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Texas dioceses make joint pledge to release lists of accused clergy

Thu, 10/11/2018 - 17:00

Austin, Texas, Oct 11, 2018 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- All 15 Catholic dioceses in Texas plan to release names of clergy who have been credibly accused of sexually abusing a minor, according to a release from the Texas Conference of Catholic Bishops. The release will include all accusations dating back to the 1950s.

In an Oct. 10 statement released by the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops, Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller of San Antonio said that, because of the size of the state, compiling comprehensive lists will take some time.

Texas has 8.5 million Catholics in 1,320 parishes.

All dioceses plan to publish their lists by Jan. 31, 2019 and they will be updated as new information becomes available.

"Every bishop in our state has made a statement expressing his concern for all who have been hurt and I want to express my personal sorrow at such fundamental violations of trust that have happened,” said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston. “We are completely committed to eradicating the evil of sexual abuse in the church and promoting healing among the faithful and those injured by this crime.”

The Diocese of Fort Worth was the first diocese in Texas to begin publishing an updated list of clergy accused of sexual abuse. After first publicly identifying credibly accused priests in 2005, the list has been continually updated since 2007. The list currently contains the names of 15 priests, one permanent deacon, and one religious brother.

“Jesus shows how central and essential the respectful care and protection of the child and vulnerable are to the mission that He has entrusted to His Church, a mission that continues in the contemporary world,” Bishop Michael Olsen of Fort Worth wrote in a statement supporting the TCCB’s announcement.

“I maintain a zero-tolerance policy for sexual abuse of minors because ministry in the Church is a grace from God that carries with it sober responsibility, not a right to be claimed by anyone as an entitlement.

Information on how to report abuse in Texas can be found at

Wisconsin man sentenced for trying to induce girlfriend to abortion

Thu, 10/11/2018 - 06:01

Madison, Wis., Oct 11, 2018 / 04:01 am (CNA).- A Wisconsin man was sentenced to 22 years in prison Oct. 9 for spiking his pregnant girlfriend’s drink with an abortion-inducing drug, in an attempt to induce a miscarriage. His girlfriend reportedly never drank the concoction, but miscarried weeks later.

Manishkumar Patel, 45, and his girlfriend had gone out for ice cream when his girlfriend noticed an unusual powder in her smoothie. Two lab reports confirmed that the powder was the abortion-inducing drug mifepristone.

Patel was reportedly charged for the crime in 2007 but went on the run to India for a decade, before being finally arrested in New York in 2017, according to local media.

“I have had plenty of time to think about what I did,” Patel said during the sentencing as reported by the Post Crescent. “I have no excuse or explanation for my actions.”

Patel also said he didn’t want another child because he and his then-girlfriend already had a son with a debilitating medical condition.

“I was convinced my unborn child would suffer the same fate,” he said. “This did not excuse what I did.”

County Judge John Des Jardins, who handed down Patel’s sentence, said he had to consider the severity of the crime and the impact it had on the victims, including the unborn child. The judge also sentenced Patel to four years extended supervision following the 22 years in jail.

In Wisconsin the attempted homicide charge carries a maximum sentence of 60 years in prison.

US congressional report documents 'dire human rights situation' in China

Wed, 10/10/2018 - 18:50

Washington D.C., Oct 10, 2018 / 04:50 pm (CNA).- A new congressional report slams China’s Communist Party for increasing its repressive control over many aspects of Chinese society, and for its numerous extreme and unprecedented human rights violations that may constitute crimes against humanity.

The report states that it “highlights the dire human rights situation inside China and the continued downward trajectory by virtually every measure, since Xi Jinping” came to power, first as the Communist Party’s general secretary and now as its president.

Published Oct. 10, the report was prepared and released by the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, which is chaired by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and co-chaired by Rep. Christopher Smith (R-NJ). The commission was created in 2000 to monitor human rights and rule of law developments in China.  

In a press conference at the report’s release, Rubio said that that mandate “remains pressing and urgently necessary” in the face of the Communist Party’s current human rights violations.

Key themes found in the report were the “unprecedented repression of ethnic minorities...which may constitute crimes against humanity, a dramatic increase of Communist party control over government, society and business, and the third is the increasing use of technology as a tool of oppression,” Rubio said.

Rubio emphasized that the report was not criticizing the Chinese people nor its culture, but rather the Chinese Communist Party, which rules China’s government.

Of particular concern, the report notes, is the “mass, arbitrary, internment of as many as 1 million or more Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities in ‘political reeducation’ camps in western China.”

Local Chinese officials in these areas have been found using “alarming” rhetoric in reference to these minorities, calling them “tumors” or “weeds” that must be eradicated or killed, the commission found.

“Reports indicate that this may be the largest incarceration of an ethnic minority population since World War II, and that it may constitute crimes against humanity,” the commission stated in its report.

Human rights activists have harshly criticized the camps for their goals of “thought transformation” which aim to extend control over the religious and social practices of the minority populations held there, including banning beards, veils, and “unusual” names.

In regards to religious freedom in China, the commission noted that it “continued to observe widespread and systematic violation of the principles of religious freedom during the 2018 reporting year, as Chinese authorities exercised broad discretion over religious practice,” despite guarantees of religious freedom in Chinese and international law.  
One of the most concerning trends regarding Chinese religious freedom is the Communist party’s policy of “sinicization”, which means that government officials “develop and promote policies aimed at shaping religious practice in China to promote and assimilate to a Chinese cultural (and Party) identity.”

The Catholic Church in China remains divided, with about 6 million of the country’s 10.5 million Catholics belonging to Party-approved Catholic congregations.

The other 4.5 million Catholics comprise what is often referred to as the “underground” Catholic Church in China, who are dubious of Party-sanctioned and elected bishops and their teachings “because they believe legitimate ecclesiastical authority can be conferred only by the Pope’s mandate, and they also object to affiliation with the patriotic religious association for Chinese Catholics, the Catholic Patriotic Association (CPA).”

In a controversial effort aimed at unifying the Church in China, the Vatican announced in September that Pope Francis had recognized seven illicitly ordained bishops after the signing of a provisional deal with the Chinese government over the nomination of bishops. Under the deal, the Chinese government can propose candidates as part of the nomination process, but the Pope must give final approval.

Many Chinese Catholics and religious freedom experts have expressed doubts about whether the deal will actually bring unity, or whether it will further encourage the Party’s control over the Church in China and further divide Chinese Catholics. Leading up to the deal in June through August of this year, officials dismantled a popular Catholic pilgrimage site and destroyed two Catholic churches, and issued instructions to dioceses to report on local plans for implementation of a five-year plan to “sinicize” Catholicism in China, the commission found.

The commission also slammed China’s ongoing family planning restrictions for continuing to coerce women and families despite having the recent expansion to a two-child policy.

“The amended PRC Population and Family Planning Law and provincial-level regulations continued to limit couples’ freedom to build their families as they see fit, and include provisions that require couples to be married to have children and limit them to bearing two children,” the report states. “Officials reportedly continued to enforce compliance with family planning policies using methods including heavy fines, job termination, detention, and abortion,” the commission noted. “Coercive controls imposed on Chinese women and their families, and additional abuses engendered by China’s population and family planning system, violate standards set forth in the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the 1994 Programme of Action of the Cairo International Conference on Population and Development,” the report added. China was a state participant in the negotiation and adoption of both programs.

