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State elections point to looming battles over abortion, LGBT, and gun rights

Wed, 11/06/2019 - 14:00

Richmond, Va., Nov 6, 2019 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- Tuesday’s state election results suggest coming fights over abortion, religious freedom, and gun restrictions in Virginia and Kentucky.

In Virginia, Democrats won both chambers of the state legislature and will hold both the state house and governor’s mansion for the first time since 1994. The results have generated speculation over potential 2020 legislation on abortion, immigration, LGBTQ issues, and gun restrictions.

Earlier this year, the state was in the spotlight of the late-term abortion debate when Del. Kathy Tran (D) introduced one of the most radical abortion bills in the country. Tran’s bill would have removed most restrictions on second and third trimester abortions, including when the mother was in active labor.

Gov. Ralph Northam (D), when explaining the bill on the regional radio station WTOP, said that under Tran’s legislation, a baby that survived a botched abortion would be made “comfortable” while the mother and doctor would discuss whether or not it be allowed to survive, sparking a national uproar over his comments.

National pro-life groups rallied to make the election a referendum on abortion extremism. The pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List in January announced a six-figure campaign to defeat pro-abortion candidates in the state, after Northam’s comments. One Catholic resident of northern Virginia, Nick Bell, challenged Del. Vivian Watts in the 39th district and credited his decision to run to Watts’ co-sponsorship of Tran’s abortion bill.

Planned Parenthood Virginia praised Tuesday’s election results, tweeting “Huge congratulations to the new pro-reproductive health majority in the legislature!”

The president of March for Life, Jeanne Mancini, called the results “are disappointing for those who value life.”

The LGBT campaign group the Human Rights Campaign also hailed the election of a “pro-equality majority” in the Virginia State Legislature, noting the victories of Joshua Cole in the 4th district and Dan Helmer to the 40th district, and the re-election of openly-transgender candidate Danica Roem in the 13th district of the House of Delegates. The group said it invested $250,000 into the legislative races in August.

One key development behind the Virginia elections is the state’s anticipated ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). The amendment was originally approved by Congress in 1972 and sent to the states for ratification by 1979, and states that “Equality of rights under law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”

However, the language of the amendment is widely considered to be a vehicle for abortion rights, and the Virginia Catholic Conference has noted that it could be interpreted to require taxpayer-funded support for abortion, as similar amendments in other states have been so interpreted by state and federal courts.

The original deadline for ratification of the ERA was extended until 1982, but the amendment failed to receive the necessary approval by three-quarters of the states, and five states had rescinded their ratifications by then.

However, House Judiciary Committee chair Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) has proposed a majority vote in Congress to validate the original 35 state ratifications of the ERA, which, with Nevada and Illinois voting to ratify the ERA in 2017 and 2018, would supposedly require just the support of Virginia to amend the U.S. Constitution. Pro-life advocates have said that this action would be illegal, as the original deadline to ratify the ERA has long passed.

While some pro-life groups fought to make the election a referendum on abortion laws, the issue did not play a significant role in the election, Dr. Matthew Green, a professor of politics at the Catholic University of America, told CNA. Green noted that Virginia has been trending Democratic for years and thus the party’s success on Tuesday was not a surprise.

Gun violence and proposed gun restrictions, however, could have played a role, Green said. After a shooter killed 13 people, including himself, in Virginia Beach in May, Democrats proposed a slew of gun regulations but Republican leaders in the legislature ended a special session on gun laws after less than two hours.

Before the special session, the state’s Catholic bishops had called for “reasonable safety regulations for firearms and proper screening for those seeking to acquire a firearm.”

Nov. 18 was set as the date for the special session on gun laws to readjourn, just less than two weeks after the election. “It would not surprise me if Democrats took the election as a referendum on the issue of gun violence,” Green said.

A letter by Virginia’s Catholic bishops—Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington, and Bishop Barry Knestout of Richmond—was also circulated before the elections in September, and outlined key issues for Catholic voters to consider, including abortion, assisted suicide, religious freedom, immigration, and gun restrictions.

While “[m]any issues are important,” the bishops wrote, “[n]ot all issues have equal moral weight,” as “[s]ome actions, such as abortion and euthanasia, are ‘intrinsically evil’” and “[p]rotecting life is paramount.”

In a voter education resource, the conference warned of Tran’s proposed abortion bill, as well as legislation to require abortion coverage in private health plans and to allow for lawsuits against religious employers who abide by their religious mission.

The conference also praised some anticipated 2020 legislation, such as proposed gun restrictions, and bills to assist immigrants with transportation and education and to fight predatory lending.

Although Democrats will now control the governor’s mansion and both chambers of the state legislature, simple party control does not guarantee the passage of legislation such as abortion bills, Green said. Democrats have a narrow majority in the state senate, and some of the senators are “notoriously independent-minded,” Green said.

Also on Tuesday Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin (R) was ousted after one term by Democratic candidate Andy Beshear who enjoyed the support of Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky. Bevin lost by a razor-thin margin of 49.2% to 48.9%, and as of Wednesday morning, Beshear reportedly had declared victory while Bevin had not yet conceded the race.

During his time in office, Bevin signed legislation requiring ultrasound screenings for women seeking abortions and bills banning abortions after 19 weeks, after a baby’s heartbeat is detected, if Roe v. Wade is overturned, and banning any abortions based on the race, gender, or disability diagnosis of the unborn child. On EWTN Pro-Life Weekly he called for other state governors to “be bold” on pro-life legislation.

However, Bevin’s overall “brash” and “blunt” governing style did not win over voters, Green told CNA. Bevin challenged teachers’ unions and public universities while in office, and instituted work requirements for Medicaid recipients, possibly triggering his opponents to unite and mobilize against him.

In Mississippi, Republicans held onto the offices of governor and attorney general but the gubernatorial race was much closer than expected in a deep red state, Green said. This election showed that the Democratic voter base is highly-motivated, especially in traditionally Republican states, and is another “canary in the coal mine” for Republicans entering 2020.

The pro-life Susan B. Anthony List Candidate Fund praised the victory of Lynn Fitch in the attorney general race against Jennifer Collins who had the support of the National Abortion Rights Action League.

“Lynn is a staunch defender of life who worked hard to create a pro-life Republican platform as a member of the 2016 Republican National Convention platform committee. As Attorney General, Lynn will be a prolife, pro-woman leader and work to uphold laws protecting unborn children and their mothers in the Magnolia State,” Marilyn Musgrave, SBA List vice president of government affairs, said.

Rubio reviews Kanye’s new album, and talks about dignity of work

Wed, 11/06/2019 - 06:00

Washington D.C., Nov 6, 2019 / 04:00 am (CNA).- U.S. senator and noted hip-hop enthusiast Marco Rubio shared his thoughts on rapper Kanye West’s new gospel album in a recent interview with CNA.

“I don’t know if I like it or dislike it,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) told CNA of the track “Selah” on West’s highly-anticipated album “Jesus is King.” Rubio said the track was the only one he had listened to on the album as of Monday.

The Florida senator has often spoken publicly about his fondness for rap, previously professing a preference for the West Coast rappers of the 1990s in their musical feud with New York East Coast artists. In a 2012 interview, Rubio described Eminem as “the only guy that speaks at any sort of depth” in the genre. 

“He's a guy that does music that talks about the struggles of addiction and before that violence, with growing up in a broken family, not being a good enough father,” Rubio said of Eminem in 2012, while noting it was harder to find time to play rap music with a growing family of children around.

Returning to West’s new offering, Rubio told CNA that “he’s an interesting artist, and obviously someone who is going through a lot positively, and potentially, I don’t know, negatively as well,” Rubio said of West. “I don’t mean to be judgmental, he’s doing it in the public eye,” he said, “and it’s not the first time that he has religious themes in his music.” 

West’s track “Jesus Walks” was featured on his 2004 album “College Dropout.”

“His faith is clearly something that calls to him, and obviously it’s a road he’s been on for a while and it’s interesting to see it cross over into his music,” Rubio said. “What’s most interesting, however, is to see the critical reaction to it.”

Rubio discussed the album with CNA, along with his vision for “common good economics” Nov. 4, ahead of a major speech on the same theme at the Catholic University of America on Tuesday morning. 

The senator addressed students at Catholic University’s Busch School of Business on “common good capitalism” and the dignity of work, during a Vocation of Business Class taught by Professor Andreas Widmer.

Rubio said that profit making has been prioritized over the dignity of workers, with the result of many Americans being “left behind” in an economy that, overall, has grown in recent decades. He cited Pope Francis’ warning that “finance overwhelms the real economy” when profit is prioritized above all else.

The political right, he said, upholds the rights of companies and shareholders to profits, but ignores the rights of workers. The political left, meanwhile, promotes “free everything” but will “rarely focus on our obligation to work.”

“When an economy stops providing dignified work for millions of people,” he said, parents no longer have time for their children and resources to volunteer and contribute to their communities.

Furthermore, when men in particular do not have dignified work to provide for their families, he said, “the impact is corrosive and devastating.” He pointed to evidence in declines in rates of marriage, childbirth, and life expectancy, and corresponding increases in drug abuse, drug overdose and suicide.

Yet as a solution, “socialism would be far worse” than the current challenges of working families in the U.S., Rubio said.

Instead, he said, Catholics should look to “restore ‘common good capitalism’” where people have dignified work and businesses can make a profit, while reinvesting in the company.

Professor Andrew Abela, founding dean of the Busch School, agreed with the importance of Rubio drawing attention to those “left behind” in today’s economy. While the Busch School emphasizes “entrepreneurial capitalism” that exists “to serve others,” today’s “crony capitalism” promotes greed, selfishness, and a utilitarian view of workers, he said.

“The moment it’s cheaper to move to China, you’re gone,” he said of the view of workers by corporations under “crony capitalism.”

Rubio pitched specific policies as an antidote to today’s economy, including preferences in the tax code for job creation, families with children, and higher wages for workers rather than company stock buybacks.

Rubio also said the U.S. should look to invest in whole industries such as aerospace, telecommunications, transportation and housing, “to retrofit past engines of productivity” for the new economy, and also revamp the Small Business Administration.

The proposal to reenergize the Small Business Administration was “music to my ears,” Widmer told CNA, as his class seeks to form principled entrepreneurs who will create dignified jobs.

“We’re not the business school you go to, to become the next president of GE,” he said. “Here you come to run your family business.”

Immigrant Catholics have had a storied tradition of running small businesses in the U.S., he said. “The Catholics aren’t the Bill Gateses of the world. The Catholics are the dry cleaners and the lawn care companies and all of that kind of stuff,” he said.

