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Archbishop Gomez names four new members of National Review Board

Thu, 06/11/2020 - 20:01

CNA Staff, Jun 11, 2020 / 06:01 pm (CNA).- The president of the United States’ Conference of Catholic Bishops has appointed four new members of the National Review Board, a lay advisory body to the bishops on the protection of minors.

The new members are Vivian Akel, James Bogner, Steven Jubera, and Thomas Mengler. A June 10 statement from the conference said they are experts in social work, law enforcement, Catholic education, and legal counsel.

Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the USCCB, announced the new members who will help advise the bishops’ Committee on the Protection of Children and Young People.

“The National Review Board plays a vital role as a consultative body assisting the bishops in ensuring the complete implementation and accountability of the Charter for Protection of Children and Young People,” said Gomez.

Akel has spent 21 years as a social worker for the New York City Department of Education. Having received her master’s degree in Social Work from Hunter College School, she began outpatient psychotherapy to individual patients and families at the Community Mental Health Center in Brooklyn. She is a facilitator for pre-Cana consultation and volunteers as the Safe Environment Coordinator for the Maronite Eparchy of Saint Maron of Brooklyn.

Bogner is a retired Senior Executive Special Agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He has more than 35 years of law enforcement experience. He graduated from the FBI’s National Executive Institute and has a master’s degree in Administration of Justice. Bogner has also served as president of his parish council, providing data analysis and strategic planning. He currently serves as a member of the Archdiocese of Omaha’s Advisory Review and Ministerial Misconduct Boards.

Jubera, a former Marine, is an Assistant District Attorney for Mississippi's 17th Judicial District. He earned his law degree from the University of Mississippi. He has been involved with Healing Hearts Child Advocacy Center in Southaven and has spoken for child safety at One Loud Voice conference in Mississippi. He also serves on the Diocese of Jackson’s review board.

Mengler, president of St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, is a board member of the Board of Directors of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, and he served as association’s chair from 2018-2020. He has also served as a Co-Chair of the Lay Commission on Clergy Sexual Abuse of Minors in the Archdiocese of San Antonio.

The National Review Board is composed of 13 laymen and women. The review board was organized after allegations of clergy sexual abuse and subsequent cover-up by bishops and Church officials surfaced nationwide in 2002.

The bishops passed the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People shortly after the allegations of abuse arose in 2002. It was set up as a process for bishops to deal with abuse allegations against priests.

India denies visa to US religious freedom investigators

Thu, 06/11/2020 - 18:50

CNA Staff, Jun 11, 2020 / 04:50 pm (CNA).- India has barred U.S. representatives from investigating the county’s reported violations of religious freedom, continuing what critics call a trend of Hindu nationalism that threatens religious minorities in India.

The investigation, called for by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), followed reports of the abuse of Chistians, Muslims, and other religious minorities in India. The reports prompted USCIRF to delegate India a “country of particular concern” (CPC) in its 2020 annual report. India joined a list of 13 other CPCs in the report, including North Korea and China.

“We see no locus standi for a 'foreign entity/government' to pronounce on the state of our citizens' constitutionally protected rights,” Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said, according to a report by IndiaToday. He said India is a “pluralistic society with a longstanding commitment to tolerance and inclusion.”

Although India’s constitution protects the freedom of religion, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has manipulated the constitutional stipulation that religious freedom is “subject to public order,” using the clause to promote Hindu nationalism, according to the USCIRF report.

One such instance of Hindu nationalism is a new policy that would fast-track the citizenship of non-Muslim migrants by treating them as refugees fleeing religious persecution. The same status would not be conferred on 100 million other migrants, potentially making them illegal residents of India.

This policy incited violent riots in northeastern Delhi in February, killing 27 and injuring over 200, according to a CNA report. The riots saw Hindu mobs attacking unarmed people and especially targeting Muslims.

Reports indicate that Indian Hindus, who make up nearly 80% of India’s population, have systematically targeted Muslims in lynch mobs for slaughtering or eating beef– a practice that Hindus consider to be a religious offense. Since the BJP came to power in 2014, there have been over 100 lynch mob attacks in India, which often originate on social media. The law enforcement is known to arrest the victims, rather than the perpetrators, of these attacks.

Religious discrimination and violence has also been directed toward Christians in recent years.

In January, Hindu groups attempted to prevent the building of a huge statue of Jesus in Bangalore. They claimed a Hindu god lives on the hill where the local Catholic archdiocese was planning to erect the statue.

In 2008, Hindu nationalists organized attacks on Christian homes, schools, and churches in Karnataka, physically beating hundreds of Christians. The Saldhana Report, an independent report on the attacks released in 2011, revealed that the attacks were backed by India’s highest government authorities.

Dozens of Catholics in the same region were attacked in 2019 while conducting a Marian pilgrimage, resulting in the arrest of six Hindu Nationalists.

The USCIRF’s delegation of India as a CPC, which precipitated the investigation, was not unanimous. Gary Bauer, the president of American Values who serves as a USCIRF commissioner, dissented from the majority opinion, along with two other USCIRF commissioners.

“The trend line on religious freedom in India is not reassuring. But India is not the equivalent of communist China, which wages war on all faiths; nor of North Korea, a prison masquerading as a country; nor of Iran, whose Islamic extremist leaders regularly threaten to unleash a second Holocaust,” said Bauer. “I am confident that India will reject any authoritarian temptation and stand with the United States and other free nations in defense of liberty, including religious liberty.”

'The death of George Floyd will not be in vain', says Democrats for Life coordinator

Thu, 06/11/2020 - 18:00

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 11, 2020 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- The Georgia state coordinator for Democrats for Life of America has called for renewed solidarity in the pro-life cause, following the death of George Floyd.

Rev. Harriet Bradley said Wednesday that national and international protests over Floyd’s death in recent weeks have the power to effect global change.

In video footage of Floyd’s May 25 arrest, an officer with the Minneapolis Police Department can be seen kneeling on his neck for several minutes after he was taken into custody. Floyd could be heard saying “I can’t breathe” several times. He died soon after. The arresting officers have now been charged over Floyd’s killing, which sparked mass demonstrations against racism and police brutality in cities in the U.S. and abroad. 

Bradley, an African-American woman and a minister with the Progressive Christian Alliance who lives in Gwinnet County, Georgia, said that watching the footage of Floyd’s death “really shook me to my core,” as she too had suffered through instances of racial profiling.

“But I am still living,” Bradley said in a statement released through Democrats for Life of America, a group that works for the inclusion of a range of pro-life issues into the Democratic Party’s platform. And, Bradley said, the work of honoring the memory of Floyd has already begun.

“I believe the death of George Floyd will not be in vain. I have never [before] seen people display peaceful protest not only in the United States, but all over the world. The senseless murder of George Floyd has brought a change to the entire world,” she said. 

Bradley also said she wants to help achieve is solidarity among pro-life causes and voices, including in her own political party.

“Democrats for Life of American stands in solidarity to see the lives of black men and women not be profiled simply for their color,” said Bradley. “But we also continue to fight for the life of the unborn, because their life matters and deserves the opportunity to be born safely!” 

On Wednesday, Bradley told CNA that she wants to see her party become a voice for all human lives, and that she is familiar with the hard work of championing that cause.

“I make my voice known,” she said, mentioning that during Georgia’s efforts to pass a bill banning abortion after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, she encountered fierce resistance among her party collegues. 

“I got up and made a statement talking about how we care about both lives [the child and mother],” she told CNA, and how respect for all life should be at the core of political debate.

Bradley’s statement linking the fight against racism to a broader pro-life agenda follows similar calls from other black pro-life leaders.

Louisiana state Senator Katrina Jackson told CNA last week that racial justice is a pro-life issue and it is “not enough” for pro-lifers to only oppose abortion. Racism, and the deaths of young black men, have been “plaguing our nation for years,” Jackson said.

“It has to stop, because it goes directly against the pro-life stance that every life has value.”

“Right now, the pro-life movement could be holding very diverse online townhall meetings to discuss this issue,” Jackson said, to “talk about life being important at every stage of life.”

On Wednesday, Bradley told CNA that she wants to see a fuller conversation about life in the Democratic party, saying that many voters who otherwise back of the party’s platform have been driven away by its entrenched support for abortion. 

“They need to include us in the platform, because they have lost a lot of elections because of [shutting pro-life voters out],” she said. “There are people [for whom] the abortion issue was so important to them that they had left the party and gone to the Republican Party over one issue.” 

She told CNA she calls this the “Trump effect,” and that President Donald Trump’s placing of pro-life issues at the forefront of his campaign had produced results. 

Bradley said she would like to see a national election in which pro-life voices, including against abortion, can be heard clearly on both sides of the party divide, and that she remains committed to trying to make her party a home for pro-life voters. 

“I definitely have wanted to get to the party leaders and say, you know, ‘you have to include us if you want to win, you have to be able to bring more balance on the abortion issue.’”

Buffalo bishop ‘honors witness’ of Catholic man injured in protest

Thu, 06/11/2020 - 11:30

CNA Staff, Jun 11, 2020 / 09:30 am (CNA).- The interim bishop of Buffalo paid tribute to a Catholic peace activist who was hospitalized after an encounter with police last week.

“We stand with all who demonstrate peacefully and speak out against abuse of power and injustice of every kind,” Bishop Edward Scharfenberger, apostolic administrator of the diocese of Buffalo, said on Wednesday evening regarding the case of Martin Gugino, a 75 year-old man who friends say is a peace activist in the Catholic Worker Movement founded by Servant of God Dorothy Day.

“We honor Mr. Gugino’s witness and service to the Catholic Worker Movement,” Scharfenberger said in a statement provided to CNA.

Three of the officers moved towards Gugino and two of them—one with a baton—pushed Gugino away. He fell backwards and hit his head on the concrete, and immediately started bleeding from his ear. One of the officers appeared to stop to look over Gugino, but was promptly moved along by another officer.

According to the initial description of the encounter by Buffalo Police, Gugino “tripped and fell.”

