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ACI Prensa's latest initiative is the Catholic News Agency (CNA), aimed at serving the English-speaking Catholic audience. ACI Prensa (www.aciprensa.com) is currently the largest provider of Catholic news in Spanish and Portuguese.
Updated: 1 hour 48 min ago

With city support, Baltimore parish will issue IDs to undocumented parishioners

Fri, 10/19/2018 - 13:06

Baltimore, Md., Oct 19, 2018 / 11:06 am (CNA).- A Baltimore Catholic parish announced that it will begin issuing parish identification cards, with the goal of making undocumented immigrants and members of other vulnerable populations in the city more comfortable reporting crimes and cooperating with the Baltimore Police Department.

“If this identification helps one person pick up the phone and call the police, it’s done what it’s supposed to do,” Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh said during an Oct. 10 press conference announcing the parish initiative.

The cards will be issued by Baltimore’s Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish, with the support of Archbishop William Lori and the Archdiocese of Baltimore. Applicants will need to show a form of picture ID, even if it is expired; proof of address; and have their identity confirmed in a sworn statement by a third party.

Each ID card will include a picture of the holder, as well as the parish’s contact information and logo. The parish is waiting for permission from the police department to start issuing the IDs; the city’s interim police commissioner has begun introducing the card to officers and trains them to recognize it.

The parish worked directly with the mayor’s office and the police department to develop a uniform version of the ID.

“It's really a pastoral response," said Father Bruce Lewandowski of Sacred Heart parish, who was one of the main proponents of the program.

"A lot of immigrants and other people in vulnerable communities don't interact with the police because of mistrust, for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes it's fear of racism, sometimes it's fear....that somehow the police are connected with [Immigration and Customs Enforcement], and it’s ‘if I call the police then I'm setting myself up for detention and deportation’ for people who are undocumented."

The Baltimore Police department does not handle immigration directly, which is a federal matter. Rather, the goal of the parish ID program is to better relationships between the community and the police.  

"At our meetings with [interim police commissioner Gary Tuggle], as the commissioners did before him, he assured us that there is no immigration enforcement that is done by the Baltimore city police department, that's not their job,” Father Lewandowski stated.

“Their job is to keep Baltimore citizens safe and fight crime. So in order to help them do that, that's why we're promoting the [parish ID] program."

Interim Baltimore police commissioner Tuggle said he planned to introduce the card to his command staff Oct. 11, and would train the entire department to recognize the card within two weeks.

The parish ID cards will explicitly state that they are not government-issued forms of identification.

Each recipient of the card will go through a two-hour group orientation session of 30-40 people, Father Lewandowski said, to train them on “basic civics” so they understand what the card can and cannot be used for.

“We want people to be very clear about the use of the card,” he said. “"Basically what it means is: if I call 911...I can show them the parish ID that says I'm known in the community, this is my city, I belong here—that the mayor supports me, in a certain sense; that the archbishop supports me; that my parish [supports me].”

Father Lewandowski emphasized that the relationship between some city residents and the Baltimore Police Department is very tense, and the police department has had recent issues with stability; three police commissioners have come and gone in the past 3 years, and the current interim commissioner will not be seeking a permanent position.

To mitigate any potential changes in attitude toward the program when a new police commissioner arrives, Father Lewandowski said that Mayor Catherine Pugh has publicly committed to continue to support the parish ID program under the new police commissioner, whenever he or she begins work. Pugh will be up for re-election in 2020.

Maryland already allows undocumented immigrants to apply for a driver's license or identification card, as does D.C. and 11 other states. Among other requirements, the applicant must show proof of having paid Maryland income tax for two years.

In addition, Baltimore voted to create a program in 2016 that would issue city ID cards to residents, but the program has yet to be rolled out. Father Lewandowski said the makers of the parish ID decided they couldn't wait for the city to act.

He said the parish ID is a both/and solution that will likely supplement the municipal ID in the future, but the parish ID has the added advantage of not requiring applicants to provide personal information to the City of Baltimore.

The first person to call the church ask for a parish ID, Father Lewandowski said, was an 85-year-old parishioner at Sacred Heart, born and raised in Baltimore, who no longer drives, and thus had no current form of ID.

"So the ID really is for everybody," he said. "In our very difficult circumstances here [in Baltimore], this is a way to help people feel safe.”

A broader perspective

Baltimore is not the first city to pilot church-issued ID cards; several Dallas-area churches began issuing ID cards to undocumented immigrants in May. The Texas church IDs include a person’s name, address and home parish.

Texas is one of several states that does not allow illegal immigrants to obtain a state-issued ID, Texas law enforcement officers are permitted, but not required, to inquire about the immigration status of anyone they have detained or arrested, and are required to comply with federal guidelines to hold undocumented criminal suspects for possible deportation.

Dallas law enforcement are prohibited, however, from asking the immigration status of those who are witnesses, victims, or reporters of crimes except in special circumstances. Individuals with a government-issued ID such as a driver’s license are presumed to have lawful immigration status.

Though the Texas IDs, like the ones in Baltimore, lack legal recognition, police in the cities of Dallas, Carrollton and Farmers Branch were reportedly told in May that they are allowed to accept the church cards as a form of identification.

CNA asked Dallas Police Department whether there were any documented cases of the church-issued ID being accepted in lieu of state-issued identification. The police department said that they did not have any such cases on record, and that only identifications allowed by law could be accepted.

A representative from the Farmers Branch Police Department told CNA that their police department could choose to recognize a non-government issued forms of ID in some cases, such as a school ID for minors, if a person simply needs to let the police know who they are. If a person is accused of a crime, however, government issued IDs are typically the only form that are acceptable.

 

 

How diapers impact the bottom line, and how an NYC law can help

Thu, 10/18/2018 - 21:00

New York City, N.Y., Oct 18, 2018 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- The New York City council passed a law Wednesday that will require many centers serving women and children in the city to provide diapers and baby wipes free of charge. The bill had no opposing votes in the council.

The new law covers child care centers, domestic violence shelters, youth shelters, and homeless shelters that are contracted with the city to provide services. Each location must have clear signage or a written notice informing mothers that diapers and wipes are available to them for children three years old and younger.

The provision also includes family justice centers, which provide legal, counseling and supportive services for survivors of domestic violence, elder abuse and sex trafficking; and LYFE centers, an NYC Department of Education program that provides free early childhood education to children of student parents.

In an Oct. 16 committee report, the New York City council laid out the need for the new law, noting that an infant will use over 3,000 diapers in their first year of life at a cost of more than $500.

The report also noted that the Women, Infants, and Children assistance and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program cannot be used to purchase diapers, and that Medicaid will only reimburse diapers purchased for individuals older than 3 years.

Alison Weir, Chief of Policy at the National Diaper Bank Network, testified to the city council that the provision of free diapers to low-income families in Connecticut resulted in a decrease in the spread of disease and in decrease in rashes and other skin irritations among babies.

The New York Daily News reported that the sponsor of the bill estimates that the new provision will cost the city $1.1 million in fiscal year 2019, increasing to nearly $5 million in 2020 because of increasing demand. New York’s total budget for FY2019 is over $88 billion.
 
The law is set to take effect within four months of its passage. The Department of Citywide Administrative Services will provide the supply of diapers and wipes to the appropriate city entities, or to independent organizations contracting with the city.

The Connecticut Diaper Bank, which provides free diapers to women in that state, testified before the city council that: “Access to a reliable supply of clean diapers affects families in significant ways, like enabling parents to maintain employment, complete their education, and improve the health and well-being of their children.”

 

40 percent of U.S. children born to unmarried parents, rate increasing worldwide

Thu, 10/18/2018 - 19:00

Washington D.C., Oct 18, 2018 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- New data shows that an increasing number of babies worldwide are born to unmarried parents.

The data was released in an annual report published by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA.)

About 40 percent of U.S. children born in 2016 had unmarried parents, the report shows. This is more than double the percent of U.S. children born with unmarried parents in 1980, and 10 percentage points higher than in 1990.

In the rest of the world, even more children are born to unmarried parents. In 2016, 60 percent of French babies were born with unmarried parents.

The UN data showed that across the areas studied--the United States, France, Spain, Sweden, the EU, Japan, and Russia, the unwed pregnancy rate has increased or remained relatively stable in recent years. France has had the highest percent of babies born to unmarried parents since 2010, eclipsing Sweden, the previous leader.