“We have a finance department and all of that, but the majority of our students are people who will go back and run Main Street, not Wall Street and not Silicon Valley,” he said.

Despite the hype, non-monogamy is far from common, researcher says

Wed, 11/06/2019 - 04:50

Washington D.C., Nov 6, 2019 / 02:50 am (CNA).- On October 24, CBS published a 20-minute documentary following the lives of several different groups of people in polyamorous relationships, also called consensual non-monogamous relationships. In such relationships, three or more people in a group are sexually and emotionally involved with the other members of the group.

On the same day, ABC’s Nightline aired a segment on actor Nico Tortorella, whose open marriage with Bethany Meyers is documented in Tortorella’s new book, Space Between: Explorations of Love, Sex, and Fluidity.

The week prior, Congresswoman Katie Hill was reported to have been in a “throuple,” or a threesome relationship, with her estranged husband and a female staffer. She has subsequently announced her resignation from Congress.

To read the news, it would seem that consensual non-monogamy (CNM) is prolific. An oft-cited statistic in stories about CNM claims that one in five Americans has participated in such a relationship at some point in their lives.

“There is nothing with which modern relationship journalism seems so peculiarly infatuated as non-monogamy. Call it ‘polyamory,’ ‘swinging,’ or ‘consensual non-monogamy’ —if reporting is to be believed, it's everywhere,” Charles Fain Lehman, a staff writer for Washington Free Beacon, wrote in a recent analysis for the Institute of Family Studies.

But really, Lehman argues, polyamory is not everywhere. Or it is at least not as common as most media coverage, and the ubiquitous “one in five” statistic, would make it seem.

“Where does that number come from? Essentially all of the articles point to the same source, a 2016 study in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy by a group of researchers at the Kinsey Institute. The abstract of the study does indeed confirm that ‘more than one in five (21.9% in Study 1; 21.2% in Study 2) participants report engaging in CNM at some point in their lifetime,’” Lehman said.

However, a closer look at the study reveals that the two surveys on which it is based rely only on information from single people - in the first study aged 21 and older, in the second study aged 18 and older. The first study surveyed people who were legally unmarried at the time, while the second study surveyed people who were either single or just casually dating.

Lehman said this means the conclusions of the survey can only apply to the single population and not to married people, even though all married people were at one time single.

“But, as decades of research have shown, married people vary systematically from their single peers. Among other factors, they are whiter, wealthier, and more religious,” Lehman noted.

“It is entirely plausible that a sample of entirely single people overrepresents a preference for polyamory—indeed, that they have not selected out of singlehood and into stable monogamy is one such indicator.”

Moreover, Lehman said he is not sure that the “one in five” statistic can even be accurately claimed for the single population, because of the phrasing of one of the questions in the survey and what may be a difference of definition.

“According to the study, ‘(a)ll participants were asked if they had ever had an open sexual relationship.’ What's an open sexual relationship? ‘An agreed-upon, sexually non-exclusive relationship,’” Lehman noted.

“This language could, of course, describe ‘swinging’ or ‘opening up.’ But it could also quite plausibly describe casual dating, in which singles knowingly date, and sleep with, multiple people at once,” Lehman said.

“Such relationships are perhaps, strictly speaking, a-traditional, but they do not meet most people's intuitive definitions of ‘polyamory,’ or even ‘open relationships’ (which connotes a degree of romantic, but not sexual, commitment—a nuance uncaptured by the question),” he added.

Even some CNM relationships would not fit this definition, if they are sexually exclusive relationships between three or more people, but are not open to others outside of the set group, Lehman wrote.

“There's at least one other reason to be suspicious of Haupert et al.'s finding,” Lehman added.  “Their methodology notes that they deliberately oversampled ‘homosexual men and women.’ In fact, 15.3% of study 1 and 14.3% of study 2 respondents self-identified as LGB (lesbian, gay, or bisexual). That's substantially higher than the population-wide prevalence of LGB people, which is generally pinned at 3 to 5%.”

“Previous research cited by the paper has shown, and Haupert et al. confirm, that identifying as lesbian, gay, or bisexual is associated with a significantly higher likelihood of reporting engaging in consensual non-monogamy,” he said.

“In other words, the study substantially oversampled the very subpopulation they then find is far more likely to engage in CNM.”

Lehman said it is not explained in the study whether the researchers adjusted for this bias in the results, though he said it seems unlikely. But the frequently-cited statistic that at least 20% of all Americans have dabbled in CNM seems to be a product of sample selection instead of reality, he noted.

“As always, the reality is probably more boring. Some single people engage in non-exclusive relationships; a smaller, unmeasured share probably engage in more formal ‘polyamorous’ or ‘consensually non-monogamous’ relationships, and that share has probably risen slightly,” he wrote.

In fact, he noted, the 2018 “i-Fidelity” survey by YouGov for The Wheatley Institution at BYU found that roughly 12% of Americans had ever engaged in an “open sexual relationship,” defined as “an agreed-upon, sexually non-exclusive relationship with more than one partner.”

Millennials were more likely to have engaged in such relationships, but still at a rate of less than 20%, he added.

“Polyamory may sound fun and exotic, but most of us don't live such fun and exotic (and complicated) lives. By their 30s, most Americans (80%) are either married or single, with little evidence that ‘alternative’ structures are filling the gap for a significant share of adults. As Dr. Alan Hawkins recently put it, ‘the norm of marital monogamy is not crumbling’ after all.”


Catholic Relief Services dismayed over US intent to leave Paris Climate Accord

Wed, 11/06/2019 - 02:03

Baltimore, Md., Nov 6, 2019 / 12:03 am (CNA).- Catholic Relief Services, the official charitable arm of the U.S. bishops, is expressing strong opposition to the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the 2015 Paris Climate Accord.

“With the planet warming at an alarming rate and the poorest of the poor left to withstand the consequences, there will undoubtedly be more global instability, forced migration and conflict,” said Bill O’Keefe, CRS’ executive vice president of Mission, Mobilization and Advocacy.

“It is not too late to take meaningful steps to care for creation and mitigate some of the worst impacts of climate change, which is why we hope our government reconsiders this misguided decision.”

On Monday, the United States gave its formal notification of its intent to exit the Paris Climate Accord.

The Dec. 2015 agreement, which 188 nations signed following the United Nations Climate Change Conference, came into force during Nov. 2016.

The coalition of nations agreed to attempt to limit the rise of global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century.

Pope Francis hailed the agreement as “historic” and said that it would require “a concerted and generous commitment” from members of the international community. Since then, officials of the Holy See have reiterated its view that climate change is a moral issue and has an effect on human dignity.

At a UN climate change summit in Poland in Dec. 2018, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin urged the implementation of the Paris Climate Accord by “easing the impact of climate change through responsible mitigation and adaptation measures.”

“The scientific data at our disposal clearly show the urgent need for swift action, within a context of ethics, equity and social justice,” Parolin said.

Some 60 dioceses in the United States have so far pledged to continue to support action to mitigate climate change, along with close to 200 religious communities, more than 100 parishes, and other Catholic groups in an agreement affirming the goals of the Paris Climate Accord.

President Donald Trump had announced his intention to withdraw the United States from the agreement after he took office in 2017, citing economic downsides to the plan’s implementation.

The United States is the world’s second largest emitter of greenhouse gases, after China. Trump has previously said that the agreement put “no meaningful obligations on the world’s leading polluters” like China.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a formal notification to the United Nations of its intention to withdraw on the first possible day to do so, the BBC reports. UN rules meant it was not possible for the U.S. to start the withdrawal process until Nov. 4, 2019.

The withdrawal will take effect on Nov. 4, 2020, one day after the 2020 presidential election.

According to the BBC, the Paris Climate Accord included efforts to limit the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by human activity to the same levels that trees, soil and oceans can absorb naturally, beginning at some point between 2050 and 2100, as well as a review of each country's contribution to cutting emissions every five years.

Pompeo said the U.S. would instead follow “a realistic and pragmatic model,” using “all energy sources and technologies cleanly and efficiently.”

CRS said in a Nov. 4 statement that the Paris Climate Accord signifies international recognition that climate change is especially threatening “the most vulnerable who contributed the least to it,” and asserted that the agreement would “secure the cooperation, action and resources needed to address the problem.”

The agency also quoted Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical Laudato Si on the environment: “Faced with a climate emergency, we must take action accordingly, in order to avoid perpetrating a brutal act of injustice towards the poor and future generations.”

CRS noted that in Bangladesh, rising sea levels are encroaching on water tables and coastal homes. In Central America, CRS said in 2017, coffee farmers are losing their crops due to more frequent drought and because warmer temperatures help pests thrive.

According to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the years 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018 are the four warmest years in recorded history, with 2019 projected to be in the top three.

The next UN climate summit will begin in Madrid in December.

Texas bishops call for halt to Rodney Reed execution

Tue, 11/05/2019 - 20:00

Austin, Texas, Nov 5, 2019 / 06:00 pm (CNA).- The Texas Conference of Catholic Bishops have called on Gov. Greg Abbott to delay or cancel the execution of Rodney Reed, a convicted murderer who maintains his innocence. 

"The Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops engages in advocacy efforts for every single Texas execution by urging the Board of Pardons and Paroles to grant reprieve as a matter of mercy based on our position that the death penalty is inadmissible in modern society,” said Jennifer Allmon, executive director of the Texas Conference for Catholic Bishops in a statement provided to CNA. 

But, Allmon said, Reed's case is different.

“In the case of Mr. Reed, we are engaging as a matter of justice rather than mercy because there is substantial evidence that he may not be guilty of this crime,” Allmon said. 

“It would be a tremendous miscarriage of justice to allow the actual killer to go free while taking Mr. Reed’s life when there is untested DNA and an allegation of a confession by an alternate suspect that has not yet been investigated,” she said. 

The Texas bishops will continue to pray for justice and for the family of Stacey Stites, who Reed was convicted of murdering.

Reed was sentenced to death in 1998 for the murder of 20-year-old Stites in Bastrop County, Texas. After not showing up to work on the morning of April 23, 1996, Stites’ body was discovered in a wooded area that afternoon. She had been strangled by her own belt, and had unknown male DNA in and around her body. Officers believe that she had been sexually assaulted.

At the time of her murder, Stites was engaged to be married to a police officer named Jimmy Fennell. Fennell was considered to be the main suspect in her murder, but the DNA on her body did not match his and he was never charged. Years after Stites’ murder, Fennell was sentenced to 10 years in prison for charges related to sexual assault. 

Reed’s supporters allege that it was Fennell, not Reed, who killed Stites. DNA from the belt has not been tested and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals will not approve of new DNA testing. 

