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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.
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How the L.A. archdiocese is supporting separated immigrant families

Fri, 09/28/2018 - 05:01

Los Angeles, Calif., Sep 28, 2018 / 03:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Through Guadalupe Radio the Archdiocese of Los Angeles raised more than $90,000 last month to help reunited separated immigrant families in southern California.

“It was Archbishop [Jose] Gomez’s vision to have us be the leaders in treating immigration not as a political topic, but that it was important for the human dignity of people, first and foremost,” said Isaac Cuevas, the archdiocese’s director of immigration affairs.

A two-day campaign was held on Guadalupe Radio at the end of August, raising $92,000 in support of humanitarian efforts by Catholic Charities. Then, Archbishop Gomez of Los Angeles approved a virtual collection plate for the same efforts, which went into effect this week.

Cuevas told CNA that the money will be used to help families with a three-month transitional process and legal fees.

The families were affected by the Trump administration's “zero tolerance” policy: immigrants found illegally crossing the border would be held in a federal jail until they go before a federal judge, who must determine whether immigrants will receive prison sentences for crossing the border illegally.

This shift lead to family separation, because children cannot be held legally in a federal jail for more than 20 days per the 1997 Flores Settlement. These children were placed in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services while their parents’ cases were processed.

Cuevas said he received a call in August by the USCCB stating that 20 reunited families would be coming to the Los Angeles. He said these people came to the city with “literally nothing.”

“These families were arriving in the city - some didn’t have any connections, some did have connections but they were arriving with zero resources,” he said.

The radio fundraiser was a small miracle, he said, noting the money raised far exceeded the original goal. The diocese first sought to support 20 reunited families, but raised enough money to support 56 families throughout the greater Los Angeles area.

“I consider it a small miracle that even though we were modest with our $30,000-50,000 goal with the radio efforts alone we reached $92,000 in two days.”

Cuevas said the money would be used to help the families with basic necessities, including food, clothing, and school supplies. While the families find places to live and the children get placed in schools, the funds will also contribute to mental health services and proposals for self-sufficiency.

The other part of the project will aid Esperanza Legal Services, a legal non-profit underneath Catholic Charities. According to Angelus News, the money will be used to hire more legal staff for Esperanza to serve these families.

Angelus reported that a majority of the families are still undergoing deportation proceedings and require attorneys to fight their cases, which may allow them to apply for asylum status.

Cuevas gave CNA an example of one of the families the agency has been able to help - a mother and her two sons, ages 15 and 7. He said that after their detention, the eldest expressed doubts that he would see his mother again and the youngest still struggles with separation issues.

“They assumed that the two boys would be kept together, even though they were being separated from their mom. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case and the three of them were separated individually. The eldest talks about … [that] he believed he would never get to see his mom again because he saw her go be taken away in handcuffs,” he said.

“The three were reunited. [But,] the youngest has a really hard time of even being away from his mom, like just having her be in another room makes him panic.”

Cuevas said the immigration system in United States is broken and needs to be addressed. He added that immigration policy needs to be seen foremost as a responsibility toward vulnerable persons.

“Before you get into the politics of any topic, it’s identifying with the necessities from a humanistic standpoint. The topic of immigration is exactly that – it’s people in need,” he said.

“As the Church, obviously, we believe in the country and the responsibility for us to protect its borders, but we also believe that people deserve human dignity. And that is where we would push and remind people to start with that first.”

Curtis Martin focused on 'Making Missionary Disciples'

Thu, 09/27/2018 - 18:41

Denver, Colo., Sep 27, 2018 / 04:41 pm (CNA).- In a new book, evangelist Curtis Martin offers a plan to help equip the next "generation" of Christian disciples for evangelization.

Curtis Martin, co-founder of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, has spent 21 years working to build an organization that brings the message of the Gospel to students on college campuses.

"Making Missionary Disciples: How to Live the Method Modeled by the Master," offers the lessons Martin says he’s learned from Jesus Christ over those years.

"Really what we're trying to do is to invite people to learn the art of spiritual conversations," Martin told CNA. "We hear homilies, but we seldom, as Catholics, discuss our faith over lunch. And I don't mean discuss scandals...I mean [discuss] the great life of Jesus Christ, the great life of the saints, the great life of the heroes of the Old Testament."

"If we learn the art of that conversation, we will become infectious, radiant Catholics who will radiate love and joy and mercy into the culture."

This model presented in the book, he said, is not "novel" in the Church, but rather has been duplicated over and over again throughout the years, and is especially present in religious communities. St. Paul teaches in Corinthians that people were meant to learn by imitation, Martin said, and people need a human person in front of them setting an example.

"The purpose in creating missionary disciples is the very thing we’ve been doing in FOCUS for the last 21 years; that we could share that with people in other organizations, in families, in businesses, in parishes, in diocese, et cetera, because we think it's going to bear great fruit there, and that's what we're seeing already."

"We really believe that this book, and what we're talking about, actually applies to [parents and professionals in diocese] maybe even more than it does the college campus," Martin said. "The alumni are actually bearing more fruit than our full-time missionaries...We're doing a second round of research to validate that."

Martin highlights three main habits in the book that are "simple, but hard," because they involve changing behavior to make evangelization possible. These three habits are Divine Intimacy, Authentic Friendship, and Clarity and Conviction about Spiritual Multiplication, which Martin calls "The Method Modeled by the Master."

The first habit, Divine Intimacy, boils down to the fact that anyone who wants to teach others about the Catholic faith should, Martin said, have experienced the love of God in a personal way. Love of others, Martin said, should stem from a total love for God, as well as a foundation of the teachings of the Church, the Sacraments, fellowship with other believers, and of course, prayer.

"If I'm cold, or just lukewarm, I'm not going to able to communicate fire, the only way I can do that is to be on fire," he said. "So Divine Intimacy is the foundation stone for everything else."

The second habit, Authentic Friendship, comes when we cooperate with the grace God gives us for evangelization, Martin wrote in the book.

"I am willing to love you because I've already been love infinitely by God," he said. "I don't need you to fill me up; God is already doing that."

The third habit is Clarity and Conviction about Spiritual Multiplication.

“I'm going to work with a few people, get very intentional about knowing about Christ, following Christ, living for Christ, and then inviting them to go out and invite others to do the same,” Martin explained. “You impart not only faithfulness, as essential as faithfulness is, you impart fruitfulness, which is exactly what Jesus did."

On the theme of investing deeply in a few close friends, Martin again drew the conversation back to the methods Jesus used to proclaim God's Kingdom. Martin said Jesus taught his apostles, first and foremost, to love by investing deeply in them and sometimes only them.  

"The Savior of the entire world...His methodology was to find twelve guys and go camping for three years," Martin reflected. "He invested profoundly, deeply, in twelve guys in order to reach the whole world, but he imparted not just faithfulness, He imparted fruitfulness. And those twelve men, by the power of Christ, changed the world. And we can do the same by returning to the Method Modeled by the Master."

Jesus, Martin said, regularly rendered the extraordinary as ordinary, by performing miracles on a daily basis. However, Jesus also rendered the ordinary extraordinary by "loving beautifully" in the Holy Family, with Mary and Joseph, for the first 30 years of His life. Martin said no one since Adam and Eve have been able to love each other as much as Jesus, Mary, and Joseph did.

The Church has that capacity for love, Martin said, and saints "come in groups."

"It's really hard to become a saint by yourself," he said. "To be able to walk toward Christ with others allows us to fulfill that great command to love God and love neighbor."

Martin said his organization conducted research on FOCUS alumni, who are now no longer college students or full-time missionaries, but rather full-time parents or full-time professionals. Martin said they're now living the "normal life," but they're "living the normal life extraordinarily well."

In a certain sense, Martin said, this makes sense: college students are at the height of frivolity in their lives, distracted by such things as video games, alcohol, and even recreational drugs. As a result, as a group, college campuses are often not receptive to the Gospel.

"[College students] also happen to be at one of the most pivotal times in their lives," Martin said. "Whereas when you move a few years down your life, and all of a sudden you're a married [person], maybe you've got a few kids, and you meet someone who's living for Christ."

Martin argued that a father or mother, or a husband and wife, who are struggling with communication, balancing their budget, raising their children, or praying, will be more likely to seek the advice and companionship of a radiant Christian person.

For this reason, the "ground is much more fertile," Martin said, in a parish than it is at a university.

The book, "Making Missionary Disciples: How to Live the Method Modeled by the Master" is available this week from FOCUS.org and from Amazon.

 

Governors’ elections pose moral dilemma for Catholic voters

Thu, 09/27/2018 - 15:00

Washington D.C., Sep 27, 2018 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- Catholics living in a state where both of the major party’s gubernatorial candidates oppose key Church teachings have a difficult choices to make on Election Day, a theologian told CNA.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church is clear that “the inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual is a constitutive element of a civil society and its legislation.” Issues such as abortion and assisted suicide are, therefore, of special concern to Catholics in deciding who they want to shape a state’s laws.

This November, 36 states will be holding gubernatorial elections--and some states do not have a pro-life candidate on the ballot. In this scenario, what should guide a Catholic’s conscience?

Catholic University of America Professor Chad Pecknold told CNA that while this can be a challenge for Catholics, they “must vote for candidates who aim at the common good, and whose policies do not contradict Catholic teaching.”

Life issues outweigh other social issues, Pecknold explained, because “the gift of life is the basis for all human rights and responsibilities,” meaning that Catholics cannot vote for candidates who would support the destruction of any vulnerable life.

When presented with two candidates who both are in favor of abortion rights, for example, Pecknold told CNA that Catholics can find themselves wondering where to turn.

“With the major parties contradicting various aspects of Catholic teaching, and very often working against the common good, Catholic voters have difficult choices to make at the ballot box.”

In some cases, he told CNA, it may not be clear exactly were a candidate stands on life issues, or if their election might advance the moral good in spite of their personal equivocations.

“Hard cases are exactly that,” Pecknold said. “For example, two pro-abortion candidates may differ substantially on policy, with one perhaps favoring legal restrictions which could save lives,” Pecknold noted.

“In such cases voters should follow their conscience and Church teaching on the sanctity of life in voting for the candidate they believe will advance the common good, and protect the dignity of all human life, born and unborn.”

Alternatively, in states where candidates appear to have equal support of abortion, the moral option for Catholics may be to either stay home, or write in a different candidate, “one who would legislate in defense of human life,” said Pecknold.

There are several states where Catholics are wrestling with these questions before heading to the voting booth.

In Oregon, both of the major parties are fielding candidates in favor of abortion rights.

Republican Knute Buehler is challenging Democratic incumbent Gov. Kate Brown. Buehler has said that abortion is “a decision between a woman and her physician and should not be political or government-influenced.” Brown has described abortion as a “fundamental” right for women.

Incumbent Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) is also pro-abortion, and last year signed a controversial bill that expanded taxpayer-subsidized abortions for low-income women throughout the state. His opponent, Democrat J.B. Pritzker, has signed a pledge to maintain the current abortion law.

Voters in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont face the same conundrum.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) recently signed the NASTY Women Act, which enshrined a right to abortion in Massachusetts law. He has said numerous times that he supports a woman’s “right to choose” abortion. He is running against Jay Gonzalez, a Democrat who is firmly in support of abortion access, and has spoken out in support of Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts.

