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Grand jury report into Pennsylvania dioceses details “unacceptable” behavior, bishop says

Tue, 07/24/2018 - 14:30

Erie, Pa., Jul 24, 2018 / 12:30 pm (CNA).- Bishop Lawrence Persico of Erie has warned Catholics that the results of a Pennsylvania grand jury investigation into sexual abuse of minors will make for disturbing reading. The release of the 800-page report has been delayed by order of the state’s supreme court.

"It certainly is going to be sobering," said Bishop Persico to news outlet Penn Live.

"The report is rather graphic, and it will be very detailed on what has occurred," he added.

The report is the result of a two-year investigation by state authorities into the handling of clerical sexual abuse in the five Pennsylvania dioceses – Altoona-Johnstown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh. The dioceses were served with wide ranging subpoenas and turned over decades’ worth of files concerning the handling of abuse allegations by Church authorities.

A former diocesan official in Pennsylvania, who was involved in developing responses to the subpoena, told CNA that complying with the court order took considerable time and effort.

“It covered everything we had, it was very broadly drawn. We handed over years’ and years’ worth of files.”

It is expected that the report will include details of instances of abuse, the handling of allegations by diocesan authorities, and also measures taken by local bishops to deal with accused clerics.

In some cases, priests who were credibly accused of sexual abuse were moved from parish to parish over a period of years, or even allowed to remain in active ministry outside the diocese. Bishop Persico alluded to this kind of behavior while speaking about the report to local media on 23 July.

"I think in looking historically at it you may see bishops named who probably in view of the way we do things now as compared to 20 or 30 years ago, it would not be considered acceptable that type of action.”

The final report was scheduled for public release at the end of June, but it has been held back following legal challenges from a number individuals named in the report, including some priests. They argue they were denied due process because they were only allowed to submit written statements, not testify in person or cross-examine other witnesses.

They also claim that their reputational rights, protected by the state constitution, were harmed by the inclusion of their names even though they were not accused of a crime.

The same former official told CNA that while he did not know anyone challenging the report’s release, those doing so may have legitimate concerns.

“There’s a feeling, at least among some people, that they are being made to carry the can for a previous generation’s misdeeds.”

Bishop Persico’s own diocese, Erie, has been unusually forthright in handling abuse allegations, publicly listing the names of all priests and lay employees against whom credible allegations have been received.

Bishop Persico said this policy has helped victims.

"It's an opportunity for them to feel validated. To tell you the truth, ever since we started publishing names I'm really surprised at how that has been helpful to victims. I'm a firm believer in that because of what I experience in just speaking to victims."

Persico also said he does not know who is challenging the report’s release, but that he looks forward to it eventually being made public, even if it will be hard reading for Catholics.

"I know I did not [block publication]," he said. "I've been calling from the very beginning that the grand jury report be released so it can be a voice for the victims. I'm not sure who all is behind this."

State Attorney General Josh Shapiro, whose office led the investigation, is fighting the court-imposed stay.

“The people of Pennsylvania have a right to see the report, know who is attempting to block its release and why, and to hear the voices of the victims of sexual abuse within the Church.”

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court is still considering when and in what form the report will be released.  

The consistent pro-life ethic can’t be ‘Calvinball’, prof tells pro-life Dems

Tue, 07/24/2018 - 12:56

Denver, Colo., Jul 24, 2018 / 10:56 am (CNA).- Efforts to advance a pro-life ethic need to be “authentic, consistent and beautiful” if they are to combat the “throwaway culture” diagnosed by Pope Francis--and they must reject any similarity to “Calvinball”, the fictional game without rules from the Calvin and Hobbes comic, Charles Camosy, a Fordham University ethics professor, told a conference of pro-life Democrats.
Pope Francis is advancing a “consistent life ethic,” that does not “mean whatever anyone wants it to mean,” said Camosy, who criticized the inconsistencies behind some purported pro-life advocacy in the name of a “consistent life ethic.”
“I’ve even seen people use the consistent life ethic to try to take a pro-abortion position,” Camosy told a conference of the Democrats for Life of America July 21 during their inaugural annual conference in Denver.

“Because there are no rules it risks collapsing distinctions between issues, so that virtually any debate over a government program at all becomes just as important as debate over abortion or nuclear weapons.”
“If this is what the consistent life ethic is, then traditional pro-lifers rightly reject it. I would reject it. It’s just Calvinball.”
In response to this and other aspects of a “politically incoherent culture,” Camosy repeatedly emphasized Pope Francis’ rejection of the “throwaway culture,”
“Pope Francis’ pro-life vision is where we should be focused,” he said, characterizing it as the “key to the future of the prolife movement.”
“I think it’s the kind of consistent position that could reach the very people we need on our team, especially young people and people of culture.”
His first principle included rejection of the direct killing of the innocent. But it did not end there.
“To limit pro-life issues to those which only deal with the direct killing of the innocent—which is ridiculously important obviously—seems to be totally wrong headed,” he said.
Camosy lamented high maternal mortality rate in the U.S., especially among African-American women; intimate partner violence, which is correlated to abortion; and the practice of shackling of women at the U.S.-Mexico border, leading to miscarriage in some cases.
He denounced the mass deportation of undocumented immigrants to countries where a good percentage of them are about to killed. Camosy cited the argument of Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville, Texas, who has said mass deportation of people to countries with deadly violence was comparable to driving people to abortion clinic.
Camosy has analyzed Pope Francis’ critique of the “throwaway culture,” drawing from it seven principles.
“Our failure to aid is often part of the throwaway culture, and a kind of violence, especially when death is the result,” he named as one principle. He also advocated the principle “resist appeals to individual autonomy and privacy which detach us from our duty to aid.”
While Camosy said he did not advocate that every pro-life advocate do everything, he said he couldn’t envision a self-described pro-life advocate who rejected these principles.
“At least if we take the words of Jesus seriously, we put ourselves at risk of hellfire because of our failure to aid,” he said.
Among the Catholic sources he invoked were Matthew 25 in which Jesus separates the goats from the sheep on the basis of whether they aided those in need; Jesus’ parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus;  Gratian’s Decretum, which says “If you have not fed the hungry man you have killed him”; St. Ambrose of Milan’s warning, quoted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, if your greed leads to the death of the poor you are guilty of indirect homicide.”
Among other principles he named were resistance to the use of violence “at every turn,” because of its effects on both the victim and perpetrator. There should be a priority on protecting and supporting the lives of the most vulnerable, especially those who cannot speak in their own defense. People should “resist language, practices and social structures which detach us from the full reality and dignity of the marginalized,” especially as these are “hidden in and facilitated by consumer culture.”
People must create a “culture of encounter” especially with those we find “the most difficult to show mercy and love.” Further, they must “go to the peripheries and show hospitality and care for the stranger.” Finally, they must acknowledge mutuality both between human persons and between human persons and the rest of creation.
Camosy saw potential for outreach and persuasion to animal welfare advocates, citing “the horrific things we do to nonhuman animals just to get cheap meat on our place.”
“Talk about a population that cannot speak up on its own defense.”
Pro-life and pro-animal rights activism has much in common, such as the legal fights of activists and journalists “simply to film the reality that has happened,” he said, invoking the Center for Medical Progress’ videos of abortion providers.
“None of us at the end of the day what to know what is happening either in abortion clinics or factory farms.”
Camosy was skeptical about the future of the pro-life movement in its current configuration.
“I think we need a different vision of ‘the good’ which potential converts will see as consistent, authentic and beautiful,” he said. “Right now I think they look at the dominant prolife movement and see just the opposite.”
In Camosy’s view, a pro-life movement that is tied to President Donald Trump “has no chance of winning the future.”
About 75 percent of voters of color strongly dislike Trump and he polls at 21 percent among Millennials, while the Republican Party polls at 17 percent among the same age group.
Supreme Court decisions or smaller pieces of legislation might end abortion protections, “only to have the culture lost on this issue because ‘pro-life’ is identified with Trump and the Republican Party,” Camosy said.
Camosy praised some work of the Susan B. Anthony List, which backed pro-life Democrat Rep. Dan Lipinski of Illinois against a strong primary challenge.
However, he lamented the “unwillingness of traditional pro-lifers to help pro-life Democrats,” charging that this encourages a “vicious cycle” that fails to support pro-life votes.
“It’s not about Right or Left, big or small government. Rather, it’s about consistently advocating the least of us,” Camosy said.

'Humanae vitae' saves marriages, says Minneapolis bishop

Mon, 07/23/2018 - 20:00

Minneapolis, Minn., Jul 23, 2018 / 06:00 pm (CNA).- Bishop Andrew Cozzens, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of St.Paul and Minneapolis has given a series of talks ahead of the anniversary of Humanae Vitae. He has used the talks to highlight the damage done to couples and families by artificial contraception, contrasting it with the benefits of adhering to the Church’s teaching.