Video provided by WBFO, however, showed the officer shoving Gugino, who fell backwards and then hit his head and lay motionless.

Two officers involved in the incident have since been suspended from the police force and charged with second-degree assault. After the officers were suspended last week, all 57 officers of the department’s Emergency Response Team resigned from that assignment, but not from the police force, in protest of the suspensions.

On Tuesday, President Trump implied that Gugino could be a member of the group Antifa, an anti-fascist protest movement which he has said he plans to declare a terrorist organization.

Trump had tweeted that Gugino “could be an ANTIFA provocateur” and that he could have used his phone “to scan police communications in order to black out the equipment.”

“@OANN I watched, he fell harder than was pushed. Was aiming scanner. Could be a set up?” the president tweeted.

In addition to his reported involvement in Catholic groups, the Washington Post reported that Gugino was a member of the group PUSH Buffalo, which advocates for affordable housing.

In his statement on Wednesday, Bishop Scharfenberger said that Christians must “work towards bringing about truth, justice, and peace.”

“Our prayers are with Martin Gugino for his full recovery, and also for his family who have had to confront this terrible ordeal with him,” the bishop said.



How to foster a happy marriage? Catholic online summit to promote community

Thu, 06/11/2020 - 11:16

Denver, Colo., Jun 11, 2020 / 09:16 am (CNA).- A Catholic marriage ministry will host a virtual retreat this month to help couples experience joy in their marriage, especially during the current coronavirus pandemic.

Damon and Melanie Owens, founders of Joyful Ever After, have organized the 2020 Catholic Marriage Summit, a virtual encounter taking place June 11-13. More than 20,000 people have already registered for the digital event.

The summit will include over 65 presenters, including Chris Stefanick, host of EWTN’s Real Life Catholic; Franciscan University of Steubenville professor Dr. Scott Hahn; and Catholic author Matt Fradd. The presenters will be speaking alongside their spouses.

Damon Owens said the witness of these couples is profoundly moving and beautiful. He said the testimonies will offer a variety of perspectives - from newly married couples to those who have been together for 50 years, and some couples who have been separated and come back together.

“We've got over 65 presenter couples who will be sharing a witness about their marriage, and it's easier said than done. So it's a really beautiful, transparent invitation that these presenter couples are offering the attendees,” Owens told CNA.

Registration is free for the event, which runs Thursday at 3 p.m. through the end of Saturday. Videos will be laid out on the website by different topics of interest, including prayer, intimacy, communication, children, finances, and suffering loss.

For $49 per couple, the ministry is also offering an all-access pass, which will allow couples to view more content and engage more with speakers. It will also include a number of giveaways such as masterclasses, books, and additional talks.

“All access really allows the individual speakers to share more about what they do. We have live events throughout the weekend that are part of this all-access pass. My wife Melanie and I will be interviewing some of the speakers to dive a little bit deeper [and] answer live questions over zoom and Facebook live,” Owens said.

He said the idea for the summit began in March as the couple analyzed the ups and downs of their own marriage. Even the best of marriages can tend toward times of isolation, where one spouse is trying to live the marriage alone, he said.

“We looked at our own marriage, Melanie and I, what were the times where we really flourished?...There was always at least one other couple, often two or three couples, that we were really in deep friendship with,” he said. “So Joyful Ever After is founded on this idea that we need to begin to do the hard work, but the joyful work of building trusted friendships to journey in our marriages.”

“The Catholic parish summit is our first real engagement to bring couples into the broader and direct community to see their marriages, not in isolation, but as a sacramental community.”

Owens hopes that the summit will raise the bar for marriage and particularly help couples who are struggling during the quarantine.

“We've seen in some of the news reports, where couples are spending so much time together now that it’s bringing to the surface marriage issues, parenting issues, school issues,” he said. With family members spending less time at work and school - and more time together at home - many are realizing that they struggle to live together joyfully.

The summit is for couples who want to live their marriage with joy, but also for those preparing for sacramental marriage, or those discerning marriage. Owens said it is important to show all the good, bad, and ugly experiences of marriages to help individuals prepare for the sacrament.

During the initial planning phases of the retreat, he said, engaged couples showed a great interest in a community that shared their marital experiences.

“So that just confirmed for us that gathering this wisdom is a great gift for anyone, whether you're repairing, discerning, or even thinking about marriage, to get a real glimpse about what it takes to live God's plan for joyful marriage,” he said.


Trump tweet latest twist in Archbishop Vigano saga

Thu, 06/11/2020 - 09:28

Denver Newsroom, Jun 11, 2020 / 07:28 am (CNA).-  

President Trump on Wednesday tweeted that he was honored by a letter written to him by former apostolic nuncio Archbishop Carlo Vigano, which warned the president against secular and ecclesiastical agents of an atheistic globalist new world order.

The president's tweet is the latest in a series of events that have kept the archbishop in the headlines for much of the last two years, a period in which he has become a polarizing figure in the Catholic Church, and morphed in the public eye from a whistleblowing diplomat to a prognosticator of impending doom amid a spiritual and political battle for world domination.

“So honored by Archbishop Viganò’s incredible letter to me. I hope everyone, religious or not, reads it,” Trump tweeted June 10, linking to Vigano’s recent open letter addressed to the president.


So honored by Archbishop Viganò’s incredible letter to me. I hope everyone, religious or not, reads it!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 10, 2020  

Vigano’s missive to Trump is one of several open letters and interviews the archbishop has published in recent weeks, which make apocalyptic claims about a looming spiritual battle and a globalist conspiracy pursuing a one-world government, alongside a denunciation of the Second Vatican Council, claims about the third secret of Our Lady of Fatima, the charge that some bishops are “false shepherds,” and encouragement that at least some Catholics disobey their bishop.

The June 6 letter said “it appears that the children of darkness – whom we may easily identify with the deep state which you wisely oppose and which is fiercely waging war against you in these days – have decided to show their cards, so to speak, by now revealing their plans.”

“They seem to be so certain of already having everything under control that they have laid aside that circumspection that until now had at least partially concealed their true intentions,” Vigano wrote.

“The investigations already under way will reveal the true responsibility of those who managed the Covid emergency not only in the area of health care but also in politics, the economy, and the media. We will probably find that in this colossal operation of social engineering there are people who have decided the fate of humanity, arrogating to themselves the right to act against the will of citizens and their representatives in the governments of nations,” he added.

Vigano claimed that “just as there is a deep state, there is also a deep church that betrays its duties and forswears its proper commitments before God.”

Vigano praised Trump, claiming that “both of us are on the same side in this battle, albeit with different weapons,” and adding that criticism of Trump’s June 2 visit to the National Shrine of St. John Paul II is part of an “orchestrated media narrative” against the president.

Vigano added that some bishops, including Washington’s Archbishop Wilton Gregory, who criticized Trump, are “subservient to the deep state, to globalism, to aligned thought, to the New World Order which they invoke ever more frequently in the name of a universal brotherhood which has nothing Christian about it, but which evokes the Masonic ideals of those want to dominate the world by driving God out of the courts, out of schools, out of families, and perhaps even out of churches.”

The archbishop did not offer proof to support the claims in his letter.

Nor has Vigano offered proof to support the claims of his recent letter on the coronavirus pandemic.

On May 7, Vigano published an open letter written principally by himself but signed by several Church leaders, which said the coronavirus pandemic had been exaggerated to foster widespread social panic and undercut freedom, as a willful preparation for the establishment of a one-world government.

That letter lamented social distancing and stay-at-home orders issued to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, suggesting they were contrived mechanisms of social control, with a nefarious purpose.

“We have reason to believe, on the basis of official data on the incidence of the epidemic as related to the number of deaths, that there are powers interested in creating panic among the world’s population with the sole aim of permanently imposing unacceptable forms of restriction on freedoms, of controlling people and of tracking their movements,” the letter said.

“The imposition of these illiberal measures is a disturbing prelude to the realization of a world government beyond all control,” it added. (bold original)

The letter did not identify the “powers” in question, or the source of Vigano's information.

Among the letters signatories were three cardinals and one sitting U.S. diocesan bishop, as well as Fr. Curzio Nitoglia, a priest of the Society of St. Pius X, a traditionalist group in “irregular communion” with the Church. Nitoglia is the author of “The Magisterium of Vatican II,” a 1994 article that claims that “the church of Vatican II is therefore not the Apostolic and Roman Catholic Church instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of a Vatican dicastery, was originally listed as a signatory to the letter, but distanced himself from the letter after it was published. 

CNA asked Bishop Joseph Strickland, the U.S. bishop who signed the letter, to explain its claims, but the bishop declined to do so.

CNA asked Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Strickland’s metropolitan archbishop, whether he had concerns about the bishop’s endorsement of the claim that the coronavirus pandemic was a pretext to “allow centuries of Christian civilization to be erased under the pretext of a virus, and an odious technological tyranny to be established, in which nameless and faceless people can decide the fate of the world by confining us to a virtual reality.”

The cardinal did not respond.

Weeks before that letter, in April, Vigano gave an interview in which he declared that the Vatican has been for decades concealing the third secret of Fatima, despite the publication in 2000 of the third part of Mary’s message from the apparition at Fatima, by order of Pope St. John Paul II, and despite an accompanying theological commentary written by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who became Pope Benedict XVI.

Speculation that Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI lied about releasing the message of Fatima is a common topic among Catholic sedevacantists and other conspiracy theorists.

Kevin Symonds, author of a book on the third part of the Fatima message, wrote subsequently that Vigano’s “grasp of the details is not very precise,” and, under scrutiny, “quickly breaks down.”

“Archbishop Viganò’s remarks indicate a lack of knowledge on the history of the third part of the secret of Fátima. The archbishop faces a grave danger: uninformed statements undermining his credibility,” Symonds added.

Having discussed both Fatima and the coronavirus pandemic already, in June Vigano penned his missive on Trump, and a letter on the Second Vatican Council.