Gov. Chris Sununu (R) of New Hampshire has a long record of supporting abortion rights, as does his Democratic challenger, Molly Kelly.

In Vermont, moderate Republican incumbent Gov. Phil Scott is running against Democrat Christine Hallquist. Hallquist has called for every Vermonter to have access to both birth control and abortion, regardless of their ability to pay. Scott calls himself “pro-choice, with restrictions,” and does not support the taxpayer funding of abortion.

Other states have candidates who describes themselves as “personally pro-life,” but unwilling to fight to repeal pro-abortion laws or introduce new restrictions on the procedure.

There is, however, one state where Catholics have a different choice to make.

In a relatively unusual circumstance, both the Republican and Democratic nominees for governor in South Dakota describe themselves as pro-life.

Republican Kristi Noem, who is currently a member of the House of Representatives, has a 100 percent rating from National Right to Life. She is running against Billie Sutton, a self-described “pro-life and pro-Second Amendment” Democrat. Noem has the support of President Donald Trump. South Dakota is a solidly Republican state, and has not had a Democratic governor in nearly four decades.

Pro-life momentum? 40 Days for Life campaign begins in over 400 cities

Thu, 09/27/2018 - 09:00

Washington D.C., Sep 27, 2018 / 07:00 am (CNA).- The 40 Days for Life 2018 fall campaign began on Wednesday, claiming groups in a record 415 cities are taking part.
 
“The momentum in the pro-life movement is ours to keep or lose,” Shawn Carney, president of 40 Days for Life, said Sept. 23. “We are going all in this fall.”
 
“We have received more media coverage, conducted more leader training, and offered more free materials to local campaigns than ever before,” he added.
 
The outreach campaign, launched in 2007, takes place in both the spring and the fall. It aims to use prayer, fasting and peaceful vigils to end abortion and to ask God to “turn hearts and minds from a culture of death to a culture of life, thus bringing an end to abortion,” the campaign website says.
 
According to its own figures, 40 Days for Life outreach has helped save over 14,600 lives from abortion. Its volunteers have held over 5,600 campaigns in 769 cities in 50 countries, with about 750,000 total participants.
 
During these campaigns, 96 abortion facilities have closed and 178 abortion workers have quit their jobs, the group says.
 
One group in the eastern U.S. began the fall 2018 campaign a week and a half early, and learned that one abortion worker quit during their sidewalk witness.
 
The campaign explicitly encourages a “positive, prayerful presence” and participants avoid shouting, confrontations with patients and employees, and the use of graphic images of abortion.
 
In Birmingham, England the fall campaign began with 150 people at its launch event.
 
Speakers included a grandfather whose grandchild would have been aborted if the child’s pregnant mother hadn’t encountered participants in a 40 Days for Life vigil. Also speaking was a woman who had an abortion after she became pregnant through assault.
 
A couple whose baby was saved from abortion during a previous campaign appeared with their child.
 
The campaign has been underway in Boston, Mass. for 10 years where Rita, a retired obstetrics nurse, is now a local leader. She told 40 Days for Life she is normally a homebody, but years ago she mentioned the possibility of leading the campaign to her husband.
 
“I wanted to run it by him because I knew he would tell me no, and then I’d be off the hook. Instead he said, ‘I think we should do it!’ We’ve been leading here ever since and have no plans to stop,” she said.
 
40 Days for Life is testing a billboard campaign near some abortion facilities. One Green Bay billboard next to a Planned Parenthood clinic bears a picture of a smiling woman. It says “Women deserve better than Planned Parenthood,” followed by a smaller tagline that reads: “the beginning of the end of abortion.”
 
Local campaign locations and more information is available at the 40 Days for Life website at https://40daysforlife.com.

Toronto cardinal exhorts priests to 'become fire'

Thu, 09/27/2018 - 05:01

Phoenix, Ariz., Sep 27, 2018 / 03:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A Canadian cardinal has a provocative message for priests, bishops, and seminarians struggling to attain holiness: “You must become fire.”

“If the flame entrusted to us at Baptism, Confirmation, and Ordination flickers and dies, or is abruptly extinguished, and the darkness of evil envelops the priest or bishop, then havoc is wrought upon the most vulnerable, and the splendor of the Holy Priesthood is sullied,” Cardinal Thomas Collins said Sept. 18.

The Archbishop of Toronto delivered the keynote address at the 55th Annual National Conference of Diocesan Vocation Directors, which took place Sept. 17-21 in Scottsdale, Arizona. The theme of fire, in many forms, was integral to his talk.

“If we who are bishops and priests do not become fire, and if those preparing for the priesthood do not, but instead become trapped in the dark and cold embrace of the world, the flesh, and the devil, then we are bound for destruction...and we fail those entrusted to our pastoral care,” Cardinal Collins said.

Cardinal Collins proposed four facets of the scriptural theme of fire and applied them to the priestly life and the ministry of guiding men to the priesthood.

First, the Fire of Sacrificial Love. In the same way that a sacrificial offering is totally consumed by fire, so too should a priest be consumed by his mission, giving his life fully to Christ and his people, and not merely giving his “leftovers.”

“When the sacrificial fire goes out in a priest or bishop, then he begins to put first his own wants – not his needs, but his wants. He wants control, or adulation, or a comfortable life, or worldly success, or popularity, or satisfaction of his lusts. Outwardly going through the motions of priestly or episcopal service, and saying all the right things, his actual conviction is that Christ must decrease, but I must increase.”

“If priests or bishops lead self-indulgent lives, then we should not be surprised if shocking instances of abuse occur. Self-indulgence is the culture in which both sexual and financial corruption flourish,” Cardinal Collins said.

Rather than think himself a “narcissistic star” around whom the parish revolves, a priest should engage in selfless ministry, always hoping at the end of his life to hear the Lord’s words: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Cardinal Collins recommended that vocation directors “watch out for signs of self-indulgence and narcissim” in seminarians, and for “positive signs of humble service, concern for others, and unassuming hard work.”

He said the process of discernment and formation to cultivate this attitude takes many years, and the process ought not be “sped up.”

“Because it takes time for signs both positive and negative to become evident, it is good to have a lengthy period of discernment and formation, to allow hidden problems to surface before ordination …  in my own diocese and seminary I have lengthened the process: more time before entry into the formation community: a year or two in the associates program, four years of College Seminary for some, plus a propaedeutic year, and four years of theology, and a parish internship too.”

Collins’ second facet, Purification by Fire, is a frequent theme in both the Old and New Testaments. Cardinal Collins tied this theme back to the various ongoing sexual abuse scandals in the Church, and emphasized that the revelation of hidden evils is a “great and life-giving purification in the Church.”

“Disastrously, a toxic sentimentality, in which both the call to repentance and the vision of judgment are obscured, has entered into the Church, and never more so than in the few decades following Vatican II, from the seventies to the mid-nineties,” the cardinal reflected.

“There was a blurring of the clear lines of morality, and the creation of a distorted and highly subjective concept of conscience. It is no coincidence at all that this was the very period, we now clearly realize, in which most of the devastating incidents of priestly and episcopal abuse that are now in the news took place.”

He said that policies to deal with abuse are “surely necessary,” but added, “we surely do not need a policy to stop us from engaging in self-indulgent evil that leads to the Lake of Fire. All Christians, but especially bishops and priests, need to listen to and act on these simple words of Jesus: Repent, for the Kingdom of God is near at hand.”

“It is also true that when the moral and spiritual demands of Christianity, or of the priesthood, become no more than an ideal, much to be praised in honeyed words, but with no practical relevance, and held to be impossible to actually live, then individually and as a Church we have become gnostics,” Cardinal Collins stated.

“But neither Christianity nor the priesthood is an abstract ideal; God does not play with us, holding out to us an ideal that it is impossible for us to live. By God's grace, and only by God's grace, every single one of us can actually become a saint. Vatican II spoke of the universal call to holiness, not the universal call to mediocrity. With a vision of the purifying refiner's fire to keep us honest, we are challenged every day to be happy, healthy, holy priests. Nothing less than that. That is the reality of the priesthood.”

Collins emphasized the need for repentance, and suggested that priests recite quietly  the “Jesus Prayer”  during the elevation of the Host and Chalice at Mass, as well as frequently making use of the sacrament of confession.

“If we are to serve the Lord, and to invite others to do so, we must experience constant purification, and live in a spirit of repentance. Let the weeds and chaff within our hearts be thrown into the fire,” he said.

Third, the fire of Pentecostal Zeal is a boldness granted to the apostles that inspired them to be “on fire” for the Gospel, which Collins said all disciples of Christ should be.

This zeal is different, Collins said, from how “lively” or “quiet” a seminarian or priest’s personality might be, but rather, deep within, “profoundly committed to the life of holiness, that the fire will burn steadily and quietly throughout their priestly life.”

“There are two times when a priest or bishop is horizontal in Church: face down at his ordination and face up at his funeral,” Collins said. “In every moment between those two points, he must be on fire with sacrificial love and priestly zeal.”

Finally, the fire of “Majesty and Mystery” is the spirit of the Burning Bush found in the Book of Exodus; a captivating and personal call that comes when a person experiences the presence of God, and ultimately discerns their “glorious” vocation.

“Priests are not branch managers, and bishops are not CEOs,” Collins warned. “Woe to those who think in those terms, or who think of a priestly or episcopal career. We are unworthy servants and messengers of the living God.”

The priesthood is a tremendous privilege that most be treated with reverence, he said, and reminded the audience that the priesthood has always been and always will be “entrusted to frail and sinful men.”

He noted that “the priesthood, not the priest … must be treated with reverence.”

“Clericalism is not too high an estimation of the priesthood, but too low an estimation: it is using the holy priesthood to advance one's personal desires,” the cardinal said. “If bishops or priests use their sacred office to dominate others, to take advantage of people's quite appropriate reverence for the priestly office, or to manipulate that reverence to satisfy the cleric's self-indulgent desires, then that is not simply evil; it is sacrilegious evil.  

“Profound awareness of the majesty of the Lord who calls us must penetrate to the depths of our souls,” Cardinal Collins said. “If it does not, then priesthood and episcopate can become worldly, and can be corrupted.”

Oregon ballot initiative would curtail taxpayer funding of abortion

Wed, 09/26/2018 - 22:01

Salem, Ore., Sep 26, 2018 / 08:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A ballot initiative in the state of Oregon could, if passed, ban the use of public funds for abortion on demand, which has directly cost taxpayers nearly $25 million since 2002.

If Measure 106 passes, it would amend the state constitution to allow funds for abortion only in cases where it is required under federal law, or if a woman is in danger of death due to her physical condition.

It would also allow public funds to pay for the termination of a clinically diagnosed ectopic pregnancy, in which the fetus grows outside the uterus, causing the potential for complications.

Current Oregon law provides no protection from abortion for the unborn child for any reason and at any stage in pregnancy. Those eligible for Medicaid can obtain an unlimited number of abortions, for any reason, according to the “Yes on 106” campaign.

Jeff Jimerson, an Oregon graphic designer, spent two years gathering enough signatures to win his proposal a spot on the November ballot.