One exception to the trend is Russia, which has seen the percent of children born to an unwed mother drop from a high of 30 percent in 2004 to 22 percent in 2016. Russia’s abortion rate has also fallen during this time period.

In 2017, the organization Save the Children rated the Scandinavian countries Sweden, Norway, and Finland, as among the most accommodating for single mothers.

Japan’s unmarried parenthood rate is far lower than western nations. In 2015, 98 percent of Japanese babies were to married parents. Japan’s fertility rate also remains among the lowest in the world.

Heritage Foundation Senior Fellow Robert Rector wrote a report in 2012 that described marriage as “America’s greatest weapon against child poverty.” Children living in a home with two married parents were 82 percent less likely to live in poverty than children who did not have married parents, said Rector. This number applied even when controlling for education level.

In 2009, the U.S. Census found that 37 percent of homes with children headed by a single parent were in poverty, compared to only 6.8 percent of homes with children and married parents.

 

Federal agents investigate abuse in Pennsylvania dioceses

Thu, 10/18/2018 - 17:40

Philadelphia, Pa., Oct 18, 2018 / 03:40 pm (CNA).- The Department of Justice has served subpoenas to several dioceses in the state of Pennsylvania, in what is believed to be a state-wide move by federal authorities to investigate sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy.

Chanceries across the Commonwealth were served with requests for documentation and files Oct. 18.

While Pennsylvania diocesan officials have not commented on the scope of the materials subpoenaed, a senior Church official told CNA the investigation concerns the federal crimes of transporting minors across state lines to abuse them, and the production or distribution of illegal pornography, including electronically.

The files requested of at least one diocese date back only to 2001, the official said.

There has been widespread speculation that a federal investigation might focus on charges related to institutional cover-ups or conspiracy, perhaps seeking to build a case under the federal RICO laws meant for dealing with organized crime. The official told CNA that, at present, the scope of the investigation does not seem to include conspiracy or other institutional charges.

“The files they are asking to be handed over, at least here, are in relation to the possible commission of particular crimes,” he said.

“As its been explained by the agents coming in, it’s those two crimes [transporting minors across state lines and illegal pornography] that are being looked at, maybe that’s got something to do with why they are only looking at files going back to ’01,” the official said.

“Maybe there is more to come, but it looks like they are beginning by looking for actual acts of abuse of minors and not yet on the institutional side of things – at least so far.”

So far, six of the eight the dioceses in the state have confirmed being served by federal agents, these are: Pittsburgh, Allentown, Scranton, Erie, Philadelphia, and Harrisburg.

“The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has received a subpoena issued by a federal grand jury, which requires the production of certain documents. The Archdiocese will cooperate with the United States Department of Justice in this matter,” Ken Gavin, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, told CNA.

Bill Genello, director of communications in the Diocese of Scranton told CNA that “the Diocese of Scranton has received the subpoena and will completely cooperate.”

The federal investigation comes just over two months after the Aug. 14 publication of a Pennsylvania grand jury report investigating clerical sexual abuse. That report identified more than 300 priests accused of abusing 1,000 victims over a period of seventy years.  

The report resulted in charges being filed against only two priests. The federal statutes of limitations that apply to crimes crossing state borders could lead to further indictments.

A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Washington told CNA that “the archdiocese knows nothing about a Department of Justice proceeding beyond the initial media reports.”

Washington’s recently retired archbishop, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, served as Bishop of Pittsburgh from 1988-2006, and came under fire after the grand jury reported suggested that he had permitted at least one priest accused of sexual abuse to remain in ministry after an accusation had been made.

According to the Washington Post, the decision to open the investigation was made by federal prosecutors in the U.S. attorney’s office in Philadelphia and was not a directive from Washington, D.C.

State-led investigations into clerical sexual abuse are currently underway in several states including Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, New Jersey, and Missouri. Other states, like New York, have announced they will soon begin taking similar action.

The news of a federal investigation in Pennsylvania raises the possibility that similar probes could also be launched in other states.

 

 

What kind of archbishop is needed in Washington?

Wed, 10/17/2018 - 17:45

Washington D.C., Oct 17, 2018 / 03:45 pm (CNA).- The Archbishop of Washington occupies one of the most prominent posts in the Church in America. But the assignment, usually accompanied by a cardinal’s hat, comes with a tricky job description.
 
Because of his proximity to the federal government, DC’s archbishop often sets the tone, or at least frames the debate, for how other bishops in the country react to political events. Washington’s archbishop often finds himself the first point of reference on very public pastoral questions, like admittance to Communion for pro-abortion politicians, and he is often asked to take a lead role in overtly political events like the annual March for Life.
 
Washington is also one of the more diverse dioceses in the country: pastorally, liturgically, and culturally. It takes a particular skill-set for a bishop to bring together a flock of almost 700,000, which includes the deeply enculturated African-American parishes in the southeast of the city, the affluent parishes of northern parts of the city, large communities of Latin American immigrants, thousands of university students, and the rural communities of southern Maryland.
 
In addition to ordinary parish life, groups and movements like Opus Dei, the Neocatechumenal Way, and Communion and Liberation are all present in the archdiocese, as are numerous adherents to the Extraordinary Form of the liturgy, the so-called “Traditional Latin Mass.” Encouraging, promoting, and supporting those movements, without seeming to favor or disfavor one or another, can be a challenge all its own.

Beyond that, there are six Catholic colleges or universities in the diocese, and a number of seminary programs, as well as a far higher than average number of religious houses.

The Archbishop of Washington also has the USCCB in his backyard, and he is expected to play a senior role in the USCCB’s deliberations, without being seen to undermine or overrule its work on the federal level. That’s a tricky balancing act.
 
Before the scandals of the past few months, one of the most common criticisms of Cardinal Wuerl was that he was something of an episcopal Rorschach test; he could appear to be different things to different people, and seemed often to avoid coming down clearly on one side or another of difficult theological debates.

But, by some estimates, the ability to be all things to all people is a necessary skill for an archbishop in Washington – the line between taking a decisive stand and a divisive one is often very thin, indeed.

In short, the Archbishop of Washington is usually expected to represent a balance- neither to keel very far to the left or to the right, because of the scope of the issues that tend to fall into his lap.  This means he usually faces criticism from the left and the right- and Wuerl, long before the scandals, faced both. But that balance is understood to be a critical part of the job.

Framing an authentically Catholic response to the issues of the day in a way that does not appear either openly partisan or impossibly vague requires a diplomatic skill set not necessarily found, or even needed, in every bishop.
 
If the pope were to name a successor to Wuerl who is perceived to be a committed “progressive” or “conservative, or who has a reputation for a narrow focus on one band of issues, the man might arrive to find a diocese already divided over his appointment.
 
While it would be myopic to assess Cardinal Wuerl’s tenure solely through the lens of the recent scandals, it is also impossible to deny that they have been the immediate cause of his departure, and that they will be the first priority of his replacement.
 
When he announced that he was asking the pope to accept his resignation, Wuerl said that the archdiocese needed to begin to move past the summer’s revelations. Last month, a spokesman for the cardinal told CNA that Wuerl believed “healing from the abuse crisis requires a new beginning and this includes new leadership for the Archdiocese of Washington.”
 
How “new” that “new leadership” is perceived to be could determine how fast healing happens, and how seriously the Vatican is seen to be responding to the situation.
 
Wuerl himself has given some indications of the kind of bishop he hopes will replace him; key among his criteria would seem to be someone unconnected with the current scandals.
 
In an interview with the New York Times published Friday, Wuerl said he was stepping aside “to allow for new leadership that doesn’t have this baggage,” and hoped that his replacement would be someone who became a bishop after the last abuse crises of the early 2000s.
 
Of course, being free from ties to the current scandal will require more than relative youth.
 
It was, arguably, Wuerl’s proximity to his predecessor, Theodore McCarrick, that did as much as anything else to end his tenure. His insistence that he knew nothing of rumors of McCarrick’s alleged misdeeds, or of supposed Vatican attempts to make him keep a lower profile in retirement, left him appearing, at least to some, to be either evasive or negligently incurious, in what became a major crisis of credibility for the American hierarchy.
 