A year after Stites’ murder, the DNA on her body was matched to that of Reed, who had a criminal history. Reed initially denied knowing Stites, but later changed his story and claimed they had a consensual sexual relationship and a secret affair. 

Reed is due to be executed on Nov. 20. 

Among those also calling for Gov. Abbott (R) to stop the execution are celebrities such as Kim Kardashian West, Rihanna, Meek Mill, and Gigi Hadid. A petition organized by The Action PAC on “” requesting that Abbott stop the execution has been signed by over 1.1 million people. 

Those who think Reed is innocent cite many concerns regarding his trial and the potential of a cover-up by the town’s police department. Reed, who is black, was convicted by an all-white jury. A man imprisoned with Fennell wrote in a sworn affidavit that Fennell had confessed to murdering Stites due to being angry that she had been in a relationship with a black man. 

The Catholic Church is opposed to the use of capital punishment. 

In a livestream conversation held on Oct. 10, the World Day Against the death penalty, Archbishops Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City and Wilton Gregory of Washington were joined by Bishop Frank DeWane of Venice (FL) discussed Church teaching on capital punishment and said that they believed the death penalty was outdated. 

“What the Church wants us to understand is that taking a life, even the life of one who may have been guilty of a horrendous crime, is itself a continuation of violence,” said Gregory.  

“It makes us violent to do violence against another human being” regardless of the circumstances, Gregory said. 

Catholics, said DeWane, have a moral obligation to “say something” when life is not being respected, especially in instances that involve people who cannot speak for themselves.

LGBT leader paid sex abuse victim not to testify, Oregon authorities say

Tue, 11/05/2019 - 19:21

Portland, Ore., Nov 5, 2019 / 05:21 pm (CNA).- Terry Bean, a leading investor, LGBT advocate and political fundraiser, has been arrested in Oregon following allegations that he and his lawyer unlawfully paid $200,000 to prevent court testimony from a man who accused Bean and his ex-boyfriend of sexually abusing him at the age of 15.

Terrence Patrick Bean, now age 71, posted bail Oct. 30 after Portland police arrested him on a charge of a felony computer crime, The Oregonian reports. Authorities allege he tried to pay off the alleged victim of sex abuse to prevent his testimony.

The charge relates to the revived criminal case against him alleging that in September 2013 he committed two felony counts of third-degree sodomy and a misdemeanor sexual abuse charge.

The previous trial had been postponed when the alleged victim disappeared, and later refused to testify when he reappeared. The charges had been dismissed without prejudice in 2015. Prosecutors revived the case earlier this year.

Bean is a co-founder of the Human Rights Campaign and of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund. He has been a major fundraiser for Democratic Party candidates, including President Barack Obama’s campaign, the Oregonian reported.

Kiah Lawson, now 30, was Bean’s boyfriend at the time of the alleged crime, when both men were in Eugene, Ore. for an Oregon Ducks game. In September 2019 Lawson was found guilty on identical sex abuse charges and sentenced to two years in prison.

Bean’s lawyer, Derek Ashton, was also arrested on a felony computer crime for the alleged payoff and posted bail Oct. 30. The Oregon State Bar opened an ethics investigation against him in September.

Bean and Ashton are accused of arranging a $200,000 payment to the alleged victim, who was 15-years-old at the time of the alleged crime.

Steve Sherlag, Bean’s new criminal defense attorney, rejected the charges against his client.

“While we are shocked at the new charge and the state's apparent shotgun approach, Mr. Bean unequivocally denies all of the state's claims and their attendant innuendo,” Sherlag said, according to Williamette Week. “We look forward to exposing the full truth in open court and a full acquittal as justice requires.”

The Human Rights Campaign has many corporate partners in its LGBT activism. It has lobbied businesses to push for “LGBT equality” in legislation and corporate policy, to recruit self-identified LGBT employees and to give financial support for LGBT organizations through LGBT-targeted marketing or advertising and philanthropic support.

The organization has been critical of Catholic teaching and practice as well as leaders like Pope Francis and the U.S. bishops. It seeks to promote lay Catholic allies who oppose what the campaign characterizes as “the U.S. hierarchy's anti-LGBTQ actions,” according to the campaign website’s Catholic initiatives section.

In 2014, the Human Rights Campaign responded to the charges against Bean. It said that Bean is one of 80 board members of the organization and he has no daily oversight or responsibility for its programs. He had taken a voluntary leave of absence from the board “until his issues are resolved,” a spokesman told CNN.

CNA sought comment from the Human Rights Campaign but did not receive a response by deadline.

In Ashton and Bean’s initial response to the charges, they proposed a “civil compromise,” which under Oregon law can sometimes resolve criminal cases through an approved payment to an alleged victim. However, Lane County Judge Charles Zennache refused to allow it, Williamette Week reports.

August court filings from Lane County Deputy District Attorney Erik Hasselman claim to have evidence of possible criminal conduct showing Ashton used $220,000 to pay the alleged victim not to show up or testify during Bean’s 2015 trial, The Oregonian reports.

Portland Police Bureau Detective Jeff Myers said Bean’s lawyer Ashton and the alleged victim’s lawyer worked to reach a civil settlement, 2019 court records say. ​They report a detailed plan to prevent investigators from finding the boy and that the alleged victim’s own lawyer allegedly helped him hide.

A defense motion over the summer from one of Bean’s lawyers indicated that Deputy Lane County District Attorney Erik Hasselman claims to have evidence that Bean, Ashton, the boy’s lawyer, and another attorney for a prosecutor’s witness “committed the crimes of bribery, witness tampering and ‘possibly’ money laundering.”

Bean attorney Kimberlee Volm, who filed the motion, told a judge that the statute of limitations had probably run out and would prevent charging Bean or Ashton with such charges.

KOIN 6 News said that the new arrests show that prosecutors believe they can proceed with some charges.

Bean has filed a $2 million civil lawsuit against Myers, the investigating officer; the prosecutor Erik Hasselman; and the alleged victim’s civil attorney Sean Riddell. The lawsuit claims they colluded into coaxing the alleged victim into falsely claiming Bean had sexually abused him, The Oregonian reported in September.

Riddell has filed a $6.15 million civil lawsuit against Bean on behalf of the alleged victim.

Scientists call for 'gradually reduced' population to fight climate change

Tue, 11/05/2019 - 18:00

Washington D.C., Nov 5, 2019 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- A letter warning of a “climate emergency” signed by more than 11,000 scientists calls for a “gradual reduction” in the world’s population.  

The “World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency” was published in the journal BioScience on Tuesday, and was signed by 11,258 scientists from 153 countries.

In the statement, the signatories listed both economic growth and a global population increase as “among the most important drivers of increases in CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion.” The report called for “bold and drastic transformations regarding economic and population policies.”

The statement was published on Tuesday, after the U.S. formally declared that it was withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord, an international agreement set to go into effect in 2020 under which many UN member countries pledged to reduce their carbon emissions.

The Vatican has supported the Paris agreement, with Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin stating last year that “climate change is an issue increasingly more moral than technical.”

On Tuesday, the warning issued by the scientists noted a “rapid rise in greenhouse gas emissions” in recent decades along with other factors such as rises in air transport, economic GDP, and energy consumption and a decrease in the size of the Brazilian Amazon rainforest.

The global population is increasing by 80 million people per year, the statement claims, and is a key driver of climate change. “The world population must be stabilized—and, ideally, gradually reduced—within a framework that ensures social integrity,” the scientists said.

Tuesday’s statement calls for “proven and effective policies that strengthen human rights while lowering fertility rates and lessening the impacts of population growth on GHG emissions and biodiversity loss.”

While the global population has continued to increase, fertility rates in many Western countries have already declined to replacement level or below.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the birth rate in the United States hit an all-time low in 2018 with the total fertility rate at 1.7—well below the replacement rate of 2.1. In South Korea in 2017, there were seven births per 1,000 people; Hungary saw its birth rate fall to 1.45 children per woman.

According to demographic prospects in the 2019 Revision of World Population Prospects, for the years 2015-2020, Western Europe was estimated at 1.68 live births per woman. Latin America and the Caribbean fell just under replacement level at 2.05 live births per woman. The African continent, by contrast, was estimated at 4.44 live births per woman.

Successful population control policies, the report noted, “make family-planning services available to all people, remove barriers to their access and achieve full gender equity, including primary and secondary education as a global norm for all, especially girls and young women.”

It cited another report by John Bongaarts and Brian C. O'Neill in Science Magazine that said efforts to slow population growth are being ignored as a legitimate solution to climate change.

Dr. Catherine Pakaluk, assistant professor of social research and economic thought at the Catholic University of America, told CNA in March that having children is a sign of optimism and that climate concerns should take a backseat to other factors.

"I think it takes a lot of courage to have a child, in any time," Pakaluk said. “Having children in general seems to require a lot of courage and optimism.”  

Pakaluk, whose primary research area is in demographics and families, told CNA that having a child is an intimidating task, but one that is made easier with what she called “spiritual resources.”

Pakaluk also said rhetoric about overpopulation should be tempered by experience, and that while many believe vital resources are becoming more scarce, the opposite is often true.

"As the world population has grown, together with research, industry, and innovation, in fact, most of those scarce resources have actually become less scarce,” she said.

The professor noted that while the world’s population had typically ebbed and flowed before steadily rising over the last century, the “golden age” of sustained population growth is coming to an end.

Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical on ecology, “Laudato Si,” paragraph 50 states that despite calls for population control as a solution to poverty, “demographic growth is fully compatible with an integral and shared development”.

“To blame population growth instead of extreme and selective consumerism on the part of some, is one way of refusing to face the issues,” the encyclical states of population growth as a false answer to climate change.

Developed countries may propose population control as a means by which to continue consuming resources at an unsustainable rate, while burdening developing countries with abortion, contraception, and sterilizations as well as effects of climate change, the encyclical said.

“It is an attempt to legitimize the present model of distribution, where a minority believes that it has the right to consume in a way which can never be universalized, since the planet could not even contain the waste products of such consumption,” the encyclical states.

Tuesday’s report was authored by William J. Ripple, professor of ecology at Oregon State University (OSU), and OSU associate research professor Christopher Wolf. It was signed by more than 11,000 scientists, ranging in disciplines and experience from biology professors to chemists, animal behaviorists, PhD candidates, research fellows, and heads of think tanks.

Minnesota bishop kept admitted child abuser in ministry, did not investigate allegation of abuse

Tue, 11/05/2019 - 16:05

Crookston, Minn., Nov 5, 2019 / 02:05 pm (CNA).- Depositions of Crookston Bishop Michael Hoeppner were released today, in which the bishop admits that he did not properly address an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor by a priest that an alleged victim brought to him in 2011. The depositions, released by attorney Jeff Anderson as part of a settlement agreement, also indicate that Hoeppner mishandled the cases of several priests, including one, presently in active ministry, who admitted to diocesan officials that he had sexually abused a 5-year-old while a teenager.