Opponents of the measure have cited studies, including a 2009 report from the Planned Parenthood-aligned Guttmacher Institute, that suggest that women seeking an abortion are more likely to seek other options when public funds are not available to pay for the procedure.

The federal government and about two-thirds of all U.S. states already have partial bans on the use of public funds for abortion, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting. The federal government bans the use of federal funds for abortion except in cases of rape, incest, or to save the mother’s life.

But Oregon is one of 17 states which offers abortions paid for by state funds to women eligible for Medicaid, who are typically low-income. According to the Oregon Health Authority, about 3,600 abortions were paid for in fiscal year 17-18 alone by the Oregon Health Plan, the state’s version of Medicaid, at a cost of nearly $2 million to taxpayers.

Oregon’s governor signed a law last summer requiring Oregon insurers to cover abortion on demand and increasing taxpayer funding for abortion, drawing strong criticism from Catholic leaders. At the time of its passage, the law provided for about $500,000 over the next two years to expand free reproductive health coverage, including abortion, to immigrants.

While some religious exemptions were provided for, such as in the case of churches and some religious non-profits per federal law, the law provided that the government would step in to pay for coverage in the case of such gaps.

“By insisting on complete insurance coverage of abortion, including late-term and sex-selective abortions, the legislature shows itself intolerant of widely-held opposing views and will compel thousands of Oregonians to support what their conscience rejects,” the Oregon Catholic Conference said in July 2017.

Archbishop Lori: Investigative team is already working in WV diocese

Wed, 09/26/2018 - 18:45

Wheeling, W.V., Sep 26, 2018 / 04:45 pm (CNA).- Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore has begun an investigation into the alleged misconduct of Bishop Michael Bransfield, who until recently led the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston.

Lori was appointed apostolic administrator of West Virginia’s only diocese Sept. 13, and was charged by Pope Francis with undertaking an investigation in allegations of “sexual harassment of adults” against Bransfield.

Bransfield’s resignation as diocesan bishop was accepted by the pope on the same day as Lori’s appointment.

In a Sept. 25 letter to clergy of the diocese, Lori reported that he had formed a five-member investigative team “comprised of three men and two women, including one non-Catholic, who bring a breadth of investigative expertise and experience to the their work.”

Lori said that the team was already reviewing “more than three dozen calls to the hotline I established on the day of my appointment as Administrator.”

“I have asked for a thorough, independent, and expeditious investigation,” he added.

While Lori was instructed to investigate charges that Bransfield had sexually harassed adults, Bransfield has faced other allegations in the past.

During the 2012 Philadelphia trial of two priests, one charged with sexual abuse and the other with enabling him, witnesses and a prosecutor alleged that Bransfield “may have known about sexual misconduct by [another priest] or abused minors himself,” the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Bransfield denied those allegations.

Lori also announced that Msgr. Fred Annie, formerly vicar general and moderator of the curia in the diocese, would “step away from his duties in the Chancery during the entirety of the investigation into the allegations concerning Bishop Bransfield.”

Lori appointed Bryan Minor, until now Wheeling-Charleston’s human resources director, to serve as his “Delegate for Administrative Affairs.”

Minor, Lori said, “will assist me in overseeing the daily operations of the Diocese and will serve as the diocesan point person for the administrative issues that heretofore were the responsibility of the Vicar General.”

Minor has worked for the Catholic Church in West Virginia since 1996, serving in a variety of executive and development positions.

Lori’s expressed his intention to serve as an active leader in the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, despite his obligations to his own Archdiocese of Baltimore. He asked for prayers, and said that he would continue praying for the diocese.

“My primary concern remains the spiritual welfare of the clergy and laity of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston. To that end, I intend to make regular pastoral visits to the Diocese, meeting with priests and celebrating Mass with and for the people.”

 

Millennials staying married at a higher rate

Wed, 09/26/2018 - 18:30

Washington D.C., Sep 26, 2018 / 04:30 pm (CNA).- A recent study from the University of Maryland has shown that members of the generation born in and after the mid 1980s are divorcing at a lower rate than older cohorts.

Philip Cohen, a sociology professor at the University of Maryland, released an analysis Sept. 15 which drew on census data to show that the divorce rate in the United States had dropped by 18 percent between the years 2008 and 2016. The drop was credited in large part to millennials staying married--even if they are marrying at lower rates than previous generations did at the same age.

Dr. John Grabowski, associate professor of moral theology and ethics at the Catholic University of America, told CNA that he believes the report is “kind of good news and bad news.”

“The good news is: the divorce rate is falling, particularly among millennials. The bad news is less people are getting married, especially poorer people. Many people are just choosing to cohabit."

While it had been thought that a drop in the divorce rate could be credited to an aging population less likely to divorce, the study showed that even when controlling for age the divorce rate still dropped by 8 percent, and that the millennials who do marry tend to stay married more than older demographics.

Slightly more than 10 percent of people between the ages of 18 and 34 are divorced, a number which has stayed relatively stable since 1980. In contrast, over a quarter of people over the age of 44 are divorced, a 10 percent rise since 1980.

According to a separate study from Bowling Green’s National Center for Family and Marriage Research, the divorce rate for people aged 55 to 64 almost doubled between 1990 and 2015.

In calculating the divorce rate, Cohen compared the number of divorces to the number of married women so that the divorce rate would not be positively impacted by fewer marriages overall.

Grabowski hypothesized that the lower divorce rates among millennials could be partly explained by marriage no longer being considered a social an expectation or requirement among their generation.

This means that those who do marry are being “much more intentional” about the process, he said. “In some ways they're swimming against the tide a bit culturally by doing that.”

Additionally, Grabowski suggested that the sexual revolution of the 1960s and 70s had led to an increased exposure to the negative effects of divorce on men, women, and children.

“People are more aware now of the resources and practices that they need to have a healthy marriage--in other words, to keep a marriage working,” he explained. It also helps, he said, that people are better informed about what it takes to keep a marriage working, and that there are more resources available to aid a troubled marriage. 

While the news that millennials are increasingly shunning divorce can be read as a positive development, the decreasing number of millennials who marry at all may indicate cause for concern, Grabowski said.

Cohabiting couples often cite disincentives to marry--such as the high cost of a “fairytale wedding”--but Grabowski told CNA that he believes the benefits of married life clearly outweigh any cost. 

“We have decades of social scientific research that shows that people who do get married do better economically, health-wise, and emotionally than people who remain unmarried or who simply cohabit or serially cohabit with different people,” he said.

The largest group of people living in poverty in the United States are single-parent households with children, “usually headed by women,” Grabowski added.

“People who remain unmarried but have children are at a huge economic disadvantage compared to their married counterparts.”

Many millennials, Grabowski theorized, may be afraid of entering a marriage after watching their parents or relatives divorce. Still, he said that the analysis showed “a little bit of good news” about marriage as a whole.

“And if the millennials kill divorce, or kill the divorce rate, well, that's a good thing. If only we could convince maybe more of them to enter into marriage, we'd be doing really well.”

Diocese of Arlington annouces review of all clergy files

Wed, 09/26/2018 - 15:30

Arlington, Va., Sep 26, 2018 / 01:30 pm (CNA).- The Diocese of Arlington has announced that it is conducting a review of all clergy personnel files and that it will publish a list priests and deacons who have been credibly accused of sexual abuse of a minor. The review was announced Sept. 26 in the diocesan newspaper. 

“Our prayer is that publishing the names of those credibly accused of sexual abuse against minors will bring victims healing and consolation in the Lord and inspire those who have not yet come forward to tell their story,” diocesan head of communication Billy Atwell said in the statement.

The review, which is already underway, includes all priests and deacons who have served or are currently serving in the diocese. On its release, the list of those clergy who have been credibly accused will include those who are no longer in active ministry, as well as those who are currently serving, should there be any.

“It is our hope that this decision will help assure the faithful of the diocese’s commitment to accountability,” Atwell said.

The Diocese of Arlington conducted similar reviews of its files in 2003, covering the years dating back to the founding of the diocese in 1974. A further review was carried out in 2011 to ensure that nothing had been overlooked and to check that all appropriate reports had been made to law enforcement.

According to Atwell, the diocese reported “a number of credible accusations” as part of the John Jay Study in 2003. This study, which led to the publication of the John Jay Report, was commissioned by the National Review Board, a body created to advise the U.S. bishops’ conference in the wake of the sexual abuse crisis of the early 2000’s. The study analyzed allegations of sexual abuse in Catholic dioceses in United States.

Since his installation as the fourth Bishop of Arlington in October 2016, Bishop Michael Burbidge has regularly met with survivors of sexual abuse both in individual appointments and as part of a support group run by the diocese.

The diocese said that Burbidge had taken a number of other steps in response to the allegations against Archbishop Theodore McCarrick and the release of the Pennsylvania grand jury report earlier this summer.  In late August he celebrated a public Mass for the victims of sexual abuse and for their healing, and sent out a letter to the entire diocese reiterating the process for handling allegations of sexual abuse.

In early September, Burbidge met with the seminarians of the diocese to express his commitment to their well-being. At that event, according to the diocese, the bishop had a “frank, open and respectful dialogue” regarding the recent scandals.

After that meeting, Burbidge sent a letter to the parents of the seminarians, stating his commitment to their sons’ protection and his personal confidence in the seminaries to which they were being sent.

In addition to working with the Diocesan Review Board, Atwell said the bishop was committed to an ongoing schedule of meetings with priests, religious, and lay people in the diocese to discuss what further measures can be taken to improve safeguarding policies.

The Diocese of Arlington has about 600,000 Catholics across 70 parishes.

Minn. archbishop affirms abuse victims' courage as settlement approved

Wed, 09/26/2018 - 14:09

St. Paul, Minn., Sep 26, 2018 / 12:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- At a hearing in US bankruptcy court Tuesday, Archbishop Bernard Hebda of Saint Paul and Minneapolis told clergy abuse victims their persistence and courage have made children more safe.

At the Sept. 25 hearing, a judge approved a $210 million bankruptcy settlement between the Saint Paul and Minneapolis archdiocese and about 450 victims of clergy sex abuse.

“I need to once again say that I am truly sorry,” Archbishop Hebda told the victims. “I know that those words – as well as my promise of prayers - might ring hollow for many and will never be enough. Still, I am so very sorry for the horrific things done to you by people you should have been able to trust – and as a bishop, as a priest, as a Cathoilc, and as a human being - my heart aches when I think about the resulting harm to you, your families and so many others.”

He also affirmed “that your persistence and courage have made a huge difference. You have been the catalyst for needed change.”

“The practices, procedures and audits we have adopted to stop future abuse may not be enough to restore your trust or belief in the Church – understandably so – but the changes you insisted upon are keeping kids safer right now. Thank you for that.”

Archbishop Hebda added that “as we gratefully anticipate finalization of the settlement, I hope this resolution brings some measure of justice to you. Yet, I know that no amount of money will make up for the horrors you experienced and for the far-too-frequent failures by priests and bishops. Inexcusable failures that went on for way too long.”

“Many of you have told me how difficult it is to believe. I find that devastating. I personally feel such strength in my belief in a God for whom nothing is impossible,” the archbishop stated.