In a talk to young adults at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis on June 28, he invited listeners to consider what the sexual revolution had promised and what it had actually delivered.

“Let’s just step back and ask ourselves, ‘Has it been so great?’ … This idea that sex could be no pressure, no fear of pregnancy and only amount to the expression of my love for that person — has that actually produced the results that society says?”

In an earlier address at St. Stephen’s Church, also in Minneapolis, he said that the practice of artificial contraception was directly linked to the increased divorce rates, and that couples who reject it have a higher chance of staying together. He drew the connection during a talk helping to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Humanae vitae.

St. Stephen’s is also home to the Sagrada Familia center, which provides assistance and support for couples seeking to use natural family planning. He used the occasion to reflect on how the world has changed in the half-century after the release of Blessed Pope Paul VI’s famous  encyclical which affirmed the traditional prohibition of artificial contraception.

The encyclical contains one of the Church’s “most controversial teachings, but also, in a certain way, one of her most important,” said Cozzens.

Condemning artificial contraception is something that makes Catholics “most radical,” he explained. “We stand out as Catholics by our declaration that contraception is morally evil,” while noting that most other Christian denominations no longer share this belief.

While this may be difficult for many to grapple with and follow, Cozzens said that the failure to heed Paul VI’s prophetic warning had warped the culture and ushered in an increase in various societal ills, such as abortion and unwed pregnancy, as well as marital breakdown and divorce.

“Much of what we see around us in the culture today, 50 years later, is actually the result of not following God's plan for sexuality and marriage”.

“This is the direct result of the breaking down of the sacredness of sexuality.”

Cozzens explained how Blessed Pope Paul VI had predicted these problems when he wrote that if sex was stripped of its procreative potential and orientation, women would be treated as a “mere instruments” of satisfaction by men, who would “forget the reverence due to a woman.”

The introduction of artificial contraception into marriage has a transformative effect on the marital act, Cozzens said, one which “turns that act into something that is not a covenantal, sacramental, symbolic, total gift of self” because it excludes God’s plan along with the potential of marital fertility.

Acting against this plan has “consequences,” warned Cozzens, observing that about 50 percent of marriages in the United States now end in divorce, an increase of “several hundred percent” since Humanae Vitae was published.

Alternatively, the bishop said, couples who follow faithfully the Church’s teaching on contraception and relied on natural family planning--a Church-approved method of observing a woman’s natural cycle of fertility and abstaining from sexual relations when necessary-- have a much higher success rate of staying married.

While living this teaching faithfully requires considerably more effort by married couples than does artificial contraception, Cozzens said that because it "requires discipline and sacrifice” it helps to strengthen the love and respect between husband and wife.

Statistical studies "prove that the Church is right on this teaching," said Cozzens.

"Couples who practice this teaching of the Church have about a 98 to 99 percent success rate in marriage."

Married couples who disregard the Church’s warnings against contraception, he warned, were depriving themselves of the vital support of God’s love, and “not experiencing the joy He desires to have and share” with them.

“Let’s pray for each other, and for our world, that our Church and our world will come to reverence this beautiful teaching about marriage, so that we might remain in Him, and His love and joy might increase.”

Humanae Vitae was published on July 25, 1968, the fiftieth anniversary of its publication is on Wednesday.

Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen, controversial Seattle emeritus, dies at 96

Mon, 07/23/2018 - 18:00

Helena, Mont., Jul 23, 2018 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- Archbishop Raymond G. Hunthausen died on Sunday, aged 96. The archbishop emeritus of Seattle was the last surviving American bishop to have attended Vatican Council II. He died in his home diocese of Helena, Montana, in the company of his extended family.

Archbishop Hunthausen was an outspoken and often controversial leader in the American Church. His pubic image was anchored by a bold and uncompromising stance against nuclear weapons, but his twenty-one years in Seattle were marked by division and dispute over his governance of the archdiocese.

Born August 21, 1921, in Anaconda, Montana, Raymond Gerhardt Hunthausen was the eldest of seven children. As a young man, he attended Carroll College in the state capital of Helena, graduating with honors and a chemistry degree. While he initially intended to become an engineer, his spiritual director Fr. Bernard Topel, later Bishop of Spokane, helped him discover a priestly vocation.

Hunthausen entered St. Edward’s Seminary in Kenmore, Washington, in 1943 and was ordained a priest three years later. In 1946, as a newly ordained priest, he returned to Carroll College, serving as a chemistry instructor and earning a Master of Science degree from the University of Notre Dame in 1953. In 1957, he was made president of Carroll College.

In July of 1962, Pope St. John XXIII named Hunthausen as the sixth bishop of Helena. He became the youngest and newest American bishop at Vatican Council II, where he attended all four sessions.

Pope Paul VI appointed Bishop Hunthausen to lead the Archdiocese of Seattle in February of 1975, and it was in this position that he would come to national attention.

As Archbishop of Seattle, Hunthausen took a prominent and unflinching stance against nuclear weapons. The Trident program, which equipped a new generation of ballistic missile submarines, was based in the archdiocese. In perhaps his most famous quote, Archbishop Hunthausen called Trident the “Auschwitz of Pugent Sound.” His public decision to withhold half his federal taxes in protest resulted in the government garnishing his wages. His opposition to nuclear weapons and his steadfast commitment to peace led to his receiving the Thomas Merton Award in 1982.

Yet, despite his leading role in campaigns for peace and justice, concerns about his doctrinal leadership of the archdiocese came to overshadow much of his time in office.

From at least 1978, Vatican authorities received numerous complaints that parts of church teaching were being obscured or ignored in the Archdiocese of Seattle, and that this was influencing pastoral practices.

Those complaints led to an apostolic visitation in 1983. The visitation, a kind of canonical inspection and fact finding mission, was conducted by Archbishop James Hickey of Washington, D.C., who interviewed more than 60 people, clergy and laity, and submitted a report to Rome.

The visitation ended in 1986 with a letter to Hunthausen from Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, then-Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The letter praised Hunthausen as “a man of Gospel values, sensitive to the needs of the sufferings and the aggrieved” and said his concern for justice and peace was well known.

While observing that Hunthausen had been subjected to “exaggerated criticism” from groups “wholly lacking in a spirit of cooperation,” Cardinal Ratzinger outlined several areas in the archdiocese in need of “correction and improvement.”

Those areas proved to forecast some of the most contentious issues in the Church today.

Among the issues was the widespread practice of encouraging divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive the Eucharist, despite the Church’s clear teaching that these relationships were objectively irregular and the practice itself was a witness contrary to indissolubility of marriage.

Ratzinger also noted “repeated instances” of allowing non-Catholics to receive the Eucharist at Mass, and instances in which Catholics were allowed to receive communion at Protestant services.

In total, five areas needing attention were outlined. The others included concerns that some local Catholic hospitals were providing contraceptive sterilization services, that Church teaching on homosexuality was being distorted or obscured through the influence of outside groups, and that there were problems with priestly formation of seminarians.

While the CDF recognized that Hunthausen had made positive efforts to respond to the criticisms, Donald Wuerl was appointed an auxiliary bishop in the archdiocese in 1986, with special responsibility for the five problem areas. Despite public hostility to Wuerl by some in the archdiocese, he and Hunthausen forged an enduring personal friendship before Wuerl was relieved of his responsibility in 1987, and appointed Bishop of Pittsburgh in 1988.

Nevertheless, an air of resentment toward perceived Vatican interference overshadowed the rest of Hunthausen’s tenure. Bishop Thomas Murphy was appointed archbishop coadjutor in 1987, and Pope St. John Paul II accepted Hunthausen’s resignation in 1991. Aged only 70, this was five full years before Hunthausen would have reached the ordinary retirement age for a bishop.

In 2002, at the height of the sexual abuse crisis, it emerged that police had informed him in 1986 about an investigation into the Bishop of Spokane, Lawrence Welsh in 1986. Police met with Hunthausen following an accusation that Welsh had attempted to strangle a male-prostitute during an encounter in Chicago that year. While Welsh admitted to the encounter, no further action was taken and he was allowed to continue in episcopal ministry.

In retirement, Hunthausen returned to Montana, living with his brother, also a priest. His reputation as an outspoken advocate for peace remained intact, though his time in Seattle remained a source of controversy.

While perhaps inextricably linked to controversy, Archbishop Hunthausen will be fondly remembered by many in the Church, especially in Montana and Seattle. Even many of those most often considered to be his critics considered him to be a man sincere in his convictions who, in the words of Cardinal Ratzinger, “strove with heart and mind to be a good bishop of the Church, eager to implement the renewal called for in the decrees of the Vatican Council II.”

The genius of woman: Women supporting women

Mon, 07/23/2018 - 17:47

Denver, Colo., Jul 23, 2018 / 03:47 pm (CNA).- This week, CNA says farewell to our summer intern, Lizzy Joslyn. In her final week at CNA this summer, Lizzy offers "The Genius of Woman," a four-part series of interviews and profiles, based on Pope St. John Paul II's "Letter to Women," and interviews with seven Catholic women from very different walks of life. This is the first piece in that series:


The “genius of woman” or the “feminine genius,” a phrase made popular by Pope St. John Paul II’s 1995 "Letter to Women," can be summarized as the distinct social and interpersonal strengths of women, offered generously to the world.