Furthermore, studies have found that the two-child policy in China did not have the intended effect of spurring population growth in the country, and population experts have recommended that the Chinese government expand to a three-child policy, or end “all birth restrictions, abolish ‘social compensation fees,’ and offer incentives or supporting policies, such as tax breaks and subsidies, to encourage couples to have more children.”

Other areas of concern addressed in the report included the status of women, public health, political prisoners, freedom of expression and workers rights, among other things. “The ever-expanding scope of domestic repression documented in the pages that follow directly affects an increasing number of Chinese citizens, stirring resentment, dissent, and even activism in unlikely places,” Rubio and Smith noted in the report’s summary. “As American policymakers revisit the assumptions that previously informed U.S.-China relations, and seek to chart a new path forward, it is vital that our foreign policy prioritizes the promotion of universal human rights and the protection of basic human dignity, principles the Chinese Communist Party is actively trying to redefine,” they said.

These efforts “have merit on their own accord, and they are also inextricably linked to vital U.S. national interests, including regional stability in the Indo-Pacific, the future of young and emerging democracies in our hemisphere, and the strength of our own civic institutions domestically.”

Vermont bishop to form lay committee to review clergy files

Wed, 10/10/2018 - 18:00

Burlington, Vt., Oct 10, 2018 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- The Diocese of Burlington, the only Catholic diocese in Vermont, is forming a lay committee to investigate personnel files relating to sexual abuse of minors by priests, Bishop Christopher Coyne announced in a statement Oct. 10. When is concludes its review, the committee will publicly release a list of accused priests.

The committee will examine the same files covered by a previous investigation conducted by the Vermont attorney general’s office in 2002. That investigation covered allegations relating to the years 1950-2000. The files do not include any contemporary accusations of sexual misconduct occurring after 2003, Coyne said.

The announcement comes one day after an article appeared online about Vermont attorney general’s decision that it “would not be prudent” to release the results of the 2002-2003 enquiry into clerical sexual abuse. According to BuzzFeed News, that investigation resulted in the names of 21 men being turned over to state authorities. In most cases, the accused were either deceased or no longer in ministry.

No charges for sexual crimes against minors were brought following the attorney general’s investigation.

There has only been one credible accusation of priestly sexual abuse in the Diocese of Burlington since 2002, which concerned an “at-risk adult.” No priests currently in ministry in the diocese have been accused of sexual abuse, according to the diocese.

The new lay-led committee will also examine files that were initially not fully investigated by the state in 2002, Coyne told CNA in a phone interview. These files contained allegations against deceased priests but were not deemed worthy of further investigation.

Coyne wants the committee to reexamine all the allegation in order to determine whether or not the names of the accused should be made public.

"There's some files that are old, that the priests were deceased, there was no investigation,” he said. “They said, ‘You know, we're not going to investigate this, there's only one allegation, this was an old file, and the priest is deceased and he can't clear his name.’”

“So there's a few of those, and that's what I want the committee to look at, and I want them to make a decision as to whether we're going to release the names of priests that are deceased prior to 2002."

He explained that other dioceses have only chosen to release the names of priests who either admitted to abuse, were the subject of a settlement, or had been made aware of the accusation prior to their deaths so they would have a chance to defend themselves.

Other files, he told CNA, include details of behavior that does not rise to the level of a criminal complaint, but is still “creepy” and a violation of boundary issues. Coyne wants the committee to examine these files to ensure that no additional action needs to be taken.

“(There was some behavior by a priest) that we said, ‘Okay, we can't put you back in ministry,’ but we want to look at those files too and say, ‘You know, do we need to do anything here, have we done that right?’," he explained.

Coyne told CNA that he is unsure as to why the report was not released in 2003, but suspects that the attorney general’s office was reluctant to release names in cases they would not be prosecuting.

"I wish I could give you an answer. I don't know,” said Coyne. “They may have decided that since they couldn't prosecute and they weren't able to bring any charges against anyone that they couldn't name names."

Coyne is, however, “very confident” that his diocese has taken appropriate measures in responding to allegations of sexual abuse. Since 2002, the Diocese of Burlington has had a policy of immediately involving law enforcement following any allegation of clerical sexual abuse. 

"We went one step further in that as a matter of policy from that point on, any allegation that was deemed to be initially credible, namely that it had some sense of truth to it, was turned over to the authorities,” he told CNA. Even if the person making the complaint refuses to go to the police, the diocese would still take the matter to the authorities, he said.

The committee will also determine which details to include in the public list of the accused, such as birth, death, and ordination dates, and Coyne hopes to form the committee soon, so they can start work as quickly as possible.

"I think this is the way forward. I think every diocese has to do this, otherwise we're going to continue to have these stories break every few months all over the country,” he told CNA.

“And every time it breaks, the cloud of guilt goes across all of us."

Lawsuit accuses Calif. bishops of sex abuse cover-up

Wed, 10/10/2018 - 16:01

Los Angeles, Calif., Oct 10, 2018 / 02:01 pm (CNA).- A lawsuit in California is accusing bishops from all of the state’s dioceses, as well as the California Catholic Conference and the Archdiocese of Chicago, of covering up sexual abuse.

Jeff Anderson and Associates, a Los Angeles based organization that advocates for alleged victims of alleged sexual abuse by Catholic priests, filed the lawsuit Oct. 1.

The plaintiff, Thomas Emens, alleges he was abused for two years in the 1970s, starting at age 10. Attorneys for the plaintiff claim to have uncovered, by examining public documents, more than 300 priests from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles who are alleged offenders.

The plaintiff is requesting that each diocese “publicly release the names of all agents, including priests, accused of child molestation, each agent’s history of abuse, each such agent’s pattern of grooming and sexual behavior, and his or her last known address,” according to the lawsuit.

The California Catholic Conference released a statement Oct. 4 responding to the lawsuit, saying that the lawsuit and report overlook the positive steps that all California dioceses have taken since 2003 to mitigate abuse, including the “zero tolerance” standard to make sure no one with a credible accusation of abusing children is allowed to function as a priest, as well as a lay-led Independent Review Board to advise bishops on whether an accused priest should be allowed to return to ministry.

The conference also pointed out that information on all of the alleged accused priests that Jeff Anderson attorneys uncovered was publicly available.

“Allegations of abuse have been rare since 2003, responded to and uniformly reported, but we know we can never be complacent,” the statement read. “The twelve dioceses of California will never waver in their commitment to protect young people.”

The Diocese of San Bernardino released a list Oct. 8 of 34 priests credibly accused of abuse in recent decades. The local bishop has apologized to victims and said the failure to protect children has led to “new awareness” about the “terrible scourge” of sex abuse.

Six of the priests on that list have been convicted in criminal court. All but one priest on the list have been dismissed from the clerical state, permanently banned from ministry in the diocese, or have died.

The Diocese of Oakland has announced plans to release an analogous list in the coming weeks.

The lawsuit comes following the August release of a Pennsylvania grand jury report covering a 70-year period across six dioceses in the state. The report alleged more than 300 priests had sexually abused over 1,000 children in that timeframe.


Oakland diocese to release names of clergy credibly accused of sex abuse

Tue, 10/09/2018 - 20:01

Oakland, Calif., Oct 9, 2018 / 06:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Bishop Michael Barber of Oakland has announced that the diocese will release the names of all clerics credibly accused of the sexual abuse of a minor.

“I hope and pray the publication of these names will help the innocent survivors and their families in their journey to wholeness and healing,” he wrote in a letter dated Oct. 2 and released Oct. 7.

The list will include the names of diocesan and religious priests, as well as extern priests. Anticipated to be released in roughly 45 days, the list is meant to be as accurate as possible, the bishop said, noting it will take some time to verify information on international and religious priests.