Hoeppner is the subject of a Vatican investigation into his administration of the Crookston diocese, conducted under the auspices of Vos estis lux mundi, 2018 norms from Pope Francis on investigating bishops accused of mishandling or obstructing allegations of clerical sexual abuse.

The first stage of the Vatican investigation was undertaken by Archbishop Bernard Hebda of St. Paul and Minneapolis. A Nov. 5 statement from the archdiocese said that Hebda sent to Rome last week his findings and recommendations in the case, and is now awaiting further instructions.

Hebda's report “includes all investigative information gathered, as well as summaries, analysis, findings of fact, and recommendations. Final resolution of this matter will be determined in Rome. The next step in the process is for the Congregation for Bishops to determine what other actions, if any, are necessary to reach that resolution,“ the archdiocese said.

“Several qualified lay persons, including experienced staff from the Archdiocese’s Office of Ministerial Standards and Safe Environment, conducted the investigation. Other outside lay experts, including a member of the Ministerial Review Board and a retired Minnesota Supreme Court Justice, assisted them,” the statement added.

The findings of the Vatican investigation are not expected to be released before the U.S. bishops’ conference meets next week, and Hoeppner is expected to attend the meeting.

However, the released depositions reveal details about Hoeppner’s leadership of the diocese.

The released depositions and documents show that Rev. Joseph Richards, a current pastor and the diocesan judicial vicar, admitted to diocesan authorities that he had sexually abused a child when he was a teenager, suffers from “sexual compulsivity,” and that he has had sexual fantasies involving minors while in ministry as a priest.

Confronted with those facts in a 2018 deposition, Hoeppner said that he had felt no need to re-examine his decision to assign the priest to active ministry.

In August, Hoeppner acknowledged that Richards had disclosed abusing a child while a teenager, but said that “after his successful completion and discharge from treatment, and having benefitted from the help he received, Father Richards was returned to priestly ministry and has served admirably now and without incident for a total of 29 years.”

The depositions also demonstrate that Hoeppner did not exercise oversight of a priest accused of “boundary violations,” and judged by mental health professional to be at risk of further violations, whom the bishop placed into priestly ministry without notifying parishioners of allegations made against the priest. In the depositions, the bishop said he could not recall whether expert recommendations to prevent the priest from committing boundary had been followed.

That priest, Fr. Patrick Sullivan, was placed on "administrative leave" in 2019 after a new allegation of boundary violations was made against him, reportedly similar to the cases in which he had previously been accused.

An August statement acknowledged that Sullivan has been accused of abusing a child, but said that allegation was not substantiated. It did not address the priest's reported history of grooming relationships.

Hoeppner was also asked in 2018 depositions asked about Fr. Don Braukmann, who died in July.

In 2014, the bishop had received complaints about Braukmann from the safe-environment coordinator in the Crookston diocese, who claimed that the priest had committed “as many as 15 to 20 code of conduct rules,” and had a questionable relationship with a young teenager.

While Braukmann was eventually sent for counseling and mental health treatment, the deposition suggests the bishop did not follow recommended protocols when the priest returned, and the priest reportedly resumed a grooming relationship with the teenager.

In the deposition, Hoeppner said he disputed the views of his own safe-environment coordinator and said he did not recall that treatment facility staff classified Braukmann as being at “high risk” of abusing and grooming minors.

The priest remained in ministry until shortly before his death.

The deposition also include Hoeppner's admission of failing to follow the Church’s protocols for addressing allegations of clerical sexual abuse against minors, in the case of an allegation that Msgr. Roger Grundhaus abused Ron Vasek, a former diaconal candidate in the diocese.

Vasek spoke at a Nov. 5 press conference.

“I was abused. I reported, I was told to be silent. I was coerced. I have been lied to, and I gave up my diaconate to tell the truth,” he said.

“It’s disturbing to see the Bishop of Crookston act like that.”

Vasek added that before the press conference, he had read depositions of both Hoeppner and the diocesan vicar general, Msgr. Michael Foltz.

“I had read their depositions and saw the blatant lies and the misuses of trust and power these men had perpetrated.  As I read them, I was sickened, as I hope you will be at the dishonesty of these men. The depositions will speak for themselves. These men will be caught in their own lies. Shame on you. You have betrayed our Lord,” Vasek added.

Vasek claimed initially that Monsignor Roger Grundhaus, a priest of the Diocese of Crookston, sexually assaulted him in a hotel room in approximately 1971 while the two of them were at a canon law convention in Columbus, Ohio. 

An August statement of the diocese disputes that account, saying there was a not canon law convention in Columbus that year, while Vasek was a minor.

In fact, the alleged abuse took place during the Midwest Regional Canon Law Convention in April 1972, shortly after Vasek had turned 17. According to the canon law in place at the time, the alleged assualt did not constitute the abuse of a minor.

The discrepency of dates seems to have led the diocese to return Grundhaus to ministry without notation of the allegation against him.

But in his deposition, Hoeppner admitted that at the time the abuse was reported to him, before he was aware of the details, he did not order an investigation into the allegation.

In his deposition, Hoeppner testified that Vasek came to him in September 2011 to report the abuse. The bishop alleges that he asked Vasek if he wanted it to be made public, and Vasek said “absolutely not.”

Canon law requires a bishop to investigate all allegations of sexual abuse of minors, and to involve the diocesan review board, regardless of whether the alleged victim asks for an investigation. Hoeppner said he did initially not do that because Vasek wanted the allegation to remain “confidential.”

Hoeppner admitted in the deposition he understood himself to be violating Church norms, but said he did so to maintain confidentiality. It is not clear whether the bishop also violated Minnesota statutes regarding the mandatory reporting of child abuse.

In addition to the bishop's failure to properly handle the allegation of abuse, Vasek alleges, Hoeppner coerced him into recanting his claim.

The bishop called Vasek to his residence a meeting in Oct. 2015, shortly before Vasek was scheduled to be ordained a deacon.

Vasek claims Hoeppner at that meeting ordered him to sign a letter, printed on diocesan stationary, recanting his allegations against Grundhaus.

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

Hoeppner explained that the Fargo diocese had inquired about Vasek’s allegation against Grundhaus, and intended to forbid the priest from exercising ministry within its territory, Vasek told CNA last year.

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

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

Feeling coerced into doing so, Vasek signed the letter.

A priest in the Crookston diocese told CNA he believes Hoeppner coerced Vasek into recanting his claim against Grundhaus so that the priest would not need to included on a court-ordered list of  alleged to have abused children prior to 1985.

Hoeppner said in his deposition that he during the meeting he offered to let Vasek put down his accusation in writing for the vicar general, but denies the claim that Vasek was being coerced.

The bishop also testified that he didn’t have the letter prepared in advance, but rather he had Vasek come back the next morning to sign it. He admitted that it was his idea to have Vasek sign the letter, and claimed that he didn’t save the file for the letter on his computer because it was “confidential.” He then, when shown a copy of the letter, claimed that he had Vasek backdate it for the previous day because that was the date they allegedly had their meeting.

He testified that he left Grundhaus’ name off the list of accused priests because, in his mind, no accusation had yet been brought forth— the accusation he had heard from Vasek in 2011 was still “confidential,” he said.

He added that he didn’t have the court order in mind “at all” when he met with Vasek in Oct. 2015.

During the Nov. 5 press conference, attorney Jeff Anderson called for the removal of Hoeppner from his post as Bishop of Crookston.

In a Nov. 5 statement, the diocese said that Hoeppner has “fully cooperated” with the canonical investigation into his leadership, and with the conditions of its recent legal settlements.

Regarding the investigation, the diocese said that “we await a response and remain hopeful that justice will prevail for all impacted by this action.”

In July, after a legal settlement was reached, Hoeppner offered another statement.

“To all victims and survivors of sexual abuse by clergy, as the Bishop of Crookston I apologize for the harm done to you by those entrusted with your spiritual care. Although you can never be fully compensated for your suffering, we are thankful this litigation has now come to a good end and are hopeful this settlement offers you justice and will be helpful for healing.”

For his part, Vasek called for broader reforms.

“There is a huge problem in the Church. Active homosexual activity by priests and the secrecy of this sin must be revealed, and the holy priesthood must be restored to what Jesus said it ought to be,” Vasek said.

“The dark secret coverup of homosexual behavior has been under the radar for many years. Now the darkness is coming to light,” he added.

Vasek also discussed the effects of the abuse he suffered.

For a long time, he said, “I was suffering from the disordered belief that it was my fault, what happened.” That belief led Vasek to struggles with alcohol and confusion about his own sexuality, and even to have insecurities about caring for his children.

“Not understanding the effects of my abuse prevented me from becoming the father I should have been.”

While Vasek promised prayers for his abuser and his bishop, he also had a message for them.

“To the priests who have caused this: shame on you.”

“All of you priests, bishops, and cardinals who have forgotten your sacred vows, and allowed this abuse to continue: shame on you.”


This story is developing and will be updated.


Oklahoma Supreme Court temporarily halts law banning D&E abortions

Tue, 11/05/2019 - 13:12

Oklahoma City, Okla., Nov 5, 2019 / 11:12 am (CNA).- The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Monday issued a temporary injunction against a law banning dilation-and-evacuation abortions. The injunction will stop the law from taking effect while a legal challenge to it progresses.

The “Unborn Child Protection-from-Dismemberment-Abortion Act,” passed in 2015, bars dilation-and-evacuation abortions after 14 weeks. Also called a “dismemberment abortion,” the procedure uses clamps, scissors, or similar medical tools to remove an unborn baby from the womb. It is the most common abortion procedure during the second trimester.

The legislation includes an exemption for cases when doctors determine that a woman’s life is at risk, or that her health is seriously threatened. It also allows for the use of the procedure intending to save an unborn child’s life, or to remove the body of a dead unborn child.

The law had been challenged by the Center for Reproductive Rights and the Tulsa Women’s Reproductive Clinic in 2015, shortly after then-Gov. Mary Fallin (R) signed the bill into law. On July 12, 2019, Judge Truong upheld the ban. Opponents of the law challenged the ruling.

In September, a district court had denied a motion to temporarily halt the law. Officials agreed to wait for the state Supreme Court’s decision before enforcing the ban. The intervention from the Supreme Court this week means that the ban will not go into effect while the case continues to be argued in court.

Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter voiced disappointment in the Supreme Court’s decision, but noted that the injunction is temporary and maintains the status quo in the state.