John Paul wrote: “Much more important is the social and ethical dimension, which deals with human relations and spiritual values. In this area, which often develops in an inconspicuous way beginning with the daily relationships between people, especially within the family, society certainly owes much to the ‘genius of women.’"

Such “genius,” he said, can and should be exercised in various environments--in all environments--but it develops at the basic level of the family unit.

The following are two stories of lives centered and exemplifying the feminine genius. They are stories of women supporting other women.

Sister Maria: a “spiritual family in Christ”

Two foundationally important ideals within consecrated life are “love of God and love of neighbor,” Sister Maria told CNA.

Sister Maria, a cloistered nun of the Capuchin Poor Clares, spoke to CNA about the centrality of dedication to Christ in the consecrated life, while she highlighted the “fraternal life” of the cloister.

The nuns “build a spiritual family in Christ,” she said, caring for one another “especially when sisters are sick.” As nuns age, the Poor Clares do not bring them to “assisted living or hospice,” she said, adding “we do all the caring in the community.”

But “it’s not… out of duty,” she said. “It’s out of that warmness, love and caring as sisters and mothers.”

Sister Maria said the nuns of her community take care of one another “as a mother takes care of her children,” she said.

Veronica and Miriam Miller: the strength of sisterhood

“Spiritual families” and biological families blossom, Pope St. John Paul II taught, when a woman’s love--the feminine genius--is central to their functioning. So too does society.

For John Paul, understanding that the family is the most basic and essential building block of society was crucial to comprehending the importance of a woman’s familial--and, consequently, cultural--role. In a 1995 letter to Gertrude Mongella, Secretary General of the Fourth World Conference on Women of the United Nations, John Paul II wrote:

“At the personal level one’s dignity is experienced not as a result of the affirmation of rights on the juridical and international planes, but as the natural consequence of the concrete material, emotional and spiritual care received in the heart of one’s family.”

Women, he said, are central to a family’s love.

“No response to women’s issues can ignore women’s role in the family or take lightly the fact that every new life is totally entrusted to the protection and care of the woman carrying it in her womb (Cf. John Paul II Evangelium Vitae, 58).

“A mother’s presence in the family, so critical to the stability and growth of that basic unity of society, should instead be recognized, applauded and supported in every possible way.”

Every women is crucial to the cohesion and strength of families, John Paul taught--regardless of her place in the family. Sisters and daughters are called to the same nurturing roles within their families--such is the case of the Miller family of Golden, Colorado.

Veronica Miller, 22, and her sister, Miriam, 18, are two of six children. Their upbringing was largely based on caring for their fellow siblings, both women said, and this shaped them personally and in their relationship.

Caring for their brother, John, 20, has been a significant element in their experience of caring for one another. John is on the autistic spectrum and is non-verbal.

“It’s crazy because he’s… formed how our family has been together and how we’ve grown up… in a really positive and really good way,” said Miriam. “Our family is super close, and I think that he’s a huge reason why.”

Both sisters agreed that the family’s efforts to care for John have given them communication and cooperation skills among one another and people outside of their family, Veronica said.

John has “helped us read people, so we read each other better, in a sense… because we’re used to not using language with him,” Miriam said.

Coordinating who would take care of John when was a part of this too, said Veronica.

“There would always be one of us who couldn’t go to dinner with the rest of the family because they had to stay back with John,” she said. “You’d have to cancel your plans with your friends because John didn’t have someone to take care of him.”

“We’re always the caregivers, you know, and we always have to sacrifice to be able to love him better.”

This, however, was never a “major source of conflict” for their family--it built them up more than anything, she added. “I would not be who I am if I didn’t have all of them.”

John brought Veronica and Miriam “closer because we know that we have a responsibility to him,” said Miriam.

Their family’s selfless culture, said Veronica, is also rooted in the influence of their mother--the model of the feminine genius for her daughters.

“It’s very clear that she loves all of us by… the things that she’ll do for us,” said Veronica of her mother.

As the two sisters grew up and into their lives as students, their bond, built on self-giving, held steadfast, they say. Veronica and Miriam grew especially close when they both studied at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. It was here that the sisters deepened their faith as individuals, but also together.

“It was just the coolest thing ever,” said Miriam. “I felt like I got to re-know her.”

Veronica, who lived in an off-campus house, would invite Miriam over frequently, both sisters reported.

“She would always make me tea,” said Miriam, “and we would go to Mass together.”

Visiting her sister was a relief for Miriam in the midst of a sometimes socially overwhelming freshman-year experience, she said. It also gave Veronica the chance to exercise the “spiritual motherhood” that Letter to Women discusses, she said.

“College is funny,” said Veronica. “You’re so inclined to only think about yourself all the time.”

“I found that to be a challenge, actually, in the beginning of college when I didn’t have her there. Just because I’d realize, ‘When was the last time I did something for someone else?’ or really thought about someone else besides myself.”

“So having her there just, I think, really encouraged me to… exercise the motherly virtues that I had kind of started to develop younger.”

“It helped me, really, to strengthen those virtues because we didn’t have our mom there or my older sister there…We kind of exchanged that with each other. So then she was able to… love me in a very real way.”

Veronica’s support meant more to Miriam more than Veronica knew. As the sisters were interviewed separately, it became clear that Veronica was largely unaware of the effects of her leadership.

Seeing her sister pursue her faith with such fervency, Miriam said, was “inspiring.”

“I definitely feel like I found my faith more through her because… she was leading me. But it wasn’t… pushy,” she said. Small actions like invites to attend daily Mass, she said, made her realize just how solid her sister’s faith was.

The feminine genius, established and fortified in their family, extended beyond their relationship. Veronica, said Miriam, helped her to develop deep and meaningful friendships.

“I have so many different relationships in place because of Veronica,” Miriam said. Her sister’s willingness to befriend people outside of her assumed “typical” circle, resulting in many unlikely friendships, is something she learned to imitate: “I’ve learned how to reach out of my comfort zone because I’ve seen her do it too.”

“They all come from these different walks of life… it doesn’t matter to her. Which I think is really cool. That’s definitely impacted how I’ve made friends.”

Veronica also showed Miriam an example of emotionally supportive friendships--something that certainly speaks of the feminine genius.

“They all feel so comfortable telling her stuff,” Miriam said of Veronica’s friends.

Veronica herself felt her friendships strengthen because of her their renewed, intuitive sisterly bonds.

“I was able to be more in touch with her and maybe even with my other friends, too,” she said. “I don’t think I’d be able to have… that same relationship with them if I didn’t have sisters.”

Thus, the feminine genius, if adequately fostered in the context of the home, has the capability to pour into relationships of all kinds and help to water the thirst of humanity for genuine love. The impact of “the genius of woman” is unparalleled.

“Describe your sister.”

CNA interviewed the Miller sisters separately, but we asked both sisters to describe the other. Here are their answers:

Miriam, on Veronica:

-“She’s super big-hearted and she’s super compassionate and she’s super kind.”
- She is “wise beyond her years.”
- She “has so many smart things to say.”
-“She cares SO much.”
-“She’s super hard working and super smart, but she’s so humble about it… She’ll never talk about it. Like she didn’t tell you she graduated from high school when she was 15.” (Miriam is correct--Veronica definitely did not tell me this.)
-“She’s really accomplished.”
-She’s humble: “She’s so good at what she does, but she won’t talk about it.”
-She’s “super pretty, super nice, super holy… and it doesn’t affect her.”

Veronica, on Miriam:

-“She cares about other people a lot. If she would get together with someone and have coffee with them, she’s totally happy sitting and listening to the other person talk the whole time and will ask the other person questions and doesn’t really talk about herself.”
-“She’s very joyful. Like, all the time.”
-“She’s awesome. She’s out of town right now, so I miss her, too.”
-“Just in the way she lives, you can just tell that she cares so much about other people.”
-“If you ask her if she has a hair tie, she’ll literally pull the hair tie out of her hair and give it to you.”
-“She’s super strong.”
-“And she’s very mature, too, I think.”

Courage conference celebrates Father John Harvey

Sun, 07/22/2018 - 07:00

Philadelphia, Pa., Jul 22, 2018 / 05:00 am (CNA).- The Catholic group Courage International hosted its 30th annual Courage and EnCourage conference last week, which aimed to offer men and women with same-sex attraction inspiration from the organization’s founder, the late Father John Harvey.

“This year we had the opportunity to remember the legacy of Father Harvey who is our founding director,” said Ann Schneible, communications director for Courage International.

“This is really important, especially for our new members who joined since he stepped down from the position in 2008,” she told CNA.