Aformer FBI official known for advocacy for justice in clercy sex abuse, Dr. Kathleen McChesney, will
assist in the review of clergy files and the audit of the diocese's process. Once the list is published, McChesney and her associates will fully review the files “to ensure our list is as accurate as possible,” Bishop Barber said. He said this second review will not be completed before Jan. 1, 2019.
Bishop Barber expressed hope that this list would help purify the Church and create a transparent environment.

“This is the latest step in the ongoing commitment of the Diocese of Oakland to stop the scourge of sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults,” he wrote.

“This public accountability will allow you and others in our community to see we are keeping our promises. We have nothing to hide. It is the right thing to do.”

The bishop said the Diocese of Oakland has continually improved its accountability process, “utilizing background checks and mandatory safe environment training for all church employees and volunteers.” He also said the diocese welcomes regular audits from outside firms to guarantee all parishes and schools are compliant.

Bishop Barber expressed support for the mutual support group, No More Secrets Group, which has been meeting in the diocese since 2002, helping adult survivors through sexual abuses that occurred in childhood.

If anyone is aware of sexual misconduct by a clergy member or employee of the diocese, he asked them to make a report to the authorities or Stephen Wilcox, chancellor and victims assistance coordinator for the diocese.

“I realize other victims may step forward with new information. Any accusation will be fully investigated by our independent Diocesan Review Board. We intend to update our list as we receive new information.”

For transparency, San Bernardino diocese lists priests credibly accused of sex abuse

Tue, 10/09/2018 - 17:01

San Bernardino, Calif., Oct 9, 2018 / 03:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A list of 34 priests credibly accused of abuse in recent decades was released Monday by the Diocese of San Bernardino. The local bishop has apologized to victims and said the failure to protect children has led to “new awareness” about the “terrible scourge” of sex abuse.

“When we read this list we are pained to think of the many lives that were impacted by the sinful and unlawful acts of those priests who committed them,” Bishop Gerald Barnes of San Bernardino said. “Some will recognize names on this list, more will recognize the parish communities where they served. It makes this crisis more local to us, and may increase our feelings of sadness and outrage.”

He encouraged victims of sex abuse by a Church minister or those who know victims of such sex abuse to “please come forward and report it.” He offered his apologies and deepest regrets to the victims of those listed and to the Catholic faithful, “who have been scandalized by this shameful chapter in our Church’s history.”

“Apologies, at this point, can seem hollow and I regret that because I can imagine how painful this has been in the lives of many victims,” Bishop Barnes said. “Still, I do want to state my sincere apology.”

The list, released Oct. 8, draws from diocesan records and files documenting abuse reports made to diocesan personnel. The records include follow-up reports to priests and Diocesan Review Board discussions.

In the most recent cases, credibility of an accusation was determined by the Diocesan Review Board. In older cases, credibility was determined from facts reported by diocesan personnel at the time of the accusation, an admission from a priest, or from police or legal documents.

The diocese characterized the list as a “good faith effort” to “disclose the names of all priests with credible allegations.” Any additional credible allegations in the future will be added to the list. The latest allegation is from 2014, which was reported to child welfare authorities. Of those priests listed, 29 of the 34 names are “already in the public domain.”

John Andrews, communications director for the San Bernardino diocese, said those six not previously named had been reported to the police, but hadn’t been reported in the press nor were letters read to the faithful about these priests. He said the diocese had responded to the allegations responsibly.

Six of the priests on the list have been convicted in criminal court. All but one priest on the list have been dismissed from the clerical state, permanently banned from ministry in the diocese, or have died.

The whereabouts of the one priest who left the diocese in 1993, Paul Nguyen, are unknown. He had been incardinated in the Diocese of Oslo and served at St. Francis de Sales in Riverside from 1992-1993. The allegations against him were made known to the diocese in February 1993. He was also suspended and reported to the police.

Before 1978, the territory of the diocese was part of the Diocese of San Diego, which has released a similar list. Credibly accused priests who served in parishes of San Bernardino or Riverside counties from before that time are included on the San Bernardino diocese’s list.

There are presently about 1.6 million Catholics in the diocese out of a population of 4.9 million. About 1,900 priests have served in the diocese’s territory.

Andrews told CNA the list represents “a painful, tragic chapter in the history of the diocese.”

“We make no excuses for the actions of these men,” he said. “They are reprehensible actions and they are not consistent with what the Catholic faith is all about, about how we are to treat each other as human beings, especially as it relates to caring for children.”

He said the list’s release will create “raw, painful feelings,” especially for victims. “We stand ready to listen to them, to try to help them in their healing process with our action and our prayer.”

Bishop Barnes reflected on the effects of the sex abuse scandal.

“While we will always bear the mark of this scandal, our failure to protect children in earlier years has ultimately led us to a new awareness and an illumination of this terrible scourge on all of society,” he said, citing Christ's words in the Gospel of Luke: “there is nothing hidden that will not become visible, and nothing secret that will not be known and come to light.”

The bishop noted that since 2002 six priests have been credibly accused of sexual abuse of a minor. Of these, three were alleged to have committed an act of abuse since that year, while the other three alleged abuse incidents took place before 2002.

The bishop emphasized the diocese’s work since 2002, including its adoption of a “zero tolerance” policy for clergy with credible allegations of abuse and its close work with law enforcement in “all reports of abuse.”

Fingerprinting and extensive background checks are now mandatory for all clergy and lay employees of the diocese, and all diocesan ministers must take part in training to recognize and prevent the sexual abuse of children.

The diocese also established the Diocesan Office of Child and Youth Protection to ensure safe environment policies and pastoral code of conduct are followed.

The list’s release was prompted by the release of a Pennsylvania grand jury report covering a 70-year period across six dioceses in the state. The report alleged more than 300 priests had sexually abused over 1,000 children in that time frame.

Andrews said much of the abuse took place in the more distant past. He noted that only six credible cases had been reported in the last 16 years, compared to 28 cases in the previous 24 years. He said there has been more education about sex abuse and current diocesan response is “very solid.”

He said the diocese has adopted habits to encourage transparency and accountability, such as releasing the list of accused clergy.

“I think the Church is in a crisis that calls us to a greater level of openness, and we are hoping making the information public in this way will help the healing process for victims first and foremost and also for the Catholic faithful of our diocese as a whole,” he said.

“When we have an allegation that’s credible, we go to the parishes where that priest was, we announce that there is an allegation, and if anybody has been abused by this person, (ask them) to come forward,” he said.

Vast majority of private school blue-ribbon winners Catholic

Tue, 10/09/2018 - 16:30

Washington D.C., Oct 9, 2018 / 02:30 pm (CNA).- The Department of Education has awarded the 2018 National Blue Ribbon to more than three dozen Catholic schools. Of the nearly 50 private schools to receive the designation, almost 90 percent were Catholic. The awards were made public Oct. 1 in an announcement by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

A total of 349 schools nationwide -- 300 public and 49 private -- received the honor in 2018.

Of the 49 private schools honored, 44 of them were Catholic institutions, including schools in Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia. Most of the schools are administered by their respective dioceses.

“The coveted National Blue Ribbon Schools award affirms the hard work of educators, families and communities in creating safe and welcoming schools where students master challenging and engaging content,” said the Department of Education in a press release announcing the winners.

The schools will be honored at an awards ceremony in Washington, D.C. on November 7 and 8.

