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Window opens for abuse victim suits as New York law comes in to effect

Mon, 08/12/2019 - 15:30

Albany, N.Y., Aug 12, 2019 / 01:30 pm (CNA).- A one-year window that allows adults in New York state who were sexually abused as children to file lawsuits against their abusers opens on Wednesday, August 14. Those who were sexually abused now have a one-year break in the state’s statute of limitations to pursue claims against their abusers and the institutions where the abuse took place.

The window was created by the passage of the Child Victims Act on January 28, 2019. The law adjusted the statute of limitations for pursuing criminal charges and civil suits against sexual abusers or institutions. Previously, a survivor of child sexual abuse had until the age of 23 to file charges or a civil claim. Now, with the passage of the law, survivors have up until the age of 28 to file criminal charges, and age 55 to file a lawsuit.

The one-year window begins six months after the passage of the law. The Catholic Church, Boy Scouts of America, and the state’s public schools have all said they are preparing for a potentially large number of abuse survivors to file lawsuits. 

In 2002, the state of California passed a similar piece of legislation, leading to more than one billion dollars being paid by the Catholic Church to survivors of child sexual abuse. 

In 2016, the Archdiocese of New York created an Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program for survivors of child sexual abuse within the archdiocese. That program has paid $65 million to 323 survivors, who accepted the settlement with the condition they would not file an additional lawsuit. Dioceses in other states, like New Jersey, have combined to launch similar programs. 

Church officials have said that they cannot predict how the window will affect local dioceses. 

“We don’t know exactly what to expect when the window opens,” said Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York to the Associated Press. 

“We certainly anticipate that there will be lawsuits filed against the archdiocese, as there will be against many other institutions and public entities as well.”

The Catholic Church had raised qualified opposition to earlier versions of the Child Victims Act, as the legislation did not provide the same protections for child abuse victims in public insitutions, including schools, as it did for private institutions. 

The final version that was signed into law eliminated these differences, and allows for suits to be filed by survivors of abuse by public school teachers or employees. 

In January, Director of the New York Catholic Conference, Dennis Poust, told CNA that the conference supported the changes and had not opposed the final version of the act.

“For years, we have advocated against treating abuse survivors differently depending on where they were abused,” he said.

“Previous versions of the bill sought to shield public institutions, which would have treated abuse survivors differently depending on where they suffered their abuse. Thankfully, the bill’s sponsors amended this, and the conference dropped any opposition to its passage,” Poust said.

At the time the bill was passed, the bishops of New York issued a joint statement in response to the bill.

“We pray that the passage of the Child Victims Act brings some measure of healing to all survivors by offering them a path of recourse and reconciliation,” the bishops wrote.

“The legislation now recognizes that child sexual abuse is an evil not just limited to one institution, but a tragic societal ill that must be addressed in every place where it exists.”

Fort Worth bishop has not endorsed alleged messages from Mary

Mon, 08/12/2019 - 13:30

Fort Worth, Texas, Aug 12, 2019 / 11:30 am (CNA).- The Bishop of Fort Worth, Texas, has not authenticated alleged apparitions of the Virgin Mary that are said to have taken place in the diocese, according to a statement released last week.

“Recent claims made on websites and in social media have indicated that alleged apparitions and messages of the Blessed Virgin Mary, under a title of ‘Mystical Rose--Our Lady of Argyle,’ have been authenticated by Bishop Michael Olson and the Diocese of Fort Worth. This is not true,” the Aug. 8 statement said.

“These claims of apparitions and messages are not verified or endorsed by the Church, and in no way are claims true that the Mystical Rose is a ministry of the Diocese of Fort Worth or of St. Mark Parish.”

According to a website launched last month, the Blessed Virgin Mary began appearing in May 2017 to a “visionary.” The first such apparition was reportedly in Arkansas, and subsequent appearances allegedly took place at St. Mark Catholic Church in Argyle, Texas.

The visionary claims to have received seven messages from the Blessed Virgin Mary in 2017, and in 2018 and 2019 to have received 30 “warning messages for the Church...from saints, angels, the Blessed Mother, and even from Christ Himself.”

The most recent such message recorded on the website is dated Aug. 1, and is credited to “three angels.” The message warns of a spiritual battle in the Church, noting that “men look to Rome for answers, But the questions have become so corrupted that the answers are wrong before they are given.”

The website reports that the alleged visionary informed diocesan officials about the initial messages, but the diocese said they have not been formally approved through any ecclesiastical process.

“While from time to time apparitions do occur (Lourdes, Fatima, Tepayac), the age of revelaton ended with the death of the last apostle and all true apparitions are simply an appeal to obey the command of Christ: Repent and believe in the Gospel,” the diocesan statement said.

“There is nothing further to be revealed by God that has not already been fully revealed in Jesus Christ. It is in light of this truth of the Catholic faith that one should assess claims of apparitions or of messages and miracles with prudence, always presuming the good will anyone making such a claim, but with due regard for the integrity of the Catholic faith.”

With regard to the alleged apparitions in Argyle, “Bishop Olson does not encourage anyone to offer credence of support for these claimed apparitions,” the diocese said.


Survey on Catholic belief in the Eucharist prompts calls for better catechesis

Sat, 08/10/2019 - 17:32

Washington D.C., Aug 10, 2019 / 03:32 pm (CNA).- After a recent survey found that two-thirds of Catholics do not believe Church teaching about the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, Catholic commenters are stressing the importance of better faith formation.

“We should never assume that ‘everyone here knows the basics.’ We have to constantly reiterate the basics and take every advantage that we have to catechize,” said John Bergsma, a professor of Theology at Franciscan University of Steubenville.

A recent Pew Research study found that just 31% of U.S. Catholics they surveyed believe that the bread and wine used in the Eucharist, through a process called transubstantiation, become the body and blood of Jesus— a fundamental teaching central to the Catholic faith, known as the Real Presence.

Sixty-nine percent of Catholics that Pew surveyed reported their belief that the bread and wine used during the Eucharist “are symbols of the body and blood of Jesus Christ.” This mindset made up a majority in every age group surveyed.

“Most Catholics who believe that the bread and wine are symbolic do not know that the church holds that transubstantiation occurs,” Pew reported Aug. 5.