More than 300 people attended the conference, which was hosted on July 12-15 at Villanova University in Philadelphia, Pa., where Harvey was born. The event also recognized what would have been the priest’s 100th birthday on April 14. He died in 2010.  

Among the conference speakers were Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia and Johnnette Benkovic, host of the EWTN series Women of Grace. Schneible said many of the speakers personally knew Harvey, giving witness to the priest’s gentleness, patience, and humor.

The conference also featured a panel of Courage and EnCourage members and chaplains, who shared their personal experiences of Harvey.

Schneible said the event’s theme, “faithful to the mission,” was inspired by a quote from Father Harvey.

“He said he wanted to be remembered as having been ‘faithful to a mission.’  He wasn’t just serving people out of obedience; he really had a heart for this ministry, especially for the people….He really ministered to the whole human person – heart, mind, and soul.”

Born in 1918, Harvey joined the novitiate of the Oblates of St Francis de Sales 18 years later. With master’s degrees in psychology and philosophy, he was ordained a priest in 1944. He began Courage in 1980 at the request of Cardinal Terence Cooke, a former Archbishop of New York.

“We had a chance to learn about his life and the stories from other members, who shared their experiences with them. So we got to see this man be brought to life for those who didn’t know him. This person who had overseen this wonderful ministry,” she said.

Schneible also pointed to the community experience the conference offered to people with same-sex attraction. Courage’s core values, she said, are “all community based.”

“Our members, they have this shared experience. ....Everyone has a unique story. What really binds them, maybe beyond their experience of same-sex-attraction, is their commitment to the Church,” she said.

“That’s why the name of this ministry is Courage. They have this courageous commitment to living the Church’s teaching authentically on [chastity]. And, that brings a bond with it.”

The first Courage meeting was held in 1980, and the initial group developed the five foundational goals of Courage – chastity, prayer and dedication, fellowship, support, and good role models.

Courage International offers support for people with same-sex attraction who have chosen to pursue a chaste lifestyle. EnCourage supports family members and friends of people with same-sex attraction, teaching them how to encounter their loved ones with compassion.

“What’s really special about this yearly event is that it’s really an opportunity to let our members come together. They see old friends, they get to pick new friends, and it really has the feeling of a family reunion,” said Schneible.


American Bishop-Delegates Confirmed for Youth Synod

Sat, 07/21/2018 - 16:45

Washington D.C., Jul 21, 2018 / 02:45 pm (CNA).- The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) announced Monday that Pope Francis has ratified the selection of five bishops chosen to attend the 25th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which will meet to discuss young people, the faith, and vocational discernment.

The delegates were elected by the bishops of the United States and confirmed by the pope.

They are:

·         Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

·         Archbishop José H. Gomez, Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Vice President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

·         Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth

·         Bishop Frank J. Caggiano, Diocese of Bridgeport, member of the USCCB Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth

·         Auxiliary Bishop Robert E. Barron, Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis

The names of four of the delegates, Cardinal DiNardo, Archbishop Gomez, Archbishop Chaput, and Bishop Barron, were first reported by CNA in November last year.

The General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops will take place in Rome this October, following a global process of consultation and preparation, including a pre-synod meeting in Rome led by the pope and attended by 300 young adult delegates. The meeting produced a concluding Pre-Synodal document summarizing the world-wide responses of young people to the consultation process.

In June, the working document, or Instrumentum Laboris, for the October General Assembly was released. It includes a summary of the Synod consultations to date and outline its aims.

The Synod will take place on 3-28 October, 2018.

Planned Parenthood asked to prove fetal tissue was not sold for profit

Sat, 07/21/2018 - 14:00

Oakland, Calif., Jul 21, 2018 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- Attorneys for David Daleiden, a pro-life advocate and journalist who released videos on Planned Parenthood’s fetal tissue procurement, have asked the abortion provider to prove it has not sold fetal tissue for commercial gain.

Daleiden was the project head for the pro-life group Center for Medical Progress, which in 2015 released several videos of conversations with Planned Parenthood executives. The videos alleged that Planned Parenthood affiliates were illegally selling fetal body parts for profit. Those accusations have since been dropped.

The recent legal action is part of Planned Parenthood Federation of America v Center for Medical Progress, in which a court ruled last August that the videos had been obtained illegally.

At a July 19 hearing at U.S. District Court in Oakland California, Daleiden’s defense team, including attorneys from the non-profit Thomas More Society, asked the court to compel Planned Parenthood to prove that its affiliates have not profited from fetal tissue transactions.

The attorneys have specifically asked for documented invoices.

Planned Parenthood has said previously it followed federal laws that forbid entities to “acquire, receive, or otherwise transfer any human fetal tissue for valuable consideration.”

“We invite them to prove it,” said Peter Breen of the non-profit Thomas More Society, and a member of Daleiden’s legal team.

“The law is simple. If the payments received for fetal body tissue exceeded the allowable costs, then Planned Parenthood and its affiliates were first, engaged in criminal conduct, and next, making a profit off of selling aborted baby parts,” Breen said in a press release Thursday.

Planned Parenthood said questions about the invoices have “zero bearing” in the case.

Daleiden’s videos appeared to show numerous Planned Parenthood and StemExpress employees discussing the procurement and sell fetal body parts.

In 2014 and 2015, Deleiden posed as an employee of Biomax Procurement Services, a false-front biomedical research company. The National Abortion Federation filed a suit in 2015, stating the videos had been obtained illegally. In a court ruling last August, Deleiden and the Center for Medical Progress were barred from releasing more videos.

“Planned Parenthood is suing Mr. Daleiden because they claim that his investigative videos are ‘misleading’ and ‘broke the law,’” said Breen.  

“Now they are being asking to prove their ludicrous accusations. The idea that this huge profiteer thinks that they can just say something without having to produce relevant evidence is preposterous.”


Human trafficking in developed countries more common than previously thought

Sat, 07/21/2018 - 06:06

Washington D.C., Jul 21, 2018 / 04:06 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As many as 1 in 800 Americans is currently a victim of human trafficking, according to a new global report which found much higher rates of modern-day slavery in developed nations than previously believed.

Andrew Forrest, founder of the Global Slavery Index, called the report “a huge wakeup call.”

“The pressure to respond to this appalling human crime must shift from poorer countries to richer nations that have the resources and institutions to do much better,” he said in a July 19 statement.

“It’s widely accepted that most crimes go unreported and unrecorded, because the victims are marginalised and vulnerable,” Forrest said. “This report demonstrates, straight from the mouths of some of the 40.3 million victims of modern slavery, that these deplorable crimes continue happening out of sight, and at a tragic scale.”

“We cannot sit back while millions of women, girls, men and boys around the world are having their lives destroyed and their potential extinguished by criminals seeking a quick profit.”

Published each year by the Walk Free Foundation, the Global Slavery Index compiles data to estimate the number of people being trafficked globally.

The index defines modern-day slavery as any exploitative situation that an individual cannot leave “because of threats, violence, coercion, abuse of power, or deception.” This includes sexual exploitation, forced labor, and child labor.

It also includes forced marriages, the report said, noting that women make up 71 percent of people trapped in modern-day slavery today.

More data sources – including surveys and face-to-face interviews – in this year’s report resulted in significant increases in the estimates of people being trafficked in many developed nations.

The report identified North Korea as having the highest prevalence of modern slavery – with about one in 10 people classified as modern-day slaves – followed by Eritrea, Burundi, and the Central African Republic.

However, developed nations in the West, including the U.S. and UK, also have much higher rates of human trafficking than previously thought, it said.

The 2018 report estimated that some 403,000 people are trapped in modern slavery in the U.S. – seven times higher than previous figures. In the UK, that figure is estimated at 136,000, nearly 12 times higher than earlier estimates.

Last month, the U.S. State Department released its 2018 Trafficking in Persons report, which assesses countries around the world based on how their governments work to prevent and respond to trafficking.

In presenting the report, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo emphasized that the problem of trafficking is one that is found much closer to home than many people realize.

“Human trafficking is a global problem, but it’s a local one too,” he said June 28. “Human trafficking can be found in a favorite restaurant, a hotel, downtown, a farm, or in their neighbor’s home.”

The fight against human trafficking has been a priority for Pope Francis. In December 2013, he told a group of ambassadors that the issue worries him greatly, saying “it is a disgrace” that persons “are treated as objects, deceived, assaulted, often sold many times for different purposes and, in the end, killed or, in any case, physically and mentally harmed, ending up discarded and abandoned.”

In March 2014, Pope Francis signed an ecumenical agreement with Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby, by which the Church and the Anglican Communion agreed to support an anti-slavery, anti-human trafficking initiative, the Global Freedom Network.

The following year, the pope focused on the theme in his World Day of Peace message. He appealed to “all men and women of good will” and to “the highest levels of civil institutions” who witness “the scourge of contemporary slavery.” He urged them “not to become accomplices to this evil, not to turn away from the sufferings of our brothers and sisters, our fellow human beings, who are deprived of their freedom and dignity.”