Referring to his pectoral cross, he said it serves as a reminder “rhat the greatest good can come from the greatest evil.”

“It gives me hope that it is indeed possible for hearts to mend, suffering to ease and trust to return. As we all take next steps, be assured that that will be my hope and prayer for each of you who are survivors. I would welcome your assistance as we work to keep our children safe. I thank you for helping our Church change for the better.”

The Star Tribune reports that the $210 million will be put in a trust fund, the trustee of which will allocate funds to victims, with minimum payments of $50,000.

The fund will also pay for about half of the $20 million attorney fees for the archdiocese; Jeff Anderson and Associates, who represented victims, “is expected to take an average of about 30 percent from the individual settlements of its clients.”

The $210 million settlement was agreed upon by the victims and the local Church in May. It will bring the archdiocese out of bankruptcy, for which it filed in January 2015.

The amount is an increase of more than $50 million from the proposal originally submitted by the archdiocese. A federal bankruptcy judge had ordered the parties to return to mediation in January 2018, after that original submission.

The majority of the $210 million settlement, about $170 million, comes from archdiocesan and parochial insurers. The other $40 million is from diocesan and parish sources, such as cash-on-hand and the sale of interests in land.

There are no plans for additional parish appeals to fund the settlement.

When the settlement was agreed to in May, sex abuse victim Jim Keenan called it “an absolute triumph,” and added, “I do believe we have made the world safer in terms of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis.”

The settlement brings resolution to all pending abuse litigation against the archdiocese, parishes, and other Church entities.

Archbishop Hebda has noted that the archdiocese has improved the way in which it addresses allegations, including the establishment of a review board that includes members who have survived past clergy abuse.

Alleged abuse victim searches for justice in the Diocese of Crookston

Wed, 09/26/2018 - 06:00

Crookston, Minn., Sep 26, 2018 / 04:00 am (CNA).- In 1971, when Ron Vasek was 16 years old, a priest invited him to take a trip. The priest, Fr. Roger Grundhaus, was a family friend, and Ron’s parents supported the idea.

Fr. Grundhaus, a priest of the Diocese of Crookston, Minnesota, was going to a canon law convention in Columbus, Ohio. He said he wanted Vasek to come along to help with the drive.

Vasek had looked forward to the trip. “I’d never been off the farm, basically,” he told CNA.

Vasek said that on the first day of the trip, Grundhaus bought him a beer, and continued to buy him alcohol during the trip.

On the second day of the trip, Vasek recalled, Grundhaus attended meetings in the morning, and then spent time drinking with friends. Vasek and Grundhaus went to dinner together in the hotel’s restaurant, where the priest continued to drink as they ate their meal.  

After dinner, Vasek said, the priest sexually assaulted him in their hotel room.

Vasek told CNA he fought the priest off, and then “I just kinda stared at him and then he moved back away and never said anything, didn’t do a thing. And then a little later we went to bed and it was kind of uncomfortable, but I just didn’t know what to think of it.”

“I was 16 years old, off the farm, I didn’t have a clue what was going on,” he said.

“We left there, and we drove home like nothing happened, and he never, ever, ever, said anything to me about it, for a long time, and I kinda just buried it in the back of my head. I just didn’t know what to do.”

“I never said anything to my parents,” Vasek told CNA. “Ever.”

The next year Grundhaus invited him to attend another convention, and his parents, who knew nothing about the abuse, “thought it was a great idea.”  

A blizzard stopped them along the way. There were no hotel rooms in the small town where they were stopped, but an armory had been opened as a makeshift shelter to accommodate stranded travelers. They spent the night in the armory along with families and other motorists stopped by the snow.

“So that was-- I guess God was watching out for me.”

Grundhaus took him on one more trip, again with encouragement from his parents. The priest tried to get him to drink scotch, he said, but he refused and felt uncomfortable being with Grundhaus, although he said he was not assaulted on that trip.

A few years later, when Vasek's brother died, Grundhaus grew closer to his family. “He became really an instrumental part of the family, because he counseled mom and dad. He was there all the time.”

Vasek told CNA that he never raised the issue of his assault with his family, although he saw Grundhaus frequently as he became an adult, as they often worked together on retreat teams and other ministry initiatives.

He told CNA the abuse took a heavy toll on his life. He said that he drank often, and struggled in other areas of his life.
 
“I didn’t know how much that abuse affected me until I can look back on it now with a clear mind.”

Vasek said that even while the abuse had a serious impact on him, he tried not to think about it often. In fact, he told CNA, “I just kind of quit thinking about it until one day, probably ten years ago.”

Vasek was in a parish sacristy during a retreat in 2008 when Grundhaus approached him, he told CNA.

He said that Grundhaus “said he wanted to apologize for what he did in Columbus, Ohio. And he said he went to confession for it. But he said, ‘if you need any help with anything, if you made bad business decisions or if you’re struggling with anything,’ he said, ‘I have money, I can help pay for therapy or I can help you out.’”

“You know, he kind of shocked me,” Vasek said.

Vasek didn't understand why, after decades, “all of the sudden he’s apologizing. I just said ‘Ok, I accept your apology,’ and kind of just left it at that.”

A few days later, Vasek went to the priest’s office, asking him to swear there had been no other victims. He said Grundhaus told him he hadn’t abused anyone else.

“And then he tells me, ‘if this ever comes up, I’ll always deny it.’”

Vasek had no idea how to respond to what Grundhaus told him. “I really struggled with that, but I didn’t say anything because of the family stuff.”

__
In 2010, Vasek decided to say something. At the time, he had applied to become a deacon in the Diocese of Crookston, where he still lived. His son had just become a priest in the diocese.

He said he first told a priest in the neighboring Diocese of Fargo. That diocese sent the allegation to Bishop Michael Hoeppner, Crookston’s bishop. Hoeppner then asked Vasek for an appointment. 

(Vasek said this meeting took place in 2010, while the Diocese of Crookston claims it took place in 2011.)

“When I went into the bishop’s office, there was nobody there, it was just him and I.”

“So the bishop, he just kind of, he just chews on me for five minutes,” Vasek told CNA, adding that the bishop told him that Grundhaus was a great priest, and that a “claim” about the matter could be very expensive. After a while, Vasek recalled, the bishop asked him if he intended to make a formal complaint.

“By this time,” Vasek said, “I didn’t know what the hell to think. I just put my hands up and I said ‘I just want to know if I can get through the diaconate program, knowing this information.”

Vasek said that Hoeppner told him he believed the story, before adding that he shouldn’t say anything about the matter.

Vasek told CNA he agreed to keep silent. “That was the first time I had revealed my abuse in 40 years, so I was still kind of numb.”

He began the diaconal program in the diocese soon after the meeting. His allegation did not come up again until October 2015.

__
On Oct. 21, 2015, Vasek said he was summoned to meet with Bishop Hoeppner at the bishop’s home. There, he told CNA, Hoeppner told him to sign a letter recanting his allegation against Grundhaus.

He said the bishop explained that the Fargo diocese had inquired about Vasek’s 2010 allegation against Grundhaus, and intended to forbid the priest from exercising ministry within its territory.

“We want to have Grundhaus be able to do ministry,” Vasek said Hoeppner told him, “so we need to have you sign a letter recanting your allegation.”

The letter had already been printed on diocesan stationary.

Vasek said that Hoeppner asked him, “If news of the scandal of Grundhaus gets out, how could I ordain you? Who would want you? Where would I put you? And besides, it would be very difficult on your son.”

“When he said that, I knew exactly what he meant,” Vasek told CNA. “I was sickened. Absolutely sickened.”

Vasek signed the letter.

It read: “I, Ron Vasek, regarding a trip I was on when I was 16 years old, and on which a priest of the Diocese of Crookston was also participating, clearly and freely state that I have no desire to nor do I make any accusation of sexual impropriety by the priest toward me.”

In August of that year, months before that meeting, the diocese had been ordered by a court to release the names of all priests alleged to have abused children prior to 1985. A priest of the diocese told CNA that he believes Hoeppner asked Vasek to retract his claim in order to avoid naming Grundhaus on that list.

Vasek told CNA he was stunned.

He couldn’t believe what he had experienced. He had struggled for decades to grapple with the abuse he experienced. When he told his bishop about it, he was ordered to keep silent. And now he was being asked to deny it had ever happened.

It felt, he said, “like being abused all over again.”

He thought of words he says Hoeppner said to him in 2010: “This is a cross you’re just going to have to carry.”

__
For two years, Vasek did not mention the letter to his wife or family.

In February 2017 Vasek’s pastor, Fr. Xavier Ilango, recommended him for ordination as a deacon. Vasek was measured for vestments. The Diocese of Crookston mailed invitations for its upcoming diaconal ordination; Vasek’s name was listed among those who would be ordained on June 10, 2017.

But in March 2017, Vasek told CNA, he was abruptly told that his ordination might be delayed by at least a year. With almost everything prepared, he was told his pastor had raised previously unmentioned concerns, and that he might not be ordained with his class.  

CNA has obtained a copy of a letter reportedly from Vasek’s pastor, which said that Vasek had strained relationships with some parishioners and needed to learn to take direction better. The letter, unsigned and undated, suggested that Vasek’s ordination could be delayed a year.

CNA attempted to contact Ilango, but was told by the Diocese of Crookston that he is on sabbatical. His parish bulletin reports that he traveled to India on July 1.

On April 6, 2017, Vasek and his wife met with Hoeppner, who told them he would give more thought to the possibility of Vasek’s ordination. He seemed non-committal.

Vasek told CNA he believed his ordination was being threatened as a reminder to keep silent about the abuse he had endured, and the letter he had signed.  

Vasek decided he had had enough. He decided that he could not trust Hoeppner, and could not promise to be obedient to him, which would be required at the time of his ordination. He told his story to two priests of the diocese, Fr. Robert Schreiner and Msgr. David Baumgartner.  

Schreiner told CNA that he remembers Vasek saying to him, “I’ve been abused for 41 years, and now I’m still being abused.”

Schreiner and Vasek had been friends for decades. He described Vasek as a man of “integrity and honesty.” Although he was director of the diocesan diaconal program, and had previously been Hoeppner’s chancellor, he resolved to help.

Baumgartner, a canon lawyer who had previously been Hoeppner’s vicar general- the chief advisor to the bishop- also decided that he would do whatever he could to help Vasek.

Both priests told CNA they believed that Hoeppner had forced Vasek to sign the 2015 letter, and both believed that the bishop was unjustly punishing and threatening Vasek in 2017.

“I believed him," Schreiner told Minnesota Public Radio in 2017.

"As the account unfolded with each horrifying revelation and event and name, my heart would sink lower and my mind would flinch, not wanting to believe it. But at no point during his testament that night, nor since, did my intuition click with the thought that 'that doesn't ring true' or 'that just doesn't sound right.'"

In fact, CNA spoke with several priests and former diocesan employees in the Diocese of Crookston; none questioned the integrity of Vasek’s story.

“This was bad on so many levels,” Schreiner told CNA.

__
Baumgartner told CNA that Vasek wanted to address Hoeppner’s conduct with Church authorities. Vasek hoped he could still be ordained a deacon.