That letter criticized ecumenical and interreligious efforts of Pope St. John Paul, claiming that pope’s Assisi prayer gatherings “initiated a deviant succession of pantheons that were more or less official, even to the point of seeing Bishops carrying the unclean idol of the pachamama on their shoulders, sacrilegiously concealed under the pretext of being a representation of sacred motherhood.”

The archbishop also criticized specific documents of the Council, calling them “root causes” of contemporary issues.

“If the pachamama could be adored in a church, we owe it to Dignitatis Humanae [Vatican II’s Declaration on Religious Freedom]…. If the Abu Dhabi Declaration was signed, we owe it to Nostra Aetate [Vatican II’s Declaration on non-Christian religions].”

Listing his concerns about Church in the modern world, including  “the democratization of the Church,” “the demolition of the ministerial priesthood,” “the demythologization of the Papacy,” and “the progressive legitimization of all that is politically correct: gender theory, sodomy, homosexual marriage, Malthusian doctrines, ecologism, immigrationism,” Vigano attributed each of them to the documents of the Second Vatican Council.

“If we do not recognize that the roots of these deviations are found in the principles laid down by the Council, it will be impossible to find a cure: if our diagnosis persists, against all the evidence, in excluding the initial pathology, we cannot prescribe a suitable therapy.”  

Most significantly, Vigano suggested that the Second Vatican Council catalyzed a massive, but unseen, schism in the Church, ushering in a false Church alongside the true Church.

“It is undeniable that from Vatican II onwards a parallel church was built, superimposed over and diametrically opposed to the true Church of Christ. This parallel church progressively obscured the divine institution founded by Our Lord in order to replace it with a spurious entity.”

The claim that there can be distinguished a pure form of the Church distinct from the Catholic communion of sacraments, magisterial teaching, and hierarchical governance is described by some theologians as a kind of donatism, a heresy addressed by St. Augustine in the 5th century.

Vatican II, Vigano claimed, has led to a “serious apostasy to which the highest levels of the Hierarchy are exposed.”

The archbishop did not specify those Church leaders whom he believes are “exposed” to apostasy, which is the total repudiation of the Catholic faith.

In a June 3 letter, however, Vigano singled out Archbishop Wilton Gregory, who the day before had criticized Trump. Gregory’s Archdiocese of Washington, Vigano wrote, “has been and continues to be deeply afflicted and wounded by false shepherds whose way of life is full of lies, deceits, lust and corruption. Wherever they have been, they were a cause of serious scandal for various local Churches, for your entire country and for the whole Church.”

Vigano also urged Washington, DC Catholics to disobey Gregory.

“Do not follow them, as they lead you to perdition. They are mercenaries. They teach and practice falsehoods and corruption,” Vigano wrote, without offering additional or specific information.

No U.S. bishops have yet spoken publicly about Vigano’s recent letters, a fact that some critics have attributed to an aspect of clerical culture in which bishops are reluctant to criticize one another in public.

Vigano, however, has not been reticent to criticize fellow bishops in recent years.

The archbishop made international headlines in August 2018, when he published an 11-page “testament” accusing several senior bishops of complicity in covering up the sexual abuse of McCarrick, claiming that Pope Francis knew about sanctions imposed on McCarrick by Pope Benedict XVI, but chose to repeal them.

In the months that followed, some aspects of Vigano’s claims were vindicated, though in some cases it became clear that Vigano’s language was imprecise or exaggerated. Other aspects of his claims are likely to be unverifiable unless the Vatican addresses them in its comprehensive report on McCarrick, whose release has been anticipated for months.

But Vigano’s original missive also called for the resignation of Pope Francis, and made allegations about the sexual orientation and activities of numerous church leaders, suggesting a homosexual “current” or network of bishops who assured mutual promotion and protection of one another.

When his first letter was published, numerous bishops, including leaders of the U.S. bishops’ conference, called for investigation into the claims made by Vigano about McCarrick. Several U.S. bishops vouched for the archbishop’s integrity, while others called aspects of his letter into question.

Vigano subsequently went into “hiding,” apparently in response to threats against his life. The archbishop is believed by some to be living with family members in the United States. He makes himself available only to selected media outlets, and, apart from additional open letters and selected interviews, does not usually respond to questions about his claims.

The archbishop released a second letter the month after his first, criticizing the pope’s response to his initial letter, and suggesting that certain Church leaders, including Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, had information that would corroborate his claims.

After exchanging additional public and polemical correspondence with Ouellet, Vigano began releasing letters on varied topics, including the conclave that elected Pope Francis, 2019’s pan-Amazonian synod, and other issues. While the archbishop continued to write, his letters did not continue to attract the level of attention that his initial correspondence had, and took on increasingly apocalyptic tones.

Cardinal Gerhard Muller, former prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has criticized Vigano’s letters, noting that “attacks” like Vigano’s letter “end up questioning the credibility of the Church and her mission.” “No one has the right to indict the pope or ask him to resign!” Muller added.

Vigano's letters were initially met with a great deal of public support among lay and clerical U.S. Catholics, sparking even a line of coffee mugs and t-shirts which declared their owners part of “Team Vigano.”

By late 2019, however, Vigano’s new letters attracted attention mostly among traditionalist Catholic websites or supporters of his call for the resignation of Pope Francis. He did again not garner considerable mainstream Catholic attention again until controversy surrounding a disagreement with Cardinal Sarah over his coronavirus letter, and his subsequently released letters, including the one addressed to Trump.

Vigano, 79, is retired from any official ecclesiastical position. A longtime member of the Vatican’s diplomatic corps, he worked in positions in the government of the Vatican City State before, in 2011, he became apostolic nuncio, or papal representative, to the U.S. He held that position until 2016.

Vigano is accused, during his time as nuncio, of mishandling an investigation into former St. Paul-Minneapolis Archbishop John Nienstedt, although Vigano denied charges that he ordered the investigation closed prematurely, and Bishop Andrew Cozzens, an auxiliary bishop in the Twin Cities, said in 2018 those charges were a misunderstanding.

Before he went to the U.S., Vigano was embroiled in controversy surrounding allegations of corruption in the Vatican City State, and was also involved in a family legal battle with his brother, also a priest, over the management of their father’s estate. Vigano was charged with withholding portions of a family inheritance from his brother, although family members have offered conflicting reports of Vigano’s role in the affair.

For his part, Trump has faced criticism himself from some Catholics in recent weeks.

The president was criticized June 9 after he suggested on Twitter that Martin Gugino, a 75-year-old activist who was hospitalized after being pushed to the ground by Buffalo police officers, might have been an “ANTIFA provocateur.” Gugino is active in the Catholic Worker Movement founded by Servant of God Dorothy Day.

On June 2, Trump made a visit to the St. John Paul II National Shrine amid controversy over his response to George Floyd protests Archbishop Gregory roundly condemned the visit, which in turn prompted Vigano’s denunciation of Gregory.

At the same time, the president's June 2 signing of an executive order on international religious liberty has drawn praise from bishops and religious freedom advocates in some parts of the world.

Vigano’s letter to Trump has attracted attention in the QAnon community, a social media based group of conspiracy theorists who believe that Trump is under attack by the “deep state” in an apocalyptic war of good against evil, in which Trump is using the presidency to wage a secret war against a global ring of Satanic pedophiles.

Since Trump’s tweet about Vigano, some figures in the QAnon community have characterized Vigano’s letter as a confirmation of the group’s theories.

No U.S. bishops have yet responded to Trump’s tweet of Vigano’s letter, or to the letter itself.


Sin City: NYC has rules for pandemic sex but no Mass

Wed, 06/10/2020 - 19:00

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 10, 2020 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- As public Masses remain suspended in New York City, per public health orders, the city health department has issued advice to residents on how to have “safe sex” with strangers during the coronavirus pandemic.

While the city remains in the first phase of the state’s reopening plan, Catholic churches in Manhattan, the Bronx, and Staten Island, are open only for private prayer and the sacrament of confession. In the first stage of New York state reopening regulations, religious gatherings are limited to 10 people who must wear masks and observe strict social distancing.

But while public gatherings in churches are considered a health risk, the city simultaneously is advising residents on how to have “safe sex”—even in a crowd.

Guidance from the New York City health department, issued June 8, states that “during this extended public health emergency, people will and should have sex,” and offers a range of advice on limiting transmission of coronavirus while engaging in “hook ups” and group encounters.

While the guidance advises that the safest sexual partners are “someone you live with,” and people should interact with “only a small circle of people,” the guidance offers precautions for those who “decide to find a crowd,” including that they pick “larger, more open, and well-ventilated spaces” for their encounters.

The city’s health department also recommends for and against specific sexual acts, in light of their probability of passing the virus, and suggests that people “be creative” and use “physical barriers, like walls, that allow sexual contact while preventing close face to face contact” as a health precaution.

City authorities have come under scrutiny for applying different priorities and standards to the regulation of people gathering following the outbreak of COVID-19.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has said that ongoing protests in the merit exceptions to coronavirus regulations, while religious services do not.

“When you see a nation, an entire nation simultaneously grappling with an extraordinary crisis seeded in 400 years of American racism, I’m sorry, that is not the same question as the understandably aggrieved store owner or the devout religious person who wants to go back to services,” he said at a June 2 press conference.

The mayor’s remarks have drawn criticism from New York’s archdiocese

Archdiocesan director of public policy Ed Mechmann wrote in response that the protests are important, as are public Masses. 

“We have once again been given proof that religious liberty is a second-class right,” he wrote June 3.

“It is clear that in the eyes of our government officials, the politically preferred viewpoint of anti-racism is favored and allowed, while the unpopular one of religious worship is belittled and denigrated,” Mechmann added.

In late March, De Blasio called out houses of worship that were defying public stay-at-home orders, saying he would shut them down permanently if they persisted in trying to hold clandestine services.

He also said that the gathering of thousands to mourn at the funeral of a Hasidic rabbi in Brooklyn was “absolutely unacceptable,” and threatened other religious gatherings with mass arrests.