“Overall, 43% of Catholics believe that the bread and wine are symbolic and also that this reflects the position of the church. Still, one-in-five Catholics (22%) reject the idea of transubstantiation, even though they know about the church’s teaching.”

Interestingly, a small percentage of those surveyed— 3%— claimed to believe in the Real Presence despite not knowing that this is what the Church teaches.

Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop Robert Barron said the study made him angry because it showed poor formation for generations in the Church.

“This should be a wake-up call to all of us in the Church—priests, bishops, religious, laypeople, catechists, parents, everyone—that we need to pick up our game when it comes to communicating even the most basic doctrines of the Church,” Barron wrote on his blog Aug. 6.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church in paragraph 1374 states: “In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist ‘the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained’ is a substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely present."

Bergsma told CNA that he found the results of the Pew survey unsurprising, as similar polls in the past two decades have turned up similar results.

He said many of the “self-identified” Catholics surveyed probably don’t show up at Mass very often, if at all.

“Really what this poll shows, once again, is that there are large numbers of persons in the United States who consider themselves ‘Catholic’ almost as an ethnic or cultural category, because they received one or more sacraments when they were children, or their family is traditionally Catholic,” Bergsma said.

“However, although these persons consider themselves ‘Catholic’ as a demographic category, they haven’t and don’t practice the Catholic faith, and they haven't made much effort to learn what the Catholic Church teaches.”

He called for better catechesis, especially in parish and school settings, to counter the lack of belief shown in the survey.

For Bergsma, a former Protestant pastor who once preached vehemently against the Catholic Church, a big factor in his conversion was encountering the Church’s teaching on the Eucharist.

“Jesus said, ‘This is my body … this is my blood.’ Every Christian who claims to follow Christ should take him at his word and believe in the Real Presence,” he said.

“The early Christians surely did, and reading the earliest Christian writings on the Eucharist is what converted me on this issue...For those who don’t know or reject the Church’s teaching, I would encourage them to give it a chance. Read, for example, what the Catechism says about the Eucharist, and ponder it with an open mind.”

Father Bradley Zamora, director of liturgy at Mundelein Seminary in Illinois, told CNA that the Eucharist— and what the Church teaches about it— is the “very core” of the Catholic faith, and the fact that it seems to be so misunderstood is disheartening.

“As a person of faith, as someone who has chosen to follow Christ as a disciple, you have to be willing to enter into the narrative of what we believe,” he said.

“You have to be willing to give your heart completely to Christ, you have to put on eyes of faith, you have to open your ears to the very voice of Christ. This is the disposition, as difficult as it may be, that our faith begs of us. When we gather for the Eucharist we see and hear things happening in front of us, but beneath what we see and what we hear is the very Paschal Mystery coming to life before our eyes.”

Zamora, like Bergsma, emphasized the need for better catechesis and teaching about the basic tenets of the Catholic faith. He also said that Catholics do themselves a “disservice” as a Church when they don’t speak about the mysteries of the faith as often as they can. As a seminary professor, he said he tries to bring his seminarians back to the reality of the Real Presence constantly as he teaches them how to celebrate Mass.

“When we pronounce the words of the institution narrative, ‘This is my body,’ and ‘This is my blood,’ it is Christ Himself who prays those words again in our time and space just as He did at the Last Supper,” Zamora explained.

“What we do when we gather for prayer is not some stage play, but rather we re-present the very mystery Christ instituted.”


Citing El Paso shooting, US bishops condemn divisive, hateful rhetoric

Fri, 08/09/2019 - 18:16

Washington D.C., Aug 9, 2019 / 04:16 pm (CNA).- Leaders of the U.S. bishops’ conference on issues of immigration and racism denounced xenophobic and dehumanizing language in the United States, warning that it fosters discrimination and hatred.

“The tragic loss of life of 22 people this weekend in El Paso demonstrates that hate-filled rhetoric and ideas can become the motivation for some to commit acts of violence,” the bishops said.

“The anti-immigrant, anti-refugee, anti-Muslim, and anti-Semitic sentiments that have been publicly proclaimed in our society in recent years have incited hatred in our communities.”

The statement was issued Aug. 8 by Bishop Joe Vásquez of Austin, head of the U.S. bishops’ migration committee; Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, Florida, chair of the domestic social development committee; and Bishop Shelton Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, head of the ad hoc committee against racism.

On Saturday Aug. 3, an armed man opened fire at a shopping complex in El Paso, Texas, killing 22 and injuring more than two dozen, according to police reports. The suspect is in custody.

The shooter reportedly published a four-page document online in the hours before the attack, detailing his hatred toward immigrants and Hispanics. He also reportedly described the weapons he would use in the shooting. Police said he appeared to have been targeting Latinos during the attack.

Following the shooting, critics quickly turned their attention to President Donald Trump, noting that the suspect’s manifesto had echoed some of his language, such as characterizing immigrants as an “invasion.” They also denounced the president’s derogatory comments aimed at cities and countries with large black populations, and his suggestion that four Democratic congresswomen of color “go back” to their home countries, despite their being U.S. citizens.

“Donald Trump has created plenty of space for hate,” said presidential hopeful Senator Elizabeth Warren. “He is a racist. He has made one racist remark after another. He has put in place racist policies. And we've seen the consequences of it.”

Senator Bernie Sanders, who is also running for president, tweeted at Trump after the shooting, “Your language creates a climate which emboldens violent extremists.”

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) went a step further, calling Trump’s rhetoric on immigration “directly responsible” for the El Paso shooting.

In his initial response to the shooting, Trump condemned the violence but did not mention white nationalism. In a later televised appearance, he said, “In one voice our nation must condemn racism, bigotry, and white supremacy.”

On the day of the shooting, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, and Bishop Dewane issued a statement, denouncing the violence as “senseless and inhumane” and calling for legislation to address “the plague that gun violence has become” in the United States.

The second statement from the U.S. bishops comes as criticism mounts against the president for his rhetoric regarding minorities.

In their Aug. 8 statement, the bishops did not reference Trump, or any other political leader, by name. Instead they asked all Americans “to stop using hate-filled language that demeans and divides us and motivates some to such horrific violence.”