“We heartily congratulate the 44 Catholic schools that were recently designated 2018 National Blue Ribbon Schools by the United States Department of Education,” Mary Pat Donoghue, Executive Director of the Secretariat for Catholic Education at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, told CNA. 

Catholic schools are by their nature “ordered to an integral formation of the human person which seeks wisdom and virtue through the development of faith and academics,” she said.

“The extraordinary work of these schools demonstrates their commitment to this mission and to the important role that Catholic schools play in American education today.”

"As Catholic schools work toward the common mission of integrating knowledge with faith in the lives of young people, the honor of being named a National Blue Ribbon School reaffirms their excellence and showcases these schools as extraordinary communities," said National Catholic Educational Association President and CEO Thomas W. Burnford in a press release published on the group’s website.

"It is with great joy that we celebrate and witness these schools’ noteworthy accomplishments."

Blue Ribbon Schools are either categorized as “Exemplary High Performing Schools,” which means they are among the highest-performing schools in their state on standardized tests, or “Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing Schools,” which are are among the highest-performing in a given state at closing achievement gaps between their student body and all students in the state over the past five years.

All of the Catholic schools were recognized by the Department of Education as “Exemplary High Performing Schools.”

Since the Blue Ribbon Schools program began in 1982, over 8,800 schools across all 50 states have been recognized.

Nikki Haley to leave role as UN ambassador

Tue, 10/09/2018 - 13:00

Washington D.C., Oct 9, 2018 / 11:00 am (CNA).- Nikki Haley will leave her post as the United States’ ambassador to the United Nations at the end of the year, it was announced Tuesday. Haley has been a vocal champion of religious freedom during her time at the UN.

Speaking during a joint announcement from the Oval Office Oct. 9, President Donald Trump said that Haley first told him six months ago that she would look to “take a break” after two years on the job. The president said that Ambassador Haley had done an “incredible job” during her time in post and was “very special.”

“She’s a fantastic person, very importantly, but she also is somebody that gets it,” said  Trump.

During her time at the United Nations, Haley spoke frequently in defense of persecuted Christian communities in the Middle East, and delivered the closing keynote at July’s Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom.

She also had a hand in the implementation of major policies, including the relocation of the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, fulfilling campaign promise made by successive presidential candidates.

“As Americans, we have been given a great set of tools with which to build a more perfect union. The protection of our religious freedom – our right to worship, and believe, and even instruct our children – in the manner in which we choose and to live our faith is first among these tools,” said Haley in July.

“We will continue to forcefully advocate for religious tolerance in the international arena. Not just because so many people are being denied this right, but because defending religious freedom makes for a safer and more peaceful world for all of us.”

During the announcement of her departure, Haley dismissed speculation that she would be seeking to challenge Trump for the 2020 Republican nomination. “No, I am not running for 2020,” she said while repeating her support for Trump’s reelection.

As former governor of South Carolina and a prominent member of the Trump administration’s foreign policy team, Haley has been widely tipped as a potential future presidential candidate.

She said it was an “honor of a lifetime” to serve in the United Nations, and that there was “no personal reason” for her choosing to step down at this time. Instead, she said that it was important for politicians to know when to step back from a particular role.

Trump expressed remorse at Haley’s departure, saying “We’re all happy for you in one way, but we hate to lose (you).” He also kept the door open for her return to the administration, “at some point but in a different capacity.”

If she were to do so, Trump said, she “can have (her) pick” of positions.

Prior to being appointed ambassador, Haley was the first female governor to be elected in South Carolina, and first Indian-American female governor in the country.

President Trump said he would announce Haley’s replacement within a few weeks. 

Senate votes to confirm Kavanaugh to Supreme Court

Sat, 10/06/2018 - 16:45

Washington D.C., Oct 6, 2018 / 02:45 pm (CNA).- The Senate voted 50-48 Saturday to confirm the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. The vote follows a procedural decision Friday to invoke ‘cloture,’ ending the debate on whether or not to ratify the judge’s nomination.

The Oct. 6 vote followed weeks of hearing and debate over Kavanaugh’s record as a judge, and also allegations of sexual misconduct made against Kavanaugh dating back to the 1980s.

Both Judge Kavanaugh and his primary accuser, Christine Blassey Ford, appeared before a session of the Senate Judiciary Committee Sept. 27. Following those appearances, a further FBI report was compiled and made available to senators Oct. 4.

The vote marks the end of one of the longer Supreme Court confirmation processes ever held.

The result hinged on four senators, three Republicans and one Democrat, who did not make their intentions clear until the final hours of deliberation.

Republican Senators Jeff Flake (AZ) and Susan Collins (ME)  were joined by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) in voting in favor of ending the debate Friday. All three voted to confirm Kavanaugh on Saturday morning.

Sen. Flake had previously called for the additional vetting of Kavanaugh by the FBI and declared that the report given to the Senate Oct. 4 contained “no additional information yet—no additional corroborating information” on the allegations which had been made against the judge.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) was the only Republican to break with her party and announce she would vote against both cloture and confirming the nomination. On Friday she announced she would be voting against Kavanaugh’s nomination, despite believing him to be “a good man.”

“In my view, he’s not the right man for the court at this time,” she said.

Murkowski actually voted “present,” neither for nor against Kavanaugh, so that Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) could attend his daughter’s wedding. This was an example of the parliamentary convention of “pairing,” where an absent member arranges for another member intending to vote the other way to abstain.

After voting in favor of ending debate and bringing the process to a head on Friday, Sen. Collins told reporters that she had still to make up her mind.

“I will be voting yes on proceeding to the final confirmation vote and I will announce my intentions on how to vote later today,” Collins told reporters. She later made a near 50 minute statement on the floor of the Senate in which she said that she would back Kavanaugh’s nomination.

Collins called the process of vetting the judge a “dysfunctional circus” and said that the allegations against him had failed to meet even a "more likely than not standard."

Along with Sen Murkowski, Collins is a supporter of abortion rights, and was thought at one time to be considering voting against Kavanaugh in the face of widespread pressure from abortion advocates who believe that his elevation to the Supreme Court might trigger a revisiting of the decision Roe v. Wade.

When confirmation hearings on Kavanaugh’s nomination began before the Senate Judiciary Committee at the beginning of September, pro-abortion advocates mounted a public campaign to sway senate votes.

Rachel O’Leary Carmona, chief operating officer of the Women’s March, said at the time that the reason pro-abortion protestors had disrupted Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings was because their “lives are at risk” and that “women will die if Kavanaugh is confirmed.”

O’Leary Carmona also said that politicians who refused to stop Kavanaugh would be made to “pay” during the November midterm elections and in 2020, saying, “if you’re a Democrat, we’ll primary you - if you’re a Republican, your seat will be flipped.”

Sen. Collins did, however, publicly praise Kavanaugh’s judicial record and said she did not think his nomination posed a threat to the landmark abortion decision.

Sen. Manchin is facing a closely fought reelection campaign in West Virginia, a state President Donald Trump carried in 2016 with 68 percent of the vote. His status as a pro-life politician has come under increasing scrutiny following public statements in support of Planned Parenthood and an August vote in the Senate to reject a measure that would have blocked federal government funding to the abortion provider.

If the final vote in the Senate had ended in a 50-50 stalemate, Vice President Mike Pence would have cast the deciding vote.

Despite the controversy which has subsequently surrounded his nomination, following allegations of sexual misconduct in high school, Brett Kavanaugh was originally hailed as an uncontroversial selection by President Trump.

At the time of his nomination, friends of the judge described him to CNA as a sincere Catholic committed to living out his faith.