Most of the state of New York has moved to the second phase of reopening during the new coronavirus pandemic, with churches allowed to host religious gatherings but at 25% capacity with social distancing.

This territory includes Westchester, Rockland, Putnam, Orange, Sullivan, Ulster, and Dutchess counties, and churches in the Archdiocese of New York within these counties have begun offering public Masses this week, a spokesman for the archdiocese confirmed with CNA on Wednesday.

These parishes are also able to offer funerals, weddings, and baptisms, the spokesman said, with parishes in the city boroughs remaining closed until the city enters the next phase of reopening.

Alleged Theodore McCarrick victim says he is helping fact-check abuse dossier

Wed, 06/10/2020 - 17:30

CNA Staff, Jun 10, 2020 / 03:30 pm (CNA).- An anonymous alleged sexual abuse victim of former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick says he and other alleged victims have been working with the Vatican to fact-check the comprehensive dossier on McCarrick’s misdeeds.

The alleged victim, writing under the name Nathan Doe, says he was one of several minors that McCarrick abused, and that he had previously collaborated with Church authorities to provide evidence during the canonical penal administrative process which resulted in McCarrick’s 2019 laicization.

He says early in 2020, “persons tasked by the Holy See with investigating McCarrick’s career” reached out to him and several other alleged victims to ask if they would be willing to provide facts and information to ensure the report’s accuracy.

“Time will tell, but nothing in my experience thus far indicates any type of cover-up or attempt to minimize anything by anyone involved in the Holy See’s investigation,” Doe writes in a June 5 blog post.

“In fact, my experience has been quite the opposite. The questions that I have been asked have been detailed, searching, and seemingly intent on uncovering truth. There has been a lot of fact-checking and cross-referencing of information. I was actually surprised by the level of due diligence I witnessed.”

In October 2018, just months after sexual abuse allegations against McCarrick first emerged, the Vatican said that Pope Francis had commissioned a study of McCarrick’s career.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston told the U.S. bishops’ conference during Nov. 2019 that the Vatican intended to publish the report “soon, if not before Christmas, soon in the new year.”

The report— still, to date, not yet released— has “taken longer than anyone expected,” Doe wrote.

“I don’t believe any of those Cardinals were trying to mislead anyone. I just think they believed that what they were saying was true,” Doe wrote.

Doe says he initially was skeptical and uncomfortable reliving his abuse for a second time, having already submitted to lengthy interviews about his experience for the canonical process.

However, he expressed hope that the fact-checking process would ultimately produce a truthful, comprehensive report.

“Based on what I have seen with my own eyes, the Holy See’s investigation looks to me like a genuine search for the truth. In my opinion, if the purpose of the investigation was to whitewash or cover-up any facts, they would not be asking the questions that they have been asking,” Doe wrote.

“I will continue to wait, patiently and faithfully, for that difficult but cathartic moment when the report is finally issued because I know that, ultimately, the Universal Catholic Church will be better for it,” he concluded.

Doe first spoke out late last year in an essay published online.

In the original Oct. 2019 essay, he said that in addition to widely reported seminary-related allegations against the former Cardinal, McCarrick had also abused a group of at least seven boys under the age of 16 as a priest of the Archdiocese of New York.

“Collectively, we were able to provide law enforcement with names, dates, times, locations, who was present, supporting evidence, and related documentation covering hundreds of Church-related or fundraising-related overnight trips between the years 1970 and 1990 that, as fate would have it, all resulted in McCarrick sharing a bed with a young Catholic boy.”

A source with knowledge of the Vatican investigation into McCarrick told CNA last year that the former cardinal is alleged to have regularly invited high school boys to accompany him on trips between 1971-1977, when he served as secretary to Cardinal Terrence Cooke, then-Archbishop of New York.

During that same period, McCarrick already had a well-established reputation among seminarians as a predator, CNA’s reporting has found.

Some senior Church officials have told CNA that McCarrick was under consideration for an influential Vatican post in 1999; concerns about the former cardinal’s lifestyle are rumored to have played a role in scuttling that plan. McCarrick was nevertheless appointed Washington’s archbishop in 2000, where he continued to serve until his retirement in 2006.

The legal situation in some of McCarrick’s former dioceses suggests that some bishops might have reasons to consider asking the Vatican, privately, that the release of the McCarrick report be postponed.

New York is in the midst of a “window” that allows lawsuits related to sexual abuse that fall beyond the normal statute of limitations, which is set to close in August 2020.

New Jersey is also in a statute of limitations window, set to end in 2021. McCarrick served as a bishop in both New York and New Jersey, during the period in which he committed acts of sexual abuse and coercion.


'Gone with the Wind' rights were gift to Atlanta archdiocese

Wed, 06/10/2020 - 16:42

CNA Staff, Jun 10, 2020 / 02:42 pm (CNA).- Ongoing American conversation on race and history focused on cinema Wednesday, when streaming service HBO Max announced it would pull “Gone with the Wind” from its rotation of movies, adding information on its historical context and a denunciation of its racially charged aspects before returning the film to its collection.

The 1939 movie, adapted from Margaret Mitchell’s bestselling Civil War novel, is the first film in which an African-American performer, Hattie McDaniel, won an Oscar. But critics say the movie perpetuates harmful stereotypes about African-Americans, and glorifies slave ownership in the antebellum South.

While the film will likely be the subject of ongoing debate, few outside Georgia know about the Catholic Church’s connection to the enduring place of “Gone with the Wind” in American life.

In 2011, the estate of a nephew of Mitchell donated half the trademark and literary rights to the “Gone with the Wind” novel to the Archdiocese of Atlanta.

Joseph Mitchell, the son of Margaret’s brother Stephens, died in October 2011 at 76. The novel rights were given alongside a bequest of $15-20 million in other assets, and were expected to realize an annual dividend to the archdiocese.

“The Archdiocese of Atlanta has been blessed with a generous gift through the kindness of Joe Mitchell,” Archbishop Wilton Gregory, then of Atlanta said Aug. 16, 2012.

“This gift is a reservoir of the funds earned through the genius of Margaret Mitchell and her depiction of the harsh struggles of Southern life during and after the Civil War.

“The Mitchell family has a proud Catholic legacy, and this gift will allow that legacy and that pride to be shared with many others in the archdiocese.”

“Gone With the Wind,” published in 1936, sold two million copies by 1939 and continues to sell thousands of copies a year in the U.S. The movie rights were sold in 1939.

Joseph Mitchell was the last living close relative of Margaret. He and his brother Eugene inherited a trust that gave each man a half share in the rights to their aunt’s famous novel.

Mitchell was a member of the Cathedral of Christ the King Parish, the archdiocese said. He asked that part of his donation help the cathedral.

In 2012, Gregory designated $7.5 million of the bequest to the cathedral’s building fund. He assigned $1.5 million to Catholic Charities Atlanta for immediate use, and another $2 million was set to create an endowment fund for the long-term needs of the agency.

Joseph Krygiel, then CEO of Catholic Charities, said the agency was “extremely grateful” for the gift. He said the donation would allow Catholic Charities to expand services to new communities throughout North Georgia.

Funds were also expected to help modernize the agency’s database system, and replace its aging trucks and vans for its refugee program.

“We’ll be in a position to purchase some equipment we desperately need for the last few years,” Krygiel said.

Over $1 million of the Mitchell bequest was designated for an endowment fund, which was expected to provide $10,000 gifts to parishes, mission and Catholic school of the archdiocese through the Catholic Foundation of North Georgia.

Another $150,000 was to be designated to the archdiocesan Deacons’ Assistance Fund.

Mitchell also gave to the archdiocese a collection of autographed “Gone with the Wind” first editions published in various languages, and an unpublished history of the Mitchell family, handwritten by Margaret’s father, Eugene Muse Mitchell.

Deacon Steve Swope managed the transition of the bequest on behalf of Archbishop Gregory.

“It is a magnificent gift,” he said at the time.

He said the archdiocese wanted to continue to make the book available to “the widest possible audience” in a way that is “respectful and dignified.”

Archbishop Gregory said at the time that each parish and school of the archdiocese will share the benefits of the gift.

“We should all give thanks for Joe’s kindness and remember all of the Mitchell family in our prayers,” he said in 2012.


Analysis: Archbishop Gregory promised the truth. Has he told it?

Wed, 06/10/2020 - 15:11

Denver Newsroom, Jun 10, 2020 / 01:11 pm (CNA).- At the press conference announcing his appointment as Washington’s new shepherd, Archbishop Wilton Gregory made a pledge: “I will always tell you the truth as I understand it.”

A year after the archbishop’s installation in Washington, the credibility of that promise has come under scrutiny, during a moment of profound difficulty for the entire country.

"First of all, I believe that the only way I can serve this local archdiocese is by telling you the truth,” Gregory said April 4, 2019.

That day was meant to be a moment of hope for Washington Catholics, who had spent nearly a year at the center of tumult surrounding the abuser Theodore McCarrick, and his successor in D.C., Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who had himself been accused by many Catholics of misdirection, obfuscation, and dishonesty.

Gregory hoped to bring healing to the Church.

While he might not have every answer, he said at the press conference, "transparency includes sharing what you do know.”

In the year since Gregory’s installation, opinion on his commitment to that pledge has been mixed. The archbishop has been credited with calling for an investigation into Msgr. Walter Rossi, a priest in the area accused of grooming college students, and then criticized for the pace of that investigation, and for Rossi’s active ministry during the process.

He has been praised by local leaders for his pastoral presence to priests and lay Catholics, and at the same time maligned because the archdiocese has not yet released any records pertaining to McCarrick.

But last week, Catholic opinion on the archbishop became more sharply divided.

On June 2, Gregory issued a statement critiquing a visit of President Donald Trump to the National Shrine of St. John Paul II, which is located in D.C.

The archbishop called it “baffling and reprehensible” that the shrine was hosting Trump, and said the shrine had been “egregiously misused and manipulated in a fashion that violates our religious principles.”