The noted that racial hatred was also apparent as a motivation in last year’s Tree of Life Synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh and the Mother Emanuel AME Church shooting in Charleston in 2015.

“[W]e ask our leaders and all Americans to work to unite us as a great, diverse, and welcoming people,” the bishops said.

While the bishops’ statement avoided calling out Trump by name, San Antonio Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller addressed the president in his initial response to the shooting several days earlier.

On his personal Twitter account, the archbishop posted Aug. 5, “President you are a poor man, a very week [sic] man. Stop damaging people. Please!” A second tweet read, “President stop your hatred. People in the US deserve better.”

The tweets were later deleted.

In a video posted to the archdiocesan Facebook page the next day, García-Siller said, “I regret that my recent Tweet remarks were not focused on the issues, but on an individual.”

“All individuals have God-given dignity and should be accorded respect and love as children of God,” the archbishop said, adding, “We should be aware of this in our discourse about the office of the president of the United States, which is due our respect.”

García-Siller encouraged prayers for the victims of violence and said his desire is to bring hope and healing, and act in a way that reflects civility and builds unity.

“If I have added to anyone’s pain at this emotional time, I deeply regret it.”

The archbishop reiterated his condemnation of racism, which he said is still a problem in America today.

“No one has the moral right to make racist statements,” he said, denouncing harassment of immigrants and rhetoric that instigates fear.

“We must pray fervently for peace amidst all the violence which seems to be overwhelming in our society. We must be lights in the darkness,” the archbishop concluded. “We do not need more division, but rather we need to move forward in freedom to discuss these topics more deeply in light of the Gospel.”


Chaldean Catholic dies in Iraq after U.S. deportation

Fri, 08/09/2019 - 18:00

Detroit, Mich., Aug 9, 2019 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- Christian leaders and local legislators have mourned the death of a Chaldean Christian who had been deported to Iraq by the United States.

Jimmy Al-Daoud, a 41 year-old Chaldean Catholic who lived in the Detroit suburbs, was apprehended by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in 2017 and eventually deported to Iraq in June of this year. Born in Greece, Al-Daoud was an Iraqi national but had never previously been to the country.

According to an announcement by his lawyer, Al-Daoud died on August 6.

“Christians of Iraqi descent who have been living in the U.S. for decades have nowhere to return to in Iraq,” Toufic Baaklini, president of the advocacy group In Defense of Christians, stated on Friday.

“While the United States acted within its rights in deporting an unlawful resident, in doing so, they sent an Iraqi Christian back to a country whose own indigenous Christians cannot find a place to live in safety.”

As reported by POLITICO Thursday, Al-Daoud’s lawyer posted on Facebook that Jimmy, a diabetic, likely died from lack of access to insulin. He was born in Greece and had never been to Iraq.

Although he “entered the United States lawfully in 1979,” ICE officials in Detroit said in a statement that Al-Daoud violated the terms of his lawful status with several criminal convictions and received a final order of removal in 2005 after an “exhaustive judicial review.”

Between 1998 and 2017, Al-Daoud had 20 convictions including assault with a dangerous weapon, domestic violence, breaking and entering, malicious destruction of a building, home invasion, breaking and entering a vehicle, and receiving and concealing stolen property.

After the 2005 order of removal, Al-Daoud’s case was later reopened, only for him to be again given an order of removal on May 14, 2018.

Several months after that order of removal, a district court ruled that Al-Daoud and other Iraqi nationals awaiting deportation had to be released. As part of his release, Al-Daoud had to wear a GPS tether as part of ICE’s “non-custodial supervision program” but he cut the tether on the day of his release in violation of the program. He was arrested again in April of 2019 for larceny from a motor vehicle.

Al-Daoud was deported on June 2, ICE said, and “was supplied with a full complement of medicine to ensure continuity of care.”

In a video of him in Iraq that posted by his lawyer to Facebook, Al-Daoud said he was “sleeping in the streets.” His lawyer said Al-Daoud did not know the language, had never been to the country, had no familial relations there and was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.

On Tuesday, Al-Daoud was reported dead in Iraq by his lawyer.

“Jimmy’s death has devastated his family and us. We knew he would not survive if deported,” said Miriam Aukerman, a senior staff attorney with ACLU of Michigan who is litigating the Hamma v. Adducci case involving the Iraqi nationals who have been deported or are awaiting deportation.

The advocacy group In Defense of Christians (IDC), released a statement on Thursday acknowledging that the U.S. “acted within its rights in deporting an unlawful resident” but that the situation in Iraq is still very dangerous for Christians.

The U.S. in 2016 recognized that Christians and other ethnic and religious minorities in Iraq and Syria were victims of genocide by ISIS. Although the ISIS territorial caliphate has been removed from Iraq, there are still an estimated 15,000 ISIS militants in Iraq and Syria, along with Iran-backed militias who have reportedly been targeting and harassing Christians in Northern Iraq.

Local leaders in the Detroit metropolitan area—including Congressman Andy Levin (D-Mich.), State Rep. Mari Manoogian (D), and Martin Manna, the president of the Chaldean Community Foundation—have said they are working with Iraqi officials to have Al-Daoud’s body repatriated to the U.S. for a Catholic burial.

Rep. Levin released a statement on Thursday saying that “for many reasons, it was clear that deporting Jimmy to a country where he had never been, had no identification, had no family, had no knowledge of geography or customs, did not speak the language and ultimately, had no access to medical care, would put his life in extreme danger.”

Levin said that “at the moment, Iraqi authorities will not release Jimmy’s body to a Catholic priest without extensive documentation from his family members in the U.S. This seems to be a cruel irony, indeed. I am working with the Iraqi government to make sure this process happens as quickly and smoothly as possible.”

Many Chaldean families in the Detroit metro area “fled [Iraq] mainly due to persecution,” Manna told CNA, “and have not been in that country for 30 or 40 years in most cases.”

Many who have been deported or are awaiting deportation do not have family in Iraq or do not know the language, he said. The foundation said it had reached out the Chaldean Catholic Patriarchate in Iraq to see if deportees can be helped or supported there.

