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Pittsburgh bishop announces Year of Repentance

Wed, 09/12/2018 - 13:01

Pittsburgh, Pa., Sep 12, 2018 / 11:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In the wake of recent sex abuse scandals, Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh has announced a Year of Repentance in the diocese.

He has asked all the clerics to fast and pray for the purification of the Church, and invited all Catholics to join the initiative.

“Faced with the sinful actions of the members of our own ranks of the clergy, who are called to manifest the example of Christ, we feel both shame and sorrow, and are reminded of our own sinfulness and the need for mercy,” Bishop Zubik wrote in a Sept. 10 letter to the clerics and seminarians of the diocese.

“I invite the faithful to join with the clergy as they desire in our acts of prayer and penance. The year is open to individuals to go beyond what I am requesting as we continue to pray that the Lord come to our aid.”

The Year of Repentance will include the observance of the Ember Days, which were traditionally days of fast and abstinence.

Bishop Zubik has asked that on each of the 12 Ember Days in the coming year, clerics of the Diocese of Pittsburgh fast, abstain from meat, and make a Holy Hour.

Ember Days are tied to the seasons of the year, and are held on the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday of four weeks: the third week of September, the third week of Advent, the first week of Lent, and the octave of Pentecost.

In the Pittsburgh diocese's Year of Repentance, the Ember Days fall Sept. 19, 21, and 22, 2018, Dec. 19, 21, 22, 2018, March 13, 15, 16, 2019, and June 12, 14, 15, 2019.

Bishop Zubik will inaugurate the Year of Repentance Sept. 23 with Vespers and a Holy Hour at the cathedral.

The year will close with a Mass for the Assumption Aug. 15, 2019 to serve “as a sign of hope and healing for victims and for renewal in the Church through the intercession of Mary.”

In his letter, Bishop Zubik also encouraged the clerics of Pittsburgh to consider restoring the recitation of the prayer to St. Michael after all Masses.

Annual Mass honors 'rich cultural diversity' of Los Angeles archdiocese

Wed, 09/12/2018 - 11:01

Los Angeles, Calif., Sep 12, 2018 / 09:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- With nearly five million Catholics, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles is not only the largest diocese in the United States, it is also one of the most diverse, with people from about 70 different countries and every continent, and Masses said in 42 languages.

To celebrate this diversity, the archdiocese for the past 14 years has held a Mass to honor the nearly 40 ethnicities that are represented among its people.

This year, the Mass will be held Sept. 15, the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles.

The theme for this year’s Mass is “Do Not Be Afraid of Holiness.” Catholics of all ethnicities are invited to join the Mass in traditional ethnic wear.

“In Pope Francis’ Exhortation ‘Gaudete et Exsultate’ (Rejoice and be Glad), he calls us to respond to holiness in own practical ways in today’s world. This is what inspired this year’s theme,” Maria Aguilar, member of the Ethnic Community Council of the archdiocese’s Office of Ethnic Ministry and organizer of the Mass, said in a statement.

“The Catholic Church recognizes cultural diversity as an important constitutive part of our society,” the Office of Ethnic Ministry states on its website.

“Faithful from throughout the Archdiocese gather each year to celebrate the rich cultural diversity of Los Angeles and to recognize the unique gifts each of our communities bring to our Local Church.”

This year’s Mass will feature the Native American Prayer of Four Directions, a procession of 22 ethnic communities carrying a saint or a religious image, and a traditional Samoan story told by Deacon Maselino Alefosio, a representative of the Samoan community.

Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, who himself was born in Mexico, said he looks forward to the cultural Mass every year because “it is like a family reunion - with all our brothers and sisters from every nationality and ethnicity coming together as God's family to worship and give thanks to our heavenly Father.”

“If you want to experience the power of the love of God, join us for this joyful celebration,” he said in a statement.

According to the archdiocese, some of the groups that will be represented at the Mass are Filipinos, Vietnamese, Lithuanian, Japanese, Indonesian, Chinese, Nicaraguan, Italian, Belizean, Persian, French, Igbo-Nigerian, Korean, Croatian, African-American, Portuguese, Polish, Salvadoran, Costa Rican, and Mexican.

Aguilar said Catholics of different ethnicities can draw inspiration from the Church’s diverse communion of saints and martyrs, as well as from “the Blessed Mother (who) through her many Sorrows is the foremost force of our courage to not fear holiness.”

How a priest and teams of homeless people are transforming Detroit

Wed, 09/12/2018 - 05:01

Detroit, Mich., Sep 12, 2018 / 03:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Many homeless people of Detroit already recognize Father Marko Djonovic’s white Ford Excursion.

When Djonovic rolls up with his friend Marcus Cobb, it’s probably because they’ve got a job to offer, in exchange for lunch and some pay.

“Word is getting out on the street about us,” Djonovic said of his new ministry, which he dubbed Better Way Detroit.

“So when they see the white Ford Excursion they come up to us, asking, are you going to pick us up for work?” he told CNA.

Djonovic and Cobb are the two-man crew behind Better Way Detroit, and since May they have been teaming up with the city of Detroit and willing homeless workers to clean up the city’s parks, overgrown alleys, and vacant lots.

They drive around three days a week, stopping at shelters and other homeless hangouts, offering several hours of work for pay. The van can hold up to six people besides Djonovic and Cobb, and they typically take workers on a first come, first serve basis.

While he never worked with the homeless in any official capacity prior to starting this ministry, Djonovic said he was inspired by the individual interactions he had had with people on the streets.

After helping a mentally ill man get off the streets and into housing, he said he realized that while the homeless agencies are a “well-polished machine, there are gaps in that sometimes they can’t go out on the streets and find people and meet these people.”

He said he also discovered that many of the homeless had a strong work ethic and a desire to work for pay.

“When I see the homeless I don’t see hopeless objects of pity, but I see persons...with a sincere desire to work. They want to work. And there’s a great need in the city of Detroit, so putting those two things together moved me to to do this project,” he said.

Djonovic is also part of the newly-formed Congregation of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri at Our Lady of the Rosary parish in Detroit.

The spirit of service found in St. Philip Neri was an inspiration behind Better Way Detroit, Djonovic said.

“We serve following his spirit,” Djonovic said of the members of the Oratory. That service manifests itself in three ways: evangelization to youth, the cultivation of the spiritual life among the people through the sacraments, and service to the poor.

“I believe it’s what St. Philip would have done, he wasn’t afraid to out on the streets and preach the Gospel, to engage people, which included the homeless. St. Philip Neri was known as the apostle of Rome just because of that,” he said.

In the beginning, Better Way Detroit partnered with the City of Detroit Parks and Recreation Department to clean up parks through their Adopt a Park program. They now also help the city clear out overgrown alleys and vacant lots that can pose safety problems to neighborhoods.

Cobb provides much need insight to the ministry for how to work with the homeless because he was once a homeless veteran himself, Djonovic said.

“I learn a lot from Marcus, he understands the homeless culture; he’s very wise,” Djonovic said. He said Cobb has taught him the importance of being attentive to even the smaller needs of the homeless, such as if they want cigarettes or water, and to let them know they are respected.

Cobb said it helps instill a sense of respect and responsibility to the homeless that they work with if they are given ownership of the projects in which they partake. Every job starts with an evaluation of the site and the work to be done, and the homeless workers decide how best to get the job done, he said.

“You give them ownership, ask them how it should be done. It gives them responsibility,” Cobb said. “We get their input, and before you know it everyone’s teaming up. It makes them feel important, it gets better results, and they put the word out because they know it’s well worth their time.”

Cobb said he believes the ministry has been well-received among the homeless because “it gives them something to look forward to, and a chance to give back, and to get back into society.”

“Just because they’re homeless...doesn’t mean they don’t want to give back or try to get back in to society,” Cobb said.

It also appeals to the homeless because it gives them a chance to provide for some of their own needs “without a handout,” he said.

The partnership with the city, which is significantly understaffed, has also worked well, Cobb and Djonovic said, because their team is often able to get to jobs that the city doesn’t have the staff to do.

For example, the city gets a lot of calls from senior citizens who have lived in their neighborhoods for decades and have safety concerns about overgrown lots that may serve as hideouts or hubs for drug deals, Djonovic said.

“One woman was just singing our praises” after they cleared up a vandalized, overgrown lot in her neighborhood, he said. “Once (lots) are exposed, they feel safer, especially for the sake of children.”

Djonovic said he feels privileged to get to work alongside the homeless, and as they work, “sometimes I get to know their story, and they get to know my story,” he said.

“It’s happened a few times where guys ask me, why did you become a priest?” he said.

Every project concludes with lunch and a reflection on a bible reading. They have also handed out prayer cards to the homeless and do their best to connect them to housing, healthcare services, or other resources they might need.

“We at least just make them aware of the services available and encourage them to go, some guys aren’t aware of (everything available),” Djonovic said.

Djonovic currently funds the ministry entirely out of his own pocket, and through any donations he receives for the project. All of the money goes strictly to needed materials such as gloves or shovels and to pay the homeless for their work.

Djonovic and Cobb added that they are always looking for ways to expand and strengthen their ministry, and they are hoping sometime in the future to employ someone in a full-time position who can oversee the operation to make it more sustainable.

“Things are looking good we’re really enjoying it,” said Djonovic, who added that he’s been touched by some of the responses he’s seen from the homeless.

“One guy said: ‘I feel blessed because to be a part of something positive.’ He didn’t say, 'oh, now I’ve got some money in my pocket',” Djonovic recalled.

“Another young man, 25 years old, he said it was a grace” to participate in the project, he said.

Cobb said he would encourage Catholics to encounter and get to know the poor in their cities.

“Go out and start from the bottom and communicate with the people...go into the areas where the people don’t have the income, and approach them and talk to them halfway nice, and they’ll respond.”