Trump’s visit to the shrine was indeed controversial among Catholics.

It came the day after the president said in a speech that he would mobilize active-duty military forces to quell protests and riots across the country, and then federal police officers used an alarming show of force to clear a square of reportedly peaceful protestors, so that the president could pose in front of an Episcopalian church with a Bible in his hand.

After those events, Senator Ben Sasse, a member of the president's own party, accused Trump of using the Bible as a political prop, and numerous religious leaders made similar criticisms.

Gregory is the most prominent African-American Catholic in the U.S., and was by that point already a significant and impactful voice of Catholic leadership on racism, social justice, and police brutality in the wake of the May 25 death of George Floyd. It is not surprising that he wished to address forcefully the president’s handling of the country’s turmoil.

Gregory's June 2 statement made headlines in major news outlets around the world. And a few days later, Gregory doubled down on his criticism of the visit.

Gregory did not say when he had learned of the event. But many Catholics speculated, given the force of the archbishop’s statement, that he must have been caught by surprise, perhaps learning of it only when the White House had announced it the night before.

On June 7, a Crux analysis of the situation reported that “Gregory was not informed of the visit until Tuesday [sic] night when the White House issued a statement announcing it.” The news agency said it had “independently confirmed” that “widely reported” fact.

Gregory has not disputed that reporting.

But later on June 7, the White House told CNA that Gregory had been invited to the event the week prior, and declined the invitation.

CNA obtained a May 30 note from Gregory’s office, in which the archbishop declined the invite, and which mentioned that Gregory had personally discussed his inability to attend with a White House staffer on May 29.

The Archdiocese of Washington declined to answer questions from CNA about the timeline. A reporter said the archdiocese had not answered questions from the Washington Post as well.

Since CNA’s June 8 report, Gregory has been frequently accused on social media of dishonesty. A small firestorm has begun.

It should be clear: Archbishop Gregory has not said on the record that he did not have prior knowledge of the event.

And some Catholic voices seem to have taken advantage of this controversy to malign Gregory uncharitably and unfairly, for reasons that often seem partisan, in both the ecclesiastical and secular senses. He has been accused of on-the-record lying, while the facts do not support that account. Such demagoguery never proves useful, especially at fractious moments or on difficult issues.

But beyond the demagogues, Gregory is perceived by some Catholics to have misrepresented himself, failed to address competing reports about himself, and declined to answer questions about both the timeline and the reasons for a marked change in his tone, from a polite initial response to a subsequent forceful denunciation.  It is easy to speculate about the archbishop's reasons, but Gregory himself has not been willing to express them.

There is no reason to suspect that Gregory could not offer reasonable responses to the questions he's been asked. It is not clear why he is not willing to do so.

In the calculus of Catholic morality, there are sins of commission, and sins of omission. Gregory has not committed an on-record act of dishonesty. But some Catholics who took his pledge seriously seem now to expect that an archbishop will not fail to omit details from public statements, will clarify competing accounts, and will answer questions on significant and controversial statements.

These are, to be sure, unprecedented times. And Trump’s visit to the shrine touched on a laundry list of controversial, serious and sensitive topics, especially for an African-American bishop in the nation’s capital: The president himself, Catholic institutional alignment with Trump, racism, the protests roiling the country. Disagreement should be expected in a moment like this.

But leadership is tested in moments like these. And Gregory, who promised the truth, now faces a test worth watching.


State Department warns governments could exploit coronavirus to close churches

Wed, 06/10/2020 - 14:10

CNA Staff, Jun 10, 2020 / 12:10 pm (CNA).- The U.S. ambassador for religious freedom warned on Wednesday that some governments might close houses of worship for good after the coronavirus pandemic subsides.

Addressing the closure of churches, mosques, synagogues, and other houses of worship around the world in order to prevent the spread of the virus through religious gatherings, Sam Brownback—the U.S. Ambassador at-Large for International Religious Freedom—acknowledged that governments in some regions would try to keep them closed beyond the current public health emergency, in order to crack down on religious minorities.

“That’s a deep concern that I’ve raised to our [International Religious Freedom] Alliance allies and others,” he told reporters on Wednesday. “We don’t want to see the leftover of this impact the closing of these religious institutions.”

Brownback also expressed his appreciation for religious leaders working with health officials and suspending large religious gatherings, especially during the holy times of Easter, Passover, and Ramadan.

Religious freedom advocates have warned against repression of religious minorities during the pandemic. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) condemned the stigmatization of certain religious minorities as scapegoats for purportedly spreading the pandemic. It also listed countries that had already infringed upon religious freedom in their responses to the pandemic, in March.

Brownback spoke at the State Department’s publication of its annual Report on International Religious Freedom, which documents positive and negative trends in countries around the world which are either upholding freedom of religion or repressing and persecuting religious minorities.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo introduced the report at the press conference on Wednesday. “While America is not a perfect nation by any means, we always strive toward that more perfect union,” he said.

Pompeo was questioned by a reporter about the moral authority of the United States to raise issues of religious freedom globally, given the recent protests over racial injustice after the death of George Floyd, and the “use of force” against protesters by police in Lafayette Square near the White House on June 1.

The Washington Post has reported that police fired gas canisters and grenades with rubber pellets to dispel protesters from Lafayette Square, shortly before President Donald Trump walked to the outside of St. John’s Episcopal Church, adjacent to the square, and held up a Bible in front of cameras in an apparent photo-op.

Pompeo called the question “so troubling,” and criticized the supposed drawing of moral equivalency between state-enforced repression of religious minorities in Iran and China with American citizens being able to freely call for reforms to law enforcement.

“You can see this debate take place in America,” he said. “That doesn’t happen in nations across the world.”

After another journalist followed up that question by noting reports of police using night sticks against protesters and using force to move journalists out of certain spaces, Pompeo said that “for two-and-a-half years, I have worked for journalists to have the right to say whatever they want.”

Brownback and Pompeo addressed some of the highlights of the report. Brownback said that he was most concerned about the situation in China, given the severity of its persecution of religion, and its actions as an “exporter” of repression.

Speaking about Chinese claims that Muslim Uyghurs detained in camps have been released, Brownback said that “we have no evidence that they’ve been released.” And even if they were released, he said, it would be “into a virtual police state that China has created.”

China has detained as many as 1.8 million Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and other Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), according to the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC). There have been reports of torture, forced renunciations of faith, and forced labor in the camps, with some detainees sent to labor in factories when they are “released” from the camps.

Brownback deplored the “horrific situation” in the region that threatens to become the “future of what oppression is going to look like,” that of a “virtual police state” where religious practice is outlawed.

He also said that in Iran, 109 members of minority religious groups remain imprisoned for their beliefs and noted that, in 2019, two Sunni Ahwazi Arab minority prisoners at Fajr Prison were executed for “enmity against god.” 

The ambassador also said he was “deeply concerned” about the “escalation of violence” in Nigeria and the lack of an “effective response” by the government there.

In the long-term, Brownback said he was concerned by “a lot of communal-level violence” between religious groups that could threaten global security well into the future.

Some of the positive trends that Pompeo noted were Gambia, a member of the International Religious Freedom Alliance, bringing up crimes committed against the Rohingya Muslims before the International Court of Justice.

Pompeo also referenced the February, 2019, visit of Pope Francis to the Arabian Peninsula, which  included the first-ever papal Mass there. The United Arab Emirates, he said, “really did an amazing thing in hosting the pope on a papal visit.”

‘God is inviting us to be part of the solution’- Black Catholic priests on racism and healing

Wed, 06/10/2020 - 05:00

Denver Newsroom, Jun 10, 2020 / 03:00 am (CNA).- Two black Catholic priests— one ordained six years, the other 42— shared their thoughts with CNA this week on the sin of racism, and the importance of praying, fasting, and advocating for healing.

Father Josh Johnson, pastor of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Catholic Church in the diocese of Baton Rouge, told CNA he has been encouraging prayer for healing from racism for years.

George Floyd’s death on May 25 at the hands of Minneapolis police spurred protests across the world. Father Johnson said a friend sent him the video of the arrest either the day it happened or the day after.

“I shouldn't have done it, I shouldn't have done it, but I watched the video,” he said.

Johnson says he didn’t just see a fellow black man as he watched Floyd’s death play out on video— he saw a Christian man, a fellow member of the body of Jesus Christ. 

“To watch a human being die, to watch a member of the body of Christ die on camera...He's saying, ‘I can't breathe,’ his calling out for his watch another human being die on camera was traumatizing,” Father Johnson told CNA.

“As a Christian, as a Catholic priest, I can't watch that happen and not be affected and not grieve, not be sad, not experience anger that I pray was just, and then also just not be reminded of my own experiences, too,” he said.

Johnson’s father was a cop— in fact, he was captain of the Baton Rouge Police Department. Johnson says he has had the opportunity to collaborate with local law enforcement throughout his priesthood.

“However, that does not change the fact that when I'm not wearing my clerics, people in society don't see me as Father Josh, they see me as another black man,” he said.

Johnson said he, like many people of color, has experienced harassment from law enforcement in the past.

“[George Floyd] could have been me. I can't not think that way, because I've had negative experiences” he said.

“It's painful. It's really, really painful to watch that, and it's even more painful for people to just disregard it, for Catholics to just disregard it and say, ‘Oh yeah, it was bad, but other things are bad too.’ It's like, no, let's stop. As disciples of Jesus Christ, let's just stop, and let's grieve together that one of our brothers, one of God's beloved sons, was killed. Can we just please stop and grieve together and not dismiss his life as if it was nothing? This is a life we're talking about.”

For too long, it seemed to Johnson, most Catholics have been inattentive to racism or overly entrenched in a left-or-right political mindset over the issue.

Johnson told CNA that in addition to talking, writing, and preaching about these topics for years, he has been constantly praying and fasting for an end to racism.

A few weeks before the Minneapolis officers killed George Floyd, Father Johnson had been inviting listeners of his podcast to pray a rosary for racial reconciliation.

