 06/18/2019 - 18:10

Washington D.C., Jun 18, 2019 / 04:10 pm (CNA).- Before the month is out, the US Supreme Court is expected to issue its decision in an establishment clause case with the potential to create a new standard for dealing with problems related to religious liberty, religious symbols, and the relationship between religion and public life.

The case, The American Legion v. American Humanist Association, hinges on the legality of the Bladensburg Peace Cross--a 40-foot stone cross that was erected in 1925 in Prince George’s County, Maryland.

The cross honors those from the area who were killed in World War I. The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission has performed regular maintenance around the monument since 1961, as it is located on a median in the middle of a public road. This, the American Humanist Association has argued, is entangling government unnecessarily with religion.

Joe Davis, legal counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, told CNA that things appeared to be positive during oral arguments, and that “at least five” of the justices indicated that they felt as though the cross monument was legal. Oral arguments do not, however, always reflect what the justices decide months later.

If the Supreme Court does indeed rule in favor of keeping the peace cross, it is increasingly likely that they would have to use a new sort of legal test to justify how the cross is constitutional. Since 1971, the Supreme Court has used the “Lemon test” to decide these cases, something Davis described as “wildly inconsistent.” The application of the Lemon test has led to some religious symbols being found constitutional, and others not.

“(The Lemon test) has been heavily criticized over the decades," explained Davis.

It is a threefold standard, which examines if the action in question has a secular purpose, a primarily religious or secular effect, and if the action “entangles the government with religion” excessively.

The “test” was established in the Court's 1971 decision in Lemon v. Kurtzman, which struck down a Pennsylvania law allowing the reimbursement of private school teacher's salaries from public funds.

In The American Legion v. American Humanist Association, those arguing in favor of the Peace Cross proposed alternative tests for the court to consider instead of Lemon.

"The parties defending the cross argued that (the Lemon test) should be replaced by a coercion test, when you ask if the government action is coercing some religious exercise,” said Davis. “And if it's not, it's not an establishment clause violation."

The governmental party defending the Peace Cross put forward an “independent, secular meaning test,” said Davis, which would be similar to parts of the Lemon test.

The Becket lawyers argued what Davis termed a “historical approach,” which would put the action in the context of what the founders of the United States intended when they created the establishment clause of the First Amendment.

“The idea would be, you take the government action and you say ‘Does this look like what establishment of religion looks like at the founding? Is this the kind of thing that the founders were concerned about when they ratified the establishment clause?’” said Davis.

This historical approach would work, said Davis, “because you can just compare whatever the current case is about to the historical data, and see whether it matches up.”

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case in February. The court’s term ends at the end of the month, meaning that the decision will be released shortly.

Mom, target of doxing state rep, calls for Sims’ censure

Tue, 06/18/2019 - 14:30

Harrisburg, Pa., Jun 18, 2019 / 12:30 pm (CNA).- State Rep. Brian Sims is facing possible censure in the Pennsylvania legislature following his harassment and attempts to dox women and minors outside a Philadelphia abortion clinic last month.

In videos posted on social media May 2, Sims offered money to his followers if they would publish the names and addresses of pro-life demonstrators, including two women and several high school-age students. One of the demonstrators, Ashley Garecht of Lower Merion Township, travelled to Harrisburg June 17 to encourage state legislators to back the censure.

“It’s unclear to me why any member of this body would be hesitant to sign on to the resolution,” said Garecht, who can be seen with her daughters being harassed by Sims in one of his videos.

Garecht told local media that she thinks the incident highlights Sims’ abuse of power as much as his intolerance for pro-life speech.

“What happened to us was about an elected state representative who declared in his own video to be an elected state representative harassing and intimidating citizens out of their First Amendment rights--and three of those were minors. Then he took it a step further by offering money to expose their identities on the internet.”

So far, 36 lawmakers have supported the resolution, out of the 201 members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.

Rep. Jerry Knowles (R-Berks/Carbon/Schuylkill) filed the resolution in early June. Knowles is seeking to remove Sims from the four committees he belongs to, as well as prevent him from being appointed to any additional committees or positions until the end of his term. Sims’ term expires Nov. 30, 2020.