Don’t use taxpayer money to buy aborted baby parts, pro-life investigators say

Wed, 09/12/2018 - 02:00

San Francisco, Calif., Sep 12, 2018 / 12:00 am (CNA).- Federal research agencies’ purchase of fetal tissue and body parts from a company under investigation for illegally selling them has drawn criticism from the investigative journalism group that filmed undercover videos exposing the practice.
“Advanced Bioscience Resources is under federal investigation right now for colluding with Planned Parenthood to sell aborted baby body parts for profit,” David Daleiden, Center for Medical Progress lead, said Sept. 10. “It is unconscionable that the United States government is still paying top-dollar in taxpayer money for the freshest, most high-quality dismembered baby hearts, lungs, livers, and brains.”
“By custom-ordering late-term aborted baby body parts for sale from Planned Parenthood partners like (Advanced Bioscience Resources), the FDA is directly complicit in these abortions and implies that these kids are worth more to the U.S. government dead than alive,” Daleiden continued.
At issue is the potential that fetal tissue is being sold illegally. Federal law does not allow fetal tissue or body parts to be sold for profit.
On July 25 the Food and Drug Administration signed a $15,900 contract with Advanced Bioscience Resources Inc., a California based not-for-profit, to acquire human fetal tissue for medical research using mice. It is the eighth contract between the FDA and the company since 2012, and seven of the contracts appear to relate to the same or similar programs.
The Center for Medical Progress has released a report saying its primary sources show that the non-profit company Advanced Bioscience Resources “sold aborted fetal specimens at prices far higher than its legally reimbursable costs.” Emails obtained through a public records request include an email to a University of Utah customer that shows the non-profit company admitting to billing almost twice its reimbursable costs. This was an admission to “massively overbilling,” the Center for Medical Progress charged.
Customer invoices show billing techniques like using multiple specimen charges for each body part, even if they were harvested at one time and shipped together in one package. The company’s fee schedules also show unexplained increases, the report says.
The fetal tissue used in research is obtained from elective abortions, according to a report from the Congressional Research Service.
The fetal tissue the FDA intends to purchase would be injected into mice with compromised immune systems in order to create a “chimeric animal” with an immune system like that of a human being.
The non-profit provider of fetal tissue was mentioned in a series of videos secretly filmed by the Center for Medical Progress, released in 2015, which also accuse Planned Parenthood of profiting from the sale of fetal tissue obtained through abortions.
The Center for Medical Progress claimed Advanced Bioscience Resources is “one of the largest and oldest companies dedicated solely to harvesting and reselling body parts from abortion,” with technicians stationed at Planned Parenthood and other abortion clinics across the U.S. These technicians identify and dissect fetal body parts for shipment.
One Center for Medical Progress video shows a procurement technician for the company appearing to admit to seeing fully intact fetuses delivered at abortion clinics when the company intended to harvest tissue.
The company “contracted for decades with Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest, based in southern California, to harvest aborted fetal specimens at Planned Parenthood in San Diego and Riverside for $60 per specimen and then resell them to taxpayer-funded researchers for up to $6,000 per specimen,” the Center for Medical Progress report charged.
In July, the FDA defended its contract and the research, saying that the agency is “committed to ensuring that its research is conducted responsibly, conforms with all legal requirements, and meets the highest ethical standards.” It told this type of research is a “very small fraction” of the agency’s work. At the same time, the FDA defended the use of aborted human remains in research, saying the practice has led to “a better understanding of a number of conditions and diseases that affect millions of Americans.”
In the last two years, the National Institutes of Health have spent over $200 million on research projects using fetal tissue, the Center for Medical Progress report says, citing NIH’s own categorical spending report. NIH research conducted in government laboratories accounted for $20 million of this spending in 2017 alone.
Following two investigations, Congressional committees made criminal referrals for both the non-profit company and Planned Parenthood. There is an active Department of Justice investigation based on the criminal referrals.
“HHS must provide full transparency and immediately terminate any and all such contracts, and the U.S. Department of Justice needs to do their job and hold (Advanced Bioscience Resources), Planned Parenthood, and those like them accountable to the law,” Daleiden said.
The Center for Medical Progress said the company is similar to two companies successfully prosecuted for illegal sale of fetal tissue. DV Biologics and DaVinci Biosciences admitted guilt and ceased California operations in a $7.8 million settlement with a California district attorney.
The report also addresses experimental therapy products made with fetal specimens, products the report alleges to be “ineffective and dangerous.”


Wuerl to meet with Pope Francis to discuss resignation

Tue, 09/11/2018 - 19:19

Washington D.C., Sep 11, 2018 / 05:19 pm (ACI Prensa).- The Archbishop of Washington told priests Tuesday that he intends to meet with Pope Francis soon to discuss his resignation from office.

In a letter sent to priests of the Archdiocese of Washington Sept. 11, Cardinal Donald Wuerl wrote that a decision about his future role in the archdiocese is “an essential aspect so that this archdiocesan Church we all love can move forward.

“I intend, in the very near future, to go to Rome to meet with our Holy Father about the resignation I presented nearly three years ago, November 12, 2015.”

Wuerl presented his resignation to the pope in 2015 upon turning 75, the age at which diocesan bishops are requested to submit letters of resignation to the pope.

Calls for Pope Francis to accept Wuerl’s resignation have been frequent in recent months. In June, Wuerl’s predecessor in Washington, Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, was publicly accused of serially sexually abusing a teenage boy in the 1970s. As further accusations were made that McCarrick sexually coerced and assaulted seminarians for decades, questions were raised about whether Wuerl knew about McCarrick’s apparent sexual misconduct.

After the Aug. 14 release of a report from a grand jury in Pennsylvania, calls for Wuerl to be replaced intensified. That report suggested that Wuerl had been negligent in the supervision of priests accused of sexually abusing minors while he was Bishop of Pittsburgh, in one case permitting a priest accused of sexual abuse to transfer from ministry in one diocese to another, and signing off on the priest’s suitability for ministry.

An Aug. 25 letter from a former Vatican ambassador to the U.S., Archbishop Carlo Vigano, raised further questions about Wuerl’s knowledge of McCarrick’s misconduct, and a report that Wuerl permitted McCarrick to have seminarian assistants while under investigation for sexual abuse led to additional criticism.

Wuerl’s Sept. 11 letter noted that he had gathered with priests on Sept. 3, praying with them while trying to “discern the best course of action for me to pursue as we face new revelations of the extent of the horror of clergy abuse of children and the failures in episcopal oversight.”

“At issue is how to begin effectively to bring a new level of healing to survivors who have personally suffered so much and to the faithful entrusted to our care who have also been wounded by the shame of these terrible actions and have questions about their bishop’s ability to provide the necessary leadership,” Wuerl added.

A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Washington, Ed McFadden, told CNA that Wuerl’s letter is “evidence of a serious and constructive discernment process that Cardinal Wuerl went through, and his appreciation to the priests for their support and engagement in the discernment process, to help him work through it.”

“He understands the need for healing, and that he certainly wants to be a part of that and not bring damage or harm to the Church that he clearly loves,” McFadden said.

Wuerl plans to celebrate a Sept. 14 Mass for Healing in Washington. McFadden told CNA that Wuerl sent his letter before that Mass because the cardinal did not want his status to become a distraction to that event.

Wuerl, McFadden said, “wants the focus to be on the survivors and the start of the healing process” during that Mass.

The Archdiocese of Washington would not confirm when Wuerl will meet with Pope Francis.


Boston archdiocese says O’Malley will ‘personally review’ all abuse letters

Tue, 09/11/2018 - 18:00

Boston, Mass., Sep 11, 2018 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- The Archdiocese of Boston has announced changes to the way it will process and respond to letters addressed to Cardinal Séan O’Malley on matters related to sexual abuse.

A statement dated Sept. 9 and published on the archdiocesan website confirmed that, in the future, Cardinal O’Malley himself would handle all correspondence either related to his work as President of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors or on the subject of abuse generally.

“Recently, the Cardinal has revised the protocol for receipt of Commission related matters,” the statement said.

“He will now personally review all letters that come to his office related to the Commission or are abuse related, even if they address matters outside his authority. He has made a commitment to refer those requiring attention to the Nuncio to the United States and/or the Vatican.”

Previously, letters addressed to the cardinal were filtered through his personal secretary, Fr. Robert Kickham, who undertook to respond on O’Malley’s behalf if the letter fell outside of his competence either for the Commission or the Archdiocese of Boston.

The process came under heavy criticism in July of this year when it emerged that a priest, Fr. Boniface Ramsey, had sent a letter to Cardinal O’Malley in 2015 outlining various rumors and allegations he had heard concerning Archbishop Theodore McCarrick.

At the time, Fr. Ramsey received a response from Fr. Kickham thanking Ramsey for writing but explaining the matter was outside of Cardinal O’Malley’s areas of responsibility and that no further action would be taken.

When the exchange became public, Cardinal O’Malley confirmed in a statement that he had never personally seen Fr. Ramsey’s letter, and that it had been responded to “at the staff level.”

Sunday’s archdiocesan statement also included an expression of personal support for Fr. Kickham from Cardinal O’Malley, calling him “an essential and valued member of the cardinal’s senior staff.” It also explained that the cardinal often received mail from people who misunderstood his role at the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

“It is important to understand what the Commission’s role is in regard to the issue of sexual abuse,” the statement said. It went on to explain that the Commission was a purely advisory body, not empowered to either investigate specific allegations of abuse, or to prosecute abusers.

“There are other bodies in the Vatican, such as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith or the Congregation for Bishops, that review, investigate and adjudicate cases involving sexual abuse. The Commission is an advisory panel whose mission is clear and focused on three main areas and [to] share them now with all Episcopal Conferences and the laity: Healing and Care, Guidelines and Education.”