Manoogian, who represents many Chaldean-Americans in a district adjacent to the one Al-Daoud had resided in, told CNA that the community has been “grieving the loss” and that her Chaldean friends are “devastated and distraught.”

Al-Daoud was one of more than 1,000 Iraqi nationals apprehended by ICE in 2017 and given a final order of removal by an immigration judge. The Iraqis had come to the U.S. legally but either failed to apply for a green card or had committed a misdemeanor or felony that disqualified them from citizenship.

Many of the Chaldeans in the Detroit metropolitan area who were apprehended by the agency in June of 2017 had lived in the U.S. for decades; ICE said that their criminal history included homicide, rape, sexual assault, kidnapping, and “weapons violations,” although local leaders said many of the crimes had been committed decades prior.

The ACLU sued ICE arguing that the detainees faced threats of persecution, torture or death in Iraq and needed an opportunity to prove a credible fear of such before an immigration judge.

In December of 2018, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower court decision and ruled that the court could not stop the deportations.

Iraq had initially refused to accept the Chaldeans, but eventually agreed to do so in order to be removed from a list of countries on the Trump administration’s “travel ban.”

Levin, along with Rep. John Mollenaar (R-Mich.), has introduced the Deferred Removal for Iraqi Nationals Including Minorities Act to allow the detainees to make their case against deportation in an immigration court.

Department of Education will hear transgender track complaint

Fri, 08/09/2019 - 15:00

Washington D.C., Aug 9, 2019 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- The U.S. Department of Education will hear a Title IX complaint brought by three female high school track athletes over a state policy allowing biologically male athletes to compete in female sports if they self-identify as females.

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a legal group specializing in religious freedom cases, announced the news August 8. ADF represents the three female track athletes—Selina Soule, and two others whose names were withheld on the official complaint because they are minors—who filed the complaint with the Department’s Office for Civil Rights in June.

“Selina and her fellow female athletes train countless hours in hope of the personal satisfaction of victory, an opportunity to participate in state and regional meets, or a chance at a college scholarship,” ADF legal counsel Christina Holcomb said. “But girls competing against boys know the outcome before the race even starts.”

“Boys will always have physical advantages over girls; that’s the reason we have women’s sports and the reason we look forward to OCR’s investigation,” Holcomb stated.

The three girls claimed that the state of Connecticut’s new policy for high school sports, allowing biological males who identify as female to compete in female sports, violates Title IX.

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits discrimination on basis of sex in federally-funded education programs or activities.

“Because of the basic physiological differences and resulting strongly statistically significant differences in athletic capability and performance between boys and girls after puberty, no one could credibly claim that a school satisfies its obligation to provide equal opportunities for girls for participation in athletics by providing, e.g., only co-ed track or wrestling teams and competitions, with sex-blind try-outs and qualification based strictly upon performance,” the complaint stated.

The policy of the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) was in effect during the 2018 girls’ outdoor track season when males identifying as females were allowed to participate in girls outdoor track competitions. Many Catholic schools in the state are members of the CIAC.

One of the males, a sophomore, had just participated in boys indoor track before changing his gender identity and participating in girls outdoor track. He set 10 state records in girls outdoor track, previously held by 10 different athletes.

This “deprived girls of opportunities to advance and participate in state-level competition,” the complaint said, as athletes had not only track awards at stake, but may have also been seeking recognition for future recruiting and scholarship opportunities at the collegiate level.

On June 10, the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education released a document which included a sweeping denunciation of so-called gender theory and the “radical separation between gender and sex, with the former having priority over the later.”

“In all such [gender] theories, from the most moderate to the most radical, there is agreement that one’s gender ends up being viewed as more important than being of male or female sex,” the Congregation for Catholic Education wrote in the document entitled “Male and Female He Created Them.”

“The effect of this move is chiefly to create a cultural and ideological revolution driven by relativism, and secondarily a juridical revolution, since such beliefs claim specific rights for the individual and across society.”

New Michigan vocational school combines Catholic education, skilled trades 

Fri, 08/09/2019 - 05:18

Grand Rapids, Mich., Aug 9, 2019 / 03:18 am (CNA).- A new vocational school in Grand Rapids, Michigan will open its doors next year to young men interested in learning both a skilled trade and formation through a Catholic curriculum.

Harmel Academy is founded by Brain Black, head of Grand Rapids Construction, and Ryan Pohl, a journeyman CNC machinist. The program is supported by Kuyper College and Micron Manufacturing, both located in Grands Rapids, Michigan.

Black told CNA that the first year will begin with 12-15 students, and the program will grow each year. The goal is to offer students an authentically Catholic experience, like they might find at Thomas Aquinas College or Ave Maria University, he said, but with trades instead of a bachelor’s degree.

He said the students will have the opportunity to gain hands-on-experience in actual trades and grow in an understanding of “Christ in their lives as it relates specifically to work, their family life,  and their own mission in the Church.”

“We are going to tell you about the integrity of your life. We are going to inform you about Christ who chose to become man as a carpenter, as a tradesman,” he added.

The two year program’s initial education will be centered on Machine and System Technology, which includes experience in electrical, machine operation, and 3D printing. The school will eventually add other skilled trades, including HVAC and plumbing. The curriculum is split into three parts: lessons, apprenticeship, and humanities.

Classes will take place both online and on the Kuyper campus, which can house 300 people. Students will work part-time in a particular trade as part of a paid apprenticeship. After two years, graduates will receive a certificate in their trade and be half-way through the completion of their journeymen card.

In addition to their education in a trade, students at Harmel Academy will receive spiritual formation through a two-year long humanities course. They will study history, philosophy, theology, and politics, with texts including papal documents and the works of Aristotle.

Black said the humanities course will not include lengthy written assignments, but is still designed to be challenging to the students, though classroom discussions and light reading.

“It's going to be very practical. It’s going to be rigorous and vigorous at the same time. We are planning on challenging and [investing] into some of this stuff because there are a lot of issues that young men have to face now.”

The humanities course will be split into four sections: the self, the other, the family, and the community, which includes courses on the nature of work, economics, politics, taxes, the structure of the state, and military service.

Students will also gather daily for the Divine Office’s morning prayer. Bishop David Walkowiak of Grand Rapids has approved the project and is helping the school find a priest so the campus can eventually hold Mass and retreats.