But Baumgartner, Schreiner, and Vasek were uncertain how to make a complaint against their own bishop. After prayer, they decided to try the apostolic nunciature- the Vatican embassy in Washington, DC.

Baumgartner called the apostolic nunciature in March 2017, asking for direction about how to proceed. He said that initially, the nuncio’s office seemed “eager to get to the know the story,” and promised to provide him soon with further instructions.

He said that after weeks passed with no response, he called the nunciature again in early April, and was surprised when a staffer told him that he should not make any accusation unless he had “solid proof.”

“The attitude of the nunciature changed,” Baumgartner said. “They went from being eager to help to saying that we can’t do anything unless we had proof.”

After that conversation, Baumgartner decided the Vatican was unlikely to respond quickly.

“Ron’s ordination was pending. I presumed that the fact that this was a man called to orders mattered, and that the Holy See would respond appropriately, given the timeline that we found ourselves in. That expectation was completely unfounded on my part.”

“We don’t have proof,” Baumgartner added. “We have a story. But we wanted the Church to investigate that story.”

Baumgartner sent a letter to the nunciature explaining the allegation against Hoeppner on April 11, 2017. He asked for advice about how to proceed. Then he waited for a response.

In the meantime, Vasek sent a letter directly to Hoeppner, on April 29, 2017.

“It is my deepest desire to serve in the Diocese of Crookston as a deacon,” Vasek wrote.

“In October of 2015, you asked me to sign a letter to renounce my accusation of sexual abuse against Msgr. Roger Grundhaus....Before I signed it I declared to you that the letter was a lie, and you determined that I should sign it.”

“I renounce that letter as a lie,” Vasek added.

“In another conversation, you asked if I intended to file a law suit regarding my sexual abuse. I would like you to know that I retain the right to seek justice in this matter by legal and canonical means.”

Vasek doubted that he would ever be ordained a deacon in Crookston after that letter was sent. But he wanted the truth to come out.  

On May 13, 2017, Baumgartner sent packets to several Vatican offices, including the Congregation for Bishops and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, formally alleging misconduct on the part of Hoeppner. He reports that he received a response to those complaints in late June of that year, when the nunciature wrote to him, saying that his complaint to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had been forwarded to the Congregation for Clergy. The letter offered no other information.

“Msgr. Baumgartner sent letters to four offices of the Vatican,” Vasek told CNA.

“The only that happened was that the nuncio told Bishop Hoeppner to investigate Grundhaus,” Vasek said, adding that there was no acknowledgement of the complaint about Hoeppner.

Vasek was looking for justice. By the time the Vatican responded to say his complaint had been transferred from one office to another, Vasek had already begun a different process.

__
On May 9, Vasek sued Bishop Hoeppner and the Diocese of Crookston. On the same day, Grundhaus was suspended from ministry.

If he’d felt that Church authorities would work toward justice, Vasek would not have sued, several sources told CNA.

“Our preference was to have the Church respond,” Baumgartner said. But when the nunciature did not seem willing to respond quickly, they decided to proceed with a lawsuit.

The lawsuit is a controversial matter for many sources CNA spoke with. Vasek’s lawyer is Jeffrey Anderson, a Minnesota attorney who has led litigation against dioceses in several states, and advocated for changes to statutes of limitation for clergy sexual abuse victims. Critics have called Anderson an opportunist, and argued that his tactics have aimed to bankrupt the Church even when dioceses are willing to help victims of sexual abuse, all while he has collected attorney’s fees for his work.

Anderson has also been accused of paying kickbacks to victims’ advocacy groups that refer potential clients to him, although he denies that allegation.

Vasek was unsure about Anderson. So were his friends. The priests had worked in the curia while Anderson sued their own diocese. But they said that no other qualified lawyer would take their case.

CNA attempted to contact two law firms Vasek says he approached. One said it would not comment on clients or potential clients, and the other did not respond to requests for comment.

Schreiner said Vasek reluctantly went to Anderson, and was clear from the beginning that he did not want his lawsuit to harm the Church. He said Vasek insisted he wanted justice, and for the truth to come out.

Some aspects of the lawsuit have been settled. The letter Vasek signed was returned to him, after being recovered from the diocese by Crookston police.

Vasek also reached a financial settlement with the diocese, the amount of which is undisclosed. He told CNA the settlement was modest, and that he would save it for his retirement.

Other parts of the lawsuit continue, some of which pertain to Grundhaus himself, and the abuse Vasek alleges took place in 1971. Some have to do with the diocesan response to abuse.

The goal of the lawsuit, Vasek emphasized, “is to get to the truth.”

“The money means crap to me,” he said. “I want the truth to come out.”

“To expose these guys for covering up an abuse that happened. The bishop has admitted breaking the rules that Pope Francis laid down,” Vasek said.

“And just to clean up the diocese, period.”

“The homosexual subculture of the priesthood is well and vibrant in this diocese and has been for years,” Vasek said. “That culture has been in our diocese for a long time.”

__
Vasek and his supporters told CNA they hoped that Church authorities would intervene to help with the situation, even after the lawsuit was underway.

On March 28, 2018, a year after Ron Vasek’s ordination was delayed, his son Fr. Craig Vasek sent a letter to the president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, Cardinal Sean O’Malley.

CNA obtained a copy of that letter.

Fr. Vasek, who declined to be interviewed for this story, wrote that Hoeppner was “prepared to do anything...to avoid addressing this matter.”

“All we want is the truth,” Fr. Vasek wrote, adding that “if you give me the chance, you can be the judge of our situation.”

“To be fair, we are pursuing the regular course of action, but the systems in place are not going to help,” he wrote.

“I am writing to you because you are good, trustworthy, and just. And we are in grave need, now.”

The priest asked O’Malley for a brief meeting, offering to fly to Boston, or arrange a phone call or video conference.

On May 2, 2018, the Archdiocese of Boston sent Fr. Vasek a reply to his letter.

“We are sorry to know of the difficulties currently presented to you, your family, and the Diocese of Crookston. Although the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, of which Cardinal O’Malley serves as President, does not have oversights or jurisdiction for any allegations or cases concerning sexual abuse by clergy, we are aware that these are very difficult matters.”

“Thank you for understanding that with regard to any matters concerning clergy personnel in the Diocese of Crookston or any civil or canonical complaints concerning the diocese, we must necessarily respect the jurisdiction and oversight of the Diocesan Bishop and those diocesan officials appointed to assist with such matters. We hope that this information may be helpful for you.”

The letter, which concluded with a promise of prayers, was signed by Fr. Robert Kickham, secretary to Cardinal O’Malley.

On Aug. 20, after reports surfaced about a 2015 letter sent to him by Fr. Boniface Ramsey, a priest concerned with the behavior of now-disgraced Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, O’Malley issued a public apology for failing to personally review Ramsey’s letter, and pledged to modify the procedures of his office.

A source in the Archdiocese of Boston told CNA that the cardinal’s office contacted Fr. Vasek shortly after that apology was issued, inviting the priest to meet with O’Malley.

__
CNA requested to interview Hoeppner, but the Diocese of Crookston declined that request. Instead, CNA was referred to four statements released by the diocese.

The first statement, issued May 9, 2017, said that “Bishop Hoeppner categorically denies that he in any way forced, coerced or encouraged Mr. Vasek not to pursue his allegations regarding Msgr. Grundhaus.”

“Msgr. Vasek’s allegations of abuse regarding Msgr. Grundhaus were reported to law enforcement in 2011.” Multiple sources told CNA that it was the Fargo diocese, and not the Diocese of Crookston, that reported the allegations to law enforcement in that year.

The next statement, a May 14, 2017 letter addressed to Catholics in the Diocese of Crookston, reiterated Hoopner’s denial, adding that “there are two sides to every story and there is another, a very different side to the story reported last week.”

CNA supplied specific questions to the Diocese of Crookston, asking for the other side of the story, but the diocese declined to answer those questions.

The third statement, issued September 20, 2017, after the first aspects of the lawsuit were settled, said that the settlement reached “avoids costly attorney fees and a drawn out legal process. The settlement agreement does not constitute any admission of unlawful conduct or wrong doing by Bishop Hoeppner. No diocesan funds were used to pay the settlement. The Diocese is now seeking dismissal of the remaining claims related to this matter.”

The fourth statement, issued September 27, 2017, in Hoeppner’s name, said that the bishop “did not pressure Mr. Vasek to remain quiet when we met in 2011 or when we met again in 2015. Mr. Vasek had indicated to me that he wanted the alleged incident to remain confidential. I attempted to abide by his wishes.”
 
“I was willing to ordain Mr. Vasek as a permanent deacon. He attended the final deacon formation weekend in late April, along with the other deacon candidates. Mr. Vasek chose not to be ordained for diaconal ministry. I respect his decision.”

“Looking back and knowing what I do now, I believe I would have handled my conversations with Mr. Vasek differently. However, please know that I did not pressure Mr. Vasek into making any decision with which he was not comfortable,” Hoeppner’s statement added.

“I continue to pray for all those involved in this matter. No one should ever be subject to inappropriate sexual conduct. I ask all Catholics and people of good will to pray for healing for all those who have suffered abuse.” 

CNA was unable to reach Grundhaus.

__
Hoeppner, 69, was ordained a priest by Pope Paul VI in 1975, after studies at the Pontifical North American College. After earning a licentiate in canon law, and serving as a teacher, educational administrator, and director of vocations, he became the Diocese of Winona’s judicial vicar in 1988, and the vicar general of that diocese in 1997.

He was appointed Bishop of Crookston Sept. 28, 2007.

On Aug. 22, after the release of a Pennsylvania grand jury report detailing sexual abuse in six dioceses of that state, Hoeppner wrote in a pastoral letter that “All victims are owed sincere apologies for what those entrusted with leadership in the Church have done and have failed to do.”

“It is important that we promise to continue, with renewed effort, our commitment to build in the Church, as Pope Francis puts it, ‘a culture of care that says `never again’ to any form of abuse.’”

“Changes are necessary so that sins and failures of the past are not repeated,” he added.

CNA contacted the press office of the Holy See for comment on the status of any canonical investigation against Hoeppner, but received no response before press time.

__
Vasek told CNA that, through everything he has experienced, his faith has not been shaken.

“I know that these men are not what Christ envisioned for his Church. Judas betrayed the Lord. People will betray the Lord all the time. I know what the Church teaches.”

“I encourage people to keep going to Church,” Vasek added.

“I tell everybody, don’t leave the Church because of these rotten men. That’s just what the devil wants. The devil wants to destroy from within. I say keep going to Church. Keep up with the sacraments. Keep praying. Because Christ’s Church is good. Some of the men in it aren’t.”

“I know who Christ is. He hasn’t done anything to me, other than give me hope.”

 

Don’t cut vital services to immigrants with new DHS rule, bishops plead

Tue, 09/25/2018 - 21:00

Washington D.C., Sep 25, 2018 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- Immigrants and their families will suffer great harm if long-standing policies are changed by the Department of Homeland Security to further limit access to public benefits, the U.S. bishops have said.
 
The rule would consider whether applicants for legal permanent resident status are likely to become a burden to public services.
 