Brett Kavanaugh was nominated on July 9 to succeed Justice Anthony Kennedy, for whom he once worked as a clerk. Kennedy is also a practicing Catholic.

In July, friends of the nominee described him as a sincere and humble man. Shannen Coffin, an attorney in Washington, D.C., who has known him for 20 years, told CNA at the time that Kavanaugh was “a devoted father, and spouse,” and someone with a strong ethic of service.

“He's also the guy who after a day of long meetings with senators, you know, and without fanfare, was serving food to the homeless.”

Another long-time friend of Kavanaugh, Msgr. John Enzler, CEO and president of Catholic Charities for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., told CNA that the judge was “a guy who's very friendly, very outgoing, very nice, lot of laughter, big smile, wonderful father, wonderful husband, man of faith, lives his faith, goes to church every week."

As he takes his seat on the Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh brings the number of Catholics sitting on the bench back up to six out of the nine justices. Chief Justice John G. Roberts is a practicing Catholic, as are Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Sonia Sotomayor.

Justice Neil Gorsuch was baptized Catholic and received the sacrament of Confirmation, though he has reportedly attended an Episcopalian church for a number of years.

Catholic Charities of Lubbock aids homeless youth

Fri, 10/05/2018 - 18:58

Lubbock, Texas, Oct 5, 2018 / 04:58 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Catholic Charities of Lubbock has increased its efforts to help combat the homeless youth crisis in the northwest Texas city.

“We want to respect the dignity of every single person and life throws everybody in different directions and situations,” said Cynthia Quintanilla, Executive Director of Catholic Charities of Lubbock.

“I just think it’s important that we try to meet their needs and try to meet them where they’re at,” she told CNA.  

According to a recent poll by the city, more than 600 minors are homeless in Lubbock. Quintanilla said these kids, aged 10-17, will often rotate nights at different friends’ houses. She said some of the children will sleep in cars or actually live on the street.

“A lot of it has to do with problems they are facing at home – some of it is family conflict, some of [it] might be abuse, some of the problems might be lack of communication or parents just struggling to raise a number of children and the oldest child is left to fend for themselves,” she said.

Quintanilla expressed concern that these children not only lack family support, but are also at increased risk of dangers such as sex trafficking.

However, many homeless kids do not reach out for help, she further added, noting that these young people fear “they’re going to get caught up in a system that is not to their advantage.”

Catholic Charities has partnered with multiple groups, like law enforcement and schools, to increase their chances of being able to offer support. Quintanilla said the organization will often be notified by school districts, who use questionnaires to ask students on their living situations.

One of the new initiatives of Catholic Charities is putting up “safe place” signs in 192 sites, including libraries and grocery stores. The children are then able to talk to the employees at any of those sites and ask to be put in contact with the organization.

Quintanilla said the organization will help kids with food, clothing, and other basic necessities. She also said Catholic Charities will provide temporary housing, if the local shelters have space, and job training.

“We really try our best to meet them where they’re at. We just try to provide them with some of the basic needs that we can,” she said.

Federal judge strikes down St. Louis abortion law as unconsitutional

Fri, 10/05/2018 - 16:58

St. Louis, Mo., Oct 5, 2018 / 02:58 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A federal judge ruled Sept. 30 that a St. Louis ordinance banning discrimination based on reproductive health decisions violates both the U.S. Constitution and Missouri law.

The St. Louis ordinance, enacted in Feb. 2017, barred pro-life organizations from refusing to hire abortion proponents and rent to abortion clinics, and required non-religious employers to cover or pay for abortions through their employee health plans, according to a news release from the Chicago-based Thomas More Society.

“The St. Louis Board of Aldermen has now been made aware that it is unconstitutional to require pro-life organizations to hire or rent property to abortion proponents, and that it is illegal to require pro-life employers to include abortion coverage in their employee health plans,” Sarah Pitlyk, Thomas More Society Special Counsel, said in the statement.

Attorneys from the Thomas More Society represented several Catholic entities and the Catholic CEO of a for-profit company in a lawsuit against the City of St. Louis, filed during May 2017.

Judge Audrey Fleissig of the Eastern District of Missouri wrote that the ordinance violated the First Amendment rights of Our Lady’s Inn—a pro-life pregnancy center—and the Archdiocesan elementary schools of St. Louis by forcing them “to employ or house individuals who advocate for or perform abortions.”

The judge also ruled that the CEO of O’Brien Industrial Holdings, Frank O’Brien, was being forced to provide “health care benefits covering abortion, contraception, or sterilization” in violation of the Missouri Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

“I speak on behalf of the entire Archdiocese of St. Louis when I thank the Thomas More Society, and all who seek to protect the individual rights of all members of our society — both born and unborn,” Archbishop Robert J. Carlson wrote in a statement following the ruling.

“With this ruling, for which we are grateful, our great city follows in the footsteps of its patron, St. Louis King of France, in its protection of the weak from the strong.”

Archbishop Carlson said last year that the St. Louis ordinance would “force the people of St. Louis to be complicit in the profound evil of abortion.”

“This would be a flagrant violation of religious liberty and individual rights of conscience,” he said, urging St. Louis citizens to oppose the ordinance.

Alderman Megan-Ellyia Green, the original sponsor of the ordinance, said the amendment would clarify that women “should be free to make reproductive choices they want to make without consequences from their employer or landlord,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch said.

According to Green, the ordinance would not limit a religious institution from firing an employee who advocates abortion.

Archbishop Carlson, however, was adamant, saying the Archdiocese of St. Louis “cannot and will not comply with any ordinance...that attempts to force the Church and others to become unwilling participants in the abortion business.”

“There is no room for compromise on such a matter. This is a matter of fundamental religious and moral beliefs,” he said.

The archbishop added that archdiocese would help provide spiritual and material assistance to all in need, “especially the poor and those women facing crisis pregnancies who feel they have no one else to turn to for help.”

Florida dioceses show support for investigation of abuse at institutions statewide

Fri, 10/05/2018 - 15:08

Tallahassee, Fla., Oct 5, 2018 / 01:08 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi launched a tip site Thursday for people to report allegations of past child sex abuse in Florida.

“We’re not limiting this to the Catholic Church,” Bondi said in an Oct. 4 news conference announcing the tip site. “If you’ve been abused in any group, in any school, we want you to come forward.”

The attorney general, along with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, is conducting a statewide investigation into the safeguarding procedures for minors of Florida’s seven Catholic diocese.

Bondi said she and her team plan to issue subpoenas to the dioceses immediately and that all of Florida’s Catholic bishops had assured her that they would cooperate fully. She said at least 15 victims have come forward so far.

The Archdiocese of Miami released a statement Oct. 4 expressing support for the attorney general’s statewide investigation.

“The archdiocese’s safe environment policy and procedures, established in 2002, state when an allegation of sexual abuse of a child or a vulnerable adult by a member of the clergy or church personnel is received, it is immediately reported to the appropriate county state attorney’s office,” the statement read.

It goes on to say that all clergy, seminarians, parents, employees, and volunteers in the archdiocese must undergo Virtus Training, a program that seeks to protect children and teach how to spot signs of abuse.

“Since 2002, the Archdiocese of Miami has background checked and Virtus trained almost 150,000 people, trained over 200 Virtus facilitators (teachers) and have 167 safe environment local coordinators in parishes and schools.”

Bishop John Noonan of Orlando said his diocese was also committed to cooperation with the attorney general.