Black said the school wants to remain small to help to ensure strong relationships among the students and with the staff. The campus environment will be conducive to building genuine friendships, he said, noting that college relationships are a considerable aspect of formation.

“We want faculty and students to know each other well and larger than that size becomes difficult,” he said. “The key thing here is to foster a physical environment that fosters community. The college experience is a unique opportunity to form lifelong friendships.”

Tuition at Harmel Academy is $18,500 year, which covers room and board. To apply, candidates must have their GED or High School Diploma, a car, and letters of recommendation. The students must also take a personality test, pass a criminal background check and drug test, and undergo an interview process. The school’s accreditation process is in progress.

Black said he and Pohl came up with the idea for the school several years ago, upon noticing that some men were uninterested in a four-year college but still wanted to prepare for a career while in a Catholic environment.

“[Some] young men struggle with what to do when they had a strong mechanical interest. They don’t want the enormous debt of college and they didn’t feel called to spend that much time at something that didn’t really have a direct relationship to their lives,” he said.

“[These] men are more mechanically minded and it seemed like there really wasn’t anything in the Church [for them].”

Across the U.S. the skilled trades industries are seeing a labor shortage, as the number of workers retiring far outstrips the numbers entering the field.

Black said many young adults are a good fit for the typical four-year university experience, but others are more naturally suited for skilled trades, working with their hands, and seeing the results of their labor. He noted that Christ himself was a carpenter.

“I think the trades give young men a unique ability to truly imitate Christ and that’s pretty powerful stuff.”

Black is enthusiastic about the opportunities Harmel Academy will provide for its students. He said the goal of the academy is not only to lead young men to a career, but to form their understanding of work and faith.

“The key thing we are looking at here is forming a fully integrated man who knows what he is about [and] knows how God built him.”

Catholic Church in Wisconsin opposes bill attacking seal of confession

Thu, 08/08/2019 - 20:01

Madison, Wis., Aug 8, 2019 / 06:01 pm (CNA).- Two bills were announced in Wisconsin this week intended to protect victims of child sexual abuse. The Catholic Church in the state has registered its strong objection to one bill's intention to force violation of the seal of confession.

The Child Victims Act would remove the statute of limitations for victims of child sexual abuse, while the Clergy Mandatory Reporter Act would force priests to report child abuse learned of during the sacrament of confession.

Kim Vercauteren, executive director of the Wisconsin Catholic Conference, told CNA that there is room to improve victims' pursuit of justice, but decried the attack on the confessional.

“I think more needs to be done to highlight what can be done for victim survivors and what are some of the other resources out there,” she told CNA. “Part of this is to provide more education and information to survivors to what they can and can’t do, like what is the expectation to further the case along.”

The bills were circulated via email Aug. 7 inviting legislators to add themselves as a sponsor. The sponsor deadline is Aug. 21; the measures will not be introduced to the legislature until after this date.

The bills have been sponsored by Senator Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee) and Representatives Chris Taylor (D-Madison) and Melissa Sargent (D-Madison).

“Child victims in our own state suffered greatly as pedophile priests were not reported to authorities and simply moved to other parishes where they continued to abuse children,” reads an Aug. 7 statement from Chris Taylor’s office.

“The Milwaukee Archdiocese’s own files reveal how the systemic sexual abuse of children was covered up, ignored, and seldom reported to authorities until the early 2000s,” the statement reads.

The Clergy Mandatory Reporter Act would replace a 2004 law of the same name.

Clerics are already mandatory reporters of abuse under Wisconsin law, but are exempted from reporting instances learned of during sacramental confession.

The new mandatory reporter act would require that priests violate the seal of the confessional.

The statement from Chris Taylor's office characterizes the exemption for the seal of the confessional as “a loophole allowing child sexual abuse by clergy to remain secret and unreported.”

The Child Victims Act would abolish the civil statute of limitations for child sex abuse cases.

Wisconsin currently bars victims of child sex abuse from bringing legal action after age 35.  

The bill would also grant those previously unable to pursue legal action because of the statue of limitations a three year window after its passage to do so.

“Every 9 minutes, Child Protective Services agencies substantiate or find strong evidence indicating a child has been the victim of sexual abuse,” Chris Taylor, sometime public policy director for Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin,  said Aug. 7.

She claimed that “in Wisconsin, clergy are not mandatory reporters of most child abuse, unlike large categories of physicians and health care providers, school teachers and staff, counselors and social workers, to name a few. And members of the clergy do not have to report the sexual abuse of children, even by other clergy members, if they received evidence of this abuse through private, confidential communications.”

Priests who violate the seal of confession by sharing anything learned within the sacramental context to anyone, at any time, for any reason is subject to automatic excommunication and and further punishments, including loss of the clerical state.

Vercauteren said priests already have an obligation to report child abuse committed by other clerics. The 2004 Clergy Mandatory Reporter Act already requires that they report any knowledge of sexual abuse gleaned in any circumstance but confession.

“With the clergymen reporting, there is actually an additional requirement instituted at the time [of the previous bill],” she said.

“If they have a reasonable case based on information received or observations made to presume that child abuse is occurring or will occur that they have to report that as well as relates to another member of the clergy,” she said.

Vercauteren emphasized the importance of the confidentiality of confession. She said the anonymous structure allows the penitent to be truly transparent, while a lack of secrecy might otherwise prevent this vulnerability.

“If you look at our teaching, [confession] is ultimately between the person and God, and the priest acts as an intermediary in that relationship,” she said. “The need for secrecy and to be able to candid in that circumstance is kind of the whole premise behind confession that this is the opportunity to completely unburden your soul.”

She said the confessional has not been used as a tool to conceal sexual abuse in the past, nor has the bill cited such a case. She said the bill ignores difficult practical obstacles, like the anonymous structure of the confessional, where many Catholics confess from behind screens.

When asked about how Catholics can best respond, she said parishioners should encounter victims with compassion and learn more about the safety measures already in place.

“Catholics should always respond with care and consideration for the victims. I can’t stress that enough because these individuals have suffered irreparable damage in their lives and we have to meet them where they are at in this process.”