For the U.S. bishops, the rule is “likely to prevent families from accessing important medical and social services vital to public health and welfare.”
 
“This further compounds strict eligibility guidelines already in place preventing many immigrants from receiving federal aid,” the bishops added.
 
The bishops’ Sept. 23 statement came from Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin, Texas and Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, Florida, the respective chairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration and the Committee on Domestic and Social Development.
 
The initial analysis by the bishops’ conference suggests the rule will be “very harmful to families” and cause fear among immigrant families who are “already struggling to fulfill the American Dream,” they said.
 
On Sept. 22 the Department of Homeland Security announced a proposed rule it said would “clearly define long-standing law” to ensure that those who seek to enter and remain in the U.S. “can support themselves financially and will not be reliant on public benefits.”
 
“The Department takes seriously its responsibility to be transparent in its rulemaking and is welcoming public comment on the proposed rule,” said Kirstjen Nielsen, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

“This proposed rule will implement a law passed by Congress intended to promote immigrant self-sufficiency and protect finite resources by ensuring that they are not likely to become burdens on American taxpayers.”
 
The changes will not affect immigrants who already have green cards, but they could force millions of other immigrants to choose between accepting public assistance and seeking a green card to live and work legally in the U.S., the New York Times reports. It could also force older immigrants to stop participating in low-cost prescription drug programs lest they be considered ineligible for resident status.
 
Some immigrants who do not understand the new rule may avoid seeking legal status for fear of losing benefits, Charles Wheeler, a legal expert at the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, told the New York Times.
 
The Department of Homeland Security cited a historic standard that considers whether an alien seeking admission to the U.S. would become a “public charge.” Such a person is defined by whether he or she will receive certain public benefits above a defined threshold or for longer than a defined period of time. This was the most common reason for refusing admission at ports of entry in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the announcement said.
 
The U.S. bishops, however, said the notice “undercuts decades of administrative policies and guidelines on how immigrants are treated by the United States government.”
 
While federal law has always required people seeking green cards to prove they will not be a burden, the government has never previously considered food assistance and some other public benefits to be such a burden, the New York Times reported.
 
Potential permanent immigrants to the U.S. will be affected by the law, as will students, workers and others with temporary visas who seek to stay permanently. Some immigrants could be asked to post cash bonds of at least $10,000 to secure their green cards under the new rule.
 
The Trump administration said the rule could affect 382,000 people per year.
 
The Department of Homeland Security stressed that the determination of whether someone would be a public charge is “prospective” based on the totality of a person’s circumstances. These legal factors include age, health, family status, assets, resources, financial status, education and skills.
 
The public benefits to be considered include federal, state, local or tribal cash assistance; Temporary Assistance for Needy Families; Supplemental Security Income; Medicaid, with limited exceptions for emergency benefits and some education-related disability services; Medicare Part D Low Income Subsidy; food stamps; government-funded institutionalization for long-term care; public housing; and Section 8 housing choice vouchers and rental assistance.

Asylees, refugees, and other recognized vulnerable individuals are not impacted by the rule. In considering eligibility for admission, the Department of Homeland Security will not consider public benefits received by immigrants serving in active duty or reserve U.S. armed forces, or by their spouse or children.
 
Other categories excluded from consideration include disaster relief, emergency medical assistance, benefits received by an immigrant’s U.S. citizen children, and Medicaid benefits for children or potential adopted children of U.S. citizens. Families earning under 15 percent of the federal poverty line will also be exempt.
 
Once the proposed rule is published in the Federal Register, there will be a public comment period of 60 days.

 

'Made for Happiness' Eucharistic assembly draws 14k in Michigan

Tue, 09/25/2018 - 18:49

Lansing, Mich., Sep 25, 2018 / 04:49 pm (CNA).- The Diocese of Lansing hosted a gathering of thousands Saturday, hoping to spark a fire for evangelization among Catholics in central Michigan. Nearly 25 percent of regular Mass-goers in the diocese attended the event.

Diocesan officials estimated that 14,000 people turned out Sept. 22 for “Made for Happiness,” a Eucharistic assembly held at the Breslin Center, on the campus of Michigan State University.

The diocese said its goal was to reinvigorate the joy of proclaiming the Christian message.

“We hope that it fires people up to go out and do that discipleship, to do that evangelization, to live out their faith in the daily life – in their work environment, in their social environment,” said Michael Diebold, Lansing’s diocesan spokesman.

“[We hope] that they can go out in their everyday life and spread that notion of being made for happiness, and bring people to the Church,” he told CNA.

Speakers included nationally-known Father Mike Schmitz, chaplain of the Newman Center at University of Minnesota-Duluth; Jennifer Fulwiler, Catholic author, speaker, and radio host; and Bishop Earl Boyea of Lansing.

The assembly was preceded by a Eucharistic procession from St. Mary’s Cathedral to the Breslin Center, a few blocks from the state’s capitol building. More than 4,000 Catholics marched 3.5 miles, and some carried banners representing their parish or Catholic organization.

Diebold said the procession was a practical example of evangelization.  

The procession was “this outward sign of all these thousands walking up what is essentially main street Lansing, Michigan. We wanted to be a public witness,” he said.

The bishop “thought it would be a great idea to provide a good witness to both the city of Lansing, capital of Michigan, and the surrounding area.”

Bishop Boyea asked diocesan parishes to cancel all Saturday evening Masses, to encourage parishioners to attend the Mass at the assembly. At the end of the Mass, the bishop called for a year of prayer directed at the proclamation of the Gospel.  

This is the third assembly the diocese has hosted to focus on the new evangelization in the last six years. The first two only involved church officials or volunteers. This year’s gathering, Diebold said, was directed at encouraging all Catholics.

“Each of the speakers…were encouraging those that were in attendance to try and be more than just folks in the pews, to be more than just Church-going Catholics, but to become disciples, to become missionary disciples,” he said.

“The theme of the assembly was made for happiness, and that’s what we are hoping people will take away from there. That they can share with others who may not have heard of it or maybe have forgotten about it – the happiness that we can get from Jesus Christ by being a member of the Church.”

 

Government cancels controversial FDA contract for aborted remains

Tue, 09/25/2018 - 16:45

Washington D.C., Sep 25, 2018 / 02:45 pm (CNA).- The Department of Health and Human Services has announced the termination of a contract between the Food and Drug Administration and Advanced Bioscience Resources, Inc. The news comes after members of Congress and pro-life advocates expressed concern about the research goals of the experiment.

The announcement was made Sept. 24 in a statement posted on the HHS departmental website.

“After a recent review of a contract between Advanced Bioscience Resources, Inc. and the Food and Drug Administration to provide human fetal tissue to develop testing protocols, HHS was not sufficiently assured that the contract included the appropriate protections applicable to fetal tissue research or met all other procurement requirements,” the statement read.

“As a result, that contract has been terminated, and HHS is now conducting an audit of all acquisitions involving human fetal tissue to ensure conformity with procurement and human fetal tissue research laws and regulations.”

The department also announced a “comprehensive review” of any research involving fetal tissue, and that it will be seeking “adequate alternatives” to avoid the use of human fetal tissue altogether.

HHS will, the statement said, “ensure that efforts to develop such alternatives are funded and accelerated.”

In July, the Food and Drug Administration signed a $15,900 contract with Advanced Bioscience Resources, Inc. (ABR) to procure fetal tissues obtained from elective abortions. The tissue was to be used in the creation of “humanized mice.” The mice would be injected with the tissues, causing them to develop an immune system similar to that of a human for the purposes of clinical testing. This is called a “chimeric animal.”

After news of the deal was reported, several members of Congress spoke out in a letter requesting that the FDA terminate the contract. The letter raised concerns that ABR may have violated federal law concerning the sale of fetal remains.

In 2016, the House Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives and the Senate Judiciary Committee both investigated ABR as part of a larger inquiery into the fetal tissue industry.

ABR admitted to “upselling” certain fetal parts for a larger fee.

“In light of the serious unresolved questions uncovered by the investigative work of both the House and Senate panels, we are alarmed that the FDA has continued to award contracts to ABR for the procurement of human fetal tissue,” the legislators wrote.

The letter also called for an end to the use of fetal remains in scientific research.

"The practice of conducting research using the body parts of children whose lives have been violently ended by abortion is abhorrent.”

March for Life President Jeanne Mancini said in a statement Tuesday that, while she is thankful that HHS had ended the “horrific” contract with ABR, the move was “just a first step” and that the federal government continued to use fetal remains in experiments.

Speaking to CNA, Mancini said she was “grateful to Secretary Azar and HHS for terminating this unconscionable government contract," but stressed that there was more to be done.

"The majority of the controversy and taxpayer money is focused on National Institutes of Health, where the director, Frances Collins, has voiced support for this inhumane experimentation," she told CNA.

"Despite videos from Center for Medical Progress unmasking the illicit baby parts trade, this grisly industry continues to be propped up by massive amounts of federal money. All of it should be redirected toward successful and life-affirming alternatives.”

Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser was grateful that this particular contract had been canceled, but said it was a “completely inadequate” response to the larger scandal of aborted remains being purchased with public money.

"Secretary Azar must put an immediate moratorium on funding for research using aborted baby organs and tissue purchased from the abortion industry,” said Dannenfelser, who called for tax dollars to be diverted to “ethical alternatives” that have produced successful results in patients.

Pro-life leaders welcome UK decision to reject abortion clinic buffer zones

Tue, 09/25/2018 - 15:09

London, England, Sep 25, 2018 / 01:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Catholic leaders and pro-life advocates in England and Wales are praising the government’s decision not to impose buffer zones around abortion clinics throughout the territory, allowing peaceful protests to continue.

British Home Secretary Sajid Javid rejected proposals for buffer zones around abortion clinics throughout England and Wales as disproportionate in a Sept. 13 decision, after finding that most abortion protests are peaceful and passive. He added that there were “relatively few” reports of “aggressive activities”, and noted that in 2017, only 36 of the 363 hospitals and clinics in England and Wales that offer abortions have experienced pro-life demonstrations near their facilities.

Auxiliary Bishop John Sherrington of Westminster praised the Home Office’s “proportionate” decision in a Sept. 17 statement.

“It should not be necessary to limit the freedom of individuals or groups to express opinions except when they could cause grave harm to others or a threat to public order,” Bishop Sherrington said.

“The freedom to assemble and express concern for both the good of the mother and the unborn person is an aspect of the furthering of the common good which involves the care for the unborn, whom we believe must be protected from harm.”

Bishop Sherrington also acknowledged Javid’s point that while “peaceful, dignified” protest is to be commended and makes up the great majority of what takes place, the forceful harassment of women outside clinics must end.

“It is an unacceptable situation if any people harass or intimidate women visiting clinics, even if such situations are rare,” the bishop said. “It is clearly not the case that all action is of this nature, and the distinctions between persons and groups should be examined further.”

Dr. John Edwards of Nottingham 40 Days for Life, a pro-life group in the East Midlands, echoed Bishop Sherrington’s sentiments. Edwards was issued a court injunction by the Nottingham City Council ahead of a planned protest in March, which was subsequently thrown out by a judge.