Other bishops, including some touted as possible successors to Wuerl, have similarly had to account for their reactions, or lack of action, when they were first made aware of allegations against McCarrick.

More broadly, McCarrick’s influence helped to elevate a generation of priests and bishops from the east coast dioceses which he led, many of whom have gone on to serve in important positions in the Church hierarchy, both in the United States and in Rome. Should someone seen to be in McCarrick’s line of succession or patronage be appointed to take over in Washington, the credibility gap he would have to cross could prove immediate and unbridgeable.
 
D.C. Catholics – including Cardinal Wuerl – are now hoping for a relatively young bishop, one utterly free from association with either McCarrick or the other scandals currently roiling the Church. He’ll need to be someone of proven governing ability and diplomatic savvy, but with a pastoral heart and an established record of leading like a shepherd and father rather than an administrator.
 
It is a tall order, but not an impossible one to fill.
 
Of course, as the outgoing archbishop and still a member of the Congregation for Bishops in Rome, Wuerl will have had an outsized say in the names submitted for papal consideration.
 
At the same time, Pope Francis has a reputation for picking unexpected candidates for important jobs, and for favoring personal recommendations from people he knows well, rather than relying on officially presented shortlists.
 
How closely Wuerl’s successor aligns with his own stated hopes could speak volumes about how deep Francis’s respect really is for the man he so publicly praised while accepting his resignation. It could also be a strong indication of how seriously Rome is taking a crisis still acutely felt in the American capital.

 

Florida Catholics rally after Hurricane Michael

Wed, 10/17/2018 - 16:30

Pensacola, Fla., Oct 17, 2018 / 02:30 pm (CNA).- Thousands of people lost their homes as Hurricane Michael wrought havoc throughout the United States and Mexico last week. Now, the Catholic community in the Florida Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee is working to rebuild and to help those in need.

 

The hurricane has taken the lives of 46 people and caused an estimated $8 billion in damage. The Florida panhandle was one of the worst hit areas, with more than 20 people believed to have died in the storm.

 

Since Michael made landfall in the area Oct. 10, St. Dominic Catholic Church has served as a staging area for disaster relief in Panama City, Florida. Associate Pastor Luke Farabaugh, himself a native of the area, told the Pensacola News Journal that the church has “become an aid facility,” with “a lot of 18 wheelers” in the parking lot.

 

Despite the amount of supplies available, Farabaugh said that they are short of volunteers to distribute the materials. Pensacola Catholic High School’s football team have been volunteering together with administrators from the school, but many more people are needed.

 

About 50 volunteers are needed each day, said Bambi Provost. Provost is the director of fund development for Catholic Charities of Northwest Florida. She told the local media that the scene in the panhandle was “total devastation” and that “everything was destroyed.”

 

Cris Dosev is one of the people who came to St. Dominic’s to help out. Dosev, who is Catholic, came in third in the Republican congressional primary for Florida’s 1st District in August, but he was able to use the backs of his campaign signs to replace those that were destroyed in the storm.

 

Now, the new sign in front of St. Dominic’s Church is a repurposed Dosev for Congress sign. He also made signs indicating where people can pick up water and supplies, and there are signs with phone numbers people can call for assistance.

 

The Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee has also been able to provide limited lodging for those who are coming to the area to volunteer.

 

Catholic Charities USA, which is a national organization, gave Catholic Charities of Northwest Florida $1 million on Sunday for disaster relief. Provost said “all of it” will be used for the cleanup effort, and that the money will be used to help everyone, regardless of religious belief.

 

On its website, Catholic Charities of Northwest Florida boasts that “We strive to serve as many people as possible,” and that last year, 89 percent of those who received assistance from the organization were not Catholic.

Catholic U. professor leads response to French President’s remark on large families

Tue, 10/16/2018 - 18:30

Washington D.C., Oct 16, 2018 / 04:30 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Following a comment by President Emmanuel Macron, in which he expressed skepticism that any well-educated woman would decide to have many children, women with large families have been using the “#PostcardsForMacron” hashtag to send the French president pictures of their happy families.

Speaking about high fertility rates in Africa during a Gates Foundation “Goalkeepers” event held in New York City Sept. 25-26, Macron compared having a large family with forcing a girl to be married as a child.

Macron stated that when women are educated, they do not have many children.

“I always say: ‘Present me the woman who decided, being perfectly educated, to have seven, eight or nine children,” said Macron.

“Please present me with the young girl who decided to leave school at 10 in order to be married at 12.’”

In response, many women took issue with the French president’s apparent disbelief that academically successful women would choose to be mothers of several children.

Dr. Catherine R. Pakaluk, a professor of social research and economics at the Catholic University of America, started the hashtag by sharing a photo of herself and six of her eight children.

Postcards for Macron #postcardsforMacron pic.twitter.com/fmX1vzITpv

— Catherine R Pakaluk (@CRPakaluk) October 16, 2018 She followed up that tweet explaining that she holds both a Master’s degree and a Ph.D. from Harvard University and has, as she phrased it, “Eight children by choice.”

Her post garnered thousands of views, and other women followed her lead, including Beth Hockel, a “Stanford graduate, electrical engineer, mom of 11.”  

Stanford graduate, electrical engineer, mom of 11.  #postcardsforMacron pic.twitter.com/Gl1Py63j7v

— Beth Hockel (@ehockel1) October 16, 2018 Catholic writer Elizabeth Foss shared a picture of her nine children, saying “Yes, they’re all mine. And so is my (University of Virginia) degree.”

Yes, they’re all mine. And so is my UVa degree. #postcardsforMacron pic.twitter.com/dROzkKq1md

— elizabeth foss (@elizabethfoss) October 16, 2018 Men joined in as well, sharing pictures of their wives and their own mothers.

“Check out my educated and inspiring wife and mom of 7,” tweeted writer Josh Canning, along with a picture of his family.  

#DearEmmanuelMacron check out my educated and inspiring wife and mom of 7. #postcardsforMacron pic.twitter.com/Ucp5eizIMa

— Josh Canning (@CatholicJosh) October 16, 2018 Several people pointed out that philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe was a mother of seven, and yet still taught at Oxford and Cambridge.

Dear @EmmanuelMacron This is the Oxford and Cambridge philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe. She is widely considered one of the greatest 20th century philosophers. She had seven children. #PostcardsforMacron pic.twitter.com/slZZptPsGv

— Samuel Gregg (@DrSamuelGregg) October 16, 2018 While Macron made the remarks at the end of September, his comments on family size gained media traction on Monday, following a report in the Guardian newspaper.

Macron himself does not have any children, but his wife has three children from her first marriage.

The Macrons met when the future French president was 15 years old, his future wife Brigitte Trogneux was his teacher.

Saginaw bishop dies after battle with lung cancer

Tue, 10/16/2018 - 13:37

Saginaw, Mich., Oct 16, 2018 / 11:37 am (CNA).- Bishop Joseph Cistone died in his home Tuesday morning, the Diocese of Saginaw has reported.

Local officials told reporters they received a 911 call from the bishop’s home Tuesday morning, adding that first-responders found the bishop dead upon their arrival. The diocese said in a short statement that the bishop had died in his home during the night.

Cistone, 69, announced Feb. 1 that he had been diagnosed with lung cancer, after undergoing tests for a persistent cough he’d experienced for months.

“The good news is that, since I have never been a smoker, it is a form of lung cancer which is treatable and potentially curable,” Cistone wrote in a February letter to his priests.

He announced at that time that he would undergo a treatment plan involving both chemotherapy and radiation. On Oct. 1 the diocese announced that the cancer had spread to other parts of Cistone's body, and that he had begun an aggressive course of chemotherapy.

Diocesan officials said that the bishop was scheduled to undergo a cancer-related medical procedure today.

Cistone was the sixth bishop of the Saginaw diocese, and was appointed there in 2009 by Pope Benedict XVI. Originally from Pennsylvania, Cistone was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in 1975, where he also served as auxiliary bishop from 2004-2009.

In March Cistone’s home was raided by police, along with the diocesan chancery and cathedral rectory. Saginaw County’s assistant prosecutor at the time criticized the diocese for failing to cooperate in police investigations.

Police said the raid was executing a search warrant believed to be related to allegations of sexual abuse made against two priests of the diocese. One of those priests, Fr. Robert DeLand, will face a criminal trial next year.