“There are ways in which we can provide greater reporting of child abuse in Wisconsin and elsewhere, expanding that to other forms of abuse or setting up a third party reporting mechanisms.”

She stressed the importance of investigational reviews from third parties. She said numerous dioceses have begun to involve themselves with outside independent groups to review records and confirm the diocese is aligned with reporting policies.

“We are serious about doing something about child abuse and trying to help them surviving what has been a horrendous act in their lives,” she said.

A similar bill was introduced in California this year, but it was withdrawn before it was to be debated in committee.

California's Public Safety Committee had released a report on the bill raising a number of First Amendment concerns.

The dropping of the bill was “good for the Catholic people of California and for believers of all faiths, not only in this state but across the country,” Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles said.

“It was a threat to the sacrament of confession that would have denied the right to confidential confessions to priests and tens of thousands of Catholics who work with priests in parishes and other Church agencies and ministries,” he said.

What the Church does - and does not - teach about gun control 

Thu, 08/08/2019 - 19:12

Denver, Colo., Aug 8, 2019 / 05:12 pm (CNA).- Jordan Anchondo and her husband, Andre were shopping for school supplies for their five-year-old last Saturday morning at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas. They were shot and killed by a gunman who opened fire on the hundreds of people in the store.

The parents used their bodies to shield their two-month-old son, Paul, from the bullets. He survived. At least 20 other people died, many similarly attempting to protect their loved ones.

Less than 14 hours later, some 1,500 miles away, another gunman opened fire in a crowded bar in Dayton, Ohio, killing at least nine others, including his own sister.

In the span of just a few hours, 31 people lost their lives in mass shootings in the U.S.

In the hours and days that followed, renewed calls for gun law reform came from politicians, citizens and clergy in a country exhausted and seemingly plagued by mass shootings. According to ABC News, at least 17 other deadly mass shootings have occurred in the U.S. so far this year.

“We encourage all Catholics to increased prayer and sacrifice for healing and the end of these shootings,” the U.S. bishops wrote in an Aug. 4 statement.

“We encourage Catholics to pray and raise their voices for needed changes to our national policy and national culture as well.”

“God’s mercy and wisdom compel us to move toward preventative action,” they added. But what kinds of preventative action are permitted, or not permitted, under the teachings of the Church when it comes to gun control and regulations?

CNA spoke with two moral theologians about what principles of Church teaching Catholics should consider when voting or advocating for gun control laws.

The principle of self-defense

Fr. Thomas Petri, OP, a moral theologian and professor at Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception at the Dominican House of Studies, told CNA that the issue of gun control is one that is not definitively settled in Church teaching, in terms of exactly what practical policies to enact. 

“It's important to say that firearms...are something relatively modern in the life of the Church and the history of the Church. The Church tends to think in terms of centuries and not in years,” he said.

While Church teaching does not explicitly spell out exactly which gun regulations should and should not be enacted, Petri said, the Church does give Catholics some principles to take into account when they are considering or voting on gun control policies.

One of these principles is the principle of self-defense, he said.

“This is part of the Church's moral teaching, that you have a right to defend your life and to defend the lives of those under your care,” he said, such as one’s family or anyone else one has been entrusted to protect.

“If it ends up being that you, inevitably, must kill an assailant to protect your life or the life of those under your roof, then that is a moral choice you can make. That would be a legitimate choice,” he said.

Dr. Kevin Miller, a moral theologian and assistant professor at Franciscan University of Steubenville, told CNA that self-defense falls under the Church’s teachings about the respect for life.

“You are commanded to respect the life of others,” Miller said. “You are also commanded to respect your own life - love your neighbor as yourself. So out of love for your own life, you’re allowed to protect your own life.”

There is an important distinction to be made in intent, both Petri and Miller noted. The Church teaches that one must never intend to kill someone as an end, or as a means to an end.

It is only morally permissible to apply lethal force when someone intending to defend themselves or their family must apply lethal force because it is the only thing deemed reasonable to stop the assailant.

“Out of protection for your own life, if the minimum amount of force that you can reasonably judge in the heat of the moment is such that it is also likely to cause the death of the other person, then you're allowed to do that,” Miller said.

Paragraph 2264 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “Love toward oneself remains a fundamental principle of morality. Therefore it is legitimate to insist on respect for one's own right to life. Someone who defends his life is not guilty of murder even if he is forced to deal his aggressor a lethal blow: If a man in self-defense uses more than necessary violence, it will be unlawful: whereas if he repels force with moderation, his defense will be lawful.... Nor is it necessary for salvation that a man omit the act of moderate self-defense to avoid killing the other man, since one is bound to take more care of one's own life than of another's.”

A claim that does not seem to be morally or reasonably supported by Church teaching is the supposed right of citizens to protect themselves against their government, Petri said.

“You'll hear people say, ‘Well, we have a right to bear arms so that the government can't oppress us.’ Well, that's a harder thing to swallow, because….as we've seen in the last 50 years or so, there is no amount of firearms that a private citizen could collect or gather that would overpower a government invasion of the ATF if they wanted to get into your house. There’s no way to do that in the modern world,” Petri said.

Hunting, on the other hand, would be a valid use of a gun or other lethal force, Petri said, as the Church recognizes man’s “governingship or stewardship over creation,” which includes hunting animals for food. Catholics who do so are also required to maintain a respect for animals in “not forcing animals to suffer in pain extensively,” he added.

The right of states and the common good

Another principle to take into account when considering gun regulations is the rights of states to protect the common good, Miller said.

“The production and the sale of arms affect the common good of nations and of the international community, hence public authorities have the right and duty to regulate them. The short term pursuit of private or collective interests cannot legitimate undertakings that promote violence and undermine the international juridical order,” states paragraph 2316 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

“If the state were to say, ‘you’re never allowed to defend yourself in any way,’ or ‘you’re never allowed even to do anything that might involve using lethal force as self defense,’ that would simply be to take away a basic right, and the state even in the name of the common good would not be allowed to do that, that would be unjust,” Miller told CNA.

However, Miller said it would be fair to conclude that the rights of states to ensure the common good could include gun regulations, including “what kind of guns people can own and under what circumstances people can own them.”