Cardinal O’Malley is widely regarded as one of the most credible voices in the Church hierarchy on the issue of sexual abuse. He is credited with restoring local trust following major abuse scandals both in Boston and in the Diocese of Palm Beach, which he previously led.

The policy change comes amid the continuing fallout of several sexual abuse scandals in the Church in the United States, including the resignation of former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and the release of the Pennsylvania grand jury report into clerical sexual abuse in several dioceses in that state.

On Aug. 10 Cardinal O’Malley announced an independent investigation into the “moral standards” at St. John’s Seminary in the Archdiocese of Boston, suspending the rector in the process. That announcement followed allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct made by former seminarians.

Later this week, Cardinal O’Malley is expected to travel to Rome with Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, to meet with Pope Francis on the sexual abuse crisis in the Church in the United States.

Missouri to enforce abortion regulations in wake of appeals court ruling

Tue, 09/11/2018 - 15:09

Jefferson City, Mo., Sep 11, 2018 / 01:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Missouri's health department announced Monday that it will immediately being enforcing state laws regulating abortion clinics and doctors, after a US appeals court ruled that the state may do so.

The 8th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Sept. 10 in Comprehensive Health v. Hawley to overturn a 2017 decision which blocked enforcement of state laws that required abortion clinics to have the same standards as similar outpatient surgical centers, and mandated that doctors who perform abortions have hospital privileges.

“In its opinion, the court noted that the good faith of state officers and the validity of their actions are presumed,” Randal Williams, director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, stated.

“As the Director of DHSS, a board-certified obstetrician/gynecologist for thirty years, and a defendant in the case, my commitment and that of the department is to act in good faith to follow the law and protect the health and safety of all women in Missouri, including those seeking abortions.”

The health department stated: “now that the injunction has been vacated, DHSS will immediately begin enforcing the hospital privileges and physical plant requirements for abortion facilities.”

The appellate court ruling comes in a case filed by Planned Parenthood affiliates in 2016 after the US Supreme Court struck down similar abortion restrictions in Texas.

In April 2017 a federal judge issued an injunction against the Missouri law, citing the Supreme Court's Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt decision.

The appeals court vacated that preliminary injunction, saying that Hellerstedt “did not find, as a matter of law, that abortion was inherently safe or that provisions similar to the laws it considered would never be constitutional,” and that the undue burden standard requires a weighing of regulations' benefits and burdens.

In its 2017 decision the district court “explicity refused to 'weigh [] the asserted benefits'”, Judge Bobby Shepherd wrote for the appellate court, and thus “in light of Hellerstedt the district court erred in so ruling.”

The appeals court judges remanded the case to the district court, saying it “should, at the very least, weigh the state's 'asserted benefits.'”

It added that the Hellerstedt decision did not find that provisions similar to those in Texas would never be constitutional, precisely because its analysis of the purported benefits of the law at issue related to abortion in Texas, and that “no such determination about abortion in Missouri was made.”

“Perhaps there was a unique problem Missouri was responding to,” the appeals court wrote. “Such a problem may required a different response than what was needed in Texas, and the Hospital Relationship Requirement may be appropriate given '[Missouri's] legitimate interest in seeing to it that abortion, like any other medical procedure, is performed under circumstances that insure maximum safety for the patient,'” quoting Hellerstedt, which was in turn quoting Roe v. Wade.

“Invoking the Constitution to enjoin the laws of a state requires more than ‘slight implication and vague conjecture,’” the appeals court wrote. “At a minimum, it requires adequate information and correct application of the relevant standard. Because we conclude that the preliminary injuction in this case was entered based on less than adequate information and an insufficient regard for the relevant standard, we vacate the preliminary injunction and remand.”

Planned Parenthood currently provided abortion services at only two locations in Missouri, in St. Louis and Columbia.

In 2017, Missouri passed further regulations which granted the attorney general more power to prosecute violations, and required stricter health codes and proper fetal tissue disposal.

The brutal, powerful 9/11 stories of Catholic priests

Tue, 09/11/2018 - 05:20

New York City, N.Y., Sep 11, 2018 / 03:20 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On the clear, sunny morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Fr. Kevin Madigan heard an explosion overhead.

He grabbed oils for anointing, ran out the door of St. Peter's parish in New York City, and wandered towards the center of the commotion – the World Trade Center only a block away.

Fifty blocks uptown, Fr. Christopher Keenan, OFM watched with the world as the smoke rising from the twin towers darkened the television screen. Looking to help, he went to St. Vincent's Hospital downtown to tend to those wounded in the attack – but the victims never came.

All the while, he wondered what had happened to a brother friar assigned as chaplain to the firefighters of New York City: Fr. Mychal Judge, OFM, named by some the “Saint of 9/11.”

Seventeen years ago on this day, hijackers flew planes into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, and the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. In a field in southern Pennsylvania, passengers retook control of the cockpit and crashed the plane before it could reach its intended target, presumed to be in Washington, D.C.  

The consequences of the attacks have rippled throughout the United States as the attacks spurred a new global war on terror and irreversibly changed the country’s outlook on terror, security, and international engagement.

For Fr. Madigan, Fr. Keenan and Fr. Judge, the day changed their own lives and ministries, as a pastor lost nearly his entire congregation, and a friar put himself in harm's way to take on a new position – an assignment he only received because another friar gave the ultimate sacrifice as the Twin Towers came down.

“This experience has seared our soul and our spirit and our life, and it has so seared our spirit and our life that it has penetrated our DNA,” Fr. Keenan told CNA.  

“It has changed our lives and we will never be the same,” he said.

It was like losing a village

On Sept. 11, 2001, Fr. Kevin Madigan had been assigned to St. Peter’s Church in the financial district of Lower Manhattan. The parish is the oldest Catholic church in New York State, “half a block literally from the corner of the World Trade Center,” Fr. Madigan explained to CNA.

“Prior to 9/11 it was a parish that basically serviced the people who came to the neighborhood who came to Mass or Confession, devotions and things like that.” The parish had a full and well-attended schedule of liturgies and prayers, with multiple Masses said during the morning and lunch hour. September 11th changed that.

“Immediately after 9/11, that community was no longer there, because it was like losing a village of 40,000 people next door.”  

Fr. Madigan was leaving the sanctuary that morning, heading back to the rectory when overhead he heard the first plane hit the towers. Immediately he made his way towards the commotion, looking to minister to anyone who had been hurt by what had happened.  

“I took the oils for anointing anyone who was dying – I didn’t know what was going on there,” he said. However, most of those fleeing the building did not need anointing, Fr. Madigan recalled. “Most people either got out alive or were dead. There weren’t that many people who were in that in-between area.”

Then, there was another explosion from the other tower, and an object – the wheel of an airplane, in fact – went whizzing by Fr. Madigan’s head.

“After the second plane hit I went back to the office and made sure all the staff got out of there fast,” evacuating staff who were unaware of the chaos outside.

Fr. Madigan was back on the street when firefighters began to wonder if the towers might fall.

Thinking it ridiculous, Fr. Madigan kept an eye on a nearby subway entrance, which linked to an underground passage north of the towers. Then, a massive cloud of dust swept towards Fr. Madigan and another priest as the towers did collapse; they ducked into the subway station, emerging amidst the thick smoke and dust several blocks away.

After the towers came down, Fr. Madigan made his way first to the hospital for an emergency health screening, then back to check on St. Peter’s. While he was away from his parish, firefighters and other first responders made use of the sanctuary, temporarily laying to rest over 30 bodies recovered from the wreckage.

The death of Father Mychal

In September of 2001, Fr. Christopher Keenan had been assigned to work with a community ministry program near the parish of St. Francis in midtown Manhattan. At St. Francis, he lived in community along with several other Franciscan Friars, including an old friend he had known for years – Fr. Mychal Judge, chaplain for the Fire Department of New York City. Through Fr. Judge, the Friars became especially close with some of their neighbors at a firehouse across the street, who let the friars park their car at the firehouse.

Although the plane flew overhead, Fr. Keenan told CNA that “like everyone else, we found out while watching TV.” As the friars and brothers watched the events unfold on the television, they saw the second plane hit the South Tower; Fr. Keenan decided to go to St. Vincent’s Hospital – one of the closest medical facilities to the Word Trade Center. At the time, he thought there would be injured people who would need to be anointed or would like someone to hear their confession.

However, once he got to St. Vincent’s he found a long line of doctors, nurses and other responders who had come to help: together they “were all waiting for these people to get out who never came.” Victims were either largely able to walk away on their own, or they never made it to the hospital at all.

Instead, Fr. Keenan told CNA, “my responsibility was after people were treated to contact their family members to come and get them.”

As patients began to go home, Fr. Keenan continued to wonder about his brother friar, Fr. Judge, asking firefighters if they knew what had happened to the chaplain. Fr. Keenan left the hospital in the early evening to go hear confessions, but stopped at the firehouse across the street to ask the firemen if they knew where Fr. Judge was: “they told me his body was in the back of the firehouse.”

The mere fact that his body was intact and present at the firehouse that day was in itself a small miracle, Fr. Keenan said. “Mychal's body that was brought out was one of the only bodies that was intact, recognizable and viewable,” he said. Among those that died in the Twin Towers, he continued, “everyone was vaporized, pulverized and cremated” by the heat of the fire in the towers and the violence of the towers’ collapse. “He was one of the only ones able to be brought out and to be brought home.”

That morning, Fr. Judge had gone along with Battalion 1 to answer a call in a neighborhood close to the Trade Center. Also with the battalion were two French filmmakers filming a documentary on the fire unit. When the towers were hit, the Battalion was one of the first to arrive on the scene. In the film released by the brothers, Fr. Keenan said, “you can see his face and you can tell he knows what’s happening and his lips are moving and you can tell he’s praying his rosary.”