The diocese said Oct. 16 that information about Cistone’s funeral will be released as soon as is possible.

 

Thousands gather in L.A. archdiocese to celebrate St. Oscar Romero

Mon, 10/15/2018 - 19:00

Los Angeles, Calif., Oct 15, 2018 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- Thousands of Catholics in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles gathered in the cathedral on Sunday to celebrate as Oscar Romero was canonized in Rome.

St. Oscar Romero was canonized by Pope Francis Oct. 14, together with six other new saints. That same day, an estimated 3,000 people gathered at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles for a Mass and celebrations.

Romero, who was the archbishop of San Salvador in the late 1970s, had been a major voice in defense of human rights for the Salvadorian people, especially during the early stages of the country’s civil war.

Before the liturgy Sunday, Salvadorians performed traditional dancing, while clips of Romero’s recorded homilies and speeches could be heard over the loudspeakers.

The inside the Cathedral was decorated with images and photographs of the newly minted saint, including a picture of Romero during one of his famous radio broadcasts and an image of the 250,000 mourners who attended his funeral at San Salvador’s Metropolitan Cathedral.

The Mass was celebrated, in Spanish, by Auxiliary Bishop Alexander Salazar. The homily was given by Deacon Ricardo Villacorta, a Salvadorian immigrant who left the country during its civil war.

Saint Oscar Romero was shot while celebrating Mass in March, 1980, during the country’s escalating civil war. Romero was an outspoken critic of political injustice in the country and of the violence affecting the lives of ordinary Salvadorians. 

In a homily the day before he was martyred, Romero admonished soldiers to follow God’s law over the orders of their superiors.

“This was a very brave act: He told soldiers they have to act from their morals, and not just follow directions from their superiors,” said Rich Villacorta, son of Deacon Villacorta and an archdiocesan employee, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Doris Benavides, associate director of media relations for the archdiocese, told CNA that a

majority of the attendees were Salvadorian. She said that after Mass many participants reflected about the difficult years of violence in their home country and spoke of their closeness to the new saint.

“Very touching,” she said. “I think it was one of the most joyous, happy Masses I’ve seen…even when they were reminiscing and talking about the past they were really happy, happy now that they have a saint that…many of them knew, many of them touched.”

The Archdiocese has a large community of Salvadorians, about 200,000 people, said Benavides, noting that some of these people sought refuge in United States during the civil war, had worked with Romero during his time of ministry, and had even received the sacraments from the new saint.

“These are people who were the poor,” she said. “At that time, even when the Church was going through many phases and difficult times [of the war], they felt the presence of their Archbishop.”

Benavides said that Catholic Charities of Los Angeles continued to welcome refugees from El Salvador, and several other countries experiencing political turmoil. She said that although their reasons for seeking asylum may be different, these people had access to legal, housing, and financial help through the help of the archdiocese.

“The war today is hunger, poverty, and organized crime. So people are running away from the country still. They are seeking asylum again, for other reasons.”

Washington archdiocese releases the names of 48 accused clergy

Mon, 10/15/2018 - 18:15

Washington D.C., Oct 15, 2018 / 04:15 pm (CNA).- Just days after Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Cardinal Donald Wuerl as Archbishop of Washington, the D.C. archdiocese has released the names of 28 former clergy of the archdiocese who had been “credibly accused” of sexual abuse of minors dating back to 1948.

Three priests of religious orders who had previously served in archdiocesan parishes or schools were also included in the release.

The posting of the names on the archdiocesan website Oct. 15 marks the first significant act by Cardinal Wuerl as interim administrator of the archdiocese which he led until Friday, and is the culmination of an internal review of archdiocesan files first ordered by Wuerl in 2017.

“This list is a painful reminder of the grave sins committed by clergy, the pain inflicted on innocent young people, and the harm done to the Church’s faithful, for which we continue to seek forgiveness,” said Cardinal Wuerl. He also noted that there had not been a credible allegation of abuse of minors against a Washington priest in nearly twenty years.

“Our strong commitment to accompany survivors of abuse on their path toward healing is unwavering, but it is also important to note that to our knowledge there has not been an incident of abuse of a minor by a priest of the archdiocese in almost two decades. There is also no archdiocesan priest in active ministry who has ever been the subject of a credible allegation of abuse of a minor.”

A press release by the archdiocese underscored the existing safeguarding policies in place in Washington, which include an annual, independently audited report on its child protection work posted on the archdiocesan website and in the Catholic Standard newspaper.  

Kim Viti Fiorentino, Chancellor and General Counsel for the archdiocese, said that while survivors of abuse should remain the first concern of everyone, it was also important that Catholics in the capital’s archdiocese understood the efforts being made to ensure that “there is no safer place for a young person than in an Archdiocese of Washington parish or school.”

The Archdiocese of Washington adopted its first a written child protection policy in 1986, with a Case Review Board operating since 1993. Following the adoption of the Dallas Charter and USCCB Essential Norms, the archdiocese has also had a Child Protection Advisory Board with a majority of lay experts as members since 2002.

While the release of the names of credibly accused clergy comes at the end of a year-long process of review, it is final authorization by Cardinal Wuerl as archdiocesan administrator instead of archbishop makes for a conclusion few would have foreseen only months ago.

Ordinarily when a diocese is between bishops and under the care of an administrator the principle of nihil innovator  - nothing new - applies, though in this case Cardinal Wuerl was not so much innovating as bringing to a close work he had already begun.

 

This article has been udated to reflect a clarification by the Archdiocese of Washington made after publication.

Pittsburgh Diocese begins years-long parish consolidation process

Mon, 10/15/2018 - 18:13

Pittsburgh, Pa., Oct 15, 2018 / 04:13 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- An interim Mass and confession schedule went into effect Oct. 15 in the Diocese of Pittsburgh as the six-county diocese moves to condense its parishes into groups, with the eventual goal of creating new multi-site parishes.

Bishop David Zubik announced in May that the 188 parishes of the Pittsburgh Diocese would be combined into 57 multi-parish groups. After parishioners from each former parish build relationships with each other, each group will become a new parish between 2020 and 2023. Parish groups have been assigned a designation of A, B, or C, with the goal of forming a new parish within two, three, or five years respectively.

A team of clergy, led by a pastor and including parochial vicars, parish chaplains, and deacons, will serve the needs of each parish group during the transition, with retired priests assisting as they are able. The number of Masses available each weekend will depend on the number of priests assigned to each group, since no one priest may celebrate more than three Masses per Sunday according to canon law.

Though Bishop Zubik has not yet specified which church buildings will remain open and which will close, the parish groupings include recommendations for the total number of buildings and priests the group should share. Each new parish could eventually consist of multiple church buildings, but the clergy leaders of each individual group will be ones to make that recommendation to the diocese.

The Pittsburgh Diocese last went through a major restructuring during 1989-98, when the diocese shrank from 310 parishes using 333 buildings to 218 parishes using 288 buildings, according to Trib Live.

The current consolidation plan is a response to declining Mass attendance overall and the financial struggles of some parishes. Materials provided by the diocese show Mass attendance down nearly 40 percent across the board since 2000.

In addition, the diocese had 338 parish priests in active ministry in 2000, compared with 211 in 2016 and 178 today. The diocese estimates that with priestly retirements and an average of four ordinations per year, the diocese will have just 112 priests by 2025.

The purpose of this restructuring, spokesman Father Nicholas Vaskov said in a statement, is “transitioning from maintenance into ministry and mission”: a shift from pouring resources into church buildings that may not be having success and putting those resources toward ministry and evangelization.

A five-year diocesan planning initiative called “On Mission for the Church Alive!” began in April 2015 with a year of prayer for the whole diocese. Since the second year of the program, over 300 parish consolidation meetings have been held and more than 30,000 religious, clergy and laity have participated and offered input.

The diocese used a list of 21 criteria developed after the meetings to create the parish groups. The criteria specified, among other things, that the parish groups should not exceed one priest per 2,400 Sunday Mass attendees, and that the groupings must allow enough space for new Sunday Mass attendees, and anticipate sustainable growth for the next 20 years. In addition, parishes in dire financial need would not be grouped with other struggling parishes, and nor would affluent parishes be grouped together, unless a sound alternative financial plan is put forward.