“For the state to say, for example, that widespread access to certain kinds of guns might end up endangering the safety of people more than promoting the safety of people, therefore we’re going to regulate to some degree what kinds of guns can be bought and sold, and under what kind of circumstances they can be bought and sold, I think that would be also absolutely in keeping with what the Church teaches,” Miller said.

Petri added that the state is regularly entrusted to regulate other things that affect the common good, such as who is and is not allowed to own and drive cars, or who is allowed to distribute and obtain certain kinds of medicine.

“The thing is, when you talk about firearms, you're talking about a larger impact on the common good precisely because guns can be all the more harmful to others and to oneself than, say, simply driving a car,” he said, the primary purpose of which is transportation.

“A car's normally used for getting around. Not a firearm,” he said.

“A semiautomatic weapon is used for firing a lot of bullets very quickly, and what's the reason for that? Well, it's to do maximum damage to multiple targets at one time. So yes, I think Catholic moral principles would dictate that the state does have not only a right but a responsibility to monitor who has such means, and that they're in good mental condition and are able to use them properly.”

A right to bear arms?

Another important thing to bear in mind when considering gun laws is that the founding fathers of the United States, who wrote the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guaranteeing the right to bear arms, were largely following the principles of English Enlightenment philosopher John Locke, Petri noted.

Lockean principles dictated “that we basically exist as human beings in a state of violence, in a state of nature,” Petri said.

But the Church views human nature differently, he said.

“The Catholic view is that human beings are not inherently violent towards each other. I mean, we are fallen creatures, but when we talk about rights, we're talking about it in the context of a community of friendship and common goals and a common life together.”

Nowhere in its teachings does the Church state that people have “an inherent natural right to bear arms,” Petri said, even though their legitimate use could fall under the principle of self-defense.

“I think it’s a more than fair interpretation of (the principle of self defense) to say that it might include using guns,” Miller noted.

Catholics who choose to not own or use guns or other weapons are morally permitted to do so, added Petri.

“There are Catholics who are absolute pacifists, (who believe) we shouldn't get into war, we shouldn't bear arms,” he said. “I think especially with religious monks or religious sisters - they're classic pacifists. And we have examples, even in the last few years, especially in the developing world, of them just being killed. I mean, they're not going to defend themselves. So that is a legitimate position.”

What the Church does not say, Petri added, is that the Church “is absolutely against the possession of firearms. I don't think you can go that far to the other side, because it's not a settled question. Possessing firearms is not an intrinsic evil. It's a prudential matter.”

Owning a firearm is different than if one were to own a nuclear weapon, Petri noted. Weapons of mass destruction, such as nuclear weapons, are considered intrinsically evil by the Church, and there would likely not be a circumstance under which a person could legitimately and morally own them.

What should Catholics do?

Given that Church teaching allows for a lot of middle ground between two extreme positions on gun control, Catholics are to use their best prudential judgement when voting on gun policy or electing government officials, Miller said.

“Any Catholic who wants to take this into account when voting has to do what he or she reasonably can to inform him or herself regarding the evidence...on what kinds of gun control measures are or are not helpful in making communities and states safer rather than unsafe places,” he said.

Because there is a “plethora” of sometimes conflicting studies and claims out there, this can prove difficult, Miller admitted, but Catholics must do their best to be “intellectually honest” and to take a serious look at the evidence surrounding gun policy when making these decisions.

“That doesn’t mean people should simply throw up their have to give it your best shot in figuring out what experts in the field think make sense, and what they don’t think makes sense,” he said.

People should also take into account the different social and cultural circumstances of their region that relate to the use of guns, Miller added.

“I think what you have to do is be honest with yourself,” he said. “Make a kind of mini examination of conscience. Ask yourself, ‘Am I really doing my best not to be an idealogue or partisan about this? Am I really doing my best to try, based on the evidence that I have access to, to figure out what policies do and don’t make sense?’”

Within those prudential decisions, there is room for disagreement, but there should not be room for Catholics to accuse other Catholics of violating Church teaching, Miller added.

“I think if a Catholic in good faith is making every effort to be intellectually honest in his reasoning, and stakes out a position almost anywhere between those extremes (of a total gun ban, or total unregulated access to guns), I don’t think it would be right to say they are somehow taking a position that is explicitly contrary to the teaching of the Church,” he said.

“You have to say, ‘Ok, fair enough. Your prudential judgement might somehow be mistaken, but you’re not somehow violating the teachings of the Church,’” he said.

Petri added that he agrees with other Church leaders, such as Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, who have said that the solution to the crisis of mass shootings has to go beyond gun regulations or mental health interventions.

In his Aug. 5 column, Chaput wrote that while he supports background checks and restrictions firearms, “only a fool can believe that ‘gun control’ will solve the problem of mass violence.”

“The people using the guns in these loathsome incidents are moral agents with twisted hearts. And the twisting is done by the culture of sexual anarchy, personal excess, political hatreds, intellectual dishonesty, and perverted freedoms that we've systematically created over the past half-century,” he said.

“You've got to go deeper than that,” Petri said, “and our culture is one that seems to glory in excessive violence, seems to promote excessive violence.”

“It also seems to promote a throwaway culture in which those who are not wanted are not allowed to be born, and those who are a burden are increasingly pressured or encouraged by our culture to go away, which is to say, to get assisted suicide. So when you have a culture that doesn't seem to value life intrinsically anymore, it should be no surprise that we have these events happening.”

He encouraged Catholics to consider what kinds of entertainment they support with their money, and to consider whether it glorifies violence or a “throwaway” culture.

“It's just a general cultural attitude. And nothing will change until enough people stop buying tickets or stop paying for these sorts of entertainments.”

Knights of Columbus convention aims to promote unity through solidarity

Thu, 08/08/2019 - 18:18

Minneapolis, Minn., Aug 8, 2019 / 04:18 pm (CNA).- Echoing the theme of unity, the Knights of Columbus are launching new efforts to forge ties with the neglected and to repair frayed social bonds.

“We talk about being brothers and sisters, we talk about being Knights of unity, well let’s look at our neighbors right here that have been too long neglected and forgotten,” Supreme Knight Carl Anderson said Aug. 7 of a new project of the Knights to work more with Native American and First Nation leaders in the U.S. and Canada.