“It should be noted that Representative Sims also used his elected position to intimidate the individuals with whom he was interacting, clearly stating on the videos that he was a member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives,” said the memorandum issued by Knowles that was sent to other members of the Pennsylvania House.

In the videos, Sims referred to one woman as an “old white lady,” and in another, he targeted three teenage girls accompanied by Garecht.

Sims has not yet publicly apologized for attempting to dox the pro-lifers, but he did publish a video where he pledged to “do better for the women of Pennsylvania.”

Following outcry against Sims’ actions, a pro-life rally was held outside of the Planned Parenthood clinic in Philadelphia on May 10, where Sims is a volunteer patient escort.

In the 2014 case McCullen v. Coakley the Supreme Court unanimously found “buffer zones” around abortion clinics, limiting the space where a person can either pray or protest, to be unconstitutional.

Garecht said she has forgiven Sims for his doxing threat and harassing comments, and that she and her family continue to pray for them. She may pursue some sort of civil action suit against Sims.

“This isn’t about a vendetta for me as a mother,” said Garecht. “This is about standing up specifically for my daughters to hold the person who attacked them to account.”

Supreme Court gives second chance to Oregon cake bakers who declined same-sex wedding

Tue, 06/18/2019 - 02:20

Portland, Ore., Jun 18, 2019 / 12:20 am (CNA).- An Oregon bakery whose owners declined to make a cake celebrating a same-sex commitment ceremony will get another chance in court, after the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 17 ruling ordered lower courts to reconsider a massive fine and other penalties in light of a similar Colorado case.

“The Constitution protects speech, popular or not, from condemnation by the government,” Kelly Shackelford, president, CEO and chief counsel of the legal group First Liberty, said June 17. “The message from the court is clear, government hostility toward religious Americans will not be tolerated.”

“This is a victory for Aaron and Melissa Klein and for religious liberty for all Americans,” added Shackleford.

The Kleins, who are practicing Christians, owned Sweet Cakes by Melissa, a bakery in the Portland suburb of Gresham, Ore. In January 2013, the couple declined to bake a cake for a same-sex commitment ceremony, citing their religious views. They then lost an effort to fight a lawsuit charging they had illegally discriminated.

First Liberty, a non-profit legal firm based in Plano, Texas, focuses on religious freedom cases with a nationwide scope. It is representing the Kleins as are two attorneys from its network: C. Boyden Gray, former U.S. Ambassador to the European Union; and Adam Gustafson, both of Boyden Gray & Associates.

Boyden Gray said the Supreme Court should decide whether its 2015 ruling that mandated legal recognition of same-sex marriage “can be wielded as a shield in defense of same-sex unions but also — as in this case — a sword to attack others for adhering to traditional religious beliefs about marriage,” NBC News reports.

The women who had attempted to commission the cake from the Klein’s bakery filed a complaint with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, claiming discrimination based on sexual orientation. The mother of Rachel Cryer, the woman who tried to order the cake, had asked Aaron Klein to reconsider, but he declined.

While the legal complaint was pending, Aaron Klein posted the first page of the couple’s complaint, which contained their names and contact information, on the Sweet Cakes by Melissa Facebook page. The women said they received death threats as a result of the posting, which was taken down after one day.

The State of Oregon in its filing with the Supreme Court had argued that the lower courts had ruled correctly. “Baking is conduct, not speech,” its filing said. “A bakery open to the public has no right to discriminate against customers on the basis of their sexual orientation.”

Requiring equal treatment for customers regardless of sexual orientation does not compel support for same-sex marriage “any more than the law compels support for religion by requiring equal treatment for all faiths,” said the state filings, according to NBC News.

Sweet Cakes by Melissa closed in September 2013, a decision that the owners described as a “devastating loss.”

In April 2015, the Oregon labor bureau ordered the Kleins to pay damages to the plaintiffs, ruling that by declining to design and make the cake, they had violated Oregon law barring discrimination in public accommodations. The labor bureau ordered them to pay a $135,000 penalty for emotional damages and issued a gag order that prevented them from “even talking about their beliefs,” First Liberty said June 17.

The Kleins initially attempted to raise the cost of the fine on the crowdfunding website GoFundMe, but their effort was taken down by the site, which cited a violation of their terms of service.