“We look forward to showing the court why that appeal is meritless, and why an overwhelming bipartisan majority of the Legislature was well within its constitutional authority to outlaw the dismemberment of a living human being,” Hunter said, according to the Oklahoman.

Marco Rubio calls for an ‘economics of the common good’ 

Tue, 11/05/2019 - 06:00

Washington D.C., Nov 5, 2019 / 04:00 am (CNA).- Senator Marco Rubio has called for “common good economics” ahead of a speech Tuesday on Catholic social teaching and the dignity of work, noting the need for a new economic vision to respond to contemporary economic realities.

Speaking to CNA in an interview November 4, Senator Rubio (R-FL) said that there needs to be a renewed focus on the human orientation and ends of economic policy and growth, after decades of changes in both national and global market conditions.

“The economy should be at the service of the common good,” Rubio said. “It should work for us, not people for the economy.”

On Nov. 5, Rubio will give a speech titled “Catholic Social Doctrine and the Dignity of Work” at the Busch School of Business at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. 

Speaking ahead of the event, the senator told CNA that established ways of thinking about market forces and public policy have failed to keep up with decades of change. But, Rubio said, his outlook remains rooted in a shared tradition with his party’s past leaders.

“Reagan economics was very much centered on dignified work,” Rubio told CNA, “but when Ronald Reagan was president, the architecture of our economy was very different.”

“We didn’t have the massive displacements of whole industries that we see now, or public policies that encouraged it. People criticized Regan economics as ‘trickle-down’ but it used to trickle very differently than it does today.”

The current economy is, Rubio said, asymmetrical, with “enormous pockets of prosperity” in which people with the right degrees, in the right industries, in the right places, are better remunerated than ever before.

“There’s nothing wrong with that,” Rubio said. “The problem is that at the same time you have millions of people left behind and told to do things which are neither reasonable or good.”

Rubio said the concept of dignified work is central to an economics that puts social health and human flourishing at its center. In his recent writings on the subject, Rubio has become perhaps the first US Senator to cite Pope Leo XIII as an inspiration for his economic vision, highlighting especially the 1891 encyclical Rerum novarum.

“It was an interesting encyclical because he wrote it in reaction to the disruptions the world was facing after industrialization – there were some of the same fears then, machines replacing people, mass economic displacement. He wrote about that balance of obligations between the worker and the employer and I think this is a good time to revisit that balance in the light of the post-industrial disruptions we now face.”

Rubio, himself a Catholic, told CNA that Catholic social teaching influences his own concept of dignity and work “more than it used to.”

“The more you dig into it, you realize that there is an extraordinary wisdom. For example, St. John Paul II wrote about the obligation of a worker to work - which is something that people on the political right, myself included, have talked about – but it is built upon the assumption that such work has dignity. It’s something you can only insist upon if the economy we’ve put in place fosters the creation of those jobs.”

“I think dignified work is something that allows you to get up in the morning or the evening and go do something rewarding and productive,” Rubio told CNA. “You should be able to feel useful and productive, and that those hours matter.”

But, Rubio said, “there’s no doubt” that there is a shortage of dignified work in the American economy.

“This is driven almost entirely by the idea that our economics is about the right of businesses to make a profit – which is true, but with that right comes a responsibility to act in the common good, it is a balance and mutually beneficial arrangement at its best.”

“Today our focus is on ‘How fast is GDP growing?’ irrespective of how that growth is distributed and whether short term profit takes precedence over what is in the long-term interest of the country or the interest of the whole nation today.”

“Industries that provided dignified work for decades have vanished. The people who once had those jobs have not been the ones who have been able to achieve the new jobs created by the ‘new economy.’”

“People are being told, at 45 years of age, to go back to school, learn to code, leave behind your family, your church, your community, the place you’ve always lived – your entire support network – and move half-way across the country for a job you’re probably not going to get anyway because they think you’re too old for it.”

In answer to this situation, Rubio said that both the political left and right are offering a “false choice” between a “purist” pursuit of profit divorced from community investment, and promises of a socialist mandate to enforce better outcomes.

Public policy, he said, can and should be part of realigning the economy towards the public good, but it cannot deliver it by government fiat.

“A government that provides you with healthcare will decide who your doctor is and what healthcare you get, a government that provides all your education will ultimately decide not just what you’re taught, but what you can study and where.”

“Common good economics trusts that if our public policies reflect the rights of a worker to benefit from their work as well as their obligation to work, and the rights of a business to make a profit as well as their obligation to do so in a way that’s beneficial to the country, then private individuals and business in balance can do a better job of providing those necessities and the kind of life we all want than government ever could.”

But what is the role of government in a common good economy?

“If we are going to have preferences in our public policy, the preference needs to go to things which contribute towards our common good,” Rubio said, highlighting policies that incentivize immediate reinvestment of returns to grow jobs and sustain local communities.

“The second thing that government needs to do, especially in the 21st century, is to recognize that there are certain industries that are critical to our long-term interests. From a pure market analysis, it may be more efficient moving this or that manufacturing or other function to another country, but from a national interest standpoint, there are certain things we have to be able to do even if it’s not purely justified by market conditions – we have to be able to make things, to feed ourselves.”

“I think there are great benefits to a globalized economy… but I do think we have to recognize that policies that worked very well in an economy that wasn’t globalized need to be readjusted to that new reality.”

“Before, you could expect GDP growth to match investment back into our economy, that’s not the case anymore.”

But, he said, the real dignity of work was to be found as much in the home as in the office or on the shop floor, and it is not about simply amassing wealth.

“Most people aren’t interested in becoming rich, but in being rewarded in a way which allows you to provide for your family, and allows you the time you need to be the husband, wife, father, mother, and member of the community that you want to be.”

“Our policies should be driven by what is for the common good for our country, and one of the most important parts of that common good is the creation of dignified work – that gives people the time, money and support they need to raise strong families and make a difference in their community,” Rubio said.

“And by the way, it also benefits the people they work for and allows them to make a profit. It’s mutually beneficial.”

Catholic community in Albany mourns priest killed in flash flood

Mon, 11/04/2019 - 19:02

Albany, N.Y., Nov 4, 2019 / 05:02 pm (CNA).- The Catholic Diocese of Albany is grieving the death of a local priest who was killed when his car was swept up in a flash flood on Halloween night.

“We are so saddened to learn of Father Thomas Connery’s tragic death, but we know that he died as he lived - serving the people of God without fear or concern for himself,” said Bishop Edward Scharfenberger of Albany in a recent statement.

“Connery was a devoted priest who served faithfully for 56 years and just weeks ago had accepted a new assignment as sacramental minister for Sts. Anthony and Joseph Church in Herkimer as well as St. John the Baptist in Newport.”

The 82-year-old priest had been driving through Norway in central New York at around 10 p.m. on Thursday when he was caught up in a flash flood amid a large regional storm. He has been on his way to celebrate Mass in Herkimer and Newport.

According to ABC News, a witness told police that Connery’s car had struggled against the high waters and, after the road collapsed, it became stuck. When the priest tried to exit the car, he was swept away. His body was found downstream about a quarter-mile away.

“Due to the dangerously high and strong current, the witness was unable to help Mr. Connery,” the police statement read, according to ABC News.

Mary DeTurris Poust, communications director for the Diocese of Albany, said the priest was beloved by many in the diocese.

“He really did die as he lived, which was serving the people he loved,” said Poust, according to News10 ABC.

“He really was a kind, and gentle, and really sweet spirit … as well as a magnificent priest,” she added.

Father James Ebert, vicar for the clergy of the Diocese of Albany, had known Connery for 30 years.

“I just started crying,” Father Ebert told News10 ABC of his reaction to hearing the news. “It was a shock because he sent me a letter about a month ago thanking me for everything that I do. That’s the kind of guy he was - very thoughtful.”

Bishop Scharfenberger said Connery was a faithful priest and active evangelist.

“Father Tom lived and died amidst the storm waters of life across which he led countless souls. His priestly life was itself a bridge to Eternity for many, firmly grounded in his Faith in Jesus,” the bishop said.

“He met his death in the fury of the natural elements and, we pray with confidence, met the face of our loving Savior to whose Name he witnessed tirelessly and without fear. A lifelong martyr who died as he lived, with his boots on.”

Connery was born and raised in New York. He was ordained a priest in Albany in 1963 and served as the pastor of several Catholic churches in the area, including St. Joseph’s in Albany, St. Mary’s in Little Falls, and the Immaculate Conception in Glenville.

According to The Evangelist, the diocesan newspaper of Albany, the priest also served in several parishes in Alaska in the 1960s and ‘70s. While serving at St. Mary’s Parish on Kodiak Island, the priest became a commercial fisherman, seeking to connect with parishioners and provide extra money to the financially struggling parish.

Connery’s funeral Mass will take place on Wednesday at the Church of the Immaculate Conception. The reception of the body will begin at 3 p.m. and Mass will start at 7 p.m.

“May he rest in peace, and may his family be comforted by the faith that served as Father Connery’s strength and foundation throughout his life of ministry,” said Bishop Scharfenberger.

Bishop Bransfield disinvited from US bishops' meeting

Mon, 11/04/2019 - 18:25

Washington D.C., Nov 4, 2019 / 04:25 pm (CNA).- The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has canceled their invitation for Bishop Michael Bransfield, former head of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, to attend their upcoming annual fall meeting due to allegations of sexual abuse and financial misconduct.

Chieko Noguchi, the director of public affairs for the USCCB, confirmed that Bransfield had been disinvited from the meeting, per a new protocol that was approved by the bishop’s conference in June.

According to the new Protocol Regarding Available Non-Penal Restrictions on Bishops: “The President of the USCCB, in consultation with the Administrative Committee, can instruct the General Secretary that a bishop emeritus who resigned or was removed from his office due to sexual abuse of minors, sexual misconduct with adults, or grave negligence in office, or who subsequent to his resignation was found to have so acted or failed to act, is not to be invited to attend the Plenary Assembly or to serve on any USCCB body.”

“In this case, Bishop (Robert) Brennan, the current ordinary for Wheeling-Charleston initiated this process by reaching out to USCCB president Cardinal DiNardo, who in consultation with the Administrative Committee, moved this forward,” Noguchi told CNA.

The USCCB’s General Assembly meeting is scheduled to take place November 11-14 in Baltimore, Maryland.

Pope Francis accepted Bransfield’s resignation as Bishop of Wheeling-Charleston in September last year, just after Bransfield had turned 75. Pope Francis then ordered Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore to conduct an investigation into allegations that Bransfield had sexually harassed adult males and misused diocesan finances during his time in West Virginia.