At a June 2016 summit, the Pope emphasized the importance of listening to victims of trafficking.

He reiterated that message earlier this year, telling young people that they are in “a privileged place to encounter the survivors of human trafficking.”

“Go to your parishes, to an association close to home, meet them, listen to them,” he said.

The Vatican has organized numerous conferences on human trafficking, focused on both raising awareness and discussing means of fighting modern-day slavery and helping victims reintegrate into society.  



Sterilization device removed from sale with lawsuit pending

Fri, 07/20/2018 - 19:30

Washington D.C., Jul 20, 2018 / 05:30 pm (CNA).- The Essure sterilization device is being withdrawn from sale, the pharmaceutical company Bayer announced today. This comes after more than 10,000 women filed a lawsuit saying they were seriously harmed by the device, and about three months after the FDA restricted sales and required patients be given additional information about risks.

The FDA added a “black box” warning to Essure in November of 2016, after numerous patient complaints about complications, such as abdominal pain and uterine perforation. 

Essure will be taken off the market in the United States as of December 31, 2018. Sales in every other country ceased as of September of last year, due to poor sales figures. The device was first approved for use in 2002.

The device is described as a “non-surgical permanent birth control,” and consists of a pair of metal and polyester coils that are inserted into the fallopian tubes. These coils cause scarring in the tubes, blocking eggs from reaching the uterus. Bayer claims to have sold about 750,000 of these devices around the world. The device was preferred by some women as it purportedly had a much faster healing time than other sterilization techniques.

In a statement, Bayer said the decision to pull the device was was “based on a decline in U.S. sales of Essure in recent years and the conclusion that the Essure business is no longer sustainable,” but that they “continue to stand behind the product’s safety and efficacy.”

The Food and Drug Administration has been monitoring Essure since September of 2015, after an “increase in adverse events” submitted to its official database.

The public outcry against Essure was in part driven by social media, which was able to bring women suffering similar symptoms together in one place.

In 2011, a Facebook group called “Essure Problems” was created for women to discuss various adverse reactions they had to the device. In some instances, women were required to have emergency hysterectomies after the devices broke and migrated throughout their bodies. Other suffered extreme allergic reactions to the metals in the device, developed headaches and mood disorders, and some even experienced ectopic pregnancies.

At least one woman was killed as a result of Essure, after her reproductive organs developed necrosis, and the device was blamed for at least 300 fetal deaths and stillbirths.

The Essure Problems group, which has grown to nearly 37,000 women, was responsible for some of the widespread media coverage about the device’s dangers.

Responding to Friday’s announcement, administrators of the Essure Problems group told CNA that “seven long years of fighting to get Essure removed from the United States market has finally paid off” and that the announcement “brought us to our knees in gratitude, relief and celebration.”

“Women will not be harmed by this device any more. We have won, we have finally won!”

The FDA released a statement saying that they will continue to “remain vigilant in protecting patients” who have been implanted with Essure, and will work alongside Bayer to “best determine how to move forward to answer the critical questions we posed” regarding complications with the device.

Michigan AG seeks to dissolve priest-assistance charity over lack of governance

Fri, 07/20/2018 - 18:58

Lansing, Mich., Jul 20, 2018 / 04:58 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Michigan attorney general filed Thursday a cease and desist order against Opus Bono Sacerdotii, a charity which raises money to assist priests facing difficulties, citing a lack of oversight and other violations of state law.

The attorney general, Bill Schuette, filed a notice of intended action July 19.

“Before bringing a civil action, the Attorney General will consider accepting an assurance of discontinuance or other appropriate settlement agreement,” the notice stated.

A former employee of Opus Bono Sacerdotii complained to Schuette's office in February 2017, “claiming that the charity was violating its nonprofit status and was being used for the personal benefit of its officers Joe Maher and Peter Ferrara.”

On reviewing tax forms, the attorney general's office “found irregularities and lack of details that lent support to the complaint,” and differing lists of board members, which led to an investigation which lasted until at least May 2018.

The investigation found a lack of board governance, no controls over expenses, unauthorized and excessive compensation, diversion of assets, breach of fiduciary duties, and deceptive solicitations.

“OBS President Joe Maher and Treasurer Peter Ferrara operated OBS without any meaningful oversight from its board of directors,” according to the attorney general's filing.

The OBS board did not hold formal board meetings, and when they did, minutes were not kept.

Maher and Ferrara are two of the six members of the board of directors; another member, Fr. Eduard Perrone, said, “he never viewed himself as a director and had no knowledge of Opus Bono’s organizational structure; he considered himself a spiritual adviser to the group”. Paul Barron, another board member, said that “the board did not supervise Maher’s and Ferrara’s activities and that the annual meetings were informal,” the attorney general reported.

This lack of governance allowed the “possible diversion and illicit use” of OSB's charitable assets by Maher and Ferrara, the attorney general wrote. “The pattern of OBS expenses, transfers, and withdrawals suggest regular personal benefit to Maher and Ferrara from OBS assets.”

Neither of the men had a compensation agreement with OBS: “Neither Maher nor Ferrara were paid in regular amounts at regular intervals. Instead, without authorization, at their discretion, both Maher and Ferrara withdrew and transferred OBS assets to themselves or expended them for their own personal benefit.”

The attorney general also stated that “Maher’s and Ferrara’s personal use of funds and unauthorized compensation diverted OBS assets from its mission of helping priests.”

After the investigation began, OBS held a board meeting in which it had “a fiduciary duty to preserve OBS assets and to itself investigate OBS’s finances to ensure that OBS assets were being used—and had been used in the past—as intended,” according to Schuette.

“Instead of investigating and recovering personal expenses charged by Maher and Ferrara and excessive compensation taken by Maher and Ferrara, OBS’s board passed a resolution purporting to authorize Maher’s and Ferrara’s past actions, including tens of thousands of possible personal expenses for meals, auto, and travel … In so doing, the OBS board breached its fiduciary duties to OBS.”

Finally, the investigation found that solicitations for donations sent by OBS “generally told donors that Maher just received a letter from a priest that OBS had helped; the mailing then included a lengthy direct quote purportedly from the priest telling his story.”

“But OBS has admitted that the letters were not direct quotes and were a 'composition of multiple letters.'”

The attorney general instructed OBS to cease “all unlawful solicitations as described in the above violations and all unauthorized or excessive compensation or personal expenses,” and said that violation “may result in a civil action for restitution, civil fines, litigation costs, and injunctive relief.”

OBS was founded in 2002 to “facilitate care for Catholic priests who are experiencing difficulties in their personal life and priestly ministry,” the organization states. “A vital component of this urgent care is in providing monies to priests who are in dire need of the basic necessities of life, especially when they have no other available options for financial support.”

The charitable tax-exempt organization bears a “2017 Top-Rated” logo from GreatNonprofits on its website.

Sec. Pompeo speaks ahead of first ever Ministerial on religious freedom

Fri, 07/20/2018 - 17:30

Washington D.C., Jul 20, 2018 / 03:30 pm (CNA).- The U.S. State Department is set to host the largest and highest-level global meeting on religious liberty next week. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told EWTN he is prepared to talk with countries with whom the U.S. government has “deep disagreements.”

The Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom will be held on July 24-26 and include foreign ministers, religious leaders, and civil society representatives to discuss concrete ways to combat religious persecution in different parts of the world. A Ministerial is a high-level international gathering of senior-rank government officials and experts.

“It’s truly historic. It’s the first time the State Department has led such a discussion. We’ll have over 80 delegations from countries around the world, many, many religious organizations, NGOs,” Secretary Pompeo told Lauren Ashburn of EWTN News Nightly on Thursday.

During the three-day event, survivors of religious persecution will share their stories, senior U.S. government officials will provide an overview of religious freedom policy goals, and foreign delegations will announce new initiatives to promote freedom of religion.

The State Department announced earlier this week that U.S. Vice President Mike Pence will address attendees on the importance of international religious freedom on July 26.

Ahead of the ministerial, some have criticized Secretary Pompeo’s prior announcement that the event will be a meeting of “like-minded” countries.

“When I said like-minded, I meant those countries that are prepared to begin their walk towards the religious freedom that we have enshrined in our Constitution and that our nation so values and cherishes,” Pompeo told Ashburn.

“I’m sure there’ll be countries here that we have deep disagreements with,” said Pompeo.

Lebanon’s Foreign Minister, Gebran Bassil, is expected to attend the ministerial. On July 19, the American Mideast Coalition for Democracy wrote to the U.S. secretary of state urging him to confront Bassil over the arrest and interrogation of two Maronite Christians in Lebanon earlier this month. AMCD reports that the Maronite Christians were targeted for their contacts with Israeli Christians made at an American conference on reviving the Aramaic language and culture.

Pompeo, who met with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un earlier this year, has said repeatedly that he raises the issue of human rights when meeting with so-called bad actors, although sometimes privately.