The group entered the lobby of the North Tower and stood in the Mezzanine as the South Tower collapsed – spraying glass, debris and dust throughout the building.

“All the debris roared through the glass mezzanine like a roaring train and his body happened to be blown into the escalators,” Fr. Keenan relayed the experience eyewitnesses told him. In the impact, Fr. Judge hit his head on a piece of debris, killing him almost instantly.  

“All of a sudden they feel something at their feet and it was Mychal, but he was gone.“

Members of the fire department, police department and other first responders carried Fr. Judge’s body out of the wreckage, putting his body down first to run as the second tower collapsed, then again to temporarily rest it at St. Peter’s Church. Members of the fire department brought it back to the firehouse where Fr. Keenan saw his friend and prayed over his body.

Fr. Mychal Judge was later listed as Victim 0001 – the first death certificate processed on 9/11.

Despite the sudden and unexpected nature of the attacks, Fr. Keenan told CNA that in the weeks before his friend’s death, Fr. Judge had a sense his death was near.

“He just had a sense that the Lord Jesus was coming.” On several occasions, Fr. Keenan said, Fr. Judge had told him, “You know, Chrissy, the Lord will be coming for me,” and made other references to his death.

“He had a sense that the Lord was coming for him.”

The grueling aftermath

“There was no playbook for how you deal with something in the wake of something like that,” Fr. Madigan said of the aftermath of 9/11. Personally, Fr. Madigan told CNA, he was well-prepared spiritually and mentally for the senseless nature of the attacks.   

“I understand that innocent people get killed tragically all the time,” he said, noting that while the scale was larger and hit so close to home, “life goes on.” For many others that he ministered to, however, “it did shake their foundations, their trust and belief in God.”  

While the attacks changed the focus of his ministry as a parish priest at the time, they also posed logistical challenges for ministry and aid: St. Peter’s usual congregation of people who worked in and around the World Trade Center vanished nearly overnight. Instead, the whole area was cordoned off for rescue workers and recovery activities as the city began the long task of sorting and removing the debris and rubble.

In addition, a small chapel named St. Joseph's Chapel, which was cared for and administered by St. Peter’s, was used by FEMA workers as a base for recovery activities during the weeks after the attack. During that time, the sanctuary was damaged and several structures of the chapel, including the pulpit, chairs and interior, were rendered unusable. According to Fr. Madigan, FEMA denies that it ever used the space.

Still, the priests at St. Peter's saw it as their duty to minister to those that were there – whoever they were.

“The parish, the church building itself was open that whole time,” he said, saying that anyone who had clearance to be within the Ground Zero area was welcome at the church. In the weeks after the attacks, the parish acted as sanctuary, as recovery workers who were discovering body parts and other personal effects “would come in there just to sort of try to get away from that space.”

“Myself and one of the other priests would be out there each day just to be able to talk to anyone who wants to talk about what’s going on,” he added. “We'd celebrate Mass in a building nearby.”

Today, Fr. Madigan has been reassigned to another parish in uptown Manhattan, and St. Peter’s now has found a new congregation as new residents have moved into the neighborhoods surrounding the former World Trade Center site.

Only two months after the attack, Fr. Keenan took on the role of his old friend, Fr. Judge: he was installed as chaplain for the 14,000 first responders of the the FDNY.

Immediately, Fr. Keenan joined the firefighters in their task of looking for the remains – even the most minute fragments – of the more than 2,600 people killed at the World Trade Center. “The rest of the recovery process then was for nine months trying to find the remains.”  

For the firefighters in particular, there was a drive to find the remains of the 343 firefighters killed at the World Trade Center and help bring closure to the family members. “You always bring your brother home, you never leave them on the battlefield,” Fr. Keenan said.

The resulting amount of work, as well as the “intense” tradition among firefighters to attend all funerals for members killed in the line of duty meant that the job became all-consuming, with all one’s spare time spent at the World Trade Center site. Sometimes, Fr. Keenan said, he would attend as many as four, five, or six funerals or memorials a day – and many families held a second funeral if body parts were recovered from the site.

“Here are the guys, overtime, going to all the funerals, working spare time on the site looking for recovery, and taking care of the families,” he said. “I was 24/7, 365 for 26 months.”

In addition, Fr. Keenan and the rest of the FDNY worked inside “this incredible toxic brew” of smoke, chemicals and fires that burned among the ruins at Ground Zero for months.  

“I would be celebrating Mass at 10:00 on a Sunday morning down there,” he recalled, “and just 30 feet from where I’m celebrating Mass at the cross, the cranes are lifting up the steel.”

While both buildings had contained more than 200 floors of offices, there was “not a trace of a computer, telephones, files, nothing. Everything was totally decimated.” Instead, all that was left was steel, dirt and the chemicals feeding the fires that smouldered underground in the footprint of the towers.

“The cranes are lifting up the steel and the air is feeding the fires underneath, and out of that is coming these incredible colors of yellow, black and green smoke, and we all worked in the recovery process.” The experience working the recovery at the World Trade Center site is one that Fr. Keenan considers a “gift” and an “honor.”

“It was an incredible experience really,” he said.

Fr. Keenan recounted a conversation the firefighters had with him a few days after he was commissioned. After pledging to “offer my life to protect the people and property of New York City,” the other firefighters told their new chaplain “we know you’re ours, don’t you forget that every one of us is yours,” promising to stand by their new shepherd. “I’m the most loved and cared for person in the world and who has it better than me?”

While the formal recovery process has ended and a new tower, One World Trade Center, stands just yards from the original site of Ground Zero, the experience – and the chemicals rescue workers came in contact with for months – still affect the firefighters.

In 2016 alone, “we put 17 new names on the wall,” said Fr. Keenan, “who died this past year from of the effects of 9/11.” He explained that in the years following the attack, thousands of rescuers and first responders – including Fr. Keenan himself – have developed different cancers and illnesses linked to their exposure at the World Trade Center site. In fact, at the time of the interview in 2016, Fr. Keenan had just returned from a screening for the more than 20 toxic chemicals the responders were exposed to. He warned that the “different cancers and the lung problems that are emerging are just the tip of the iceberg,” and worried that as time progressed, other cancers and illnesses linked to the attack recovery would emerge.

The first responders are also dealing with the psychological fallout of the attacks among themselves, Fr. Keenan said, though many are dealing with it in their own way, and with one another.

Looking back, Fr. Keenan told CNA he still finds it difficult to express the experience to others or to make sense of what it was like when he would go down into “the pit” to work alongside the firefighters and other first responders. “The only image I had as time went on and I asked ‘how do I make sense of this as a man of faith?’ is that it was like I was descending into hell and I was seeing the face of God on the people that were there.”

The same image had come to his mind to make sense of taking care of patients with AIDS in the 1990s, he said, even though nothing can fully make sense of events like these.

“I was like a midwife to people in their birthing process from life to death to new life,” he recalled. “All I can do is be present there, they have to do the work, I can be present there, I can pray with them.”

“That’s how in faith I kind of sort of comprehended it.”


This article was originally published on CNA Sept. 11, 2016.

Kavanaugh's birth control comments spur controversy- What did he say?

Mon, 09/10/2018 - 19:00

Washington D.C., Sep 10, 2018 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- Opponents of Judge Brett Kavanaugh have suggested that a reference to birth control pills as “abortion-inducing drugs” during Senate confirmation hearings last week represented the judge's own view on contraceptives.

During last week’s hearings, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) asked Kavanaugh about a 2012 lawsuit filed by the pro-life organization Priests for Life against the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) over the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate. Kavanaugh wrote a dissenting opinion in response to a lower court’s refusal to re-hear the case.

The mandate obliged insurers to include chemical contraception in a list of medications that would be covered without a copay. Cruz asked Kavanaugh to explain the case, and his opinion on the matter.

“Under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the question was, first, was this a substantial burden on the religious exercise? It seemed, to me, quite clearly, it was,” said Kavanaugh.

“It was a technical matter of filling out a form, in that case. But they said filling out the form would make them complicit in the provision of the abortion-inducing drugs that they were, as a religious matter, objected to."

In 2015, the Supreme Court agreed to review the Priests for Life suit along with six others, in the consolidated case Zubik v. Burwell, eventually remanding the individual cases back to the lower courts. In 2016 the government settled with Priests for Life, agreeing not to enforce the mandate and its associated fines, and to pay Priests for Life’s legal fees.

Kavanaugh's remarks referred to the organization's description of the contraceptives; he did not characterize them as his own views. However, many opposed to Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court have said the exchange illustrates pro-life bias by the nominee.

The Women’s March called the statement an “emergency, all-hands-on-deck moment for women” and said that “now we know he thinks birth control is abortion.” A statement issued via email did not clarify that Kavanaugh had been offering a summary of the case, not a personal view.

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), who is considered to be a potential Democratic presidential candidate in 2020, said via Twitter that while Kavanaugh “chooses his words very carefully,” his response to Cruz was a “dog whistle for going after birth control.”

Harris also said that Kavanaugh “was nominated for the purpose of taking away a woman’s constitutionally protected right to make her own health care decisions,” and that his nomination was “about punishing women.”

The tweet included a video of Kavanaugh saying: “Filling out the form would make them complicit in the provision of the abortion-inducing drugs that they were, as a religious matter, objected to.” The video left out the part of the exchange where the judge clarified that it was the group that believed this, not himself. The fact-checking website PolitiFact rated Harris’ characterization as “false.”

Kavanaugh, a practicing Catholic, has not publicly stated his thoughts about birth control or the Church’s teaching on the topic.  He has rather affirmed his commitment to judicial precedent and the need for judges to apply the law to each case with dispassion.