“Finally now, this is the very first time in my life...that a number of Catholics have come together and decided, "We're going to acknowledge that there's a problem and we're going to acknowledge that God is inviting us to be part of the solution,” Johnson said.

“If the disciples of Jesus Christ could come together, then we could be used by God to combat this evil that has just brought about so much damage to the body of Christ, and to men and women made in the image of God in the United States of America, for hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years.”

Any effort to combat racism must start in the heart, with prayer, he said.

“Through our prayers— our intentional prayers— through our fasting, through our listening and learning things that we didn't know, and through collaborating with each other, to work together, to bring down and to reform and transform these systems that continue to perpetuate division in the body of Christ."

Johnson said his encouragement toward prayer has garnered positive feedback from people of faith, especially white people, he said, with many realizing “that they could do something— that even though they might not personally have ever said the n-word, or they might not participate in a practice or policy that accommodates white people and alienates black people or brown people, even though they don't participate in that, that they're still responsible to pray against racism.”

Johnson stressed the power of penance and fasting as a way to heal the Body of Christ. Throughout the recent revelations of clerical sexual abuse in the US, Johnson says he has been taking on fasts and sacrifices for the healing of those affected.

He also recommended following black Catholic leaders online, such as Sister Josephine Garrett and Deacon Larry Oney, and also encouraged Catholics to consider making pilgrimages to places like the Equal Justice Initiative Legacy Museum in Montgomery, Alabama.

Above all, prayer is the key, he reiterated.

“I believe that the Lord has created me for this time, for a time such as this,” Johnson said.

“I'm so excited to finally have allies and other disciples of Jesus Christ walking with me to fight this battle, to bring about healing in the body of Christ and restoration, renewal and racial reconciliation in our country.”

“This is one that we cannot ignore”

Father James Boddie, pastor of Christ the King Catholic Church in Jacksonville, Florida, has been a priest for 42 years.

Christ the King is a very diverse community. In addition to many African Americans— like Father Boddie— there are large numbers of Vietnamese people, Hispanics, families from Haiti, from Africa, and many white parishioners as well.

Like Father Johnson, Father Boddie’s first reaction upon seeing the video of George Floyd’s death was horror, and an immediate desire to pray.

“I went immediately into prayer for Mr. George Floyd, for his family and for the police department,” Father Boddie told CNA.

“The actions of a few police officers does not cast a shadow over the entire police department, but those individuals who acted that way was was unimaginable.”

When he entered St. John Vianney Minor Seminary in Miami back in the 1970s, he was the first African-American seminarian from Florida to study there.

Father Boddie remembers the civil rights movement of the 1960s firsthand. In fact, his father was involved in civil rights efforts in the Jacksonville area.

“He worked very hard in the community, addressing those issues [and] working with others...whether it's for the desegregating schools or issues that affect the African American community, but also issues that affect the community at large, because there's a lot of issues out there that the only way to really approach it is the entire community coming together,” Boddie said.

“I saw [in] the first mobilization that people were marching, from the old, the young people from various cultures, various backgrounds from very different communities,” he said.

Goal setting is an important part of the process, he said. Government leaders, faith leaders, and other community members should work together to plan out what they want to achieve.

When protests begin to turn violent, a re-focusing on the issues is necessary, Father Boddie said.

“When you started to see the violence and destruction taking place, that's when I felt that it began to lose focus. Why is that destruction? Why are particular groups destroying people's property, livelihood?” he said.

“Focus back on what they're marching for: to address the issue of racism, the issue of injustice, but also do it in peaceful means and involving everyone from the community and not going towards destruction of property, of burning down buildings, because that is contrary to everything,” he said.

He also suggested that Catholics read the US bishops’ 2018 pastoral letter against racism, Open Wide Our Hearts, perhaps even in a group study setting at their parish.

“My hope is that everyone comes together— everyone comes together as one— identifying that, yes, this is a problem. This is one that we cannot ignore,” he said.


Father Johnson and Father Boddie can be heard on the June 8, 2020 episode of the CNA Newsroom podcast.


Kate Olivera contributed to this story.



Catholics cannot remain indifferent to racism, Phoenix bishop says

Wed, 06/10/2020 - 02:34

CNA Staff, Jun 10, 2020 / 12:34 am (CNA).- Catholics have a key part to play— in cooperation with God’s grace— in overcoming racism, the bishop of Phoenix said at the diocesan Mass for Forgiveness of the Sin of Racism this week.

“George Floyd did not die alone. Jesus was with him—praying with him and for him. At every time and every place, Jesus draws near to every person, especially in times of suffering and at the hour of death,” Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix said in the homily June 8.

As the Church gathers to pray for forgiveness for the sin of racism, Olmsted said, it is important to define what Catholics mean by the term.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church offers guidance, he said, defining it as “unjust discrimination on the basis of a person’s race.”

In Paragraph 1935 of the Catechism, it says “every form of social or cultural discrimination in fundamental personal rights on the grounds of sex, race, color, social conditions, language, or religion must be curbed and eradicated as incompatible with God's design.”

Olmsted said he has seen racial discrimination manifest itself among some Catholics in Arizona. Nearly half of Phoenix’s pastors were born in other countries, he said, and sadly not all have been received well by Catholics in the diocese.

For example, “on the day that I installed one of our finest pastors, protestors came to the parking lot and distributed flyers on car windows denouncing the bishop for replacing their beloved former pastor with ‘these Africans,’” Olmsted said.

The Church provides, through the Sacrament of Confession, a means by which those who have perpetuated the sin of racism can seek God’s mercy.

“The rich mercy of God restores human dignity, even to the most hardened of sinners, if we have the humility to say six words: ‘I am sorry. Please forgive me,’” he said.

Jesus himself, and saints like Pope John Paul II, have modeled the kind of forgiveness that is necessary for healing from racism, Olmsted said.

“[Racism] is overcome by God, by His mercy. It is not our achievement. We have a key part to play, in cooperation with His grace, but only God can change minds and hearts. That’s why the Sacraments of Confession and the Eucharist play such vital roles in overcoming the sin of racism,” Olmsted said.

In responding to racism, Catholics— even if they are not themselves racist— must not allow their hearts to harden, frozen by indifference, and simply fail to respond altogether, Olmsted said.

“While racism is a sinful act that prejudice, injustice, and lack of respect for human dignity brings about, racism also hides itself behind indifference. Racists may not get caught because they are doing “nothing.” But, in Jesus’ description of the Last Judgment, found in Matthew 25:4, sin is depicted not as what people did but ‘what they failed to do,’” he said.

Olmsted recalled that during March 2000, Pope John Paul II led the whole Church in a Day of Pardon, in which he asked the entire Church to place itself “before Christ, who out of love, took our guilt upon Himself,” and to make a “profound examination of conscience,” and to “forgive and ask forgiveness.”

“Inspired by the example of St. John Paul II, let us beg the Lord Jesus, at this Mass, for the grace we need to overcome the evil of racism and to build a society of Jesus and solidarity,” Olmsted concluded.


Archbishop Gomez says US has work to do in achieving racial equality

Tue, 06/09/2020 - 20:58

CNA Staff, Jun 9, 2020 / 06:58 pm (CNA).- Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles asked the parishes of his archdiocese to toll their bells for eight minutes and 46 seconds on Tuesday to recognize the life of George Floyd on the day of his burial, calling for a renewed commitment to racial justice.

Floyd, 46, was buried in his hometown of Houston. He died on May 25, after an officer in the Minneapolis Police Department knelt on his neck for a period of eight minutes and 46 seconds. The arrest was filmed by onlookers, and the officers have since been arrested and charged with murder.

In the aftermath of Floyd’s death, large protests erupted throughout the country demanding justice for Floyd, as well as for other people of color who have been killed by the police.

“We need to make sure that George Floyd did not die for no reason. We should honor the sacrifice of his life by removing racism and hate from our hearts and renewing our commitment to fulfill our nation’s sacred promise — to be a beloved community of life, liberty, and equality for all,” said Archbishop Gomez in a statement released by the archdiocese.

“Let us pray together for the soul of George Floyd, and for his family. And let us pray for all those who are working to put an end to racial injustice in our society.”

Gomez requested that the parishes of his archdiocese celebrate a Mass in memory of Floyd, and pray for the repose of his soul and for his family.

Drawing on the Gospel reading, which spoke of a “city set on a mountain,” Gomez said in his homily at Mass on Tuesday that the United States still has much work to be done.

“America’s founders used these words of Jesus today to describe their hopes for this new nation. They wanted this country to be a shining city on a hill, a light to other nations,” said Gomez, in a homily that was delivered at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.

“America’s founders dreamed of a nation where men and women from every race, religion and national background could live in equality, with dignity. My brothers and sisters, it is our responsibility to keep building this city on the hill,” he said.

The history of the United States, said Gomez, “is not pure.”

“We have not always lived up to our deepest values or our highest ideals. We all know that,” he said.

The archbishop called on people to “renew our sense of purpose” and to “commit ourselves again to making America a land of freedom and opportunity for every person.”

“God does not see black or white. God sees only his children. And he loves each one of us, no matter what the color of our skin is,” he said. It is the duty of Christians and Catholics “to bring this truth to our society,” he added.

In Tuesday’s first reading, the prophet Elijah told the widow “do not be afraid.”

Gomez explained that people should take the words of the prophet Elijah to heart and “not be afraid, either.”

“God goes with us in this moment. Let’s ask him for courage and wisdom,” he said. “God is calling us to be a light to our neighbors.”

“We need to stand together and walk together, as brothers and sisters. We need to strengthen our families, give hope to our children,” he said. “We need to create a new culture of virtue and communities of compassion and care, in which we cherish our common humanity.”


Catholic bishops of Oklahoma support Medicaid expansion ballot measure

Tue, 06/09/2020 - 18:51

CNA Staff, Jun 9, 2020 / 04:51 pm (CNA).- The Catholic bishops of Oklahoma have voiced support for a ballot measure that would expand Medicaid in the state.