“The State Department takes this issue of religious freedom very seriously. In conversations with countries that don’t live up to the standards of religious freedom that they ought to have, we raise that issue, sometimes privately if we think that’s the most effective way to achieve the change that we’re looking for, and sometimes publicly if we think that will accomplish our goal,” Pompeo told EWTN.

When asked about religious liberty issues within the U.S., Pompeo responded, “My faith teaches me that imperfection is all around us, and when it comes to government that’s certainly the case as well. I think the United States stands as an enormous beacon of religious freedom. I’m confident that we can always do better.”

“But we stand strong here in the United States for religious tolerance and freedom, and I think that’s an important demonstration to the world of how valuable that fundamental human right can be to a strong and successful nation,” he continued.

The State Department currently designates 10 “countries of particular concern” for religious freedom: Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Since becoming Secretary of State in April, Pompeo has led major U.S. foreign policy shifts towards several of these countries, most notably North Korea and Iran.

A state department official has said that Pompeo plans to address the persecution of religious groups in Iran during a speech on Sunday at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in southern California.

This year marks the twentieth anniversary of the enactment of the International Religious Freedom Act in 1998 -- the passage of which created the position of ambassador-at-large for religious freedom and other government offices dedicated to the issue.

Ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback will launch the week’s activities with a delegation of survivors of contemporary religious persecution in China, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Sudan, and elsewhere at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Many other religious freedom events will be held in Washington throughout the week of the ministerial. The Religious Freedom Institute will host U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See Callista Gingrich who will speak on a Vatican perspective on religious freedom on July 24, and the Pew Research center will present their data on global religious restrictions and nationalism in Europe.

“It should be a great gathering where we will make the point that religious freedom is a human right and that every individual ought to have their right to practice their particular religion, or if they have no faith, to not be punished for that either,” said Pompeo.

Canons of St John Cantius founder relocating to St Louis

Fri, 07/20/2018 - 17:01

Chicago, Ill., Jul 20, 2018 / 03:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Fr. C. Frank Phillips, former pastor of St. John Cantius Parish in Chicago, has been asked by his religious superior to move to St. Louis, the priest informed his supporters Wednesday.

Phillips, 68, has been accused of misconduct involving adult men. He was removed as pastor of St. John Cantius March 16, and prohibited from public ministry in the Archdiocese of Chicago by Cardinal Blase Cupich.

In 1998, Phillips founded the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius, with the approval of Cardinal Francis George of Chicago and of the Resurrectionists.

“From the founding of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius, I have instructed the men how to live the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. One of those vows, obedience, may especially challenge Religious because it is difficult to submit your will to a superior,” Fr. Phillips wrote July 18 to Protect Our Priests, a group formed to support and assist him.

“As you know, the Canons are requested not to have contact with me, which is difficult for them and for me as their Founder. Also, I have been asked by my superior to relocate to St. Louis. I am requested to do this not under formal obedience but willingly in the virtue of obedience. Is this difficult? Yes, it is,” he wrote.

The saints “were always obedient to their superiors, and their examples help to sustain me now,” Fr. Phillips wrote. “We need only look to St. Padre Pio to see the extent of his lived obedience. If I could not or would not listen to my superior, how could I then expect the Canons, as their Founder, to be obedient to their superior?”

He said he is uncertain of what the future holds for him, and that “time will tell” what it holds for the Canons.

“I feel confident that they will be blessed with vocations for their dedication to the restoration of the sacred in obedience,” he added.

“I thank everyone who has supported the Protect Our Priests initiative with prayers, sacrifices, Masses, and contributions. May St. John Cantius, our heavenly patron, extend his blessing to all of you.”

The Archdiocese of Chicago forwarded unspecified allegations against Fr. Phillips to the Resurrectionists in March.

The allegations were investigated by an independent review board organized by the Resurrectionists, and by provincial leaders. The results of that investigation were forwarded to the Archdiocese of Chicago by Fr. Gene Szarek, superior of the USA province of the Resurrectionists, along with his own proposal for a resolution.

Szarek sent on May 21 a “votum”- an official opinion- to the Archdiocese of Chicago, in response to the findings of the review board.

Citing “a certain amount of ambiguity between the allegations of the accusers and the testimony of witnesses, including Fr. Phillips himself,” Szarek said he would instruct Fr. Phillips to undergo a psychological evaluation, “and possible sensitivity training in the very near future.”

Fr. Szarek said further that Fr. Phillips should not return to St. John Cantius Parish as its pastor, considering both his age “and out of respect for the Cardinal's own preference.”

The superior also wrote that it “seems fair and just to restore the canonical faculties of Fr. Phillips” because “no civil or ecclesiastical crime had been established.”

He noted that Fr. Phillips' accusers “thought that his removal from the parish was all that they desired.”

Fr. Szarek also wrote that since Fr. Phillips is founder of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius, “the ideal would be his restoration as their superior general.”

The Canons Regular are incardinated in the Chicago archdiocese, and their assignments are made by the Archbishop of Chicago, Fr. Szarek noted, so “there is no fear that Fr. Phillips could possibly interfere in some way” with the archbishop's decisions.

“The historical reality of his being the Founder and his ongoing provision of spiritual leadership would be salutary for all,” Fr. Szarek stated, adding that Fr. Phillips “would obviously not reside” at St. John Cantius Parish.

“If the above recommendation is unfeasible, then at least he and the Canons should not be prevented from communication.” A prohibition on communication between Phillips and the Canons Regular had not previously been reported.

Despite Fr. Szarek's proposal, Cardinal Cupich declined to allow Fr. Phillips to minister publicly. Ordinarily, a priest prohibited from public ministry is able to celebrate Mass only in private, and is not able to hear confessions or celebrate other sacraments, unless a person is in immediate danger of death.

“We accept the Archdiocese's decision that Fr. Phillips' faculties for public ministry will remain withdrawn and that he not return as pastor of St John Cantius and as Superior of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius,” Fr. Szarek wrote in a June 24 letter to the parishioners of St. John Cantius parish.

Paula Waters, a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Chicago, told the Chicago Tribune June 25 that though Fr. Phillips had not been found to have violated civil or canon law, there was other information that justified barring him from exercising public ministry.

“There are standards for behavior,” Waters told the Tribune.

Stating that the review board recommended that Fr. Phillips not return to St. John Cantius as pastor “and on other factors, the cardinal decided that his faculties to minister would remain withdrawn,” she said.

When asked about the removal of Fr. Phillips' faculties, a Chicago archdiocese spokeswoman told CNA June 26 only that “it was recommended that Fr. Phillips not return to ministry at St. John Cantius” in the Resurrectionists' investigation report.

In his letter informing the St. John Cantius community of Cardinal Cupich's decision, Fr. Szarek wrote: “While we know this news will disappoint some of Fr. Phillips' supporters, we hope everyone will come to understand that this process was conducted with prayerful deliberation and sincere compassion.”

In a June 29 statement Fr. Szarek said that reports “the Independent Review Board exonerated Fr. Phillips are without foundation.”

Fr. Szarek added that he has offered his support to those accusing Fr. Phillips of misconduct and has "assure[d] them of appropriate pastoral care." He said this "is surely a difficult time for those who have suffered in any way, and I entrust their care to your prayers."

What Kavanaugh’s judicial record might mean for ‘Roe v. Wade’

Fri, 07/20/2018 - 13:27

Washington D.C., Jul 20, 2018 / 11:27 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As Judge Brett Kavanaugh prepares for Senate confirmation hearings, the Supreme Court nominee’s record is being examined for indications of how he might handle a move to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Kavanaugh is widely considered to be a constitutional originalist and known to be a practicing Catholic, and how he might approach a hypothetical move to overturn the landmark abortion case is expected to dominate the confirmation process.

President Trump made numerous public commitments to appoint pro-life judges and justices as part of his presidential campaign but, as previous presidents have found, it can be hard to predict how a nominee might rule once on the court. Justices Sandra Day-O’Connor and Anthony Kennedy, whose resignation opened the seat for which Kavanaugh has been nominated, were appointed by Ronald Reagan but voted to uphold abortion rights while on the court.

During Senate confirmation hearings candidates traditionally underscore their commitment to existing precedent and their judicial impartiality, and steer clear of responding to hypothetical cases. As a result, Senators often focus questions on previous decisions reached by a nominee in lower courts. Ahead of Kavanaugh’s hearings, attention is now turning to his 12 years on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

Because of the unique circumstances and demographics of the District, challenges to local abortion laws are almost unheard of, so there are few direct examples look at. The most high-profile case Kavanaugh has heard on abortion came last year.

The case involved a 17-year-old unaccompanied minor detained while trying to enter the country. While in a government shelter, she sought access to an abortion. Government workers denied her request. In his hearing of the case on appeal, Judge Kavanaugh sided with the government, who argued that there was no “undue burden” placed on the girl by making her wait until she was either released to a sponsor, or returned to her home country.