The current plan to consolidate was conceived prior to the Aug. 14 release of a grand jury report that uncovered sexual abuse allegations against 300 Pennsylvania priests - including 99 from Pittsburgh - dating back to 1947.

Bishop Zubik told CNA in May that he hopes that this consolidation of communities will be an effective tool for evangelization, generating excitement within the Church and strengthening resources to be used for outreach programs.

“By consolidating the resources of parishes in a grouping, what we’ll do is make sure every parish has all of the programs that it needs to be a parish so every parish will have a religious education program, every parish will have some association with a Catholic school, every parish will have an organized program for reaching out to the poor,” Bishop Zubik said.

 

Trump set to pick Catholic lawyer as next White House counsel

Mon, 10/15/2018 - 13:30

Washington D.C., Oct 15, 2018 / 11:30 am (CNA).- President Donald Trump has reportedly chosen a Catholic lawyer, Pat Cipollone, to replace White House counsel Donald McGhan. In addition to his professional work, Cipollone serves on the board of directors for the Catholic Information Center in Washington, D.C., and co-founded the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in 2004.

According to a Washington Post report published Oct. 13, Cipollone has been informally advising President Trump’s personal lawyers on Robert Müller’s special counsel probe into alleged Russian interference in the last election since June.

While Cipollone’s name has been connected with the position since August, Axios first reported the president’s pick Oct. 13, citing four unnamed government sources familiar with the decision. A White House spokesperson would not confirm the appointment.

When asked to confirm the selection on Saturday, President Trump told reporters that “Pat’s a great guy. I don’t want to say [who has been selected], but he’s a great guy. He’s very talented and he’s a very good man, but I don’t want to say.”

Cipollone is currently a litigation partner at Stein Mitchell Cipollone Beato & Missner LLP, a Washington-based law firm. He specializes in commercial litigation, antitrust and trade regulation, and healthcare fraud.

During the presidency of George H.W. Bush, Cipollone served in the Department of Justice as a counsel to then Attorney-General William P. Barr. Prior to joining his current firm, he worked at the well-known D.C. law firm Kirkland and Ellis.

Following a security clearance review, Cipollone could begin his new job within a week, according to the Washington Post. As White House counsel, Cipollone would advise the president, the Executive Office of the President, and the White House staff on legal issues involving the executive branch.

Donald McGhan announced in August that he would leave the White House’s top legal post after the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

Cipollone attended Fordham University before earning his J.D. at the University of Chicago School of Law in 1991. Cipollone previously served on the Board of Visitors for the Columbus School of Law at the Catholic University of America, serving as a counselor to the Dean of the law school. 

Fox News television host Laura Ingraham wrote in a 2007 book that conversations with Cipollone had led her to consider a conversion to the Catholic faith. She also wrote that Cipollone eventually became her godfather.

If his appointment is confirmed, Cipollone will join the list of Catholics in prominent U.S. legal positions. Following the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court earlier this month, six of the nine current Supreme Court Justices are Catholic.

Bridgeport bishop says lifelong 'path of beauty' began with his parents

Sun, 10/14/2018 - 13:52

Vatican City, Oct 14, 2018 / 11:52 am (CNA).- “Other than faith,” Bishop Frank Caggiano reminisced, “the gifts of how I was raised and who I was raised by are the greatest gifts I have ever received in my life.”

“The most inspiring people in my life were my two parents, without a doubt,” Caggiano added. “Without a doubt.”

Caggiano, Bishop of Bridgeport, Connecticut, is a delegate to the 2018 Synod of Bishops, discussing young people, the faith, and vocational discernment. He told CNA that his own youth was shaped by the lessons of his parents.

“My father was a longshoreman. My father unloaded ships. My father had a third-grade education. He did not speak English very well. And yet at a time when in the docks of Brooklyn it was common to steal, my father never came home with a blessed thing.”

“The two things my father spoke about always were integrity and respect,” the bishop said.

“A warrior, a courageous witness, ‘you got to stand by your guns, even if it costs you your life’- That was my father.”

While he praised his father, Caggiano, 59, minced no words about his mother: “My mother was a saint...Simple as that.”

He told CNA that while both parents taught him lessons he continues to carry, he brought especially his mother’s inspiration to Rome this month, where his short synod speech emphasized beauty.

“All of this animation in my mind about beauty began with my mother,” he said.

Beauty “was the engagement of the heart in faith. It was the piety. It was the gentility. It was-- the house itself-- you knew the seasons of the Church’s year in my house. It was the ritual. It was the traditions that we had. In my mind, all of that is wrapped up in beauty. The conveyance of meaning apart from that written word-- that’s beauty. And that was my mom.”

During his synod speech, Caggiano said bishops “must unlock the power of beauty, which touches and captures the heart, precisely by utilizing the many opportunities now afforded by digital communication and social media to accompany young people to experience beauty in service of the Gospel.”

He told CNA that beauty is an important way to evangelize contemporary young people who “wonder whether or not they are lovable or loved.”

“When you encounter beauty it reflects back who you are,” he said. “Beauty is the encounter with the insight that you are beautiful.”

“The most beautiful image of the Lord is the Lord crucified, because he looks back and says ‘in my physical ugliness and my suffering—that is what you are worth.’ That’s what we’re missing.”

Caggiano said that beauty-- in liturgy, art, music, poetry, and in new forms and mediums offered by digital technology-- captures hearts.

“Try to imagine the first time you fell in love. The two immediate responses to falling in love are ‘I want to know about this person,’ and ‘I want to spend time with this person.’”

“If we can have the moment of being captivated by Christ,” he said, “and then encounter the path of goodness and the path of truth- then you begin a lifelong journey.”

The bishop said that the ongoing Vatican synod cannot by itself prescribe the best ways to evangelize young people through beauty. His hope is that the synod will encourage dioceses and episcopal conferences to experiment with ways to evangelize with beauty.

The Diocese of Bridgeport, which Caggiano has led since 2013, has focused on finding ways to reach young people through “the power of image” on social media, along with an online catechetical institute that aims to marry intellectual formation with images and video, and by offering pilgrimages for young people.

"Pilgrimages for young adults are a powerful way to engage with beauty," the bishop told CNA. He said that the diocese has received grants allowing young people to go to the Holy Land and on other pilgrimages even if they are unable to pay for the trip.

Caggiano said that donors support those trips because they see the fruit. He shared the story of a young woman who accompanied him to the Holy Land, and despite beginning the trip uncertain about faith, began going to Mass daily, and had a powerful conversion to deeper faith.

“Pilgrimage is an act of beauty.”

Beauty, Caggiano said, must also characterize Catholic liturgy. He said that after a diocesan synod three years ago, a small commission begin revising sacramental norms and liturgical policies in the diocese, with careful attention to the importance of beauty. A new policy document is set to be released later this year.

“It will cause a great stir,” he said, because it will call attention to ways in which greater reverence is needed in the diocese.

He told CNA that “how we conduct ourselves at the liturgy can reveal” something about what priests and other ministers believe about the importance of worship.

To foster a greater spirit of reverence among priests, Caggiano is planning to launch next month the “Confraternity of St. John Vianney,” an association of priests, including himself, who will commit to celebrating Mass daily, regular public and private participation in adoration of the Eucharist, and regular sacramental confession.

He said plans for the group are still developing, and that he hopes it will grow “organically.”

“We are going to sit before the Lord and let him be our teacher.”

“There is a natural stance that flows from a spirituality that is embedded in the belief in the real presence,” he said, adding that he aims to help priests develop deeper Eucharistic spiritualities.

Caggiano said the synod of bishops has helped him to develop other pastoral ideas he has been considering. His goal, he said, is to help young people to better know Jesus Christ.

“An encounter with the person of Jesus Christ can be truth, beauty, or goodness.”

“It’s the middle path, the way of beauty, that I think is the most interesting. It’s the glue between the two. So what’s going to capture a young person’s imagination? That’s the question in my mind.”

“The path of beauty,” he concluded, “can be a path of awakening.”

 

'Repairing God's House': Maryland parishes hold days of adoration

Sun, 10/14/2018 - 09:00

Washington D.C., Oct 14, 2018 / 07:00 am (CNA).- Two churches in Maryland have held days Eucharistic adoration with prayers for healing from the recent scandals that have plagued the Church. St. Andrew Apostle Church in Silver Spring, along with Sacred Heart Church in La Plata, hosted a 24-hour “Day of Prayer: Repair My House” October 4-5.