“Our state’s SoonerCare program currently provides critical health coverage to Oklahoma’s most vulnerable citizens, including the elderly, the disabled, pregnant women and children,” the bishops said in a statement this week. “This program plays a vital role in sustaining the health care delivery system in our state, particularly in rural areas where access to quality health care is increasingly unavailable.”

“However, based on the clients we help through the work of Catholic Charities and with patients seeking care at our Catholic hospitals, it is apparent that access to affordable health care coverage — which is so necessary for human flourishing — is becoming less available over time,” they continued.

Oklahoma remains one of 14 states that has not yet expanded its Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act.

On June 30, Oklahomans will be asked to cast their votes in a primary election ballot. State Question 802 is a voter-initiated referendum that would alter the Oklahoma constitution to expand Medicaid coverage. The federal government would pay for 90% of the expansion, while the state would cover the other 10% of costs.

“While we agree that amending the state constitution is a method that should be reserved for special circumstances, our present health care crisis demands action that cannot wait for a political solution,” the state bishops said in their statement.

They noted that their support for the effort is conditional upon Hyde Amendment protections remaining in place to ensure that taxpayer money does not go to pay for elective abortions.

Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt had put forward an alternate expansion plan that would have increased eligibility for Medicaid coverage while also capping federal spending, instituting premiums, and establishing work requirements.

Last month, however, the governor vetoed a bill that would have raised hospital fees to help fund his plan. He said the state had not anticipated the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting rise in unemployment rates, which are expected to create a significant increase in the number of people enrolled in Medicaid.

Local media reported this month that the Oklahoma Health Department has withdrawn its plan amid funding uncertainties.

Pa. Catholic Conference appeals diversion of coronavirus relief from private schools

Tue, 06/09/2020 - 17:50

Denver Newsroom, Jun 9, 2020 / 03:50 pm (CNA).- The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference is asking the U.S. Department of Education to reverse state authorities’ decisions that the conference says gives insufficient coronavirus relief funds to Catholic and other private schools.
“We are appealing the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s decision because Congress was clear when it unanimously passed the CARES Act education funding,” Sean McAleer, education director for the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, told CNA June 9. “The funding is emergency funding and the allocations were to be made to all teachers and students negatively affected by the Coronavirus pandemic. Since Governor Wolf closed all schools in Pennsylvania. public and private, all teachers and students were affected by Governor Wolf’s order.”
The funding came from the $523.8 million in K-12 aid Pennsylvania received through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, known as the CARES Act, passed by Congress in March. The non-public schools are not funded directly. Rather, the money goes to school districts or intermediate units, which then perform services for private schools.
McAleer said $66 million should go to Catholic schools and other private schools, not just $19 million.
However, the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s Division of Federal Programs said its funding distribution followed federal guidelines. The Catholic conference’s complaint, it said in a June 3 letter, was based on “nonregulatory guidance” issued by the U.S. Department of Education that said reservations for services for non-public schools should be based on total enrollment of these schools. State officials said the CARES Act and the U.S. Department of Education follow a longstanding interpretation which bases reservation numbers on the number of low-income children in each participating non-public school.
“There was plenty of money to go around and help every child,” McAleer told the Wilkes-Barre, Penn. newspaper The Citizen’s Voice. “Our kids’ lives matter, too.”
Funding, in the state’s interpretation, is proportional to Title I money. This means districts with larger populations of low-income students received more money.
While public schools do not have to demonstrate academic needs to receive funding, Catholic and other private schools must show that their low-income students need additional academic support.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the learning process of all students, regardless of what school they attend,” the Diocese of Scranton said, according to The Citizen’s Voice. “The Diocese of Scranton Catholic School System could potentially lose approximately $800,000 because of this decision, which would be a tremendous loss for the 4,500 students and families that rely on our schools for a quality, faith-filled education.”
Catholic schools need to acquire online learning platforms and technology and must implement more health and safety precautions if its physical buildings reopen for students. Some Catholic schools could close with drops in fundraising and in parents’ ability to pay tuition due to the pandemic.
Eric Failing, executive director of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, said last month that many private serve children in economically disadvantaged areas, and in many cases students depend on financial aid in order to attend.
Some private schools face closure or consolidation in response to rising costs. If non-public schools shut down or if parents are forced to pull their children out, he said, it will mean an even greater burden on the state’s public school system.
The American Federation of Teachers, a nationwide teachers’ union, on May 6 issued a statement urging school districts to ignore the U.S. Department of Education’s guidance, arguing that it is “inequitable, generates dollars for wealthy students in private schools”, and “denies public schools the recovery they desperately need.”

HHS: Hospital restrictions mean ‘too many dying alone’ during coronavirus

Tue, 06/09/2020 - 16:00

Washington D.C., Jun 9, 2020 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- Federal health officials say they hope the resolution of a disability rights case will help ensure hospital patients are not deprived of necessary support during treatment, or left to die alone.

“We’ve heard too many heart-wrenching stories of people literally dying alone during this crisis,” Roger Severino, head of the HHS Office of Civil Rights told reporters on a conference call on Tuesday.

Respecting public health concerns through visitation restrictions should be balanced with other critical needs, Severino said, such as disabled patients having access to support persons and all patients having “access to clergy in their last moments.”

The HHS, he said, has already issued guidance that “there should be access to persons in those end-of-life situations.” In a bulletin published on March 28, OCR instructed hospitals and other health care providers to respect “requests for religious accommodations in treatment and access to clergy or faith practices as practicable.”

During the call on June 9, HHS announced it had resolved a complaint with the state of Connecticut regarding a 73 year-old woman with aphasia, a condition which limits a person’s ability to communicate, who was admitted to Hartford Hospital without her support person on April 19.

Her daughter, Susan Fandacone, told reporters that her mother survived a brain aneurysm 11 years ago, but suffered from short-term memory loss and had lost her voice. When family members rushed her to the hospital, concerned that she had sepsis, they were told that they could not enter with her due to visitor limitations put in place to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.

With her mother’s short-term memory loss and inability to speak, Fandacone said she and her family feared for her mother’s well-being without an advocate to assist her.

“She had no opportunity to be able to advocate for herself in any way,” Fandacone said. When “she started to fight for her life,” Fandacone said, “what they chose to do was to tie her down and to sedate her.”

Disability rights advocates filed a complaint with the HHS Office of Civil Rights (OCR), alleging that the state limits on hospital visitations during the new coronavirus pandemic did not accommodate the needs of persons with disabilities.

Without the presence of support persons to act as an advocate, the groups said, those with disabilities would not have equal access to the health care they needed; with support persons essential for informed consent procedures and communication with doctors and nurses.

Worse, Severino told reporters Tuesday, narrowly-tailored visitation policies mean persons with disabilities could be left to die alone—an unacceptable situation.

As part of the settlement, Connecticut’s acting health commissioner Deidre Gifford issued an executive order on Monday amending the policy.

The order allows for persons with disabilities at short-term hospitals and outpatient clinics, dialysis units, and surgical facilities to have a designated support person with them, so long as that person is asymptomatic or has not tested positive for the coronavirus.

Severino said the development was “a big step forward to making sure that people with disabilities are not left alone, and are not left to fend for themselves when reasonable modifications can be made.”

Sen. McConnell condemns First Amendment 'double standard' for churches

Tue, 06/09/2020 - 14:30

CNA Staff, Jun 9, 2020 / 12:30 pm (CNA).- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said that a “constitutionally dubious” double standard is being applied to religious communities and protestors during a Senate session on Tuesday. 

“I have no criticism for the millions of Americans who peacefully demonstrated in recent days. Their cause is beyond righteous,” said McConnell. “It is the inconsistency from leaders that has been baffling.” 

The senator said that while he supports the recent large protests and the goals they seek, there is also “a different pressing problem that concerns Americans’ Constitutional rights.” 

It has become “clear,” he said, that there is a “double standard” present in society: large protests are both allowed and praised, but many Americans are not presently allowed to go to religious services or run their small businesses as a precaution against spreading the coronavirus. 

“For weeks, the mainstream media heaped scorn on any small citizen protest, outdoor gathering, or even the suggestion that other important values might require a reappraisal of certain restrictions,” said McConnell.  

McConnell empathized with the people who “did their part” to stop the spread of the virus, and are continuing to observe strict prevention measures, but have been left confused that the standards they adhered to have “disappeared.” 

“A month ago, small protest demonstrations were condemned as ‘reckless and selfish,’” he said. “Now, massive rallies that fill entire cities are not just praised, but, in fact, are called ‘especially brave’ because of the exact same health risks that brought condemnation when the cause was different.” 

McConnell singled out local leaders, including Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D), who have praised large-scale protests yet have not allowed for the resumption of basic activities like church services. 

“Here in the District of Columbia, the mayor celebrates massive street protests. She actually joins them herself. But on her command, churches and houses of worship remain shut,” McConnell said. 

In Washington, houses of worship are not permitted to hold indoor or outdoor services with more than 10 people present. This includes the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the largest church building in North America. The Archdiocese of Washington resumed public Masses throughout the entire archdiocese on Tuesday, June 9. Masses in the District of Columbia and immediately surrounding counties of Prince George and Montgomery are limited to a maximum of 10 people present.

“The rights of free speech and free assembly and religion are First Amendment rights,” said McConnell. 

“They have the same Constitutional pedigree,” he said, insisting there could be no “picking and choosing” of which parts of the First Amendment to support. 

McConnell cited a public health order in Contra Costa County, California, allowing protests of up to 100 people, but banning outdoor religious or social gatherings of more than 12 people. 

“These governments are acting like the coronavirus discriminates based on the content of the people’s speech, but it is the leaders who are doing that.” 

The senator said it was “impossible to avoid the conclusion” that governmental leaders are “using their powers to encourage constitutionally protected conduct which they personally appreciate while continuing to ban constitutionally protected conduct which they personally feel is less important.” 