In their appeals, the Kleins claimed that their First Amendment right to free speech was violated by the state’s decision.

Their prior appeal to the Oregon Supreme Court was rejected in June 2018. This left in place the decision of the Oregon Court of Appeals, which rejected claims that a cake is a work of art. That court said “even when custom-designed for a ceremonial occasion, they are still cakes made to be eaten.” Those who attend a wedding might consider the cake to be an expression of the views of the couple who undergo the ceremony, not the views of the baker, the court said.

That same month, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a narrow ruling in favor of Colorado baker Jack Phillips, owner of the bakery Masterpiece Cakeshop, who refused to make a cake for a same-sex wedding. The court found that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had not respected Phillips’ sincerely-held religious beliefs when it ordered him to make a custom cake for a same-sex couple.

There are 21 states that bar discrimination in public accommodations on the basis of sexual orientation, among other categories.

Similar laws and regulations have affected wedding industry professionals in other states, including bakers and photographers. Such laws and regulations have also closed or stripped funding from Catholic and other Christian adoption agencies that decline to place children with same-sex couples.

The proposed federal Equality Act, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives for the first time in May, would add sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes under federal law and strip defendants’ ability to appeal to religious freedom as a defense against discrimination claims.

The Masterpiece Cakeshop itself has faced two more lawsuits. It refused to bake a cake to a transgender person seeking a “gender transition cake,” with the lawsuit thrown out of court. A second lawsuit later came from the same person seeking to make a similar cake, but then added it was a birthday cake with special status for the individual as a self-identified transgender woman.

Wealthy philanthropic foundations have spent close to $10 million in targeted grants seeking to limit religious freedom protections on issues such as abortion access and compliance with LGBT concerns. About $500,000 of that went to advocacy and public relations campaigns related to the Masterpiece Cakeshop Supreme Court Case, CNA has reported.

 

Analysis: How will the USCCB vote in first elections since McCarrick scandal?

Mon, 06/17/2019 - 20:00

Washington D.C., Jun 17, 2019 / 06:00 pm (CNA).- While the spring meeting of the U.S. bishops’ conference has only just concluded, some bishops are already looking to the election of new conference officers at their November meeting. While the elections are still five months away, bishops are already discussing their options - particularly in light of the scandal the Church in the U.S. has faced in the last year.

It is widely expected that Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, the bishops’ conference vice president, will be elected to succeed Cardinal Daniel DiNardo as conference president. Gomez has several factors working in his favor. Most notably is the sheer force of custom: With only one recent exception, the conference vice president has been elected president as a matter of course. That Gomez has served in the second slot for the last three years is likely sufficient by itself for him to secure the votes of most bishops.

Within the conference, Gomez is perceived to cut across traditional ideological and social lines. He was ordained a priest of Opus Dei, and he has a long history of leadership on pro-life and marriage issues. But, an immigrant himself, he is also among the most outspoken advocates for the conference’s call for just immigration reform and advocacy for the poor. He is, in short, difficult to pigeonhole into a partisan camp, and at a time when the Church is increasingly segmented by politics, many bishops see that as an important advantage.

Some bishops have also mentioned to CNA the symbolic significance of electing a Hispanic archbishop, a Mexican-American immigrant, in advance of the 2020 U.S. presidential election. While the bishops have a working relationship with the Trump administration on issues pertaining to abortion, marriage, and religious liberty, they remain strongly opposed to the president’s immigration policies, and if Trump wins a second term, they will likely be at odds with him over that issue throughout. Gomez is seen to be the right voice to lead advocacy on behalf of their immigration agenda.

If a Democrat wins the presidency in 2020, Gomez’ well-known advocacy on immigration could make it easier for him to gain a hearing from a Democratic administration, especially during the battles over religious liberty on gender and sexuality that would be sure to come.

Because Gomez, who leads the largest U.S. diocese, has not been made a cardinal, it is sometimes speculated that he might have a difficult working relationship with Pope Francis, or that the Holy Father might consider him to be too conservative.

This speculation seems to be grounded in particularly American misunderstandings of both men: caricatures of Gomez as a doctrinaire conservative and Francis as a freewheeling progressive work only if the frame of reference is the U.S. left-right divide. Those with experience in Latin and South America are far more likely to see the common threads running through the thought of both: especially a common concern for solidarity with the powerless and the marginalized, including both the unborn and the immigrant.