"As Sajid Javed pointed out, the police already have powers to prevent any abusive behaviour,” Edwards told the Nottingham Post Sept. 23. “Nottingham police have consistently confirmed that our prayer vigil has always been completely peaceful and respectful.”

The decision to reject nationwide buffer zones comes after the High Court of England and Wales upheld a buffer zone imposed by Ealing Council, in west London, around a Marie Stopes abortion clinic. The zone prevents any pro-life gathering or speech, including prayer, within about 330 feet of the clinic. The Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) governing the zone is temporary and must be renewed in three year’s time, with a review to be held after six months.

Two pro-life London women are working to have the decision appealed, including Alina Dulgheriu, who chose to forgo an abortion at the Ealing clinic in question after being offered pro-life support.

Chicago priest removed 'temporarily' following rainbow flag burning

Tue, 09/25/2018 - 09:15

Chicago, Ill., Sep 25, 2018 / 07:15 am (CNA).- The Archdiocese of Chicago has confirmed the temporary removal of the parish priest at the center of a controversy over the burning of a rainbow banner. According to the archdiocese, Fr. Paul Kalchik has “left willingly” from his Chicago parish “to receive pastoral care.”

In a letter released Sept. 21, Cardinal Blase Cupich told parishioners that the decision was “not taken lightly” but that he had “become increasingly concerned about a number of issues at Resurrection Parish” over a period of several weeks.

In the same letter, Cupich appointed a temporary administrator for the parish, while an archdiocesan spokesperson told CNA that Kalchik officially remains the pastor. 

Kalchik received considerable media attention following an announcement that he would publicly burn a rainbow banner belonging to the parish.

In a Sept. 2 notice in the parish newsletter, Kalchik said that he would burn the banner, which he believed to symbolize a homosexual agenda contrary to Church teaching, in front of the church building. The event was scheduled to be held Sept. 29, the Feast of the Archangels.

The banner had previously been displayed in the parish church, beginning in 1991, but had been in storage for a number of years. According to a Resurrection Parish newsletter distributed Sept. 23, it was found “just when the news of the gay predation of Cardinal McCarrick broke.”

The newsletter said that its previous display had been “sacrilegious.” 

When news of the announcement spread the following week, the archdiocese contacted Kalchik and instructed him to cancel the event.

A spokesperson for the archdiocese told CNA that the archdiocesan vicar for clergy telephoned Kalchik, instructing him not to proceed, and the two had “mutually agreed that the event would not take place.”

While Kalchik told the Chicago Sun-Times Sept. 18 that the archdiocese threatened him with “canonical penalties,” the archdiocese told CNA that there was no discussion of potential consequences for burning the flag because Kalchik voluntarily agreed to comply with the instruction.

Despite this apparent agreement, the banner was burned Sept. 14 in the fire pit ordinarily used by the parish during the Easter Vigil liturgy. While the event was reportedly attended by Kalchik and only a handful of parishioners, images of the flag burning were circulated on the internet and generated strong reactions.

Some groups labeled Kalchik as homophobic and said the burning was a deliberately provocative act. A group called the Northwest Side Coalition Against Racism and Hate organized a demonstration Sept. 19 condemning the priest’s action.

Others have treated the priest’s apparent act of defiance as a stand against what they see as pro-homosexual agenda in some parts of the Church.

Kalchik told NBC News last week that he had disposed of the banner “in a quiet way” but insisted that the banner belonged to the parish, and that the parish had the “full right to destroy it.” 

Kalchik said that it had been done “privately because the archdiocese was breathing on our back.”

Fr. Thomas Petri, OP, academic dean of the Dominican-run Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., told CNA that it is common for church decorations, vestments, and altar cloths to be burned when they became “worn, old, or simply artifacts from a bygone era in terms of style and taste,” but he stressed that they must be disposed of reverently.

“The usual method is to burn these items, or to bury them in a place where they will not be disturbed,” Petri said. 

“Items dedicated for the worship of God cannot be used for any other use. This is why they are burned or buried; they are given to God completely and so rendered unusable to us. I presume the same is true for banners and hangings used in the sanctuary of a Church but I don’t know that this has ever been stated.”

In this case, it is not clear if the Archdiocese of Chicago objected to the burning itself, or to the public nature of the action and the apparent symbolism it was intended to convey.

In an interview after the flag was burned, Fr. Kalchik appeared to criticize openly his archbishop, Cardinal Cupich, whom he accused of downplaying the Church’s teaching on homosexuality and of rejecting a link between homosexuality and sexual abuse by clergy.

“I can’t sit well with people like Cardinal Cupich, who minimizes all of this,” he told the Chicago Sun-Times. “Excuse me, but almost all of the [abuse] cases are, with respect to priests, bishops and whatnot, taking and using other young men sexually. It’s definitely a gay thing.”

Some Church commentators have suggested that Kalchik was right to go against Cupich’s instruction. But Petri said priestly obedience to his bishop is not a light matter. 

“We priests promise obedience to the bishop when we are ordained,” he said.

“Clearly, no bishop could command a priest to do something against the divine law, but, short of that, every priest, in my view, needs to give his bishop the benefit of the doubt and be obedient upon first request.”

Petri also pointed out that in serious cases, if the matter in grave and the priest disagrees, he should reason with his bishop about the request and, if necessary, appeal to the Holy See.

He told CNA that while the banner itself may have symbolized a wider agenda to some, it was important to consider both the potential effects of making the burning a public event, and the discernment of the bishop - in this case Cardinal Cupich.

“I think it’s sad that the rainbow has become the symbol of a movement and a lifestyle that very much flaunts a disordered sexuality and is opposed to the virtue of chastity,” Petri said.

“Yet, I know there are many homosexual men and women living a secular gay lifestyle, who wave the rainbow flag and identify with it, but who are, at the same time, already questioning the so-called gay scene, the pitfalls of the gay culture, and who are open, by the grace of God, to the healing and virtue that the Church can offer them.”

“I do not see how a priest who openly burns the symbol of a secular gay culture can hope to minister to or reach out to those men and women,” Petri told CNA. Instead, he said, the emphasis should remain on pastoral concern, not alienation. 

“Regardless of intent, when publicly announced it cannot but be viewed as a provocative and acrimonious gesture.”

“I suspect this is why the Archbishop of Chicago requested Fr. Kalchik not burn the banner publicly himself or be present when parishioners did so. It creates a spectacle that makes the priest an enemy of people he may one day need to shepherd.”

Despite the ongoing controversy, the Archdiocese of Chicago told CNA that Kalchik’s removal from the parish was not a direct consequence of his decision to go ahead with burning the banner, or his subsequent comments to the media.

Instead, the archdiocese reiterated that the cardinal had been concerned about “several issues in the parish” and that Kalchik’s break from ministry had “been in the works” prior to the emergence of the flag issue.

The archdiocese declined to comment on what issues specifically had drawn the cardinal’s attention to the parish, or what prompted him to decide that the pastor be asked to step aside.  

Fr. Kalchik has spoken publicly about his personal experience as a victim of sexual abuse, first as a child at the hands of a neighbor, and also by a priest when he was a young man and seminarian.

At least some parishioners at Resurrection suggested that his recent actions and statements should be viewed in that context, even if they did not agree with them personally. The most recent parish newsletter asked that those objecting to Kalchik’s actions  to “at least ask yourself what the banner represented to him as a victim [of sexual abuse].”

Fr. Petri added that Kalchik’s status as a victim merited concern and prayer, as does all abuse survivors.

“I understand that Fr. Kalchik was abused. I’ll pray for him as my brother priest who is also a victim. I do not stand in judgment and cannot presume to comment on his intentions or motivations.”

The circumstances of Kalchik’s absence from the parish remain unclear and have been the subject of considerable speculation, along with his current whereabouts.

Newsweek cited reports that there had been a heated exchange between Kalchik and two archdiocesan representatives, who allegedly threatened to have him sent to the St. Luke’s Institute in Silver Spring, Maryland, a mental health care facility. 

The archdiocese declined to comment on the report that Kalchik was instructed to present himself at the St. Luke’s Institute for psychiatric evaluation.

The archdiocese also declined to comment on a Chicago Sun-Times report that Cupich has blocked a recent request from Kalchik to move to a diocese in Michigan in order to be closer to his family.

Several questions about the temporary removal of Fr. Kalchik from the parish also remain unanswered.

Despite assurances from the Archdiocese of Chicago that Kalchik’s break from ministry was by mutual agreement, accounts have surfaced that chancery representatives threatened to call the police if he refused to leave the parish. When asked about this report specifically, a spokesperson for the Archdiocese would only repeat that “Fr. Kalchik left willingly to receive pastoral support.”

Although the archdiocese  insists that it was unrelated to the controversy surrounding the banner, no indication has been given to local parishioners - many of whom say they support Kalchik - as to exactly why their pastor was removed.

An archdiocesan spokesman did tell CNA that Kalchik was now “working with the vicar for clergy to get the support he needs.”

Next step toward artificial reproduction violates human fundamentals, ethicist warns

Tue, 09/25/2018 - 05:01

Washington D.C., Sep 25, 2018 / 03:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Artificial human reproduction appears to be on the horizon with Japanese scientists’ claim to have created immature human eggs from stem cells, but the technique could result in power that would cross the bounds of ethics and serve as a “profound violation” of marriage and marital love, a bioethicist has warned.

John Brehany, a Catholic bioethicist and director of institutional relations at the National Catholic Bioethics Center, told CNA that stem cell research has its positives.

“Such knowledge and power could be used for good ends, achieved with ethical means. For example, scientists could build on this sophisticated expertise in stem cell science to create human organs for transplantation or to cure major diseases or industries,” he said.

“However, given the significance of the human desire for procreation, (and) the lust for power, it appears likely that scientists will try to use this technology to engage in truly artificial human reproduction.”

The reported development is “evidence of a major advance in biotechnology prowess” and show the potential for scientists “to exert control over the most fundamental and complex building blocks of biology and life,” he said.

The team of Japanese scientists used a common method to transform adult human blood cells into induced pluripotent stem cells, which have the capacity to become other human cells, National Public Radio reports. They then placed these cells into miniature ovaries created in the lab from mouse embryonic cells. As reported in the journal Science, this triggered the human stem cells’ transformation into immature human egg cells.

The scientists said they next plan to make mature human eggs and produce human sperm using this method.

“It’s the beginning of a paradigm change,” Kyle Orwig, a professor in the department of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, told NPR.

Brehany thought it correct that the technique might change how humans reproduce.

“This would be a major change even if practiced only by a small group of individuals. In principle, this would be a profound violation of marriage and marital love,” he said.

The technique might be a choice for those who are infertile, NPR reported. It might allow babies to be conceived from the cells of children, grandmothers, the deceased, or cells stolen from unwitting celebrities. It could make DNA scanning of human embryos routine.

According to Brehany, it is important to note that the proposed techniques’ use for infertile couples or individuals is not a cure for infertility, just as surrogacy is not. “Rather, it would allow people to procreate through other means,” he added.

He suggested that news reports on the new development do not sufficiently acknowledge how many human embryos would be “killed by being discarded or would be subject to additional assaults on their dignity by being made the subject of lab testing.”