About six weeks before the event, the pastors of the two parishes were discussing how to respond to the recent sexual abuse crisis and it effects both on them as priests and on their parishioners. According to Fr. Dan Leary, pastor at St. Andrew’s, “we both kind of came to this conclusion: repair my Church, repair my Church.”

Following that conversation, a program of events were held in the parishes centered around prayer, fasting, and adoration.

Since the outbreak of the recent scandals over the summer, many bishops, including Pope Francis, have called for the Church to collectively practice penance and fasting.

In the wake of the Pennsylvania grand jury report, the pope issued his Letter to the People of God in which he said it was “essential” that the whole Church acknowledge and respond to the wounds inflicted by the abuse crisis.

“May fasting and prayer open our ears to the hushed pain felt by children, young people and the disabled,” the Pope wrote. “A fasting that can make us hunger and thirst for justice and impel us to walk in the truth.”

Fr. Leary explained to CNA that many pastors have struggled in responding to the pain and confusion the recent scandals have caused their flocks.

“People are wounded, they don’t know who to turn to,” he told CNA.

“The answer is, of course, to turn to the Lord. The Church has the best medicines for spiritual injuries - in the sacraments and in the disciplines of prayer; these have power, real healing power.”

Leary told CNA that when the news of the scandals first broke, he held a listening session shortly afterwards with his parishioners, which he described as “very positive.” But, he said, many priests were asking themselves and each other how to move past simple listening.

“As shepherds, we have to lead, always lead, towards Christ. Many of us in the Washington archdiocese have had listening sessions, and that is such an important part - hearing the needs of the parish. But there comes a time where people want answers, not just listening, and what answer can we give?”

The answer, Leary said, lies in leading by example.

“There is so much power in prayer, and in acts of penance and reparation. These unify us with Christ in his love for the suffering Church. But we have to be the first ones, as priests, to show the way and to ask for our parishioners help, their prayers for us, so that we can serve them as they deserve to be served.”

Inspired by the tradition of St. Francis of Assisi, Fr. Leary and Fr. Lawrence Swink of Sacred Heart, hosted simultaneous days of prayer, reparation, and fasting at their two parishes on the saint’s feast day, Oct. 4.

The parishes, in the northern and southern halves of the Archdiocese of Washington, offered to serve as “poles of prayer” for the archdiocese. Parishioners and other Catholics were free to attend a Holy Hour at either parish throughout the event.

The day was focused on the Blessed Sacrament, Leary told CNA, because it is there Catholics  “will find the ultimate healing and the grace to respond to this time of pain and suffering in the Church.”

Each hour began with the Litany for Priests, composed by Cardinal Richard Cushing, to offer prayers for the ministry of priests.

Leary called the litany “very powerful” and believes it is particularly important to pray for priests during this time, and he said it has been a focus in his own parish since 2009.

He told CNA that these prayers have “borne tremendous fruit, especially the Litany for Priests,” and have been “so effective in helping people to understand the beauty, the dignity of the priesthood.”

Understanding the priesthood, Leary told CNA, is crucial for Catholics to gain a deeper understanding of the Sacrament of the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

“Otherwise, it’s just a man sitting there listening to their sins,” he said.

“But if they see it as a priest, who sits in persona Christi, and then the Mass is an act of sacrifice in persona Christi, their faith will elevate.”

Leary hopes that other churches in the area will be inspired by the event and host their own versions. St. Andrew Apostle plans on hosting a 40-hour Eucharistic Adoration around the feast of St. Andrew, which is celebrated on November 30. This event will also include prayer intentions for priests.

U.S. bishops hope Wuerl’s resignation is a step toward healing

Fri, 10/12/2018 - 18:30

Washington D.C., Oct 12, 2018 / 04:30 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Several U.S. bishops responding to the official resignation of Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C. expressed hope Friday that the decision would bring healing for survivors of clerical abuse.

Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Wuerl Oct. 12, while asking the cardinal to continue leading the Archdiocese of Washington on an interim basis until a permanent successor is appointed.

The Pope received a personal request from Wuerl to accept his resignation on Sept. 21, and officially accepted it during the Synod of Bishops in Rome.

Cardinal Wuerl has been the subject of criticism since late June, when revelations about alleged sexual misconduct on the part of his predecessor, Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, raised questions about what Wuerl knew about McCarrick, and how he responded to that knowledge.

Though Wuerl has denied wrongdoing, he said in September that he would ask Francis to accept his resignation “so that this archdiocesan Church we all love can move forward.”

Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh issued a statement expressing hope that the Cardinal’s resignation would bring healing to victims of abuse.

“For as long as I have known Cardinal Wuerl, he has advocated for those within the church [sic] and beyond who need the opportunity for a better life,” Bishop Zubik wrote. “I pray that the acceptance of his resignation today by Pope Francis will continue to bring about healing in the hearts and lives of victims of abuse and all those in the Church.”

Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington thanked Wuerl for his nearly 52 years of service as a priest and offered prayers for the Archdiocese of Washington.

“I convey my prayerful support to His Eminence and to all the clergy, consecrated religious and lay faithful in the Archdiocese of Washington,” Burbidge wrote in a statement.

“At this time in the life of our Church, all bishops are called, as Cardinal Wuerl has done, to acknowledge any failure to protect God’s children, to express deepest apologies to victims of sexual abuse and to renew our commitment to assist them in their healing process in any way possible,” he added.

Bishop Robert Barron of Los Angeles was asked about Wuerl’s resignation at an Oct. 12 Vatican press conference.

“I know Cardinal Wuerl; I think he discerned something in good conscience...I'm sure he did what he felt was right for the good of the Church, and I'm sure that the Pope saw it from that perspective too,” Barron said. “So that is all I can really say at the moment.”

The Aug. 14 release of a grand jury report detailing decades of abuse allegations in six Pennsylvania dioceses put Wuerl’s record as Bishop of Pittsburgh, where he served from 1988 to 2006, under close scrutiny.

Some cases in the report raised concerns that Wuerl had allowed priests accused of abuse to remain in ministry after allegations had been made against them.

Wuerl, 77, originally submitted his resignation on Nov. 12, 2015, when he turned 75 years old, as required by canon law.

 

Supreme Court rejects appeal in Tennessee death row case

Fri, 10/12/2018 - 16:00

Washington D.C., Oct 12, 2018 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- A previously delayed execution in Tennessee will likely go ahead after the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal from a convicted murderer currently on death row. The decision was made Oct. 11.

The appeal argued that Tennessee’s lethal injection program was inhumane and amounted to cruel and unusual punishment. Writing in opposition to the decision, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said the failure to take the case amounted to “complicity in state-sponsored brutality.”

The appeal by Edmund Zagorski followed an unsuccessful application for executive clemency which he presented to Gov. Bill Haslam in September. In that application, he requested that his sentence be commuted to life in prison without parole, expressing regret for his crimes and sorrow to the victim’s families. That application was denied.

Edmund Zagorski, 63, was sentenced to death in 1984 for the murder of two men who had met him to buy drugs.

The Catholic bishops of Tennessee had previously spoken out against Zagoski’s planned execution.

“We recognize that the pain, suffering, and loss of life caused by Mr. Zagorski more than thirty years ago has negatively impacted many people, and we agree that the state has a right to expect punishment for those crimes,” Bishop Mark Spalding of Nashville and Bishop Richard Stika of Knoxville wrote in an Oct. 10 statement, released before the Supreme Court’s decision.

“However,” the bishops underscored, “we remain firmly opposed to the use of the death penalty in all cases.”

The bishops cited the teaching of the Church and the statements of several popes, particularly Pope Francis’ August change to the Catechism of the Catholic Church which now teaches that "the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person.”

“The Catholic Church teaches that the death penalty is simply not necessary when society has other means to protect itself and provide a just punishment for those who break civil laws. Rather than serving as a path to justice, the death penalty contributes to the growing disrespect for human life,” the two Tennessee bishops wrote.

Zagorski’s clemency application included sworn statements from six of the jurors from his trial in 1984, who said that had the option been available to them, they would have given Zagorski life in prison without parole.