The Court of Appeals eventually decided in favor of the abortion, but Kavanaugh issued a strong dissent, saying the decision was based on “a constitutional principle as novel as it is wrong.” He said that the decision created a new right for unlawful immigrant children to abortion on demand from the government.

The American Civil Liberties Union, who acted on behalf of the minor (given the name Jane Doe in the case) called Kavanaugh’s reasoning a “cause for concern when it was issued last year, [but] it’s taken on far more importance now.” 

Writing on the ACLU’s website July 18, Brigitte Amiri, who was in court on behalf of Jane Doe, said “Given that Judge Kavanaugh allowed the government to further obstruct Jane Doe’s access to abortion, we should all be gravely concerned about what his appointment means for the future of Roe.”

Kavanaugh has previously called Roe v. Wade “binding precedent” which he as a judge had to “faithfully follow.” But, as Amy Howe noted July 18 on, precedent that was binding on him as an appeals court judge would be available for him to overturn on the Supreme Court.

Several cases involving state laws limiting access to abortion are expected to reach the Supreme Court in the coming term; a new consideration of the “right to abortion” is likely. An Indiana law banning abortion after a medical diagnosis for the unborn child was recently struck down by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, and many are expecting the state to appeal to the Supreme Court.
Numerous pro-life organizations have praised Kavanaugh’s nomination. The National Right to Life Committee called him “exceptionally well qualified” and predicted he would be the target of a “smear campaign.”

The Senate is expected to begin confirmation hearings in September.


New Arizona law awards custody of frozen embryos in favor of birth

Thu, 07/19/2018 - 19:20

Phoenix, Ariz., Jul 19, 2018 / 05:20 pm (CNA).- A new Arizona law awards contested custody of frozen embryos to the parent seeking to “develop them to birth.” A Catholic bioethicist told CNA it was a “positive development” in an otherwise unusual ethical situation.

The law, which came into effect July 1, is first of its kind in the United States. It was partly inspired by a custody dispute over frozen embryos. Ruby Torres, a 37 year old woman from Arizona, and her ex-husband John Joseph Terrell created the embryos prior to Torres’ treatment for breast cancer, when she was told she was unlikely to conceive after radiation and chemotherapy. They married shortly thereafter, divorcing three years after she had finished cancer treatments.

Seven embryos were created and remain frozen in storage. Torres told the judge during divorce proceedings that she wanted the embryos,calling them her last chance of having a biological child. Terrell protested, saying he did not want to become a father or be responsible for supporting a child.

Last year, the judge ruled that the embryos should be donated, but not to Torres. She appealed this decision. The law does not apply retroactively to this case or other similar cases.

In other custody disputes, judges have ordered frozen embryos to be either destroyed, remain frozen until an agreement can be made, or donated for use in research purposes. Rarely have they been awarded to a person seeking to actually gestate a child.

Should an embryo be successfully carried tol birth, the Arizona law does not make the unwilling party liable for child support.

Critics of the law say that it “forces” people to become parents against their will. Dr. Ted Furton, director of publications at the National Catholic Bioethics Center, said that this argument is the result of a mentality that considers embryos to be property, not human life.

“As soon as you produce embryos, the man and wife are parents,” Furton told CNA in an interview. “Parenthood doesn't happen later, it happens at that moment.”

“So, they're already parents. What they don't realize when they say 'I don't want to be a parent'--it's too late.”

Furton said that he thought the law’s recognition of an embryo as a human life and not as a form of property was a “very positive development” and a “good sign,” and that he is hopeful these kinds of laws would help people “to better understand that these are indeed human lives, and like every human life, deserve protection.”

New sexual abuse allegations leveled against Cardinal McCarrick

Thu, 07/19/2018 - 17:15

Washington D.C., Jul 19, 2018 / 03:15 pm (CNA).- A Virginia man filed a police report Monday, alleging that from the age of 11 he was sexually abused and assaulted serially by now-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who was a priest of the Archdiocese of New York when the abuse was alleged to have begun.

The New York Times reported July 19 the man’s allegation, that McCarrick began sexually abusing him in 1969, when the priest was 39 and the man, “James,” whose full name has not been reported, was 11 years old. McCarrick was reportedly a friend to the alleged victim’s family.  

The man says that he continued to be sexually abused by McCarrick for almost two decades, the Times reported.

The man claims that the abuse contributed to alcohol and drug habits that plagued him for years. He also says that he attempted to disclose the abuse to his father several years after it began, but was disbelieved, according to the Times.

In 1969, when the abuse is alleged to have begun, McCarrick ended a four-year term as president of the Catholic University of Puerto Rico, and became assistant secretary for education in the Archdiocese of New York. In 1977, he become auxiliary bishop of New York, and later became the Bishop of Metuchen, Archbishop of Newark, and, eventually, Archbishop of Washington.

Criminal statutes of limitation may prevent McCarrick from being charged with crimes relating to the abuse alleged Monday. A canonical statute of limitations, known technically as prescription, might also preclude the possibility that McCarrick face canonical charges for the alleged abuse, although the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is authorized to waive that statute in certain circumstances.

Joseph Zwilling, spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York, told CNA Thursday that the archdiocese learned of these allegations only when the New York Times article was published.

The archdiocese has not heard from law enforcement agencies about this matter, or from the alleged victim or his attorney, Zwilling said, adding that he hopes the victim or his attorney will contact the archdiocese, directly, or through the archdiocese’s Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program, an independently managed entity designed to assist victims of clerical sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of New York.

A source close to McCarrick told CNA that he had not received any official notification of the allegation and is therefore unable to respond. The source said the cardinal is committed to following the processes put in place by Church authorities regarding the allegations.

On June 20, the Archdiocese of New York, announced that it had concluded an investigation into a different allegation that McCarrick had sexually abused a teenager, finding the claim to be “credible and substantiated.”  

The Vatican was informed of that accusation, and as a result, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, by order of Pope Francis, prohibited McCarrick, 88, from public ministry.

Since that announcement, media reports have detailed additional allegations, charging that McCarrick sexually abused, assaulted, or coerced seminarians and young priests during his time as a bishop. The Diocese of Metuchen and Archdiocese of Newark disclosed that they had recevied reports that McCarrick engaged in sexual misconduct with adults, and reached legal and financial settlements in two cases.

McCarrick is reportedly now living at a Catholic nursing facility administered by religious sisters. The cardinal has not been publicly prohibited from contact with minors, a precautionary step often taken when a priest is being investigated for an allegation of abuse against a minor.

The Vatican has not announced if McCarrick will face canonical charges related to the initial allegation of sexual abuse. Sources tell CNA that the matter is being addressed at the Vatican under the direct supervision of Pope Francis.


Government to update court on parental reunions as Catholics cite dignity of families

Thu, 07/19/2018 - 14:00

Washington D.C., Jul 19, 2018 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- Government officials are due in federal court Thursday to deliver a list of parents held in ICE detention considered ineligible for reunification with their children. The update comes as Catholics and other organizations continue to call for policies that prioritize the family.

While government officials insist that in some cases there may be security concerns about parents, prominent Catholics have called for end to the separation of families.

Dr. Joseph Capizzi, a professor of moral theology at the Catholic University of America, told CNA that the “vast majority” of families in separation cases pose no threat to U.S. security. Instead, Capizzi said that Catholics should look to fix the reasons people are leaving their home countries for the United States. Otherwise, he said, there will be no end to the immigration issue.

Many of the parents are seeking asylum in the United States, citing violent or deprived conditions in their home countries.

Capizzi said the United States “needs always to couple our border policies with compassion for the dignity of families and of human beings.”

“As Bishop Flores [of Brownsville, Texas] said, we must join with other countries in Central America and address the ‘push’ factors that lead to the risky and numerous emigrations of so many people from those countries.”

“Until we look at this as a problem involving the unhealthy ‘human ecologies’ of these places, the U.S. will continue to face immigration issues.”

The government has until July 26 to reunite children currently in custody with their parents, but progress has been limited. Health and Human Services officials told a district court judge on Monday that they were unable to locate or identify the parents of 71 children in custody.

Appearing before Judge Dana Sabraw on Monday, Jonathan White, HHS assistant secretary for preparedness and response, admitted that of the 2,551 children in federal custody believed to be separated they had only confirmed matches with 2,480 parents, 1,609 of whom are also in custody.

Efforts to reunite families have been hindered by the government vetting process for undocumented immigrants and asylum seekers, which relies on DNA verification and criminal background checks, but questions have been raised about the standards being applied.

The American Civil Liberties Union, acting for the families, asked Judge Sabraw to clarify what kind of crimes make a parent ineligible for reunification, noting that some, like petty theft, have no bearing on the ability to care for their child but may factor in judging eligibility.

Of the 46 children under 5 still in government custody, 22 are considered ineligible for reunion with parents due to safety concerns.