As US closes Palestinian office, Catholics urge that Palestinian voices be heard in peace process

Mon, 09/10/2018 - 18:38

Washington D.C., Sep 10, 2018 / 04:38 pm (ACI Prensa).- The U.S. State Department announced Monday it will close the Palestinian Liberation Organization office in Washington because it says Palestine has failed to take “steps to advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel.”

The Palestinian Liberation Organization, or PLO, is recognized by the United Nations as “the representative of the Palestinian people” and has diplomatic relationship with over 100 states, including the Holy See.

“I am reminded of the teachings of the great popes of our time who have pleaded that the voice of the Palestinian people be heard,” Father David Neuhaus, a Jerusalem-based priest, told CNA.

In 1948, Pope Pius XII wrote in an encyclical on Palestine, “Even before the armed conflict began … We manifested our lifelong solicitude for peace in Palestine, and, condemning any recourse to violence, We declared that peace could only be realized in truth and justice.”

The Holy See has been in dialogue with both Palestine and Israel for decades. Pope John Paul II met with then-PLO chairman Yasser Arafat in 1987.

The Vatican signed an agreement with the State of Palestine in 2015, which recognized the importance of religious freedom in Palestine and backed a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A new Palestinian embassy to the Holy See opened in Rome in 2017.

“Without hearing that voice, the dream of justice and peace for Israel, for Palestine and for the Middle East will remain impossible. Closing the Embassy is an attempt to silence that voice,” Neuhaus continued.

Father Neuhaus sees the PLO office in Washington closing as consistent with other steps the Trump administration has taken with relation to Palestine, including the discontinuation of funding for East Jerusalem hospitals and for the UNRWA, the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees.

Reuters reported Sept. 8 that President Donald Trump redirected $25 million in aid designated for Palestinians in East Jerusalem hospitals to other “high-priority projects.”  Dan Shapiro, a former U.S. Ambassador to Israel, said that cutting off aid to Palestinian hospitals is “indefensibly cruel.”

Earlier this year, Catholic Relief Services and Jesuit Refugee Services signed onto a letter asking the White House to reconsider withholding funds from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). The Trump administration permanently cut its funding on Aug. 31.

The State Department defended its decision to close the PLO mission in a statement on Sept. 10, “PLO leadership has condemned a U.S. peace plan they have not yet seen and refused to engage with the U.S. government with respect to peace efforts and otherwise.”

The Trump administration’s decision is closely linked to Palestinian attempts to prompt an investigation of Israel by the International Criminal Court (ICC) earlier this year.

The International Criminal Court, based in the Hague, Netherlands, has jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for war crimes, genocide, and other crimes against humanity.

National Security Advisor John Bolton announced the PLO office closure as a part of a Sept. 10 speech that also criticized the ICC. The speech came at a Federalist Society event entitled, “Protecting American Constitutionalism and Sovereignty from International Threats.”

“Since its 2002 inception, the Court has spent over $1.5 billion dollars, while attaining only eight convictions. This dismal record is hardly a deterrent to dictators and despots determined to commit horrific atrocities,” Bolton said on Monday.

Bolton called the ICC an “unprecedented effort to vest power in a supranational body without the consent of either nation states or the individuals over which it purports to exert jurisdiction.”

“As Americans we understand that consent of the governed is a necessary prerequisite to true legitimacy and we reject such a flagrant violation of our national sovereignty,” he continued.
In 2002, Bolton, then the Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, orchestrated several bilateral agreements aimed at exempting the U.S. from the multilateral treaty that had created the International Criminal Court.

Pope Francis met in Sept. 2017 with the former president of the the International Criminal Court, Judge Silvia Fernández de Gurmendi, who encouraged the Holy See to consider becoming a party to the ICC treaty, the Rome Statute.

The judge and the pope also discussed the court’s investigations and cases for crimes such as the recruitment of child soldiers, sexual violence in conflict, attacks on civilians, and the destruction of religious property.

In Christmas Day, 2017, Pope Francis encouraged prayer for all people in the Middle East.

 “We see Jesus in the children of the Middle East who continue to suffer because of growing tensions between Israelis and Palestinians,” the pope said.

Bishop Rhoades denies misconduct allegation from time in Harrisburg

Mon, 09/10/2018 - 18:28

Harrisburg, Pa., Sep 10, 2018 / 04:28 pm (CNA).- An allegation of misconduct has been filed against Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend and is being investigated by the district attorney’s office. The nature of the alleged misconduct is not clear.

“Bishop Rhoades adamantly denies any validity to this accusation and the insinuation of inappropriate behavior. He did nothing wrong, and is confident any investigation will bear this out,” the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend said.

According to PennLive, the Harrisburg diocese – where Rhoades served as bishop from 2004-2009 – reported the allegation to the office of District Attorney Fran Chardo and to the child protective services program, PA ChildLine.

The district attorney said the accuser, who died in 1996, was a male and about 18 years old when the alleged incident occurred. He said there is no first-hand account of the incident, but that the report received by his office “alleged that they perceived the relationship as odd” but “did not witness any inappropriate conduct.”

According to PennLive, the district attorney’s office is investigating the allegation against Rhoades, who has not been charged.

“We would stress that this is an allegation,” Mike Barley, a Harrisburg diocesan spokesman, told PennLive. “We will have no further comment until the investigation of the Office of the District Attorney is concluded.”

The alleged incident involving Rhoades took place before he became a bishop. His previous work in Harrisburg included serving as assistant chancellor, pastor of Saint Francis of Assisi Parish, and a faculty member and later rector at Mount Saint Mary's Seminary.

The diocese of Harrisburg was one of the six dioceses covered in the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report that was released last month. The report found more than 1,000 allegations of abuse at the hands of some 300 clergy members in six dioceses in the state. It also found a pattern of cover up by senior Church officials.

Bishop Rhoades said last month that he would release the names of priests in his Ft. Wayne-South Bend diocese who have been accused of child sexual abuse.

“As leaders, we have an obligation to protect the vulnerable who cannot protect themselves. As a bishop, I have worked to expose and punish those responsible for abuse,” Rhoades said.

“If the Pennsylvania grand jury report taught us anything, it's that victims deserve to see the names of their abusers made public for all to see. For everyone to know the pain caused by these priests.”

Baltimore Orioles, CRS send meals to drought-stricken Burkina Faso

Mon, 09/10/2018 - 16:28

Baltimore, Md., Sep 10, 2018 / 02:28 pm (CNA).- The Baltimore Orioles teamed up with Catholic Relief Services last weekend to help feed the hungry in Burkina Faso.

Members of the Baltimore baseball team were among hundreds of volunteers at Catholic Relief Services’ Helping Hands program on Sunday. Participants gathered in a warehouse at Oriole Park and Camden Yards to assemble food packages for drought-stricken Burkina Faso, a West African nation where some 20 percent of the population does not have enough to eat.

“They’ve come out here in the pouring rain to spend their Sunday morning to pack 75,000 meals which will go out to people,” Catholic Relief Services’ president and CEO Sean Callahan told CBS 13.

He added that the initiative “will also provide some monetary assistance so that farmers can plant some onions, can plant a crop that allows their kids to go to school.”

CRS Helping Hands is a volunteer opportunity that allows participants to package meals for those affected by droughts and flooding in Africa, as well as to fund longer-term projects that help generate income for people living in vulnerable areas.

The goal of Sunday’s event was to pack 75,000 meals. Organizers said each meal costs 50 cents to provide, according to CBS 13.


75,000 meals were packaged at today’s @CRSHelpingHands event at Oriole Park! Thanks to everyone who volunteered. @CatholicRelief #Birdland

— Baltimore Orioles (@Orioles) September 10, 2018



How to talk to children about the Church sex abuse scandal

Sun, 09/09/2018 - 15:00

Washington D.C., Sep 9, 2018 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- When speaking to their children about sexual abuse scandals in the Church, parents should listen to their children’s concerns and be careful to not to make assumptions, experts told CNA.

When discussing the issue of abuse, "the first step is to be sensitive [to] the age and stage the child's in,” Dr. Gregory Popcak, founder and executive director of the Pastoral Solutions Institute, told CNA.

“Certainly, a kindergarten age child would not need to know as much as an adolescent would, or even a middle schooler."

When broaching the issue, Popcak said that parents should ask their children about what they understood about what they had heard, or what they think had happened.

Parents should determine what their children actually know before they ask them what they think about the situation, explained Popcak. He suggested parents ask questions to help frame the discussion, giving examples like “When you heard that, what does that mean to you?” and “What did you make of that?” to try to discern where to begin discussing sexual abuse.

Younger children especially may not know how to put their feelings into words. Popcak suggested that parents should provide multiple choices of answers, such as “scared,” “sad,” or “confused.” It is paramount in this type of conversation to identify a child’s knowledge, understanding, and reaction to a situation, he said, so a parent can address the child’s main concern.

Parents, he explained, tend to “get really anxious and sometimes try to over-solve for the child,” and that this is why it is important to determine what exactly a child needs from his or her parents.

Instead of attempting to over-explain or resolve a problem, Popcak said the most important thing a parent could do is to reassure their child that while they may be afraid or confused, their parents will be there to look out for them and to protect them. Small children should also be reminded that they can and should go to their parents to talk about things that upset them or make them uncomfortable.

Roy Petitfils, a licensed professional counselor who has worked with teenagers for the past 25 years, agreed with many of Popcak’s points. He told CNA that he would advise parents to carefully consider their children’s age before beginning to discuss the abuse crisis, saying that younger children simply don’t need or want to know more than is necessary, or they may be oblivious to everything.

“Not everything that can be said should be said. Just because it’s happened or is happening doesn’t mean they need to know all about it,” Petitfils said to CNA.

“As parents our role is to allow our kids access to age-appropriate information.”

Petitfils also said that parents should not attend therapy sessions with their children, as adults handle feelings and emotions differently than children. Adults “should not process [their] feelings with young people, because it will only add to their anxiety and confusion,” he explained.