Ultimately, that Gomez is not yet a cardinal could reflect more about the hermeneutics of the Congregation for Bishops than about any actual division between Pope Francis and the Archbishop of Los Angeles.

Whatever the reason that Gomez is not a cardinal, the archbishop is not perceived to be ineffective in engagement with Rome. Gomez is seen to have successfully manned the point position in negotiating with the Holy See an approach to establishing sexual abuse policies that would be acceptable in both Rome and the U.S. The archbishop became an especially active figure in deliberations after the breakdown in communications that led to the cancelled votes at the bishops’ November meetings.

He does not seem most comfortable at a podium, presiding over the full assembly of bishops, though his aptitude in that role has grown over the course of recent meetings. While DiNardo leads the room with a poise that seems at once fraternal and efficient, Gomez is more reserved in a large public setting. But if this is seen as a liability by some bishops, it is unlikely to overcome both the archbishop’s personal reputation and the force of precedent.

Of course, in recent history, custom has been overcome in conference elections. In 2010, Cardinal Timothy Dolan was unexpectedly elected conference president ahead of Bishop Gerald Kicanas, who was then vice president. Dolan was elected through the work of a cadre of bishops who thought a Kicanas presidency would be out of step with the leadership and emphases of Pope Benedict XVI.

It is possible that Gomez could face a credible and organized opponent in November 2019. Most frequently discussed at the conference, and mentioned to CNA by a few bishops, is the idea that the newly-installed Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Washington, DC, could challenge Gomez for the presidency.

As it stands, though, electing Gregory seems a very remote possibility. In the first place is, again, the sheer force of custom. For Gregory’s supporters to overcome that force would require a great deal of organization, and a good amount of time spent convincing bishops to make a change.

Making their task especially difficult is that Gregory was conference president from 2001 to 2004, and presided over the bishops’ conference response to the sex abuse crisis of 2002. Gregory was the bishop who ushered into being the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People” and the accompanying “Essential Norms.”

While the Charter is widely thought to have changed ecclesial culture for the better with regard to child and youth protection, it has been panned during the last year because it is understood to pertain to priests and deacons only, using language that explicitly delineates the exclusion of bishops from some norms.

The shortcomings of the “Dallas Charter,” are not Gregory’s fault, but bishops who want to convey that the Church is moving on from “business as usual” may be reticent to elect as president someone so directly connected to the Charter.

There is also Gregory’s task in Washington. The archbishop is 71, and is largely understood to have only a four-year mandate to begin the process of restoring trust among Catholics in the Archdiocese of Washington, which has been the epicenter of the McCarrick affair, through which Gregory’s predecessor, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, lost a great deal of trust among his priests, and among ordinary Washington Catholics. This task, Gregory is known to understand, will require a considerable investment of personal and pastoral time, and for that reason, the archbishop may not find the prospect of running the bishops’ conference a temptation.

But if he does want the job, there is at least one thing Gregory could do to improve his chances of being elected: He could release from the Archdiocese of Washington’s files on Theodore McCarrick as many records as possible, and encourage other diocesan bishops to do the same. Gregory has the opportunity in Washington to establish a new paradigm of transparency in Church governance – a paradigm much discussed but not yet much demonstrated – by releasing as much as possible on McCarrick, his finances, his friends and protectors, and then encouraging the other dioceses where McCarrick served to do the same.

While Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark told CNA this week that he is precluded from issuing a full report on McCarrick by an attorney general’s investigation in the state, Gregory has not indicated that he is under any similar restriction. A comprehensive release of information from his archdiocese would do a great deal to restore confidence in Church leadership among practicing Catholics, and it would likely raise esteem for him considerably among the younger bishops in the conference, who have been calling for just such a release from Rome.

If that does happen, Gomez could face more of a challenge for election as conference president than expected.

Who will be elected vice president?

Some bishops have mentioned to CNA that Tobin could be a natural candidate for the position.