Bransfield is reported to have sexually harassed, assaulted, and coerced seminarians, priests, and other adults during his time as Bishop of Wheeling-Charleston. He was also found to have given large cash gifts to high-ranking Church leaders, using diocesan funds.

Lori banned Bransfield from public ministry within the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston and the Archdiocese of Baltimore in March, and in July the Vatican imposed additional sanctions, including banning Bransfield from living in his former diocese and ordering him to make “personal amends” for his actions, as determined by Brennan.

In October, another allegation surfaced that Bransfield had inappropriately touched a nine-year-old girl during a pilgrimage to Washington, D.C., in 2012. A police investigation is underway, and the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston said in October that they are cooperating with the authorities.

Trump administration finalizes refugee cap at lowest level ever

Mon, 11/04/2019 - 18:00

Washington D.C., Nov 4, 2019 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- The White House on Sunday finalized its quota of refugee admissions for the 2020 fiscal year, cutting the cap on U.S. refugee admissions to its lowest recorded level.

The White House said the fiscal year 2020 refugee cap of 18,000 “is justified by humanitarian concerns or is otherwise in the national interest.”

The Trump administration had originally announced the proposed refugee cap in September, saying that the State Department, Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services would subsequently consult Congress.

The cap of 18,000 refugees is 40% lower than the quota of 30,000 refugees for FY 2019, which was a 33% drop from the FY 2018 limit of 45,000 refugees.

For the fiscal year 2017, the Obama administration set the ceiling at accepting 110,000 refugees, but the Trump administration halted the resettlement program for security concerns, ultimately admitting only 53,716 refugees for that fiscal year.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has criticized the proposed cuts to refugee admissions, saying that the U.S. can and should resettle more refugees at a time when 70 million people around the world have been forcibly displaced from their homes, according to the UN.

“We are currently in the midst of the world’s greatest forced displacement crisis on record, and for our nation, which leads by example, to lower the number of refugee admissions for those who are in need is unacceptable,” Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin, chair of the USCCB migration committee, stated on Sept. 27 after the proposed cap was announced.

Bishop Vasquez had previously called for a return to resettlement quotas of 95,000 refugees.

For 2020, the administration has also announced other changes to refugee admissions, and will accept quotas of refugees by category instead of by world region.

The U.S. will accept up to 5,000 refugees with a “well-founded fear” of religious persecution or who are eligible for resettlement under the Lautenberg and Specter Amendments, in FY 2020. Those amendments provided for resettlement of individuals from the former Soviet Union, Indochina, and Iran with a well-founded fear of persecution, though not necessarily on an individual basis, and who required less proof of persecution.

In 2020, the U.S. will accept up to 4,000 “Iraqi P2s,” Iraqi nationals who have helped the United States.

The administration will accept up to 1,500 nationals or “habitual residents” from El Salvador, Guatemala, or Honduras, the “Northern Triangle” of countries in Central America which have some of the highest murder rates in the world, and from whence come many of the unaccompanied minors who have traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border. The 1,500 will not include those otherwise eligible for asylum claims.

Other categories of refugees include referrals from U.S. embassies, cases of family reunification, and up to 7,500 who were in “ready for departure” status in the refugee resettlement program as of September 30.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo cited concerns over a backlog of asylum cases on the U.S.-Mexico border that relate to more than one million individuals.

“America’s support for refugees and other displaced people extends well beyond our immigration system,” he said. “Addressing the core problems that drive refugees away from their homes helps more people more rapidly than resettling them in the United States.”

In the fiscal year 2016, the Obama administration accepted around 85,000 refugees and planned to accept 110,000 refugees in 2017. Since the 2001 terrorist attacks, the annual cap on refugee admissions had been set at, or slightly higher than, 70,000, before the Obama administration increased the cap for FY 2016 and 2017.

Lafayette diocese donates $50k to Baptist churches destroyed by arson

Mon, 11/04/2019 - 16:30

Lafayette, La., Nov 4, 2019 / 02:30 pm (CNA).- Catholic parishes throughout the Diocese of Lafayette in Louisiana raised more than $50,000 for three black Baptist churches that were the targets of arson attacks that have been characterized as hate crimes.

Bishop Douglas Deshotel of Lafayette presented the funds to the pastors of the affected Baptist churches on Thursday at the site of one of the former churches.

Pastor Harry Richard of Greater Union Baptist Church in Opelousas, Pastor Gerald Toussaint of Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Opelousas, and Pastor Kyle Sylvester of St. Mary Baptist Church in Port Barre, accepted the donations on behalf of their congregations.

Between March 26 and April 4, each of these predominantly black Baptist churches in St. Landry Parish in Louisiana was destroyed by arson. KTA 5 News in Louisiana reported at the time that pastors of other local Baptist parishes began sleeping in their churches in order to fend off other possible attacks.

Police arrested 21-year-old Holden Matthews as a suspect in the fires, and he faces three felony arson charges and three federal hate crime charges, CBS News reported in June.

On Thursday, each affected church received a check for just more than $16,800 from the Diocese of Lafayette to go toward their rebuilding efforts. The funds add to the $2 million raised through an April GoFundMe account for the churches, The Acadiana Advocate reported.

“Evil brings opportunities for good, and this is a good way to do that," Deshotel said.

Rev. Harry Richard said he is looking forward to rebuilding the church for his congregation, which is now using a temporary space for worship.

“When that was taken away from us, not only did it create a fire in our building, but it created a fire in our lives. That fire seems to be burning until we get back to our home,” Richard said, according to The Advocate.

 “But the love that Bishop Deshotel and the rest of the community has shown has been a river of loving water that is helping put out the fire in our lives.”


Citing St. Gianna Molla’s loving example, University of Mary names health sciences school

Mon, 11/04/2019 - 15:40

Bismarck, N.D., Nov 4, 2019 / 01:40 pm (CNA).- The University of Mary’s School of Health Sciences will be named for St. Gianna Beretta Molla, a pediatrician and a mother who died after declining cancer treatment that could have harmed her unborn daughter.

“How fitting it will be to have St. Gianna the namesake of our School of Health Sciences, a saint who lived out this value in her medical practice and personal life,” Jodi Roller, dean of the North Dakota-based university’s School of Health Sciences, said Nov. 1.

The announcement came at the University of Mary’s main campus near Bismarck during the 2019 Candlelight Gala on Nov. 1, All Saints’ Day. The gala launched a fundraising effort for the health sciences school.

“Calling upon what her Catholic faith taught her, Molla believed every human life was a gift from God, something sacred to be respected and protected from conception to natural death,” the University of Mary said in a statement.

St. Gianna’s youngest daughter, Gianna Emanuela Molla, is now a medical doctor herself. She attended the gala on behalf of her family and gave her personal approval of naming the school in honor of her mother.

Others at the announcement were University of Mary President Monsignor James Shea, as well as School of Health Sciences faculty.

The University of Mary was founded in 1959 by the Benedictine Sisters of Annunciation Monastery. It now has over 3,800 undergraduate and graduate students.

Its four doctoral programs include physical therapy, nursing practice, and occupational therapy. It offers 15 master’s degree programs and close to 60 undergraduate majors.

Molla, born in 1922, was an Italian doctor who gave special attention to mothers, babies, the elderly and the poor.

Early in her pregnancy with her fourth child, Gianna Beretta Molla discovered she had a tumor in her womb. Despite the risks to her life, she rejected most cancer treatment because it would have endangered her child.

She died in 1962 at the age of 39, one week after giving birth to a healthy baby girl, who would be named Gianna.

Gianna Molla was the first married woman to be canonized as a saint in modern times.

She was beatified in 1994, and St. John Paul II canonized her in 2004. She is strongly associated with the mission of the family, and has been declared the patron of mothers, physicians, and unborn children.

Dr. Glenda Reemts, chair of the university’s department of nursing, welcomed the name change.

“The naming of our school after St. Gianna beautifully emulates the sanctity of human life. The importance of the dignity of the human person runs deep within our school and within the hearts of our students,” Reemts said.

Lauren Emmel, assistant professor of physical therapy at the university, praised St. Gianna’s example.

“If we can hold our students to the legacy and vocation of St. Gianna as a loving example in her life and in her death, that is something real and life-giving—we give our students something to hope for in their pursuit of studies at the University of Mary,” she said.

The university said its faculty and students will continue to follow the counsel of St. Gianna, citing the saint’s words: “Our task is to make the truth visible and lovable, offering ourselves as an attractive, and, if possible, heroic example.”

The University of Mary’s main campus is near Bismarck, N.D., with a separate downtown Bismarck campus and other locations in both Fargo and Grand Forks, N.D. It offers online education and education at locations in Montana, Kansas, Arizona, Rome, Italy and Arequipa, Peru.


Buttigieg's comments on restricting religious freedom prompt calls for clarification

Mon, 11/04/2019 - 14:13

Washington D.C., Nov 4, 2019 / 12:13 pm (CNA).- Democratic primary candidate Pete Buttigieg has said that religious freedom must be curbed if it is used to “harm,” prompting calls for clarification about what the presidential hopeful considers grounds for restricting religious practice.

Adam Wren, a reporter for Indianapolis Monthly, tweeted on Sunday that he asked Buttigieg “how he would approach religious freedom broadly.”

Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and candidate for the 2020 Democratic nomination for president, responded that “[t]he touchstone has to be the idea that religious freedom like any other freedom is constrained when it becomes a rationale for doing harm.”

“You know the original doctrines and federal legislative law go back to, I think, substances in rituals among Native Americans says about freedom to undertake a religious practice,” Buttigieg said.

Buttigieg continued that when religious freedom is invoked to practice “hiring discrimination,” that would make the issue “tough, and sticky.”

The matter of “constraining” religious freedom when it is invoked to do harm “would move us further than we’ve moved so far,” Buttigieg said.

“In terms of enforcing for example anti-discrimination expectations, even on private organizations, and I think that bar goes even higher when we’re talking about anybody seeking federal funds,” he said.

Luke Goodrich, senior counsel at Becket, a law firm that defends religious freedom, said that Buttigieg’s comments were “vague” and demanded clarification on just what situations he would see as justifying limitations on religious freedom.

“I still see it as it’s a vague and popular talking point right now,” Goodrich said of the concept of religious freedom being invoked to do harm. He added that “the devil really is in the details, and the candidates need to clarify precisely what kinds of harm they would seek to punish.”

The Supreme Court has already ruled that religious organizations “can hire people who agree with their core religious practices even when it ‘harms’ people who don’t get hired,” Goodrich noted, referring to Supreme Court decisions in 2012 and 1987 in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC and Corp. of Presiding Bishop v. Amos, respectively.