Parents should instead strive to validate the thoughts and feelings of their children, Petitfils said. They could say things like, “It makes perfect sense to me that you’re angry, scared and confused about all of this,” and explain that these feelings are normal.

Coming to terms with the trauma of sexual abuse in the Church affects Catholics of all ages. But while parents may themselves be upset by reading graphic accounts of some cases, it is very important that they keep their emotions in check when talking about it with their children, Petitfils said. Otherwise, this may make the situation worse.

“Telling your child you’re angry in a calm, but serious tone is helpful. Screaming, stomping and slamming things while you’re angry will only frighten and confuse your child even more.”

In Oregon, fewer refugees means changes for Catholic Charities

Sat, 09/08/2018 - 18:20

Portland, Ore., Sep 8, 2018 / 04:20 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- For some 70 years, Catholic Charities in Oregon has helped refugees settle into their new life – assisting with everything from housing to English classes.

But with recent changes to vetting processes and travel bans, the state’s Catholic Charities will likely receive no more than 160 refugees for entirety of this fiscal year, ending in September. That’s nearly a 75 percent decrease from the estimated 600 refugees they helped settle in 2016.

The transition has been difficult, and more than half of the Oregon Catholic Charities’ refugee service staff had to be let go, said Matthew Westerbeck, program manager for Catholic Charities Refugee Services.

But the agency is adapting, and is now working to provide longer term support for new arrivals and refugees already here.

“We are focusing on employment, business development, mental health and counseling, and more intensive case management as well,” Westerbeck told CNA.

Just a year and a half ago, he said, no resettlement agency in Portland offered employment services. Agencies only provided eight months of aid from federal grants.

But now, Catholic Charities in Oregon is helping refugees find work, as part of its shift in focus to offer more in-depth and longer-term services.

“I think we are seeing significant changes in the families we offer employment services to and helping them with secure employment,” Westerbeck noted.

“We are able to have that relationship last a lot longer than eight months, [which] was the maximum before, for our agency’s ability to have contact and serve these people,” he said. “I think it’s tremendously important that we are there for them much longer than eight months.”

In some cases, refugees can be certified and matched with jobs similar to those they held in their home countries. Other times, they can receive job training in new fields.

One of the partners that works with Catholic Charities is Zomi Catholic Community, an organization for Burmese refugees that has created a program to help people obtain their Commercial Driver’s License.

In addition, Catholic Charities’ Family Support and Counseling Center is now able to receive Medicaid, providing refugees with better access to mental health services. Westerbeck said many clients suffer from PTSD due to traumatic experiences in their home country and emotional strain from the process of adjusting to a new country.

“A lot of refugees will say that the most traumatizing period of their life is the resettlement process, and if we can mitigate that in any way by helping them find a job that they can stay in, that helps them pay their bills so they are not in a housing crisis, then they can focus on other parts of their life that they are trying to rebuild.”

Westerbeck said Catholic Charities and its partners are developing services that will be available for up five years after refugees arrive in the region. Clients will likely not be enrolled in services during the entire five years, but they will have the availability to access them during that time.  

During the 2016 fiscal year, the United States received nearly 85,000 refugees. This year, that number is expected to be about 20,000.

Westerbeck told CNA that many refugees arrive in the country frightened by the anti-immigrant sentiments they have seen expressed by Americans.

“The rhetoric that we see on news and have seen for the past year and a half definitely reaches all over the globe. We’ve had refugees arrive telling us at the airport that they were sacred to walk off the plane,” he said.

He emphasized that assisting those in need is an essential part of human relationships. Anyone, he said, could find themselves unexpectedly facing a similar fate – forced out of their home due to violence or famine, and in need of support.

“All of us would want to receive some amount of assistance,” he said. “It’s not a handout, it’s not any sort of a privilege thing that’s happening, this is a response to a humanitarian crisis.”


Florida Catholic event seeks to overcome denial about modern racism

Sat, 09/08/2018 - 06:15

St. Petersburg, Fla., Sep 8, 2018 / 04:15 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A recent event in a Florida diocese is seeking to help Catholics overcome a lack of awareness about the ongoing problem of racism in America today, said organizers of the initiative.

“We who do not experience racism are often blind to it and want to deny that it exists,” said Sabrina Burton Schultz, the Diocese of St. Petersburg’s director of Life, Justice and Advocacy Ministry.

“Changing hearts and minds is really more of a marathon than a sprint, and we are excited to continue to look at new ways to help people apply their experiences, their faith and the teachings of the Church to this very challenging issue,” she told CNA.

Close to 200 people attended the Diocese of St. Petersburg’s first listening session, held Sept. 5 at St. Lawrence Parish in Tampa.

Schultz said the session aimed to bring together a diverse group of Catholics and “start by listening to people's experience of racism, in our pews and beyond, to make everyone aware that racism does still exist in our communities and in our Church.”

“We were greatly encouraged by the diversity of our audience and the candid responses that were shared,” she said.

The session moderators were Dale Brown, director of the diocesan Lay Pastoral Ministry Institute and liaison for its Black Catholic Ministry; and James Cavendish, a sociology professor at the University of South Florida.

Cavendish said that the U.S. bishops have “called on the church to confront instances of racism within its own walls.”

Bishop Gregory Parkes of St. Petersburg was present, as was Bishop Shelton Fabre, chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism. The special committee was launched by the bishops to focus on how to address racism and come together as a society after a major rally of white supremacist, neo-Confederate and neo-Nazi activists turned lethal in Charlottesville, Virginia last year.

Schultz said discussions about how to increase dialogue and education regarding racism have been underway in the St. Petersburg diocese for some time, but the bishops’ national move strengthened local resolve. The diocese’s Racial Justice Committee first met in January 2018.

Gerri Drummond, a member of the racial justice committee and the diocese’s Life, Justice and Advocacy Committee, was born in Jamaica. She said she had never experienced racism before she moved to the U.S.

Those who are suffering racism are “asking for their brothers and sisters in the majority to embrace and heal them,” she told CNA.

Attendees called for “a clergy that truly understands the plight of racism, how it affects the person of color, and how silence from clerics is felt as a lack of care.”

“There was a great desire to see our priests, pastors and bishops preach more forcefully against the sin of racism, Drummond reported. “In addition, there were calls for a more diverse clergy and leadership at the diocesan and parish level.”

Ahead of the event, moderator Dale Brown told the Tampa Bay Times said she and other black Catholics have discussed their feelings about whether they are treated differently at Mass. If a parishioner does not drink after them from the chalice of the Precious Blood at Mass, they wonder what the reason is.

“I have the experience of people not sharing the (sign of) peace with me, but sharing with others who are white,” she said.

Brown said she hopes the event will help people examine their biases and “begin to broaden their understanding of the difficulties and experiences of those that have felt not only discriminated against, but left feeling like second-class citizens in the Church and society.”

Both Drummond and Brown are parishioners at St. Peter Claver, a historically African-American parish in Tampa.

The Sept. 5 listening session took inspiration from a similar event in the Austin diocese, but there have been similar events in the Diocese of Brooklyn and the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

According to Schultz, the event aimed to help clarify “that racism did not die in the 1960s. It exists today.” She reported that a special matter of concern for some locals is the law enforcement response to a recent racially charged shooting.

“There is a great deal of discussion currently about Florida’s use and application of the Stand Your Ground law due to the shooting of Markeis McGlockton in Clearwater, Florida in July,” Schultz told CNA.

Surveillance video showed Michael Drejka, 47, confronting McGlockton’s girlfriend for parking in a handicapped space outside a convenience store, CBS News reports. McGlockton, whose three young children were also present, then shoved Drejka to the ground and backed away. Drejka, a white man, pulled out a gun and fatally shot the African-American man.

Drejka was initially not charged due to a Florida law that protects the use of lethal force in self-defense. He claimed he feared for his life. He was later charged with manslaughter.

Court documents show authorities citing other motorists’ reports that he had previously brandished a weapon, with one saying Drejka had previously confronted him over parking in the same handicapped parking space.

Drummond stressed the need to “keep the conversation going… as long as black people are being unjustly victimized, as long as black families are having to have challenging conversation with their children regarding why persons of color are treated differently, as long as white supremacists are holding rallies, as long as our nation’s leaders use derogatory terms to describe persons of color and specific countries.”

Vivi Iglesias, an Argentina-born relationship manager with the southeast regional office of Catholic Relief Services, said all Catholics must continue these discussions in “open forums that foster civil dialogues.” She noted the importance of the ability to reach across cultures in a way that fosters understanding and acceptance of others.

Catholics must learn about and accept the diversity in the Church, Iglesias said. For instance, vocations teams should be culturally diverse, she said, and there must be “opportunities for gatherings to help us know one another, serve together, and learn from each other.”

The St. Petersburg diocese’s Racial Justice Committee is planning a broader initiative with several more events. A workshop on healing racial division in the Church and Society is set for Sept. 15, while a series of civil dialogues is also under development.


Senate Judiciary Committee wraps up Kavanaugh hearing

Fri, 09/07/2018 - 19:01

Washington D.C., Sep 7, 2018 / 05:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- After four days of hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Judge Brett Kavanaugh has progressed closer towards eventual confirmation to the Supreme Court. The hearings, which began Sept. 4, included several disruptions by protestors, seemingly political lines of questioning by senators, and even a cameo appearance by the youth basketball team he coaches.

As was widely expected, the issue of abortion loomed large during parts of the questioning, despite Kavanaugh’s relative lack of a judicial track record, or even public statements, on the issue. The only recent case in which Kavanaugh ruled on abortion came last year, when he argued that an undocumented minor teenager in federal custody should not be permitted to have an abortion immediately.