Today, all 30 states that impose the death penalty give jurors the option of life without parole; in Tennessee life without parole can now be imposed at the request of just one juror. Zagorski’s attorneys argue that he would have been given that sentence rather than death if it had been an option in 1984.

At that time, the only sentencing options available to the jury were life in prison with the possibility of parole, or death, according to the Nashville Scene.

The wife of one of Zagorski’s victims has stated that she did not oppose clemency being granted. In addition, his application included a statement from a prison correctional officer detailing Zagorski’s apparent improvement of character while in prison. The counselor described a notable occasion when Zagorski helped to break up a fight between other inmates.

Governor Haslam said in a statement denying the clemency petition that Zagorski’s good behavior in prison did not excuse the murder of the two victims.

Zagorski was originally scheduled to be put to death by lethal injection Oct. 11. Just three hours before the execution was scheduled to take place, Governor Haslam issued a ten-day delay for the state to consider his request to die by electric chair rather than lethal injection.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit had granted a stay of his execution the day before, Oct. 10, after the Zagorski’s lawyers argued that he had been given ineffective legal counsel during his trial.

Later in the evening of Oct. 11, the Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeal’s decision and declined to hear Zagorski’s case, which would have considered the constitutionality of the state’s lethal injection protocol.

Justices Sotomayor and Breyer disagreed with the court’s opinion, citing evidence that the drugs used in lethal injections caused severe pain and led to “inhumane” executions.

“Capital prisoners are not entitled to pleasant deaths under the Eighth Amendment, but they are entitled to humane deaths,” Justice Sotomayor wrote. “The longer we stand silent amid growing evidence of inhumanity in execution methods like Tennessee’s, the longer we extend our own complicity in state-sponsored brutality.”

Following the Supreme Court’s ruling, Zagorski’s execution is likely to go ahead at the end of the ten-day delay imposed by Gov. Haslam, during which the state will consider the inmate’s request to be put to death by electrocution. Once that decision is made, the state Supreme Court will then issue a new execution date for Zagorski.

Tennessee last carried out a three-drug lethal injection execution in August, the state’s first since 2009, after Governor Haslam denied a clemency request from Billy Ray Irick. The drug used in that execution, midazolam, has widely been reported to cause extreme pain during execution.

In July, ahead of Irick’s execution, Bishop Spalding and Bishop Stika were joined by Bishop Martin Holley of Memphis and wrote a joint letter to Gov. Haslam asking him to put an end to the death penalty in the state.

Wash. Supreme Court strikes down death penalty as arbitrary, racially biased

Fri, 10/12/2018 - 14:00

Olympia, Wash., Oct 12, 2018 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- The use of the death penalty is arbitrary, racially biased and unconstitutional, the Washington state Supreme Court has said in a unanimous decision barring its use.

The ruling was issued Oct. 11 and makes the state one of twenty to halt the use of death penalty. The result was welcomed by Washington’s Catholic bishops.

“We applaud the unanimous state Supreme Court decision issued today finding the death penalty unconstitutional,” Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle said in a statement Thursday.

“The Catholic Church’s consistent belief is that every human life is sacred from conception until natural death – it is this principle that has energized our efforts for decades to abolish the death penalty.”

The court ruling commutes the sentences of eight men currently on death row to life in prison, the Associated Press reports.

A five-judge majority on the Supreme Court said the evidence presented showed that death penalty sentences had been “imposed in an arbitrary and racially biased manner,” though the justices did not rule that execution is an inherently wrong penalty.

“We are confident that the association between race and the death penalty is not attributed to random chance,” said the decision, authored by Chief Justice Mary Fairhurst. “Our capital punishment law lacks ‘fundamental fairness.’"

Besides the race of the defendant, other arbitrary criteria in the application of the death penalty included factors such as location of the crime, county of residence, and even available budgetary resources.

The decision came in response to the appeal of Allen Eugene Gregory, an African-American man convicted of the 1996 rape, robbery and murder of waitress Geneine Harshfield. Gregory, now 46, was sentenced to death in 2001.

Earlier this year, working through the Washington State Catholic Conference, the bishops provided testimony backing legislation to repeal the death penalty. The bishops cited flaws in the sentencing process across the U.S., including 161 exonerations for people sentenced to death since 1973 and instances where innocent people have been executed.

Defense lawyers have argued that Washington state’s worst mass murderers and serial killers had received life sentences instead of the death penalty, highlighting this as proof of arbitrary application of capital punishment.

Other death penalty critics drew on University of Washington sociologists’ findings, the Associated Press reported. While prosecutors are not more likely to seek the death penalty when the defendant is African-American, juries were about four times more likely to favor imposing the death penalty on black defendants.

Four other justices on the court concurred with the majority conclusion in a separate decision saying that other state constitutional factors “compel this result.”

Republican State Sen. Mike Padden had previously voted against death penalty repeal and was critical of the Supreme Court decision. While capital punishment should be rarely used, he said, “I do think it should be an option in the most heinous cases.”

Hannah Cox, national manager of Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, was among the supporters of the decision.

“This decision will save Washington state taxpayers millions of dollars that would otherwise be wasted,” Cox said. “Conservatives in Washington state and across the country increasingly realize the death penalty is a failed government program that does not value life, threatens innocent people, and wastes money.”

The court’s majority decision left open the option for the legislature to enact a “carefully drafted statute” allowing the death penalty but said it cannot create “a system that offends constitutional rights.”

State Attorney General Bob Ferguson said he would propose legislation to repeal the death penalty and replace it with life in prison without the possibility of parole.

“We should act quickly to remove the death penalty from state law once and for all,” he said in a statement.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee had imposed a moratorium on the death penalty in 2014.

Robert Dunham, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Death Penalty Information Center, told the Associated Press the use of the death penalty is becoming “increasingly geographically isolated” in  southern and southwestern states.

Texas has executed 108 prisoners since 2010, the most of any state. Florida has executed 28 over the same period, followed by Georgia and Oklahoma as the next most common users of capital punishment.

While court decisions, legislative actions or moratoria have halted the death penalty in many states, New Hampshire and Nebraska voters have overturned such decisions by veto or referendum.

Cardinal O’Malley expands sex abuse investigation to include all Boston seminaries

Fri, 10/12/2018 - 13:47

Boston, Mass., Oct 12, 2018 / 11:47 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Archdiocese of Boston announced Thursday that it is expanding its sex abuse investigation to include all three of its seminaries.

The investigation will now include Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary and Redemptoris Mater Seminary, along with St. John’s Seminary, which has been under investigation since August after two of its seminarians filed abuse claims.

In his announcement of the expansion, Cardinal Sean O’Malley said that the decision to include the other two seminaries came about in consultations about the investigation into St. John’s.

“While the initial review was specific to St. John's, I have concluded that to meet the generally expected levels of transparency and accountability, it is best to expand the review to include all three seminaries,” O’Malley said.

“I want to reassure the seminary communities and the wider public that these are institutions committed to the highest standards of integrity, respect and safety for our seminarians, faculty and staff,” he added.

It is not known if there were additional accusations brought forward involving the additional seminaries. CNA asked the Archdiocese of Boston whether additional allegations have been made; the archdiocese referred CNA back to its statement issued Oct. 10.

An updated version of the statement includes a Frequently Asked Questions section, which poses the question: “Why include all three seminaries if the initial issue involved only Saint John’s Seminary?”

The answer to that question provided by the Archdiocese states: “While the issues pertained to St. John’s Seminary, the Cardinal wants to reassure the Catholic community and wider public that we owe it to future generations of seminarians that all three of our seminaries meet the highest level of exceptionalism and holiness for priestly formation.”

On August 10 of this year, O’Malley announced a major investigation into St. John’s Seminary in the Archdiocese of Boston, following allegations made by two former seminarians on social media. The cardinal also announced that the rector of the seminary, Monsignor James Moroney, had been placed on immediate leave to allow for a “fully independent inquiry.”

At that time, O’Malley said the two men who had brought the accusations forward had “witnessed and experienced activities which are directly contrary to the moral standards and requirements of formation for the Catholic priesthood” and that they would be taken seriously.

O’Malley, who also serves as the President of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, also announced in his Oct. 11 statement a change in the committee that will be conducting the investigation.

He said that the scope of the new investigation would be too broad for the original committee, and added the members of the original committee all had ties to St. John’s which might have compromised their objectivity.