Government officials insist that these cases involve serious criminal history by the parent, including suspected child abuse, or instances where the child was brought to the United States by someone other than a parent.

Also Monday, in answer to concerns that the government was expediting deportations of separated families once they are reunited, Judge Sabraw ordered a halt to deportations of adult family members for at least a week after reunification. The order came in response to an emergency motion filed by the ACLU.

Despite some concerns about the pace of reunification, efforts to meet the July 26 deadline continue. Judge Sabraw has said that he is “very encouraged” and “optimistic” about the “real progress” being made. "Reunification can happen quickly and safely,” he said, noting, in reposes to government concerns about proper vetting procedures, that speed and safety are “not mutually exclusive.”

“HHS is responsible for this and can do it well."

Last week, the Migration and Refugee Services (MRS) of the USCCB issued a joint statement with Catholic Charities USA detailing their efforts to assist with the reunification efforts.

"As we have long done, CCUSA and Migration and Refugee Services of USCCB are lending our experience and expertise to support Catholic Charities agencies in their efforts to reunite families and care for immigrant children during this sensitive time,” the organizations said.

MRS and CCUSA said they were “strongly opposed” to the policies that resulted in families being separated, and they will “remain committed to working to ensure their safe reunification.”

“Protection of families is a foundational element of Catholic Social Teaching and this moment calls on all people of good will to lend a hand to reunite these children with their parents."

Ed Condon contributed to this report.

US bishops conference approves project funding for Africa, Eastern Europe

Thu, 07/19/2018 - 02:28

Washington D.C., Jul 19, 2018 / 12:28 am (CNA).- Subcommittees at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have approved more than $6 million for pastoral projects in Africa and Central and Eastern Europe.

The grants partner with local bishops’ conferences and Church organizations in dozens of countries to respond to specific needs within the communities.

“The Catholics of the United States show that we stand in solidarity with our sisters and brothers in Africa and recognize their courageous commitment to peace, justice, reconciliation, and Christian hope throughout the continent,” said Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, who chairs the Subcommittee on the Church in Africa.

The subcommittee recently approved 54 grants providing $1.4 million for pastoral efforts in Africa, which include religious formation, seminarian and lay leader education, evangelization, and family ministry. Money for the grants comes from the Solidarity Fund for the Church in Africa.

Among the projects funded by the grants will be the establishment of child protection measures in the Diocese of Wa, Ghana. The new Child Protection Office in the diocese is organizing training sessions on the protection of children and vulnerable adults, safe environment creation, policy development and collaboration with government agencies.

Funding will also be given to the bishops’ conference in Rwanda, which is continuing its peace and reconciliation efforts after the 1994 genocide in the country by translating conflict prevention resources for use in local Catholic schools.

In Lesotho, a grant from the U.S. bishops’ conference will support Radio Maria in establishing three new transmitting stations, so that their educational faith programs can reach the entire national population.

In addition, the U.S. bishops’ Subcommittee on Aid to the Church in Central and Eastern Europe has approved $4.9 million in funding for 209 projects in 22 countries. Used to support the Church in nations that previously saw oppression under communism, the funding will go toward construction projects, formation of Church leaders, and education and evangelization efforts.

These include a seven-week formation program to help develop youth ministries in Romania, where only one-third of the parishes in the Archdiocese of Alba Iulia currently have youth programs, and the expansion of a homeless day center run by Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul in Rijeka, Croatia.

A rehabilitation center for children with cancer in Minsk, Belarus, will also receive a grant. The facility, run by Caritas, offers free housing and psychological support for poor families whose children are going through cancer treatment.

Youth summer camps for children internally displaced by war in East Ukraine will also receive funding. Caritas Donetsk will host two summer camps for 100 young people, who will be offered medical health care from professionals and spiritual care from priests.

“As the people of Central and Eastern Europe continue to build a new future after decades of repression, we are all inspired by the example of great hope they give to the world that it is possible to bring healing to the wounds of the past,” said Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Subcommittee on Aid to the Church in Central and Eastern Europe.

“We can take pride that our steadfast support makes a significant contribution to all their efforts in renewing their communities and passing on the faith of their ancestors to the next generation,” he said.

The grants are funded by the annual Collection for the Church in Central and Eastern Europe, which is generally collected in churches throughout the U.S. on Ash Wednesday each year.


Planned Parenthood sues Idaho over new abortion law

Wed, 07/18/2018 - 18:15

Boise, Idaho, Jul 18, 2018 / 04:15 pm (CNA).- Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit Tuesday opposing a new Idaho law that requires abortion providers to report abortion-related medical complications to state authorities.

The Abortion Complications Reporting Act went into effect July 1. It mandates that abortion providers to report complications that occur during or after an abortion procedure. Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands filed a lawsuit arguing that the law is unconstitutional and requires “invasive reporting that has nothing to do with protecting patient health care."

The act specifies 37 potential abortion complications that clinics must report to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. These include cervical perforation, hemorrhages, and endometritis, as well as any psychological or emotion conditions the patient discloses after the procedure, such as depression, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts.

Patient identity remains confidential in the reporting process, but the physician must be identified. Other information, such as the gestational age of the unborn baby, and the mother’s age, race, and number of previous abortions must also be included, according to the law. 

Planned Parenthood, who filed the suit in Idaho’s U.S. District Court on July 17, stated that the law “violates constitutional guarantees of due process and equal protection by arbitrarily singling out one particular medical procedure” and puts “patient and provider privacy at risk.”

“Previous laws targeting abortion rights have been struck down in Idaho and other states, with some courts saying there isn’t enough information about alleged complications of abortions to justify the laws,” reports the Associated Press.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion research and policy organization founded by Planned Parenthood, 27 states require abortion providers to report post-abortion complications.

The text of the legislation cites the Supreme Court decisions Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey and Akron v. Akron Ctr. for Reproductive Health, asserting the state’s “legitimate interest” in protecting women’s health from “the outset of pregnancy,” and its “legitimate concern with the health of women who undergo abortions.”

The stated aim of the law is to gather “essential” information to enable scientific studies and research on the safety of abortion.


Is this cross-shaped WWI memorial unconstitutional?

Wed, 07/18/2018 - 17:00

Washington D.C., Jul 18, 2018 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- A petition has been submitted to the United States Supreme Court as part of an appeal to prevent the destruction of the Peace Cross, a 93-year-old war memorial because it is in the shape of a cross.

The petition was filed by Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, following a ruling by the United States Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in October 2017 that declared the monument unconstitutional.

The cross, erected in 1925 by the mothers of fallen World War I servicemen, is located in Prince George’s County, Maryland, just outside of Washington, D.C. It bears a plaque listing the names of 49 residents of Prince George’s County who lost their lives serving in that war. The seal of the American Legion is prominently displayed at the center of the cross. The sides of the cross are inscribed with the words “valor,” “endurance,” “courage,” and “devotion.”

The monument was the subject of a 2014 lawsuit brought by the American Humanist League. The suit was originally rejected by the District Court, which held that it was “uncontroverted” that the maintenance and display of the memorial was not “driven by a religious purpose whatsoever.”

The American Humanist League appealed the case, and the Fourth Circuit found the memorial to violate the establishment clause of the Constitution, which guards the separation of church and state.

In a divided opinion, the circuit court judgment held that because the memorial was in the shape of a cross - “the preeminent symbol of Christianity” - it lacked any meaningful “connection” to national history and government and was inherently “sectarian.” The decision also held that even minimal expenditure by the Commission to maintain the monument “entangled” the state in religion and would lead “any reasonable observer” to conclude that the state was placing “Christianity above other faiths” or viewed “being American and Christian as one and the same.”

The petition to the Supreme Court argues that there has been no previous challenge to the shape of the memorial, which has been in continuous use by the American Legion as a site for patriotic events in honor of fallen soldiers. Moreover, the petition argues, it has never been used for a religious ceremony and the only known connection of the monument to a religious event was 87 years ago.

The monument has been under the management of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission since 1961, as part of its management of the roadway median where it is located.

Unless the Supreme Court agrees to hear the case, the cross must have its arms knocked off, be moved off public land, or destroyed completely.

Lawyers for the Park Commission argue that the cross was not erected to promote or convey a religious message, but to resemble the World War I cemeteries of Europe. They also point out that the “absolutist” approach taken by the circuit court decision would be immediately applicable to memorials across the country, including Arlington National Cemetery.

Fourth Circuit Chief Judge Roger Gregory wrote a dissenting opinion. He and other dissenting judges noted that the decision, if it stands, would invalidate virtually any public display in the shape of a cross, including military medals, regardless of how longstanding the usage or neutral their purpose.

Public monuments with religious symbols have been repeatedly challenged by secularists, and the Fourth Circuit decision represents a split with earlier court findings which have recognized the passive nature of such memorials and the lack of religious intent by the state in maintaining them. It is expected that this divergence of judicial findings could make the case ripe for Supreme Court consideration.