Dartmouth bioethicist Ronald Green told NPR there are “some very weird possibilities emerging,” such as babies conceived using cells from the blood, hair, or skin cells of children, grandmothers or the deceased. Unwitting celebrities could have their cells stolen from a used soda can or hair clippings at the salon, from which egg or sperm cells could in theory be cultivated and used to conceive babies.

“A woman might want to have George Clooney’s baby,” Green said. “And his hairdresser could start selling his hair follicles online. So we suddenly could see many, many progeny of George Clooney without his consent.”

Hank Greeley, a Stanford bioethicist, said that making human eggs and sperm from stem cells “opens up an enormous number of possibilities for changing how humans reproduce.”

Brehany said Catholic teaching holds that the “greatest goods” of human persons, like marriage, marital love, and procreation, must be “treated with the greatest respect.”

“How we respect such goods is a matter of significant principle,” he said. “Once we violate or misuse them, then it is harder to treat them as they deserve, and the negative impacts on the innocent human beings are immense.”

Brehany cited the 1987 Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith document Donum vitae, which criticizes the separation of the desire to procreate from the conjugal act between married spouses. He suggested that such a violation results in decreased respect for “the dignity of the human persons brought into being this way” and for their suffering “as they struggle to know their own identity and dignity.”

The 2008 CDF document Dignitas personae also addresses bioethical questions related to human life and procreation. It said: “The origin of human life has its authentic context in marriage and in the family, where it is generated through an act which expresses the reciprocal love between a man and a woman… human procreation is a personal act of a husband and wife, which is not capable of substitution.”

While recognizing the legitimacy of the desire for a child, and voicing understanding for the suffering of infertile couples, the document adds “such a desire, however, should not override the dignity of every human life to the point of absolute supremacy.”

What Catholics learned at V Encuentro, and what they hope their bishops heard

Mon, 09/24/2018 - 19:19

Fort Worth, Texas, Sep 24, 2018 / 05:19 pm (CNA).- It’s a difficult time for the Catholic Church, a fact much-discussed at the National V Encuentro conference, a gathering of Hispanic and Latino Catholics from throughout the U.S. that took place Sept. 20-23 in Grapevine, Texas.

The bishops have failed their people and ask for forgiveness, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Houston and president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, said in his address at the V Encuentro.

But even at the close of this ‘summer of scandals’, the 3,000-some Hispanic and Latino Catholics present for the gathering seemed to relish their time with and attention from the leaders of the Church.

Selfies were snapped, hugs were exchanged, and chants of “We Love You!” were signs of support and appreciation shown to the bishops present for the conference.

Ruby Fuentes, a young adult delegate from the Diocese of Brownsville “in deep south Texas, right above the Mexican border,” said she especially appreciated the bishops’ dinner and encounter night with young people, where a bishop sat at every table to listen to the needs and concerns of the young delegates.

The issues discussed varied from table to table, Fuentes said, but her particular concerns included suicide and mental health in young people, and immigration issues.

“I thought it was a really good way to be transparent within the Church and try to understand what young people are thinking about, what their concerns are,” Fuentes told CNA.

“It was really a pleasant surprise to see that bishops were the ones organizing the dinner and wanted to talk to us and see what we had to say, because oftentimes as young folks we’re cast aside, we’re not really taken seriously,” she said.

Sr. Mary Johanna of the Nashville Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia told CNA that the closeness of the bishops was the thing most-remarked on by the delegates in her group.

“It’s been great to have so many Hispanics and Anglos here together, and it’s beautiful to see so many bishops here with us and to see the attention that they’re giving, how deeply they’re listening, and just coming together as a Church,” she said.

Besides DiNardo, some of the bishops at the V Encuentro included Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller, M.Sp.S. of the Archdiocese of San Antonio, Archbishop José H. Gomez of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Archbishop William E. Lori of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Archbishop Wilton Gregory of the Archdiocese of Atlanta, Cardinal Blase Cupich of the Archdiocese of Chicago, and Cardinal Sean O’Malley, O.F.M. Cap, of the Archdiocese of Boston.

Alfredo Portillo, a delegate from Las Vegas, told CNA that the Encuentro was a “heartwarming” experience and “for the bishops to reunite us, to bring us together, to celebrate our Hispanic inheritances, I think it’s really great, I’m really proud to be here.”

Guadalupe Alba, a delegate from St. Martha’s Catholic Church in Huntington Park, California, told CNA that it was encouraging for him to see Catholic leaders, including bishops and non-Hispanic Catholics, attending the conference and listening to what the delegates had to say.

“Even though there’s a lot of Hispanics in the United States, we’re still a minority, you know?” he told CNA.

What the bishops are communicating to Hispanic and Latino Catholics through the Encuentro is that “we know that you’re here, we accept you, and we’re on the same team. Everything in the faith,” Alba said.

Juan Carlos Reyes, a delegate from the Archdiocese of Denver, told CNA that hoped that the bishops have a renewal of a pastoral rather than a political spirit following the Encuentro.

“I feel like many times our Church, the conversation gets framed by the political aspects in the nation, and I think many of our bishops are worried about saying the right thing, being on the right side of things, they’re worried about the politics and they are detached from the people,” he said.

“And they are not congressmen, they’re pastors, so if they could take from this a renewal of a pastoral approach that would be wonderful,” he said. Another concern of Reyes was that there be a more holistic approach within the pro-life movement to the issue of immigration.

“The pro-life movement is all about the abortion issue, and that is urgent and continues to be needed,” he said. “But we march and we pray outside of abortion clinics, but we don’t march and we don’t pray outside of detention centers.”

Evangelization and bridging the cultural divide that exists in some parishes between Hispanic and Anglo Catholics were other frequently-discussed topics of conversation at the V Encuentro.

“We are failing our Church ourselves because we are not bringing people in,” Carlos Mendez from Huntington Park, California told CNA. “But first we have to go and be taught by others how to do it, we have to find the love within us and go with the Holy Spirit and take charge and be there for the ones who feel marginalized.”

Joanne Reinhardt, a delegate from Toledo Ohio, said she was leaving Encuentro with a renewed desire to “build bridges” between Hispanic and Anglo Catholics.

She said some things that her parish has done to help bridge the cultural divide is to host bilingual Masses, celebrations for Our Lady of Guadalupe’s feast day, and food and diaper drives for immigrants in the parish.

“Sometimes we want to separate ourselves,” she said. “But we’re one people and when we come together, things will happen.”

Former priest pleads not guilty to abuse charges in NM after extradition

Mon, 09/24/2018 - 19:01

Santa Fe, N.M., Sep 24, 2018 / 05:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A former priest is back in the United States after he fled to Morocco in 1992 to escape accusations of sexual abuse.

Arthur Perrault, 80, is accused of sexually abusing a child in the early 1990s and was extradited to New Mexico to face charges Sept. 21.

Perrault served in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe from 1973 to 1992, and the alleged abuse occurred while Perrault was serving as a military chaplain in Albuquerque. He is charged with seven counts of aggravated sexual abuse and abusive sexual contact with a minor under the age of 12.

The former priest has pled not guilty to all seven counts against him.

The Archdiocese of Santa Fe stated that “over the past year” it has “fully cooperated with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI during the federal grand jury investigation which ultimately led to these criminal indictments against Perrault.”

“The archdiocese has cooperated fully with all law enforcement agencies investigating the allegations and will continue to support the judicial process as it runs its course. We ask all to cooperate and respect the legal proceedings and for prayers for all victims and those affected by these very serious charges.”

Perrault had been in the custody of Moroccan authorities since October of last year, after the Department of Justice filed an indictment against him Sept. 21, 2017. U.S. Attorney John Anderson for the District of New Mexico stated that Perrault could face a maximum sentence of life in prison for the aggravated sexual abuse charge and a maximum of 10 years for the abusive sexual contact charge.

Only one alleged victim is mentioned in the indictment, but a motion filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Mexico alleges that Perrault is a “serial child molester who abused numerous victims” during his priesthood. The Albuquerque Journal reports that nearly 40 of Perrault’s alleged victims in New Mexico have come forward, as well as the mother of one young man who claims her son committed suicide following abuse.

Perrault had been sent to a treatment center for sexually abusive priests in 1965 after being accused of molesting young men in Connecticut. The center, located in Jemez Springs, N.M., was run by the Servants of the Paraclete. In 1966, a psychologist contracting with the order recommended him for a teaching position at St. Pius X High School.

The Journal also reports that court records suggest that several priests and diocesan leaders were alerted to Perrault’s conduct during his 26 year priesthood in Albuquerque.

By 1992, after two victims reported abuse to the Albuquerque police, the then-archbishop suspended Perrault’s priestly faculties and reported the accusations to Albuquerque civil authorities. The accused priest disappeared from his Albuquerque parish in 1992, just days before an attorney filed two lawsuits against the archdiocese.

CRS sells fair trade coffee, supporting Mexican farmers and land

Mon, 09/24/2018 - 18:07

Baltimore, Md., Sep 24, 2018 / 04:07 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Catholic Relief Services is now offering fair trade coffee beans that will benefit local farming communities in Mexico and foster better agricultural practices.

“So many of us love coffee, and this is just a really easy way to live out your faith and support the people who work really hard to create the products that we love,” said Meghan Gilbert, communications officer for CRS.

“As Catholics, we have to uphold the dignity of everyone and one really great way to do that is to make sure workers are treated fairly and that they are paid a fair price for what they produce,” she told CNA.

The project is called Mama Tierra, or Mother Earth, and is a joint effort of CRS and Equal Exchange, a fair trade company that looks to provide a just relationship between consumers and producers.

For every bag of coffee sold at retail price, $2 will be given to CRS. If a unit of five bags are sold at wholesale price, then $5 will be donated. CRS will use the money to help educate farmers on practices to improve quantity and reduce waste.  

The coffee sales also support members of a democratically-run cooperative of farmers in Oaxaca. The cooperative is called CEPCO and involves 4,300 farmers. The group provides a fair price for the product and educates farmers to improve cultivation.

Because coffee produces a lot of waste, a major focus of the project is to instruct farmers in environmentally-friendly agriculture, with measures such as reducing water contamination and improving soil quality, said Gilbert.

“We also work with them on how to grow this coffee so it actually puts more nutrients into the soil so it reduces the harm to the land and actually increases their yield,” she said.

“It’s about not just caring for the worker, it’s caring for the environment as well. Because if we don’t care for the environment, these workers won’t be able to produce coffee or some of the other agricultural goods.”

CRS has worked with Equal Exchange for more than 10 years, and this project has been in the works for the past few years, said Gilbert. Since the product is fair trade, the workers and farmers receive a just return on their product, she said, noting this is important because many farmers are not paid justly.

“You look around the world and you hear all these stories – workers getting paid very, very little for the amount of work they do,” she said. “When you make sure that they are paid a fair wage, then workers are treated better and they are able to produce and increase their business.”

Gilbert said fair trade is also important because it cultivates a culture that appreciates the workers on the other side of the products – items which people may take advantage of without recognizing the poor treatment those workers receive.

“I think that is really what ethical trade at CRS and fair trade over all is really trying to get people to think about who is on the other end of that product and who is creating it and making sure that they are treated well, that they are paid a fair wage.”

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