These politicians, said the senator, “do not get to play ‘Red light/green light’ with the First Amendment.” 

McConnell praised the American people’s compliance with coronavirus regulations and lockowns as “courageous and patriotic,” and said that they “sacrificed a great deal.” 

“Politicians must not repay that sacrifice with constitutionally dubious double standards.” 

Texas Supreme Court to hear case of former deacon suing diocese for abuse claim

Mon, 06/08/2020 - 22:01

Denver Newsroom, Jun 8, 2020 / 08:01 pm (CNA).- The Texas Supreme Court will hear the Diocese of Lubbock’s appeal of a legal decision allowing a former deacon to sue the diocese for defamation for including his name on a list of clergy credibly accused of sex abuse.
“We are committed to transparency for the trust and safety of the members of our parishes,” Bishop Robert Coerver of Lubbock said June 8. “At a time when many religious messages are being shared digitally, courts must protect churches’ ability to communicate effectively with their members.”
“Churches should not be punished for doing the right thing,” Montse Alvarado, vice president and executive director at the legal group Becket, said June 8. “Clergy hold a unique position of trust within their communities, and churches should be free to notify members and other affected individuals when clergy violate that trust. That is true even when the warning goes beyond the four walls of the church building.”
Lower courts have sided with the deacon’s lawsuit. Because local media broadcast the list beyond the confines of the Church, the diocese had no legal defense, the courts said.
Legal briefs filed by Becket on behalf of the diocese argue that lower courts’ decisions violate the principle that civil courts may not adjudicate matters of theology, Church discipline, ecclesiastical government, and compliance with Church moral teaching. The former deacon has the right to restore his reputation under the law of the Church, said the briefs.
The former deacon, Jesus Guerrero, 76, has filed a lawsuit that rejected claims he had ever been accused of sex abuse or misconduct. The lawsuit described him as “a faithful servant of God in the Catholic Church his entire life.”
The Diocese of Lubbock released its list Jan. 31, 2019 after the list was compiled by a retired police officer and an attorney. The diocese said Guerrero had been credibly accused of “sexual abuse of a minor.” It reported that he had been permanently removed from ministry in 2008.
The plaintiff charged that the diocese committed libel and defamation against him. His lawsuit said his reputation was destroyed and he has become the object of contempt and ridicule.
The plaintiff’s brief said he suffered severe anxiety and stress after the diocese listed him as credibly accused of abuse. This stress and anxiety in part led to a stroke, the lawsuit charged. The lawsuit seeks $1 million in damages.
In December 2019 Chief Justice Brian Quinn of the Texas Court of Appeals declined to overturn a lower court’s ruling against the diocese, United Press International reports. Quinn said that while matters of Church discipline are ecclesiastical and outside the jurisdiction of civil courts, the diocese “placed the controversy in the realm of Caesar or the secular world by opting to leave the confines of the church.”
“What we have before us is not an incidental public disclosure of internal church disciplinary matter,” said the judge, who noted the diocese published the list on a public website, issued a news release about the list, and gave media interviews about the list.
According to Quinn, statements from the diocese acknowledge that the issue goes beyond the Church, such as statements like “our dioceses are serious about ending the cycle of abuse in the church and in society at large.”
The lawsuit said that before Guerrero’s name appeared on the list, he “had never been accused of sexual abuse and/or misconduct against a minor, nor had he ever been investigated for any sexual abuse and/or misconduct against a minor.”
His accuser was in her 40s and said Guerrero did not abuse her, his attorney Nick Olguin said, according to United Press International. Two witnesses claimed to have seen Guerrero leaving the same room as the woman while adjusting his clothes. Guerrero denies ever abusing anyone.
After the lawsuit was filed, the Lubbock diocese on April 10, 2019 said the alleged accuser is a person who “habitually lacks the use of reason” and is considered equivalent to a minor under canon law. It said the diocese has “no information of a credible allegation of sexual abuse of a minor below the age of eighteen (18) by Jesus Guerrero.”
“The Diocese of Lubbock has concluded there is a credible allegation against Jesus Guerrero of sexual abuse of a person who habitually lacks the use of reason. The Diocese of Lubbock regrets any misunderstanding that may have arisen from the Jan. 31 posting.”
Olguin questioned whether the woman is a vulnerable adult. In a brief, he said she lives independently and has never been found incompetent, UPI reports. The plaintiff’s brief cited a Catholic spokesperson who in a television interview said a credible allegation means the accused admits to it, the accused is found guilty in court, or someone who witnessed abuse testified about it. Olguin said none of these apply.
However, in the material accompanying the Lubbock diocese’s January 2019 list, the diocese said a name “only appears on the list if the diocese possesses in its files evidence of a credible allegation.” The diocese said its standard of a credible allegation means that “after review of reasonably available, relevant information in consultation with the Diocesan Review Board or other professionals, there is reason to believe is true.”
With the diocese’s clarification, Olguin argued, “the church continued its assault on Jesus by claiming that he has sexually abused a vulnerable adult without any credible evidence whatsoever.” He said the clarification did not get as much attention as the original list.
In comments to CNA, Olguin said that from the beginning Guerrero wanted an apology.
“We are not saying that the Church has no right to warn it’s members, we are saying that when you go outside the confines of your church and seek out the secular media – you better be right or you will be accountable,” the attorney said.
He said the right thing to do is “to admit that a mistake was made and apologize.”
According to Olguin, “the Diocese of Lubbock told me that they would not apologize and threatened to disparage his name even more if we filed a suit.”
“The lawyers for the Diocese of Lubbock, Becket law group, want to cloud the issue and state that the issue is the ‘Church’s ability to warn members.’ That is simply not true,” the attorney continued. “Deacon Guerrero does not have a problem with the Church warning members of clergy credibly accused of sexual abuse against a minor – the issue for Deacon Guerrero was that it was not true and the Diocese of Lubbock knew that he had never been accused of sexual abuse against a minor and put his name on the list anyway.”
“Further, Deacon Guerrero has an issue with the Church accusing him of something (they knew was untrue) and then trying to hide behind the pulpit,” Olguin said.
“The issue here is that the Diocese of Lubbock gave interviews to the local media, issued a press release saying ‘list of clergy credibly accused of sexual abuse against a minor’ is coming soon, when the list came out, the Church sought the secular media to disseminate their list and they put Deacon Guerrero’s name on the list without any clarification of what they meant by ‘minor’,” he added.
“The church says this is what we meant by ‘minor’ – when really there was not ever a credible allegation of sexual abuse by Deacon Guerrero to begin with,” said the attorney.
CNA sought comment from Becket but did not receive a response by deadline.
The legal group said briefs in support of the diocese have come from Jewish and Protestant leaders, state legislators, and legal scholars.
Texas legislators, and prominent legal scholars, filed briefs supporting the diocese.
“They ask the Court to uphold the right of all religious groups to demonstrate transparency on issues arising from clergy discipline,” Becket said.
The diocese said Guerrero was assigned to Our Lady of Grace parish in Lubbock from 1997 to 2003, suspended for unstated reasons in 2003, then assigned to San Ramon parish in Woodrow from 2006 to 2007. He was permanently removed from ministry the next year.
The Lubbock diocese covers 25 counties in west Texas, with 63 parishes serving more than 136,000 Catholics, the diocese website says.
The Lubbock case is not the only lawsuit against a Catholic diocese in Texas.
As of January, three priests named as credibly accused of sexual abuse by the Diocese of Corpus Christi had filed defamation lawsuits against their diocese. A fourth priest’s lawsuit was dismissed, the Caller Times reports.

Catholic nuns in Hawaii shaken but hopeful after robbery

Mon, 06/08/2020 - 20:01

Denver Newsroom, Jun 8, 2020 / 06:01 pm (CNA).- A community of Dominican nuns in Hawaii is shaken but hopeful after a burglar broke into their convent last week and stole a minivan that the nuns use for their ministry.

"It was still a good running car, even if it was 13 years old," Sister Bernarda Sindol told CNA.

Donations have poured in from far and wide to help the nuns replace the stolen vehicle.

"It's a blessing in disguise, because now we're going to buy a new car," she laughed. 

The sisters awoke May 30 to find their convent had been broken into during the night.

No one was hurt in the robbery; the nuns live on the upper floor, and for their safety have a heavy gate on the door leading upstairs.

In addition to stealing most of the nuns’ food from the kitchen, the assailant took the keys to their minivan— which were hanging on a bulletin board downstairs— and made off with the vehicle.

Six Dominican Sisters of the Rosary live at the convent, which is located behind St. Elizabeth Catholic Church and School in Aiea, about 10 miles northwest of Honolulu on Oahu.

The police are still investigating and have not yet located the stolen vehicle.

The minivan was important for the nuns’ ministry, Sister Bernarda said, because many of them teach at the school adjacent to the convent— which the order has managed since the 1960s— and also at other schools around town.

Having the car made it easier for the nuns to get around, for their ministry and also for things like shopping and errands, without them having to rely on public transportation.

Sister Bernarda said the robber must have known which windows and areas of the convent were not alarmed, and broke in with relative ease.

The thief removed a painting of the Last Supper hanging in the nuns’ dining room, apparently hoping to find a wall safe.

The town lies on Pearl Harbor in a relatively safe area, Sister Bernarda said, so they never really expected a break-in like this.

"Some people just don't have any respect for the Church. And those are the people we have to pray for," she said.

As of Monday, a GoFundMe page set up by St. Elizabeth’s pastor had collected more than $31,000 toward a new vehicle for the nuns.

Sister Bernarda said donations have poured in from all over— the last one she saw was from a trucker in Nebraska, who donated $20.

"Twenty dollars is twenty dollars. It's from people's hearts, and we appreciate it. People are just so generous," she said.

Sister Bernarda asked for prayers for an end to the pandemic, as she suspects the thief likely broke into their convent out of desperation.

"People are frustrated, they've lost their jobs, they have to feed their families. So we just pray that this coronavirus will go away so that people can live more normally," she said.