“My prayer is that the Attorney General will agree that we all have met our commitments to safeguard the most vulnerable among us,” Bishop Noonan wrote. “As Christ is beside me, before me, I pray for your forgiveness for the wrongdoing that you may have experienced at the hand of someone within the Church, whether bishop, priest, religious or lay. We ask those who have been harmed to take courage and come forward because we will listen.”

Bishop Gerald Barbarito of Palm Beach also expressed his willingness to cooperate.

“The Diocese of Palm Beach has been cooperating with the State Attorney even before the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops established the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People in 2002, by directly reporting an allegation of abuse to that office, no matter how long ago it may have occurred,” the bishop stated.

The bishops of Pensacola-Tallahassee and St. Petersburg released similar statements of support.

The Diocese of St. Augustine did not release a statement by press time, but local media reported that Bishop Felipe Estévez had expressed support for the investigation in an email and was encouraging “victims and anyone with information about potential abuse to please report it to my office.”

The Diocese of Venice in Florida said it has met with a prosecutor “and welcomes the opportunity to cooperate with his investigation.”

“While this statewide inquiry is not based on any new allegations, upon the conclusion of this review it is hoped that all institutions (public schools, nursing homes, universities, etc.) who have access directly, or indirectly with children and vulnerable adults, will review and evaluate safe environment policies and procedures to ensure the safety of all,” the Venice diocese added.

Numerous state attorneys general have launched investigations into clergy sex abuse since the August release of a Pennsylvania grand jury report on the matter.

There's only one abortion clinic left in Missouri

Thu, 10/04/2018 - 16:21

Jefferson City, Mo., Oct 4, 2018 / 02:21 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Abortions at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Columbia, Missouri ended this week after the facility failed to adhere to state rules, and its state license to perform abortions expired Oct. 3. This leaves Missouri with one clinic licensed to perform abortions, located in St. Louis.

“I am just thrilled, and I give all the honor and glory to God for this,” Kathy Forck of Columbia 40 Days for Life told CNA. “We’re pretty confident that [Planned Parenthood] will never be able to recover from this latest blow.”

Forck said that her organization has been praying outside the Columbia clinic for nine years, and during that time abortions had ceased and resumed nine times.

“Even though they have stopped doing the abortions, they're still open to refer for abortions," she said. "And until that place actually closes its doors, we'll be out on the sidewalk offering help and hope to women and letting God use us to save babies by sending them across the street to MyLife Clinic [a pro-life pregnancy center]."

Missouri passed regulations in 2017 which granted the state attorney general more power to prosecute violations, and required stricter health codes and proper fetal tissue disposal. The new rules also required that doctors have surgical and admitting privileges to nearby hospitals, and that clinics meet hospital-like standards for outpatient surgery.

U.S. District Judge Howard Sachs temporarily blocked the regulations in April 2017, with the rationale that the rules were denying Missouri women a constitutional right to abortion. However, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last month to end the district judge’s injunction, with a three-judge panel writing that the district judge failed to weigh any of the “benefits” that could proceed from the state’s rules.

This sends the case back to the district court for further consideration and allowed the rules to take effect Oct. 1. The Missouri DHSS announced last month that they would begin enforcing the new rules immediately.

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

In addition to the regulations, the Columbia clinic also must pass an inspection from the state’s Department of Health and Senior Services. According to the Columbia Missourian, a September inspection by the department found that the facility failed to “ensure a sanitary environment,” and was using equipment on which rust and substances believed to be mold and bodily fluids were found.

Doctors performing abortions in Missouri have been required since 2005 to have clinical privileges at a hospital within 30 miles. In 2015, University Hospital in Columbia revoked admitting privileges for a St. Louis-based doctor who had previously been performing abortions at the Columbia clinic.

"No one in Columbia wants to give [medical] privileges to the abortion industry," Forck commented. “They’ve tried and tried and they just can’t get it.”

She said 40 Days for Life attracts many members of the local medical community to their sidewalk prayer vigils, and that the Columbia clinic had lost seven abortion doctors in the three and a half years that it performed abortions.

Missouri law has held, since the 1980s, that life begins at conception. The state is now one of seven that has only one licensed abortion clinic.

Public life must turn business to the common good, conference hears

Thu, 10/04/2018 - 16:00

Washington D.C., Oct 4, 2018 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- Human dignity and the common good are the essential aims of work, attendees heard at the 2018 Principled Entrepreneurship conference in Washington, D.C. The three-day conference is being cosponsored by the Catholic University of America’s Busch School of Business and the Napa Institute.

The conference, which is organized around the theme of the Dignity of Work, opened Oct. 3 with Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew celebrated by Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, the former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

In his homily to attendees, Cardinal Müller outlined the essential question facing the conference.

“The question is--how to organize public life, the basis of democracy, to turn business for the common good?”

This, Müller said, is the Catholic Church’s social doctrine, which preaches the dignity of all people as created in the image of God.

The cardinal also warned against defining people by arbitrary categories, stressing the Church’s teachings on social justice underscores that all nations are one family under God. Similarly, he said, the principle of solidarity links communion to common endeavor and that while the terms “liberal” and “conservative” are common in politics, they do not belong as descriptors for ecclesiastical life.

“It is important to use the correct categories,” said Müller. “There is no ‘conservative baptism,’” he said, or conservative or liberal belief in the Triune God.

All people need to use their God-given gifts for the common good, the cardinal said, and this common good looks towards life after death, not just their life on earth.

Similar themes were developed during the afternoon sessions of the conference, held at the Museum of the Bible.

Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard and 2016 contender for the Republican presidential nomination, drew from her own experiences as she spoke on the subject of work and spirituality.

Fiorina told the conference that she was taught “what you make of yourself is your gift to God,” but that as a child she did not feel as though she had any particular gifts or talents.

She told the crowd that she came to realize that “regardless of circumstances, we’re capable and dignified” and that with this common dignity comes a mutual obligation, saying that everyone needs somebody to “lift us up, help us out.”

A person should not be judged by their circumstances, said Fiorina, reiterating the universal dignity of work and that “none of us is better than any other,” regardless of what their job may be. Everyone, said Fiorina, should be respected for their work, not their position.

Fiorina also spoke about her work with Opportunity International, an organization which provides microfinance loans to people in developing communities.

Recalling a trip to the impoverished outskirts of New Delhi, Fiorina said that it was there that she realized the true impact of the project, and the importance of having a job.

“I saw 10 women--they were all women--I saw 10 women who had pride in their faces, and hope in their eyes,” she said. “They were determined. They sat, erect.”

The women, she said, went on to explain to her that in their circumstances starting a business would have been beyond their ability to realize, but thanks to the microfinance program their situation had changed.

Linking the concepts of entrepreneurship and empowerment, Fiorina said that programs like Opportunity emphasized respect as well as financial support. “What they had done was look each of those women in the eye and say ‘you have value. You can live a life of dignity and purpose and meaning.’”

Echoing Cardinal Müller’s emphasis on the communion of a common humanity over other distinctions, Fiorina said “none of us as human souls are defined by the circumstances in which we find ourselves.”

The conference continues through Friday Oct. 5.

Each Catholic diocese in Michigan raided in abuse investigation

Thu, 10/04/2018 - 13:48

Lansing, Mich., Oct 4, 2018 / 11:48 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Police raided diocesan properties at all seven Catholic dioceses in Michigan this week as part of an ongoing investigation into cases of child sex abuse by clergy.

In the Archdiocese of Detroit, officials searched multiple diocesan properties, including the chancery, the Cardinal Mooney Building at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, and the office of Msgr. Michael Bugarin, the archdiocesan Delegate for Clergy Misconduct, according to the Detroit Free Press.