The Archbishop of Newark is affable and friendly to other bishops, well-known, and articulate. He has the experience of leading his own religious community, the Redemptorists, of a senior leadership position at the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life at the Vatican, and has led archdiocesan sees in both the Midwest and on the East Coast. As chairman of the USCCB Committee on Consecrated Life, Clergy, and Vocations, Tobin has played a prominent role in the Church’s response to the McCarrick crisis, and he presented one of the major policy documents on sexual abuse approved by the bishops at their November meeting.

The cardinal, in short, has considerable experience and qualifications that seem relevant to a leadership position at the conference.

But even if he were nominated as a candidate, Tobin might not accept the nomination. The cardinal withdrew from participating in the October 2018 synod on youth, which came just a few months after the McCarrick scandal began. At the time, Tobin recognized the havoc wrought by the McCarrick revelations on his archdiocese, which McCarrick led for more than a decade, and he explained the priority he placed on being present to the people of his own archdiocese, and especially to his priests.

Tobin is a cardinal, which means that he already has responsibilities taking him to Rome with regularity. Given his clear aversion to becoming an “airport bishop,” the cardinal might decline the possibility of adding even more frequent trips to Washington, DC to his schedule, especially as his archdiocese will soon grapple with fallout from the New Jersey attorney general’s investigation, and from the eventual release of Rome’s report on McCarrick.

If he were to stand for election, Tobin would face both episcopal support and criticism for his endorsement of “Building a Bridge”, a 2017 book by Fr. James Martin, SJ, who is a frequent writer and speaker on the topic of Church engagement with those who identify themselves as LGBT or LGBT activists. Bishops are divided on how best to approach that kind of engagement, and Martin’s work is at the center of that divide, because some bishops say that Martin’s work is not faithful to the teachings of the Church, while others actively promote it. While some bishops might be reticent to support a Tobin candidacy because of this, others would take Tobin’s position as a positive sign in the conference.

Tobin’s work on the U.S. implementation of Vos estis lux mundi is appreciated by bishops, as is his work on revisions to the national directory for deacons. But during the last year, Tobin has been the subject of rumors and questions about his personal life from some blogs and websites. The cardinal has denied rumors of misconduct, and scant evidence has turned up to support conjectures made about him. It is unlikely that Tobin would allow such rumors to keep him from serving the Church in whatever way he thinks himself to be called, but there are likely some members of the bishops’ conference who, given the sensitivities surrounding McCarrick and the Archdiocese of Newark, might judge this an inopportune time for the cardinal to stand for election.

Another frequently named possibility for conference vice president is Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City. Coakley has been a bishop for 15 years, and served a term as chairman of Catholic Relief Services, the bishops’ international humanitarian aid apostolate.

In his role at CRS, he is generally regarded as having addressed lingering issues pertaining to the Catholic identity of the institution and its partners, in part by bringing together a coalition of moral theologians and international development experts to work through thorny issues. Coakley is also thought to have capably overseen leadership transitions amid a complex period of expansion during his term as CRS board chairman.

Bishops also noted to CNA that Coakley’s archdiocese, Oklahoma City, is perceived to have handled safe-environment related matters well, and that Coakley is perceived to have prioritized recruiting lay collaborators for the administration of his archdiocese.

Though he has a relatively low public profile, some bishops told CNA that Coakley has a moderating voice, is calm under pressure, a clear teacher and an organized administrator. And Coakley is already set to begin in November 2019 a term as chair of the bishops' influential Domestic Justice and Human Development committee.

While some bishops might prefer a bishop with more name recognition beyond the conference, others told CNA that because he is not seen to carry any “baggage” into the election, the choice of Coakley for vice president could be exactly the right move after the bishops’ year of scandal.

Other names that have been mentioned as candidates for conference vice president are Archbishop Gregory Aymond, Archbishop Allen Vigneron, and Archbishop Bernard Hebda of St. Paul-Minneapolis, who is well regarded for his work to heal an archdiocese deeply wounded by grave clerical abuse scandals.

Of course, none of these figures have yet been nominated to the slate. Nomination requires that diocesan bishops propose the names of the candidates they would like to see considered for the post; a process that will take place over the next few months. But bishops have already begun talking about the needs of the Church, and the needs of their conference. The results of their discussion will be clear in November.   