In Hosanna Tabor, the Court ruled unanimously that the federal government cannot intervene in the hiring or firing of religious ministers. In Amos, the Court ruled that religious organizations could make hiring decisions for non-religious positions based on religious beliefs.

In response to a request for comment, the Buttigieg campaign said his words “speak for themselves.”

The concept of religious freedom being invoked to “do harm,” which Buttigieg referenced, is behind the Do No Harm Act, a bill introduced in Congress in 2017 and again in 2019 to limit the application of current federal religious freedom law.

The 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA)—which passed the House unanimously and the Senate by a vote of 97 to 3, and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton—created a test for when a federal law infringes upon a person’s free exercise of religion.

The law was enacted in response to a 1990 Supreme Court decision, Employment Division v. Smith, where two Native Americans who lost their jobs due to a failed employment drug test said they had used the drug peyote as part of a Native American religious ritual. The Court ruled against the two Native Americans and sided with the government in the case.

Under RFRA, the government cannot “substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion” unless it provides proof of a “compelling interest” and that its action is the least-restrictive means of furthering that compelling interest.

The proposed Do No Harm Act lists whole areas of law where RFRA would no longer apply, including provision of health care items or services and government contracts.

The recent comments from Buttigieg are the latest in a series of statements calling for the restriction of religious freedom, particularly in matters of sexual orientation and gender identity.

According to a June 13 report by Wren in Indianapolis Monthly, Buttigieg praised the bipartisan outcry over Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 2015, calling the act “social extremism.” The law originally signed by then-Governor Mike Pence mirrored the federal RFRA, but a coalition of politicians, celebrities, and businesses rallied against it.

In response, the state legislature passed, and Gov. Pence signed, a “fix” to the law that mostly exempted sexual orientation and gender identity anti-discrimination protections from the law’s application. Religious freedom advocate Ryan Anderson called the change a “wholesale repeal” of the original law.

“And the business Republicans revolted right alongside us progressives,” Buttigieg said of the backlash against the original law. “So that shows me that there is a belief in just decency that really does stand against that kind of social extremism.”

Buttigieg did oppose the idea of stripping churches of their tax exempt status for not supporting same-sex marriage, in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Oct. 13, but he added that schools and other non-profit organizations should be held accountable for their views on marriage.

“So if we want to talk about anti-discrimination law for a school or an organization, absolutely,” he said. “They should not be able to discriminate.”

Buttigieg supports the Equality Act, a bill passed by the House that would make sexual orientation and gender identity protected classes in federal anti-discrimination law.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) opposed the bill for conflating a person’s actions with their identity and human dignity. The bill would threaten religious free speech, conscience, and the exercise of religion, the bishops said.

Buttigieg’s website also says he would “give the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Partnerships a mandate to work with faith and community leaders who support LGBTQ+ people.”

The candidate says he would also “examine existing religious exemption policies” in the federal government, including “offices that were put in place to enable discrimination.”

In recent years, the Trump administration created a new conscience and religious freedom division at the Department of Health and Human Services, to support conscience rights of health care professionals in matters such as opting out of performing or assisting with abortions or gender transition surgeries.

'Safe injection site' denounced as false solution to Philadelphia drug problem

Sun, 11/03/2019 - 18:44

Philadelphia, Pa., Nov 3, 2019 / 04:44 pm (CNA).- A proposal to create a supervised injection site in Philadelphia has drawn criticism from the local archbishop and others who say resources to fight addiction should focus on full and authentic healing.

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia called the supervised injection site proposal “saddening – but not surprising.”

“The proposed facility is simply the latest dose of despair offered by a confused and suffering culture; a culture that refuses to understand the true nature of both addiction and those who are enslaved by it,” the archbishop wrote in his weekly column for Catholic Philly Oct. 25.

He argued that the premise of such injection sites is built on “misguided compassion” and “an erroneous concept of human nature.”

Chaput’s column responded to a plan to open a supervised drug injection site in Philadelphia. The site would be run by a non-profit and would provide syringes and other tools for drug use, although users would have to bring the illicit drugs themselves.

Staff members would monitor users and be available to respond to potential overdoses with medical attention and naloxone, the antidote to fentanyl and heroine, two drugs driving the opioid epidemic. Recovery counseling would also be available, as well as referrals for housing and public benefits.

The plan has the support of city officials. Proponents of the site say it aims to respond to the opioid crisis in one of America’s hardest hit cities. Philadelphia sees more than 1,000 overdose deaths per year.

The U.S. Justice Department maintains that such a facility would violate federal drugs laws and has sued the City of Philadelphia to block the injection site from moving forward.

Early in October, however, a federal judge ruled in favor of the city, saying its purpose in creating the injection site does not violate the law’s intent.

The Philadelphia injection site would be the first of its kind in the U.S., although other cities have voiced interest in the possibility.

From a moral perspective, Archbishop Chaput said, it is clear that the use of illicit drugs, and the provision of them, are violations of divine law.

But there are also serious practical problems with the injection site proposal, the archbishop said. “The science itself doesn’t support the sites.”

Modern neurological science indicates that the environmental stimuli accompanying substance abuse can trigger cravings, he noted.

“That’s why 12-step recovery groups urge members to avoid the people, places and things that led to their substance abuse, not unlike Christ’s command in Matthew 5:29-30 to tear out one’s right eye and cut off one’s right hand to avoid sin. By enhancing these environmental stimuli, safe injection sites keep individuals locked in addiction.”

‘Doing harm, not good’

Supporters of the injection site point to a similar facility in downtown Vancouver. Known as Insite, the facility opened in 2003. Since then, staff members have supervised more than 3.5 million injections and responded to more than 6,000 overdoses. No one has died at the facility, a statistic which proponents tout as evidence that it has been successful as a harm reduction strategy.

However, Chaput argued that the data from Insite “can hardly be called convincing.”

“Since its opening in 2003, some 3.6 million clients have self-injected at the Vancouver-based site, yet only 48,798 (or 1.35 percent) have received any kind of addiction treatment,” he said, adding that of those who have sought treatment, the type and duration of treatment are not clear.

He cited researchers who argue that politicization of evidence and flaws in data collection raise serious questions about the purported success of safe injection sites.

Steven Bozza, director of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s Office for Life and Family and a bioethics professor at Catholic Distance University, argued in an Oct. 17 article for Catholic Philly that the proposed injection site violates fundamental principles of medical ethics.

“Making it easier to engage in life-threatening behavior and codifying it into law — while sending the bill to taxpayers — is doing harm, not good,” he said.

Bozza warned that injection sites encourage individuals to feed their addictions, moving them down a path of increasingly diminished autonomy.

He also argued that “safe injection sites divert badly needed funds away from resources that have already proven effective in offering real hope of recovery from addiction for thousands.”

“The money and resources sought to fund safe injection sites can and should be invested in what has already been proven to work: rehab centers, healthcare benefits that cover relapse treatment, counseling and social support services, vocational and life skills training.”

Pointing the harm that illicit drugs do not only to those who use them, but also to the millions exploited globally by drug cartels, Chaput stressed that while drug addiction is a serious wound for individuals, families, and communities, supervised injection sites are not the solution.

Instead, he pointed to proven recovery options including “medical treatment, abstinence, counseling, support groups and above all the love of Christ.”

“Ultimately, healing from addiction is found not in a clean needle or Narcan, but in a heart renewed by its creator,” the archbishop said.

A holistic approach

Renee Hudson-Small is the assistant director of Housing and Homeless Services for Catholic Social Services of Philadelphia. She said the agency has found that a broad approach focused on the whole person offers the greatest likelihood of successfully helping people recover from addiction.

“Definitely the holistic approach is, from where we sit, very effective in helping those individuals try to cope with something that is very difficult to overcome, but can be overcome,” Hudson-Small told CNA in an interview earlier this year.

This holistic approach includes connecting individuals struggling with addiction – and their families – with resources offered by Catholic Social Services and throughout the City of Philadelphia and surrounding counties.

One way in which Catholic Social Services does this is through a recovery facility that it runs for single women and women with children. Shelter and support services are combined with case managers to help the women get back on their feet.

“They reside in our facility while they’re in recovery, and we assist them with case management services, as well as support services,” Hudson-Small said. This support includes “making sure they obtain the necessary life skills and a plan for housing, getting basic needs met – identification, maybe birth certificate, things that they may have lost while they were in their addiction.”

Counseling and mental health care are included in case management support services. Catholic Social Services helps connect patients with mental health professionals if they need resources. They also help ensure that they are following through with appointments, working to resolve transportation issues or other obstacles.

“Every individual is different and is going to receive things differently, at different points or stages in their life,” Hudson-Small said. “So one of the things that we pride ourselves on is that we know that at times, there may be individuals that fall back into addiction. We’re there to be a support for them, at whatever stage, when they can get back to the point where they’re ready to take on services. We’re there to be available to them.”

Providing support for families is also an important factor in helping individuals overcome addiction, she stressed.

“When someone is in an addiction, it’s not just that person that is affected, but the entire family that is affected,” she explained. “It touches everyone’s lives - family and friends - because they are part of that person’s network. So you want to provide services to that individual, but you also want to be a support to that family, so they can be prepared to address some of the concerns that they have about their loved one.”

Part of this support for families is teaching them how to best help their loved ones with addictions, and how to be patient, especially “when the family is just so tired, which sometimes is the case, and understandably so.”

“It may take several times for people to get to the point where they’re able to maintain their sobriety,” Hudson-Small said. It can be very difficult, she acknowledged, “for a family member who may have watched that person fall more than two, three, four, five times, and just get really frustrated and not know what to do next.”

In these cases, she said, it is crucial for family members to “just be really patient and not to give up hope on them, because if you just stay in there, get them connected to those services that can continue to bring hope to them, eventually it will stick and they will reach that sobriety and hopefully maintain it.”

In Minnesota, ambitious pro-abortion lawsuit seeks to strike down 13 laws

Sun, 11/03/2019 - 05:10

St. Paul, Minn., Nov 3, 2019 / 03:10 am (CNA).- Minnesota’s restrictions on abortion are too important for pro-abortion groups to eliminate through a single lawsuit, pro-life defenders of the 13 challenged laws have said.

Paul Stark, communications director with Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, said the state’s current laws are “reasonable and very modest protections for pregnant women and their unborn children.”

“Women have a right to informed consent. Parents should be notified when their minor children are undergoing abortion. The public should know about how abortion is practiced in our state,” he told CNA Nov. 1. “All of these things would go away if the lawsuit is successful.”

The lawsuit, filed in May in Ramsey County District Court, was the subject of an Oct. 30 hearing. The suit argued that a 1995 Minnesota Supreme Court decision Doe v. Gomez, which ruled the state constitution includes a right to legal abortion, means many state laws passed before and after the decision are unconstitutional.