The raids are part of an investigation launched last month by Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, which will look into cases of clerical sex abuse of children in all seven of the dioceses in the state: Gaylord, Lansing, Marquette, Grand Rapids, Saginaw, Kalamazoo, and Detroit.

“The Archdiocese of Detroit cooperated fully with law enforcement officials executing a
search warrant for clergy files today,” the Archdiocese  said in an Oct. 3 statement.

The investigation followed the release of the Grand Jury report in Pennsylvania, which detailed decades of clergy sex abuse cases from six of the state’s dioceses. Several states, including Michigan, launched their own investigations into clergy sex abuse after the report was published.

The Archdiocese of Detroit stated that it welcomes the investigation as part of its “continuing commitment to transparency and healing.”

“We have worked closely with authorities from all six counties within our Archdiocese since 2002, when we shared past case files involving clergy misconduct and committed to turning over all new allegations regardless of when the alleged abuse occurred. We remain committed to protecting everyone - especially children and vulnerable adults - and therefore look forward to working closely with officials to determine if there is more we can do to accomplish this goal,” the archdiocese stated.

The Diocese of Saginaw is included in the new investigation despite recently having undergone a local investigation earlier this year, after the diocese and authorities received multiple complaints of sexual misconduct by priests in the diocese.

Police in Saginaw raided the home of Bishop Joseph Cistone and the diocesan chancery and its cathedral rectory in March as part of the local investigation, citing a lack of cooperation with authorities on the part of the diocese. Two priests were placed on leave from their duties during that investigation; one was criminally charged.

In 2012, Cistone was accused of misleading a grand jury about his compliance in the destruction of documents containing the names of priests suspected of child molestation in 1994, while he was serving as a priest in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Cistone was not criminally charged in the incident. In February, Cistone announced that he had been diagnosed with lung cancer.

In an Oct. 3 statement, the Diocese of Saginaw emphasized their willingness to cooperate in the new investigation.

“The Diocese of Saginaw continues to cooperate with the Michigan Attorney General’s statewide investigation,” the statement said.

“We are thankful for the professionalism with which the warrant was executed, today, as well as the acknowledgment by the attorney general’s office of our desire to cooperate. Our cooperation, the attorney general’s office said, is appreciated. The Diocese is grateful for the work of law enforcement, and will continue to cooperate fully and meet all requests.”

The Saginaw diocese added that it hoped the new investigation will be another step toward healing for all survivors of clergy sexual abuse.

In a statement given to local media in September, Schuette’s office said that the investigation will cover accusations of "sexual abuse and assault of children and others by Catholic priests,” including priests from religious orders, in Michigan. The the investigation will cover a period of nearly 70 years, from 1950 until the present.

Spooky, scary, saintly? How Catholics can see Halloween at its best

Thu, 10/04/2018 - 05:01

Tulsa, Okla., Oct 4, 2018 / 03:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Whether you dress up as a ghoul, a hero, or a saint, Halloween has a Christian origin that should inspire us to remember our mortality and our redemption in Christ, Bishop David Konderla of Tulsa has said.

“In contrast to popular culture’s observance of Halloween, even the customary appeal to the ‘frightful’ has a devotional meaning in the Catholic tradition. Props such as skulls and scythes have historically recalled our mortality, reminding us to be holy because we are destined for judgment,” the bishop said, citing Hebrews 9:27 and Revelation 14:15. “Visible symbols of death thus represent a reminder of the last things – death, judgment, Heaven, and hell.”

Bishop Konderla discussed the upcoming holiday, which falls before the Nov. 1 feast of All Saints, in a Sept. 28 memorandum on the celebration of Halloween in the Diocese of Tulsa.

Halloween has origins in the Catholic liturgical calendar, he said, but the customs surrounding it have “drifted from the feast’s intended meaning and purpose.” The name itself derives from the archaic English phrase “All Hallows’ Evening,” referring to the Eve of All Saints. Since All Saints can begin with evening prayer the night before, Halloween is the feast’s “earliest possible celebration.”

“While the ‘Gothic’ aspect of Halloween reminds us of Christian teaching about the resurrection of the dead, our culture often represents this in a distorted manner, for when the dead are raised they will in truth be ‘clothed with incorruptibility’,” said Bishop Konderla.

When separated from Catholic teaching, the holiday’s grim, ghoulish, or “Gothic” costumes can be mistaken as “celebration or veneration of evil or of death itself, contradicting the full and authentic meaning of Halloween.”

“For the Christian, Christ has conquered death, as has been prophesied and fulfilled,” he said.  “Christ has conquered death by his Passion, Death, and Resurrection, the Paschal Mystery whose graces are evident in the glory of all saints.”

The bishop also discussed the custom of dressing up as Christian saints.

“The custom of dressing up for Halloween is devotional in spirit,” he said. “By dressing up as the saints whom we most admire, we imagine ourselves following their example of Christian discipleship. This practice allows the lay faithful in festive celebration to become ‘living icons’ of the saints, who are themselves ‘icons’ or ‘windows’ offering real-life examples of the imitation of Christ.”

“In dressing up as saints we make Christian discipleship our own in a special way, following the exhortation of St. Paul: ‘Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ’,” he said, citing Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians.

Bishop Konderla invoked the imagery of the saints used in the Book of Revelation.

“Proper veneration of the saints naturally leads to adoration of the Lamb who was slain, whom the saints adore and follow wherever he goes,” he said. “True devotion to the saints, through our prayers and imitation of their witness, leads us sinners back to Christ.”

The bishop also voiced a few warnings. He said it is important to avoid Halloween popularizations of things that are contrary to the Catholic faith. These include the glamorization or celebration of “anything involving superstition, witches, witchcraft, sorcery, divinations, magic, and the occult.”

“We want to be good models of Christian virtue for those we serve and make clear distinctions between that which is good and that which is evil,” he added.

“Let us urge one another this Halloween to express in every detail of our observance the beauty and depth of the Feast of All Saints,” Bishop Konderla concluded.

“Let us make this year's celebration an act of true devotion to God, whose saints give us hope that we too may one day enter into the Kingdom prepared for God's holy ones from the beginning of time.”

US Catholics' confidence in Francis shaken

Wed, 10/03/2018 - 16:24

Washington D.C., Oct 3, 2018 / 02:24 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A recent poll has shown a drop in popularity for Pope Francis in the United States over the past year. The poll suggests that many Americans increasingly disapprove of how the pope has handled the abuse crisis.

According to a Pew Research Forum survey conducted in mid-September, fewer Americans, and specifically American Catholics, express favorable feelings about the Roman Pontiff.

The pope has enjoyed a very high favorability rating among Americans, and American Catholics, throughout his pontificate.

Throughout his papacy, Pope Francis has had a net favorable rating among American Catholics of around 80 percent, spiking at a high of 90 percent in February 2015. According to the recent poll, this total stands at 72 percent, his lowest so far.

The sharpest drop in the pope’s numbers were among those who expressed “very favorable” views of him, rather than just “favorable.”

When Pope Francis was elected in March 2013, 43 percent of American Catholics had a “very favorable” view of his pontificate. That number rose to 62 percent in October of 2015, immediately after he visited the United States, but the most recent survey saw just 30 percent of American Catholics reporting a “very favorable” view of the pope.

American impressions of the pope appear to be tied to his percieved handling of the sexual abuse crisis. In February 2014, just under a year into his papacy, Pew found that 54 percent of American Catholics said that Pope Francis was either doing an “excellent” or “good” job of addressing the scandal. That figure stayed relatively the same through 2015, before dropping to just 31 percent last month.