 

Forum forms women in leadership, dignity, faith

Mon, 06/17/2019 - 13:30

Washington D.C., Jun 17, 2019 / 11:30 am (CNA).- The 2019 GIVEN Catholic Young Women’s Leadership Forum, which met last week, convened more than 100 professional Catholic women in Washington, DC, to discuss faith, vocation, dignity, and leadership.

The June 12-16 forum was conducted by the newly-launched GIVEN Institute, and aimed to equip young Catholic women with the tools, mentorship, and advice needed to become leaders in the modern world while remaining true to their faith.

“We live in fast-moving and distracted world, so it’s easy to lose one’s grounding in the truth or even to never learn that there is a Truth, and one that sets us free,” Anne Marie Warner, director of operations for the GIVEN Institute, told CNA.

The GIVEN Forum seeks to remind attendees that not only is there a truth, but that women have unique, God-given gifts that they can use to better serve their communities.

Participants were invited after a rigorous application process that examined both their engagement with the Church and their aptitude for leadership. Additionally, applicants had to submit an “Action Plan Proposal.”

“The Action Plan is each woman’s unique initiative to activate her God-given gifts in a way that will benefit others in her community, or in the Church or the world,”said Warner. The plan is “It is a specific concrete project that (the attendee) will accomplish during the year following the GIVEN Forum,” she added.  

Warner was an attendee of the first GIVEN Forum, in 2016. She said she was “very inspired” by the diversity of the speakers at the event, and that it was “so encouraging to see the many ways that women are called to live out their femininity in the Church and in the world.”

Warner told CNA that she hopes each of the 120 attendees of this year’s forum will return home from the forum knowing that “her dreams matter, and that she has a place to be received and accompanied as she seeks to implement these for the good of others.”

Another goal of the conference, Warner said, is to recognize the place in the Church for the whole person.

“The Church is a place where (forum attendees) can be received in their strengths and in their weaknesses, a home where they are loved not for what they do, but for who they are; a family in which their unique heart is essential and cherished.”

In addition to the Action Plan, forum attendees are also mentored by older Catholic women. Warner believes this relationship is beneficial for both the mentor and the mentee, and “allows a collaboration between those whose lives are being formed in adulthood and those who have wisdom and love to share.”

“Our hope is that, through this relationship, the gift of both will be magnified and the gift of women in the Church will be magnified and, in turn, the gift of the Church to the world will be magnified,” she said.  

Attendees of the GIVEN Form shared their experiences with CNA.

Lily Alvarez traveled from Los Angeles to attend the forum. Alvarez, a native of Mexico, works for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. She said she was encouraged to apply for this year’s forum by friends who attended the first incarnation of the event in 2016.

“GIVEN has opened my eyes to see that God wants me to be intentional in the way I live my femininity, through conversations, people and testimonies I’ve heard here,” she said.

For Alvarez, one of the highlights of the forum was the opportunity to meet religious sisters. The first GIVEN Forum was intended to be a one-time event sponsored by the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR), who later expanded the event into the GIVEN Institute non-profit organization. Due to this relationship, there were many religious sisters at the forum, representing many religious orders.

“I’ve never had the chance to have deep conversations, play or even spend a day with (religious sisters),” Alvarez told CNA. “It’s been quite inspirational to see how professional, joyful and motherly they are.”

Alvarez described GIVEN as a “transformational conference,” that changed the way she viewed the dignity of women and offered “a fresh angle full of opportunities” as well as “a space of true friendship and deep understanding of God’s encounter with us.” She told CNA that she is eager to see what she and her fellow attendees are able to accomplish in the next year.

“I think now the world is lucky to have 120 new leaders of true femininity ready to make a change in the culture about the place of women in society,” she said.

Another attendee, Molly Sheahan, expressed a similar sentiment. Sheahan, a California native who is now a graduate student in Washington, DC, told CNA that she applied for the GIVEN Forum seeking to “gain practical skills for leadership and advice for future action and advocacy in the Church and in the world.”

Sheahan said she particularly enjoyed the opportunity to meet other forum attendees, women “who shared their passion and dreams for their Church, (and) their hope and fire to evangelize.” She told CNA that she received “a newfound courage and fire” from hearing the speakers, and she has been inspired to further share the things she has learned.

“Although my faith is strong, having a new community of women this week has given me a spiritual boost,” said Sheahan. “I feel called on to prayer in a new way now.”

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