“We think that claim has no merit and should be dismissed. But it could be many months before the case reaches its resolution,” Stark told CNA.

With the U.S. Supreme Court believed to be at a tipping point against precedents which mandate permissive abortion laws nationwide, advocates of legal abortion have sought to strengthen their legal position at the state level. State laws and judicial decisions would govern abortion if pro-abortion precedents are overturned in federal courts.

In neighboring Iowa, state legislation to restrict abortion has been overturned by a 2018 state Supreme Court decision which declared the right to choose abortion “a fundamental right under the Iowa Constitution.” Such rulings are unlikely to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which has little jurisdiction over issues affecting state constitutions.

Judge Thomas Gilligan heard arguments about the lawsuit’s merits on Wednesday. He indicated he would take time before he rules on whether to dismiss the case, Minnesota Public Radio reports.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs, two unnamed women and the First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis, argued that the lawsuit should move forward.

“The First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis has a long history of supporting reproductive health rights and justice,” said Rev. Kelli Clement, social justice minister for the society, Minnesota Public Radio reported in May.

The lawsuit names as defendants Attorney General Keith Ellison and Gov. Tim Walz, both members of the Democratic-Famer-Labor Party, and several state agencies. While Ellison backs legal abortion, he has also said he is legally required to defend the state’s laws.

Pro-life groups were not represented at the hearing and have sought to have their own attorney intervene in the case. This effort will delay a ruling until at least December.

While pro-life advocates did not speak in court, they did speak against the lawsuit.

Jason Adkins, executive director with the Minnesota Catholic Conference, characterized the laws as “common-sense regulations are consistent with the state’s interest in promoting informed consent and the health and safety of women who undergo abortions.”

“Ultimately, this lawsuit, challenging common-sense laws that do not prevent anyone from actually procuring an abortion, demonstrates the desire to suppress conscience and the truth,” Adkins told CNA Nov. 1. “Abortion proponents want to keep information about the reality of abortion out of sight from patients and the public lest its harms be exposed and both choose differently.“

The coalition backing the lawsuit, called Unrestrict Minnesota, includes several self-described feminist and women’s health advocacy groups, ACLU Minnesota, the labor union affiliate AFSCME Council 5, the Asian American Organizing Project, and the National Council of Jewish Women Minnesota.

“Minnesota’s abortion restrictions are medically unnecessary and legally untenable,” said Megan Peterson, executive director of Gender Justice, another member of the coalition. She said the 1995 state Supreme Court decision upheld “basic rights to privacy and personal decision-making.”

Solicitor General Liz Kramer made procedural objections to the lawsuit, Minnesota Public Radio reports.

“One of the things that makes this case different than every other abortion case cited by the parties is how long these statutes have been on the books. The plaintiffs have challenged 13 different statutes,” she said.

These laws have been in effect from 11 years to 111 years.

Kramer argued that plaintiffs failed to show concrete harm as a result of the defendants’ action.

The Unrestrict Minnesota website claims that state lawmakers have been “quietly passing laws that restrict abortion access, intimidate providers and patients, and increase costs.”

Among other rules, the lawsuit targets a number of Minnesota’s requirements for obtaining an abortion, including “Woman’s Right to Know,” which ensures informed consent prior to an abortion; its two-parent notification requirement for patients under 18; its prohibition of non-physicians performing abortions; and the requirement of hospital settings for abortions performed after 16 weeks.

The laws require that doctors who provide abortions talk about the risks of abortion, alternatives to abortion, the possibility of pain to an unborn child during an abortion, the availability of medical assistance to women and a man’s obligation to provide child support.

The lawsuit also seeks to end data collection on abortions and requirements for fetal remains be buried or cremated instead of being treated as medical waste.

Data collection questions can “feel intrusive and stigmatizing and are an invasion of privacy,” Unrestrict Minnesota argued. The coalition website particularly objects to Minnesota Department of Health reporting on a patient’s race, marital status and county of residence.

Adkins, the Minnesota Catholic Conference executive director, further explained his opposition to the lawsuit.

“The lawsuit is an unfortunate, saddening attack on solid, bipartisan legislation that protects women and children, ensures that people make the decision with informed consent, and makes sure that human remains aren’t put in the trash,” he said.

“This lawsuit is meritless, and should be thrown out consistent with the normal course of judicial decision making,” said Adkins. “But with abortion, the normal rules of adjudication don’t apply—a phenomenon known as the ‘abortion distortion.’ We should not assume that they will be upheld, and the attorney general’s office has a duty to provide zealous advocacy on their behalf.”

“We have a tradition in Minnesota of judicial elections being about temperament and experience, and not issues,” he added. “I don’t think there is a big desire among most in the judiciary to politicize our courts. This case will be a barometer of whether that culture still holds.”

Little Sisters of the Poor to close Richmond community

Sat, 11/02/2019 - 17:34

Richmond, Va., Nov 2, 2019 / 03:34 pm (CNA).- The Little Sisters of the Poor will withdraw their community from Richmond, Virginia, after 145 years of serving the elderly in the area, they announced Wednesday.

The decision was made due to declining numbers in the religious community, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.

Bishop Barry Knestout of Richmond said in a statement that the sisters will be missed.

“I am deeply saddened to see them leave our region as their departure will leave a profound void within our community that is irreplaceable,” he said. “Yet, I am immensely grateful for the decades of humble service, selfless work, great love and devotion they have provided to the most vulnerable in our community.”

He thanked the sisters for more than a century of being “faithful servants and true examples of Christ’s loving care and unwavering, tender devotion for the poor, sick, elderly and dying within our diocese.”

Founded in 1839 by St. Jeanne Jugan, the Little Sisters of the Poor serve the elderly and dying poor in more than 30 countries across the globe.

The sisters have had a presence in the Richmond area since 1874. In 1976, they moved to their current location, where the congregation runs St. Joseph’s Home for the Aged - a 96-bed nursing home.

All of the residents in St. Joseph’s Home are being given the opportunity to transfer to a different home run by the Little Sisters in another state. They have also offered to help residents find a different local home.

The 11 sisters currently at the Richmond community will transfer to one of their other homes. The Little Sisters run 27 homes for the elderly across the U.S.

In the past six years, the order has closed seven communities in the United States due to declining numbers, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.

“As part of a strategic plan aimed at strengthening our ministry and the quality of our religious and community life, we Little Sisters have recognized the need to withdraw from a certain number of Homes in the United States, while at the same time dedicating our resources to much needed upgrades and reconstruction projects in others,” said Mother Loraine Marie Clare in a statement.

Sister Jeanne Mary, one of the sisters who works at St. Joseph’s home, voiced her gratitude for the support and love the sisters have received from the community.

“It’s not because we don’t love them [the residents],” she said, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “It’s very sad to see such a mission which is so needed today is diminishing because there are very few to follow us.”

Congress must end grisly treatment of aborted babies’ remains, US bishops say

Sat, 11/02/2019 - 06:00

Washington D.C., Nov 2, 2019 / 04:00 am (CNA).- The disrespectful treatment of aborted babies’ human remains by abortion doctors, demands federal action, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has said in the wake of news reports about abortion doctors’ “disturbing” practices.
“Whether you support or oppose legalized abortion, I hope you will agree that these human bodies should not be wantonly discarded as medical waste or preserved at the whim of the abortion doctor,” Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas said in an Oct. 31 letter to members of Congress.
Naumann chairs the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities. He wrote Congress in support of the Dignity for Aborted Children Act.
The legislation would require abortion providers to dispose of aborted children’s remains just as any other human being. Failure to do so could result in a fine and up to five years in prison, according to the office of U.S. Sen. Mike Braun (R-Indiana), a co-sponsor of the bill. The legislation also would require a consent form to allow the mother to choose whether to retain possession of her unborn child’s remains or to allow the provider to cremate or inter the remains of the unborn child. Failure to do so could result in civil penalty.
The archbishop’s letter briefly recounted the “disturbing reality of abortion doctors keeping fetal remains.”
He cited the discovery of over 2,400 bodies in the home of Illinois Dr. Ulrich Klopfer, who performed abortions in Indiana. Naumann quoted Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill, who said: “The grisly discovery of these fetal remains at the Illinois home of a deceased abortion doctor shocks the conscience.”
Klopfer had performed obstetrics, gynecological services, and surgical and medical abortions at clinics in Fort Wayne, Gary, and South Bend, Indiana. He was estimated to have aborted more than 30,000 children over a span of four decades. His medical license was suspended by the state of Indiana in 2015 and indefinitely in 2016, after numerous complaints were issued against him.
Several days after Klopfer died on Sept. 3, his family alerted Will County, Illinois authorities about the discovery of fetal remains at his Illinois residence.
The discovery prompted renewed focus on abortion clinics and the treatment of the remains. Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend offered to have the fetal remains buried at a Catholic cemetery in his diocese.
Naumann’s letter cited problems in other parts of the country.
Employees of Texas abortionist Dr. Douglas Karpen testified that he regularly disposed of body parts in a clinic toilet. Michigan abortionist Michael Roth “kept body parts in jars in his car,” said the archbishop. Other clinics have kept biohazard bags full of body parts in closets or have thrown them into the garbage.
Such mistreatment shows the need for laws requiring change, the archbishop said.
“Such basic courtesy is in keeping with society’s treatment of all other deceased persons including cadavers, donated organs and tissues, remains that are recovered after traumatic incidents, and so on,” he wrote. “As a nation, we can at least come together to ensure all human remains are treated with basic human dignity.”
The disrespectful treatment of human remains make people on all sides of the abortion debate “uncomfortable, sad, and angry,” Naumann said, adding that every culture and religious tradition, including Catholic Christianity, has customs about how to care for the dead.
“For Catholics, the Church has long taught that ‘the human body shares in the dignity of “the image of God”,’ that our bodies are a reminder of the bodily resurrection of Jesus, and of that resurrection, which we too will experience after death, and burying the dead is taught as one of the seven corporal works of mercy,” he explained.
“Other faiths and belief systems likewise promote dignified treatment of the deceased and respectful disposal of their remains,” he said, also citing health regulations and ethical guidance for medicine and science that indicates the social need to dispose of the human body in a respectful manner.
The Dignity for Aborted Children Act was introduced in the U.S. Senate by U.S. Sen. Mike Braun(R-Indiana). It is co-sponsored by his fellow Indiana Republican Sen. Todd Young and several other senators.
The bill is endorsed by the Susan B. Anthony List, the March for Life, the Family Research Council, National Right to Life and Concerned Women for America.