Conversely, at the start of his papacy, 39 percent of American Catholics thought Pope Francis was doing an “only fair” or “poor” job at dealing with the scandal, with 15 percent saying that the pope was doing “poorly.” In September of 2018, that figure had jumped to 62 percent, with the number of people saying they believed the pope is doing “poorly” sitting at 36 percent.

The survey showed that American Catholics are also less positive about other aspects of Pope Francis’ performance, including his work spreading the Catholic faith, appointing new bishops and cardinals, and standing up for traditional values.

Since January 2018, the number of Catholics who think Pope Francis has done an “excellent” or “good” job at spreading the faith and standing up for traditional values has dropped sharply, from 81 percent to 55 percent.

When it comes to appointing bishops, only 43 percent of Americans think the pope is doing an excellent or good job at this, a 15-point drop since the beginning of the year. The percentage of people who think that Pope Francis is doing a “only fair” or “poor” job at this task has risen from 24 percent to 39 percent over the last nine months.

Villanova University Professor and Church historian Massimo Faggioli told CNA he believes there are “many factors” influencing American perceptions of the pope, including the “tragic moment of crisis” gripping the Church in the United States, as well as cultural, political, and ecclesiastical issues.

“There are expectations that the pope acts against bishops and cardinals quickly; but the pope cannot act on the basis of a grand jury report only or of media reports only,” Faggioli told CNA. “There must be a formal investigation or a process.”

Faggioli told CNA that for many people in the United States, used to a rolling newscycle, it was hard to understand why Pope Francis has taken so long to respond to emerging scadnals, such as the 11-page “testimony of former apostolic nuncio Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, something Faggioli called “obviously frustrating” for many Catholics.

“The choice of not responding immediately to the Vigano’ report is hard or impossible to understand for many in the US media culture and for those who do not consider the long-term view of the Church in Pope Francis,” Faggioli said.

When faced with a large-scale crisis, it is normal for the leadership of any institution to suffer a backlash. “This is especially true for those who tend to see in the pope the CEO of the Catholic Church,” he told CNA.

“There is also an ecclesial factor: it seems that some US Catholics are blaming pope Francis for not doing what the US bishops should do to address the abuse crisis. The pope cannot act in total disregard of the local episcopate while the USCCB is putting together an action plan.”

Overall, Faggioli warned that the drop in popularity reflected a decline in confidence not only in Francis personally but in the office of pope.

“More importantly, pope Francis’ drop in popularity in the USA is here also a drop in the popularity of the papacy itself as an institution in the USA - also of his predecessors John Paul II and Benedict XVI.”

While timing of the decline in papal popularity would seem correlated to the still-emerging global abuse crisis, Faggioli told CNA that Francis was the subject of “a systematic campaign of undermining coming from US conservatism.”

“The papacy has become now a partisan issue in the US Church like never before - there is an increasing political polarization in the views of US Catholics toward pope Francis, in which the abuse crisis is a very important element but that element must be seen in the context of a growing distance between Rome and US Catholicism.”

<a href=""><img width="640" height="401" src="" class="attachment-large size-large" alt="Increasing political polarization in U.S. Catholics’ views toward Pope Francis" /></a>

Priest in South Dakota charged with child sex abuse

Wed, 10/03/2018 - 14:21

Rapid City, S.D., Oct 3, 2018 / 12:21 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A priest in Rapid City, South Dakota has been arrested and charged with two counts of sexual contact with a child under 16, according to local police.

Authorities took Father John Praveen, 38, into custody Oct. 2 following a joint investigation conducted by the Rapid City Police Department and the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office. The investigation began Sept. 30 after a juvenile victim came forward to authorities, alleging two separate incidents, according to a city statement.

Father Praveen, also known as John Praveen Kumar Itukulapti, was born in India and served with the Sanjeev Sadana Society (Holy Spirit Fathers) in the state of Telangana. According to the Rapid City diocesan newsletter, Father Praveen was approved by his congregation to serve in South Dakota for ten years, beginning November 2017.

The Diocese of Rapid City said Church officials are “fully cooperating with law enforcement in this ongoing investigation...Bishop Robert Gruss has also removed him from all ministry in the Diocese of Rapid City.”

After being assigned originally to All Saints Church in Eagle Butte, South Dakota, Father Praveen most recently served as parochial vicar at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Rapid City, according to the diocesan website.

The Rapid City Journal reported that Bishop Gruss said the diocese conducted a background check on Praveen, but did not go into detail about the process.

San Diego bishop holds ‘listening sessions’ on abuse crisis

Wed, 10/03/2018 - 12:00

San Diego, Calif., Oct 3, 2018 / 10:00 am (CNA).- Bishop Robert McElroy told a crowd of more than 300 people that he was committed to increasing accountability for bishops and to maintaining a zero-tolerance approach to abuse in the diocese. The San Diego bishop spoke at the first of eight public meetings scheduled to provide a forum for feedback from the laity on recent abuse scandals.

The meeting was held Oct. 1 at Our Mother of Confidence parish in University City, San Diego.

“These meetings will focus on seeking input from people in the pews on the pathway to such reform, listening to those who have been victimized by clerical sexual abuse either directly or in their families, and praying for God's grace to be our only guide,” McElroy said in a statement announcing the fora which was distributed after weekend Masses in the diocese.

Bishop McElroy began the session Monday evening by acknowledging the “wrenching” effect that recent scandals had had on Catholics, and he invited the audience to help form the Church’s response to the crisis.   

The open forum proved to be a difficult event for the bishop, according to local media. The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that McElroy fielded vocal criticism, including some booing, for his perceived “downplaying” of recent scandals, including the revelations about Archbishop Theodore McCarrick and the “testimony” of former apostolic nuncio Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò.

McElroy has previously called Viganò’s initial public letter, released Aug. 22, a “distortion of the truth” and an attempt “to settle old personal scores.”

During the event, McElroy was asked about a number of topics related to the recent scandals, including increased accountability for bishops, the safety of seminarians from sexual abuse and coercion, and the existence of a “homosexual subculture” in some parts of the Church.

McElroy told those attending that there was no link between the sexuality of priests and instances of abuse. “Abuse is not about sex,” he said. “It is about power and domination.”

In an Aug. 27 statement on the crisis of sex abuse in the Church, Bishop McElroy wrote that “the bishops of our nation, in union with the Holy Father, should be focused solely on comprehensively revealing the truth about the patterns of the sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults by clergy in our Church, so that deep reform can be enacted.”

As part of the listening session, McElroy also explained the measures which the diocese has had in place since 2003 to enforce its policy of zero-tolerance for abuse.

“I think we’re in an OK place in the structures we have put in place for the protection of minors,” McElroy said.

According to the Union-Tribune, McElroy also said that the diocese had received no credible allegations of abuse against living priests in more than three years.

In March of this year, the Diocese of San Diego removed a religious priest from his position as associate pastor in the parish of St. Patrick in Carlsbad, CA, following an alleged sexual assault on a seminarian after a parish event.

While parishioners were not told why Fr. Juan Garcia Castillo was removed from his post, the diocese confirmed to CNA in September that they had suspended his priestly faculties. The priest is facing criminal charges of sexual battery.

Despite the sometimes aggravated tone of questions and contributions, loud bursts of applause did break out in appreciation of the priests of the diocese, of whom attendees spoke warmly.

A further seven “listening sessions” have been scheduled by the diocese, with the next taking place at 7pm, Oct. 3, at St. Joseph Cathedral.