“For these several reasons I have decided to engage (the lawfirm of) Yurko, Salvesen and Remz to conduct the review of the Archdiocesan seminaries,” O’Malley said.

“The review will be led by former U.S. Attorney Donald K. Stern, with the assistance of Doug Salvesen and others at the firm. Yurko, Salvesen and Remz has significant experience with the process of review that we seek and does not have an existing relationship with any of the seminaries or the Archdiocese of Boston.”

O'Malley encouraged anyone with relevant information to contact the investigating firm directly.

An independent report highlighting concerns, and steps to address them, will be issued once the investigation has been completed, O’Malley noted.

He added that the investigation will be done in such a way as to allow for “as little disruption as possible to the academic year now underway at the seminaries.”

He said that the Archdiocese is “blessed” to have its three seminaries, and that he looked forward to ordaining the largest number of new priests in more than two decades for the Archdiocese in the upcoming ordinations for the class of 2019.

He also noted that while he encourages everyone to pray for religious vocations, the role of the laity is also vital in the Church.

“In times such as we are experiencing it is of ever greater importance that we embrace the dedication, commitment and experience of the laity if we are to provide the path for our future priests to serve as witnesses of the love and mercy of Jesus.”

 

 

Report on campus ministry highlights opportunity and unmet needs

Thu, 10/11/2018 - 19:15

Washington D.C., Oct 11, 2018 / 05:15 pm (CNA).- The benefits and drawbacks of different Catholic campus ministry models were the focus of a new U.S. bishops’ report released Oct. 9. The report also highlighted a lack of a Catholic presence especially at community colleges.

“Catholic campus ministry provides a unique opportunity to meet and engage young adults and adults at every phase of Church life and testimony,” Bishop John M. Quinn of Winona-Rochester, Minn. and Auxiliary Bishop Fernand Cheri of the Archdiocese of New Orleans said in the report’s forward.

“Our ministry must center on people, for we are forming men and women to be people that reflect Christ to each other and to the world,” said the two bishops.

There is a Catholic presence at about 25 percent of the more than 3,000 four-year colleges and universities in the U.S. Among the country’s 1,500 community colleges, only one in 60 have a Catholic presence.

Bishop Quinn chairs the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Education, while Bishop Cheri is episcopal liaison to the Catholic Campus Ministry Association. The report includes a pastoral synthesis and proposed action plan from the two bishops.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat of Education commissioned the study, titled “A National Study on Campus Catholic Ministry,” with the goal of advancing Catholic identity in higher education and to renew the vision of Catholic campus ministry across the country, the U.S. bishops’ conference said.

“Catholic campus ministers need to reach far more campuses than they currently serve,” said the report. “Community colleges present a particularly urgent need.”

The report said there is a need to increase the quality of campus ministry as well as the number of campuses and students served.

The study had a 56 percent response rate among the estimated 1,911 campus ministers in the U.S. in 2017. It drew on the experience of campus ministers at public, private and Catholic institutions as well as mission officers, faculty members, missionaries, bishops and other stakeholders. These numbers included more than 500 missionaries with Fellowship of Catholic University Students, as well as St. Paul’s Outreach missionaries.

Only two percent of respondents served at community colleges.

The study examined the demographics of campus ministers. Overall, 69 percent are lay people, with 31 percent ordained and religious. Only five percent are religious sisters. Of the ordained and religious, the median age is 54 years old, compared to the overall median age of 35. Lay campus ministers have a median age of 29 years old. Overall, about 60 percent have a ministry-related degree.

The report considered the diversity of models of ministry, whether based at an office, parish, student center, a diocese, a multi-campus effort, or missionary. There are also different pastoral styles of campus ministry.

The report indicated some difference in emphasis between the missionary organization model and office-based campus ministry. Missionaries are usually recent college graduates serving within other pastoral models. These groups emphasize relationship and service to Catholic students through mentoring, small Bible studies, or community households.

The office-based model mainly exists on Catholic campuses. These offices are well-staffed with long-term employees significantly more likely to have a graduate degree. Such offices serve the whole campus, including Catholic and non-Catholic students, faculty and staff.

For the report’s authors, the variety of ministry models reflect the Catholic Church’s own diversity and complexity.

“While no one model captures the fullness of the Catholic faith, collectively these models represent the incredible breadth of the Catholic faith,” the report said. “This diversity of models offers a variety of paths to encounter Christ, simultaneously calling for greater respect and appreciation among campus ministers as well as for honest ministerial self-assessment.”

The report also noted that some students find conversion in devotional practices, while others find it through service, and that ministers should be aware that the practices they find nourishing for their faith may not resonate with all students.

It noted the need for pastoral sensitivity towards the spiritual needs of students and the campus community, including estranged Catholics, “seekers,” devout non-Christians, and student leaders.

Vocational discernment is one of the least common activities offered to students, and campus ministers rank vocational discernment and spiritual direction among the lowest in significance for students’ spiritual growth, the report found.

The report said campus ministers must continue to improve their abilities, especially in areas that are not directly faith-related like administration, organization and budgeting.

“All campus ministers should be given educational access to foundational and ongoing training and formation necessary for responsible ministry in a campus setting,” said the report.

The report authors were surprised by the number of ministers without regular spiritual direction. Almost sixty percent receive spiritual direction monthly or more, one-fifth receive it less than monthly, and sixteen percent receive none at all.

The bishops’ Committee on Catholic Education has backed several recommendations for campus ministry, including an update of national standards; an update and redesign of the certification process for campus ministers; and guidelines for the formation and ongoing professional development of campus ministers in cooperation with the Alliance for Campus Ministry.

Thousands of Catholic students gather for Mass and winter coat drive in Minnesota

Thu, 10/11/2018 - 17:13

Minneapolis, Minn., Oct 11, 2018 / 03:13 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Thousands of young Catholic students gathered for Mass, music, and a winter clothing drive on Wednesday morning in a stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Drawing children from 79 Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, 12,000 students attended the second annual Mass of the Holy Spirit on Oct 10.

In celebration of the new school year, the students assembled to participate in worship and listen to Christian music like the rock group Sonar and rapper Connor Flanagan. The event also included Coats for Kids, a donation drive aiming to collect 12,000 winter coats for Minnesota kids.

The Mass was celebrated by Archbishop Bernard Hebda of Saint Paul and Minneapolis. In his homily, he encouraged all the students to put their faith into practice.

“Every day in every one of our excellent Catholic schools, we have the chance to practice. We practice what it means to be like Christ, to live as Christ lived, to see the world through his eyes,” Hebda said.

The archbishop began his sermon recalling the victory of the Minnesota Vikings over the New Orleans Saints in a football game earlier this year. The bishop said that in that game, when quarterback Case Keenum threw a 61-yard game-winning pass to wide receiver Stefon Diggs, the play was not a random miracle but the result of practice and careful planning.

He encouraged the students to be studious but also to live the faith with action. He further added that this may be achieved by pursuing little moments with great love.

“Our schools are great places for learning the drills, for sharpening the skills, for building our stamina, for learning what true Christ-like success feels like so that on game day we are going to be ready to step up and put our faith into action,” he said.

“It might be something as small as a smile to a classmate who’s down, or sharing some of our Doritos or broccoli at lunch. It might be helping a new student feel at home in your school, when they struggle with English because they have just arrived in our country.”

He said it may even be simple appreciative gestures to the teachers, lunch ladies, and other faculty members of the school, and he then led the students in an applause for school employees.

This Christ-like faith takes practice, he said, but it also involves the preparation of a coach, noting the instruction and guidance of the Holy Spirit.

“It’s the Holy Spirit, who like the best coach, breathes life into all our efforts, who inspires us to do our best, to practice what it means to be a good Christian, and to put our Catholic values into action,” he said.

At the end of his homily, Archbishop Hebda led the congregation of students to repeat after him the following prayer to the Holy Spirit, asking for greater sanctification.  

“Oh Holy Spirit, come into my life and school this year, help me become the loving person I was created to be. I want to be more like Christ and to put my faith into action. Prepare me for greatness, help me to know Jesus and develop my God given talents, and then use me as you will so that I might serve my brothers and sisters, and always give glory to you, to Jesus, and to our Heavenly Father.”

 

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