Kavanaugh was questioned by both Republican and Democratic members of the Senate about his thoughts on the issue, and he offered no indication that he thought the landmark case of Roe v. Wade, which affirmed the legal existence of abortion rights, should be overturned,.

Kavanaugh was questioned about a 15-year-old email, in which he questioned the statement that abortion was “settled law.” The judge explained that he was actually questioning the claim that legal scholars generally agreed that abortion was “settled law.”

“I’m always concerned with accuracy,” he said, “I thought that was not quite an accurate description of all legal scholars because it referred to ‘all.’”

The judge then stated that he believed that Roe is “important precedent” which has repeatedly been reaffirmed by the Supreme Court.

This statement, however, did not do much to reassure those in favor of abortion rights, as activists continually, and loudly, protested Kavanaugh’s nomination throughout the four days of hearings.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) questioned Kavanaugh Sept. 6 “is there anything in the Constitution about a right to abortion? Is anything written in the document?”

Kavanaugh replied: “Senator, the Supreme Court has recognized the right to abortion since the 1973 Roe v. Wade case, has reaffirmed it many times.”

Graham pressed the issue, and Kavanaugh responded that the Supreme Court applied the liberty clause in its decisions regarding abortion: “The Supreme Court has found it under the liberty clause but you're right.”

“The liberty clause talks about liberty,” Kavanaugh stated.

“Last time I checked, liberty didn't equate to abortion,” Graham said. “The Supreme Court said it did, but here's the point. What are the limits on this concept? You had five, six, seven, eight or nine judges. What are the limits on the ability of the court to find a penumbra of rights that apply to a particular situation? What are the checks and balances on people in your business, if you can find five people who agree with you to confer a right whether the public likes it or not, based on this concept of a penumbra of rights. What are the outer limits to this?”

Kavanaugh responded: “The test the Supreme Court uses to find unenumerated rights under the liberty clause of the due process clause of the 14th Amendment, and that refers to rights rooted in the history and tradition of the country.”

The first day of the hearings saw several of women outside the hearing room protest his nomination by dressing in costumes from the book The Handmaid’s Tale, while several more individuals were removed from the hearing room after attempting to disrupt proceedings.

These interventions continued throughout the week, with the Women’s March even creating a “funeral procession” of women in funeral attire who marched towards the hearing.

Kavanaugh also came under fire for his comments regarding birth control.

In a summary of the argument presented by the pro-life Catholic group Priests for Life in the case Priests for Life v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services which was brought over the HHS contraception mandate, Kavanaugh stated that the priests “said filling out the form would make them complicit in the provision of the abortion-inducing drugs that they were, as a religious matter, objecting to.”

While Kavanaugh did not say that he himself thought this about birth control, those opposed to his nomination sent out mass emails decrying Kavanaugh’s presence potential confirmation to the court as “dangerous” for women. The Women’s March went as far as to say that his nomination constituted  “an emergency, all-hands-on-deck moment for women across America.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to vote on a recommendation to confirm Kavanaugh in the near future. Assuming his nomination clears this hurdle, it would then be put to a vote before the entire Senate.

Legatus withholds tithe to Holy See amid accountability questions

Fri, 09/07/2018 - 15:41

Washington D.C., Sep 7, 2018 / 01:41 pm (CNA).- A U.S.-based organization of Catholic business executives announced Thursday that it is placing its annual donation to the Holy See in escrow until it can receive clarification on questions of financial accountability.

“We certainly pledge our continued devotion to Holy Mother Church, and recognize the tithe has been an important commitment of Legatus since our founding,” said a September 6 letter to Legatus members from Chairman and CEO Thomas Monaghan.

“However, in light of recent revelations and questions, we believe it appropriate to respectfully request clarification regarding the specific use of these funds.”

Legatus is an organization of Catholic business leaders with more than 80 chapters throughout the United States and Canada. The group’s tithe to the Holy See this year would have been about $820,000, according to the Wall Street Journal.

In his letter, Monaghan praised the leadership of Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, who has called for a timely and thorough investigation into questions surrounding the failings of Church leaders.

Questions have also been raised by Legatus members about the organization’s annual tithe to the Holy See, Monaghan said, “specifically pertaining to how it is being used, and what financial accountability exists within the Vatican for such charitable contributions.”

“The Board has begun a dialogue along these lines, and in the meantime has decided to place the Holy See annual tithe in escrow, pending further determination.”

He asked members of Legatus to “pray for healing and clarity during this troubled time: for our Church, for all victims of abuse and injustice, and for our clergy.”

The announcement follows weeks of turmoil in the Church, after retired Archbishop Theodore McCarrick resigned from the College of Cardinals in July, amid allegations of sexual abuse of minors and sexual coercion of young seminarians and priests.

Weeks later, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, former papal nuncio to the U.S., released an 11-page testimony claiming that several high-ranking Church officials, including Pope Francis, knew about misconduct allegations against McCarrick but allowed him to operate in public and hold influential roles in the Church.

The controversy was heightened by the recent release of a Pennsylvania grand jury report, which found more than 1,000 allegations of abuse at the hands of some 300 clergy members in six dioceses in the state. It also found a pattern of cover up by senior Church officials.

Questions of Vatican financial accountability had been raised earlier this year by the Papal Foundation, a U.S.–based organization that offers grants to support the global work of the Holy Father.

In February, some members of the organization sharply criticized a request from the Holy See for $25 million for a Church-owned hospital that has been plagued by fraud and embezzlement scandals. Grants from the Papal Foundation are normally no more than $200,000 and generally go toward initiatives to help the poor in developing nations.

How more Catholic schools are looking to minimize screen time

Fri, 09/07/2018 - 05:00

Denver, Colo., Sep 7, 2018 / 03:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Not long ago, introducing more technology into the classroom meant allowing third graders to play 15 minutes of Oregon Trail during recess time.

In recent years, particularly after the emergence of smartphones and other mobile devices circa 2012, for many schools it has meant an iPad for every student, laptops in every classroom.

However, research has begun highlighting the detrimental impacts of excessive screen time, particularly on developing brains and on education, sparking concerns among educators and parents. Even tech industry giants are starting to speak openly about the dangers of internet addiction and the need to monitor children’s screen time.

For Catholic schools, the issue is especially pressing, some school leaders say, because Catholic schools are concerned with the human and spiritual formation of their students.

Michael Edghill, principal of Notre Dame Catholic School in Wichita Falls, Texas, told CNA that his biggest concern is a tendency to let technology become the main driving force of education, rather than a tool of support for teachers and students.  

“For a Catholic school, that is a bad paradigm to fall into because it takes a rightly formed person to undertake the task of human formation, which is the mission of Catholic education,” he said. “No machine or technological tool can appropriately engage in the formation of the soul.”

Jean Twenge is a psychologist and the author of “iGen: Why Today's Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy--and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood.”

Twenge told CNA that her research found the “sweet spot” for screen time for teenagers should be about 2 hours per day “for mental health, happiness, and adequate sleep. Beyond that, the risks increase, topping out at the highest levels of use.”

Notably, but perhaps not unsurprisingly, most US teens report average daily screen times well over the recommended two hours.

In 2015, research group Common Sense Media reported that more half of US teenagers spend at least four hours a day on a screen, while 25 percent of teens reported even higher uses - more than eight hours daily - with the potential of detrimental effects.  

“For example, teens who use electronic devices 5 or more hours a day are 71% more likely to have a risk factor for suicide than those using devices less than an hour a day,” Twenge said. “They are also 51% more likely to not sleep enough. Teens who are online 5 or more hours a day are twice as likely to be unhappy as those online less than an hour a day.”

As for educational impacts, research has also found that smartphones can impact a person’s ability to think simply by being within reach - even if they are turned off. Another study found that students taught in computer-less classrooms performed significantly better on tests than their counterparts taught in classrooms with iPads and computers

The human, relational and educational concerns are why some Catholics schools are taking steps to limit, if not completely ban, the use of smartphones and iPads in the classroom.

St. Benedict Elementary in Natick, Mass. is one Catholic school that has taken the approach of not using electronic technology in the classroom at all, except for very limited ways in the higher grades.

Jay Boren, headmaster of St. Benedict, told CNA that this is because the classical academy was founded by parents who had a desire for their school to be different.

“There are studies that show that (student) memory retention is better when they have written the information as opposed to having typed it. There are also benefits to learning cursive,” Boren said.

“In addition, an environment that is not inundated with fast-paced technology...allows students to cultivate the ability to sustain attention, develop concentration, and appreciate silence, which are the necessary dispositions to ponder truth, beauty, and goodness. We feel that those skills, are more important at this age level than mastering a screen that they will certainly be exposed to throughout their life at other times.”

On the other hand, Fr. Nicholas Rokitka, OFM Conv., teaches at Archbishop Curley High School in Buffalo, New York, which implemented a 1-to-1 iPad to student program four years ago.

“My major concern about technology in the classroom is the inability of the students to focus on the topic at hand and listen to the teacher,” Rokitka told CNA. “It certainly has changed the way teachers and students interact.”

Rokitka said that games and entertainment are always a potential distraction with the iPads in the classroom. While he has his room set up in a way that allows him to monitor his students’ iPad use closely, such monitoring “takes up a lot of my energy.”

There have been some positive impacts, Rokitka noted - the school has saved a lot of paper using digital homework and tests, and performance trends can be more quickly and easily recognized and addressed.

However, he added that without intentionality behind its use, technology negatively change the way students relate to one another and the world.

“On a very fundamental level, technology changes how people interact with each other. If technology is accepted wholesale without and intention, it will do more harm than good. When digital communication and social media replace face-to-face interaction, the students lose their ability to communicate,” he said. “This problem is way larger than just schools, but ultimately teachers and schools can have a dramatic input on how children learn how to use technology.”

Twenge said that she recommends schools ban the use of cellphones not only in the classroom, but during lunch as well, in order to give students a chance to interact with each other without a screen.

In interviews with students for her research, Twenge discovered students who would feel depressed and left out while their fellow students ignored them at lunch, favoring their phones instead, she wrote in the New York Daily News.

“A no-phones-at-school rule would also help teens develop invaluable social skills. More and more managers tell me that young job applicants don't look them in the eye and seem to be uncomfortable talking to people face-to-face. If our students are going to succeed in the workplace, they need more practice interacting with people in person,” she wrote.

“They can get that right there at school - if they aren't constantly on their phones.”

Edghill said that his biggest guiding principle in the use of technology in school has been intentionality - which is exactly why the school banned cell phone use in school during the school day.

“It was an intentional decision based on the fact that there was little to no educational benefit and a whole slew of potential and real problems,” he said.

“The unplanned side effect is that the students actually talk to one another before school in the mornings now instead of just staring at their individual screens.”

A father to four children between 14 and 3, Edghill noted that he and his wife try to implement the same intentionality with technology use at home, by enforcing limits and being consistent with them, though he admitted there has been a learning curve.

“I do think that the more time that they watch screens, the less creative and the less curious they are. But it is a constant battle. It may be one of the most counter-cultural things that we can do for our kids,” he said. “And that is saying something as a Catholic.”

It’s also important to note that technology is simply a tool, and “not an evil,” he said.

“The pope is active on social media. My bishop is active on Twitter. But it is for the greater good of reaching out to people in order to create the opportunity for an authentic encounter with Christ,” he said.  

“If the technology is replacing humanity as opposed to being used as a tool to advance humanity, that is the problem...If we miss the human element of the teacher, of person-to-person dialogue and debate, of human experience, then we can't fully do our part to cooperate in the formation of the human person.”


This article was originally published on CNA Jan. 31, 2018.

Nebraska bishops: Inquiry about sex abuse will provide truth, accountability

Thu, 09/06/2018 - 19:12

Lincoln, Neb., Sep 6, 2018 / 05:12 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Nebraska attorney general has asked the state’s three Roman Catholic dioceses for information on sexual abuse and other misconduct, and all three dioceses have said they will cooperate with the request.

“We welcome accountability in our community,” Archbishop George Lucas of Omaha said Sept. 5. “The truth is good for everyone. I see this as a real moment of grace.”
Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson is seeking documents from the last 40 years for any information on claims of sexual exploitation, including incidents of child pornography or “sexual communication with another person” by anyone with authority in the Church.
Peterson’s letter reports that after his Aug. 16 formal request asking victims of sex abuse to come forward, his office received “a number of reports which have warranted further investigation,” the Omaha World-Herald reports.
“We have worked collaboratively with our law enforcement officials,” said Lucas. “We also welcome any suggested improvements that would be helpful in making our safe environment program more effective.”
“We remain committed in the Archdiocese of Omaha to the protection of young people and vulnerable adults, to the prevention of abuse, to healing for past victims of abuse and to cooperate with civil authorities in these matters,” the archbishop continued.
The inquiry in Nebraska follows new or revisited allegations of sexual abuse of minors or other misconduct committed by priests in the Diocese of Lincoln as far back as the 1980s. Several priests have resigned as pastors, while alleged misconduct of a former vocations director for the diocese, who died in 2008, also became a matter of public attention.
Sex abuse in the Church has returned to national attention. In mid-August the Pennsylvania attorney general released a grand jury report following an 18-month investigation into the files of six Pennsylvania Catholic dioceses. The report included allegations against 300 priests of abusing over 1,000 victims over a 70-year period.
In response to the Nebraska attorney general’s inquiry, the state’s other bishops have said they too will cooperate.
“Law enforcement agencies are the best, most objective independent investigators,” Bishop James Conley of Lincoln said Aug. 29. “The Diocese of Lincoln appreciates the work that they do and pledges its support to all efforts to stop criminal behavior by predators.”
Bishop Joseph Hanefeldt of Grand Island said his diocese intends to provide “complete cooperation and full compliance with this investigation.”
“While there are no open cases being investigated in the diocese at this time, if issues are identified, he will address them prudentially, so that victims may find healing and hope,” Hanefeldt said in a statement provided to CNA.
Don Kleine, the Douglas County attorney, will handle possible investigations in the Omaha archdiocese. He told the Omaha World-Herald he has three attorneys specially trained in prosecuting sexual assault crimes on children. Such crimes are common, with perpetrators often being trusted adults including victims’ relatives, coaches, and teachers. The abuse victims sometimes come forward when they are adults and are often deeply affected by the abuse.
Klein said victims should “report immediately to law enforcement.” He said his office has a good relationship with Archbishop Lucas and has worked closely with Catholic officials in Omaha on reporting protocols.
Pat Condon, the Lancaster County Attorney, said his office would review Church records in search of “prosecutable crimes” and pursue any investigation to try those crimes in court. If his Lincoln-based office does not find evidence of crimes, he told the Omaha World-Herald, “we would return those to the diocese and then they can take whatever actions they want with it.”
The Lincoln diocese said it received the letter from the attorney general seeking its documents and is cooperating with the state-wide investigation.
“The diocese will continue to cooperate with law enforcement as they work to assure that children and young people are safe,” the Lincoln diocese said. It encouraged all sex abuse victims to report abuse to the attorney general or local law enforcement. The diocese noted that it has dedicated resources available to assist victims, and an anonymous hotline and website to help people report misconduct in the Lincoln diocese.
Similarly, the Omaha archdiocese said anyone concerned about the actions of a member of the clergy or any church worker should contact law enforcement or the archdiocese’s manager of victim outreach and prevention.
The archdiocese said its child protection office dates back to 2003, established after the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops approved the Charter for the Protection of Young People the previous year. It annually passes an audit from an independent auditing firm retained by the U.S. bishops’ conference to ensure compliance with the charter.
According to the archdiocese, its parishes and schools reported giving training in abuse prevention and personal safety to over 30,000 children. Over 14,000 clergy, employees, and volunteers of the archdiocese who work with children and parents have undergone background checks and have received safe environment training.
A Grand Island diocese spokesperson told CNA that Hanefeldt had received the attorney general’s letter late Sept. 4. The bishop has been in contact with him regarding the scope of the investigation and chancery staff are actively working to fulfill the request.
All three dioceses are now audited for compliance with the U.S. bishops’ child protection charter.
According to the Omaha archdiocese, the audit evaluates a diocese for various efforts, including effective reporting and response to sex abuse allegations; promotion of healing and reconciliation with clergy abuse survivors; proper screening and background evaluations for archdiocesan and religious clergy, educators, volunteers, and other personnel; and safe environment training for those who work with children.
After the U.S. bishops adopted the child protection charter, the Diocese of Lincoln initially took part in the audit only for the year 2003, after which then-Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz declined to participate again. It has long been one of the few dioceses not to comply.
Bishop Conley, who has headed the Lincoln diocese since 2012, in 2015 announced the diocese would again comply with the audit. The auditing process had improved and had become more beneficial to the diocese since its initial years, he said.
Attorneys general in other states, including New York, New Jersey, and New Mexico, have said they will seek Catholic Church records on sex abuse.

New York, New Jersey investigating Church response to abuse claims

Thu, 09/06/2018 - 18:42

New York City, N.Y., Sep 6, 2018 / 04:42 pm (CNA).- Authorities in New York and New Jersey have announced investigations into local Catholic dioceses and Church entities, to determine how allegations of sexual abuse of minors were handled.

On Thursday, the New York attorney general’s office issued subpoenas to all eight Catholic dioceses in the state, asking for documents related to sexual abuse allegations and the Church’s response to them, according to the New York Times.

Attorney General Barbara Underwood announced a civil investigation into Church entities and said the office’s criminal division is willing to partner with local district attorneys “to investigate and, if warranted, prosecute any individuals who have committed criminal offenses that fall within the applicable statutes of limitations.”

The Archdiocese of New York told local media in a statement that they were “ready and eager to work together” with the attorney general in the investigation.

“Since 2002, the archdiocese has shared with its 10 District Attorneys all information they have sought concerning allegations of sexual abuse of minors, and has established excellent working relationships with each of them,” the statement said.

“Not only do we provide any information they seek, they also notify us as well when they learn of an allegation of abuse, so that, even if they cannot bring criminal charges, we might investigate and remove from ministry any cleric who has a credible and substantiated allegation of abuse.”

The other dioceses in the state echoed this commitment, saying they are cooperating with the investigation.

Also on Thursday, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal announced the creation of a task force to investigate allegations of sexual abuse and cover up within the state’s Catholic dioceses.

“No person is above the law and no institution is immune from accountability,” Grewal said. “We will devote whatever resources are necessary to uncover the truth and bring justice to victims.

He appointed former acting Essex County Prosecutor Robert D. Laurino to lead the task force, which will have subpoena power to compel testimony and the production of documents.

Two New Jersey dioceses – the Diocese of Metuchen and the Archdiocese of Newark – have drawn media attention in recent weeks, after it was revealed that they reached settlements in the mid 2000s with two men who claimed to have been sexually assaulted by former cardinal Theodore McCarrick while they were seminarians and young priests.

Questions have arisen over which former and current Church officials in these dioceses may have known about these settlements and failed to take action or speak out against McCarrick’s continued ministry.

The attorneys general in Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska, and New Mexico have also initiated investigations into local Catholic dioceses, as the fallout from last month’s Pennsylvania Grand Jury report continues.

That report, the result of an 18-month investigation into abuse allegations and responses from Church officials, found more than 1,000 allegations of abuse at the hands of some 300 clergy members in six dioceses in the state. It also found a pattern of cover up by senior Church officials. The report has prompted questions nationwide on the Church’s response to abuse claims.