The Knights of Columbus held its 137th Supreme Convention Aug. 6-8 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Clerics joined leaders of councils in attendance from the U.S., Mexico, Canada, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, the Philippines, South Korea, France, Ukraine, Lithuania, Poland, Panama, the island of St. Lucia and the Bahamas.

Under a convention theme of “Knights of unity,” the order announced two new projects to promote solidarity with neglected and vulnerable populations and called for Catholics to lead the way on civility.

The order also granted full membership posthumously to a Colorado high school student who died protecting his classmates in a school shooting.

Knights in attendance moved to grant Kendrick Castillo full membership in the order, honoring the 18 year-old Catholic student, and son of Knight John Castillo, who died while rushing a gunman at STEM High School in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, May 7; Kendrick suffered a fatal gunshot wound, but according to eyewitnesses his act enabled two fellow students successfully to disarm the gunman.

Anderson presented Castillo’s parents with the Caritas Award, the organization’s second-highest award, on Kendrick’s behalf at Tuesday night’s States Dinner.

In his remarks in the convention’s opening business session, Anderson announced two new initiatives: one to provide humanitarian aid to refugees at the U.S.-Mexico border, and another to begin working more closely with Native American and First Nation leaders in the U.S. and Canada to help meet their needs.

“As many as one in four Native Americans are Catholic,” Anderson said, “yet in many ways, these brothers and sisters in the faith have been forgotten.”

As the Knights in the past several decades were expanding their charitable efforts in new countries, “it just occurred to us that we were overlooking an important tradition in our own country,” Anderson told CNA of the decision to launch the initiative.

The history of Native Americans who were “cleansed” from the U.S. is a tragic one, but it must be told, he said. From the Puritan colonists in New England who attacked and essentially “erased” the indigenous Pequots in the 1630s, to the forced displacement of Cherokee nation on the Trail of Tears two hundred years later, to the present-day, “we need to know the history, we need to know the pain,” Anderson told CNA.

“Despite many hardships, neglect, and a history of brutality toward them, still they hold fast to our Catholic faith,” Anderson said on Tuesday.

Catholic leaders on reservations told the Knights that the “number one problem” is a “lack of hope,” he said.

Problems of alcoholism and drug addiction are rampant in the community, along with homelessness, disappearances of women and children, and suicide.

On Aug. 11, the Knights will join the Diocese of Gallup and the Southwest Indian Foundation to break ground on the construction of a new shrine in Gallup, N.M. to St. Kateri Tekakwitha—the first Native American saint.

“It is our hope that in the years to come this St. Kateri Shrine will become a national spiritual home for Native Americans and for all Catholics in North America,” Anderson said on Tuesday.

And in the coming months, the Knights will work with the Black and Indian Mission Office and will encourage councils to reach out to reservations and begin working with them to see what their greatest needs are.

“I don’t think we often appreciate what that kind of loneliness means for people, and what an idea that this is a Church that’s a community of brothers and sisters that care,” Anderson told CNA. “That means a lot.”

As the migrant crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border shows no signs of abating, Anderson announced on Tuesday that the order is “prepared to commit at least $250,000 immediately in humanitarian aid for refugees.”

“We’re going to do a lot in terms of volunteering, and material support,” Anderson explained to CNA, while the Knights will “try to stay out of the politics of the issue.”

“Maybe our activism will encourage the politicians to get serious and try to solve it,” he said of the crisis. “It’s a solvable problem, but we can do a lot just to make their situation better.”

Anderson capped off Tuesday with another call for unity, this time a plea for Catholics to lead the way in promoting civility.

After presenting the Caritas Medal to the family of Kendrick Castillo, Anderson ended the States Dinner by noting the decline in civility in the current discourse, with Catholics making personal attacks with words like “bigot,” “heretic,” and “schismatic,” and “with alarming regularity.”

Citing the work of the Knights to fight anti-Catholic vitriol a century ago, he asked “every Catholic commentator and every candidate for political office, and especially Catholic candidates” to sign a pledge of civility that the Knights will be circulating online.

The Knights launched a similar effort during the 2012 elections, Anderson noted, but none of the presidential candidates signed the pledge.

“I think it’s fair to say that things have only gotten worse since that time,” he told CNA.

Yet “Pope Francis has spoken out on this,” he said, and “we hope we’re going to be with each other in heaven. So we ought to try and treat each other a little better on earth.”

Regarding theological debates and accusations of heresy made online against Catholic figures, “this is what theologians and schools of theology are supposed to be about,” Anderson said.

“I think it’s certainly the role of scholars of the Church to try to understand things better, and when there’s ambiguity to try to point that out,” he said. “And when maybe somebody has misspoke, or has developed a line of argument that may lead in a new direction that’s unintended, I think that’s fair to point that out.”

However, he said, “stop the name-calling,” he said, and “let’s have an honest debate on issues.”

Guam archdiocese faces more than 200 lawsuits amid bankruptcy

Thu, 08/08/2019 - 17:03

Hagatna, Guam, Aug 8, 2019 / 03:03 pm (CNA).- The Archdiocese of Agaña is facing dozens of lawsuits related to clerical sexual abuse, and is encouraging any other alleged victims to contact the archdiocese before the deadline to file lawsuits expires this month.

More than 220 former altar boys, students, and Boy Scouts are suing the archdiocese over sexual assaults by 35 clergy, teachers and scoutmasters, the Associated Press reports.

The last day to file a claim against the archdiocese is Aug. 15.

In 2016, Guam's territorial legislature eliminated the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits involving child sexual abuse. Former Archbishop Anthony Apuron was found guilty of some of several abuse-related charges by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith last year.

In January 2019, the archdiocese filed for bankruptcy in federal court in the wake of numerous sex abuse allegations. The move, decided upon in November 2018, allows the archdiocese to avoid trial and to begin to reach settlements in the abuse lawsuits, which amount to over $115 million.

Archbishop Michael Byrnes of Agaña has said that Apuron left behind no records of sexual abuse allegations in the archdiocese. And unlike many dioceses on the U.S. mainland, Guam has yet to issue a list of priests whom the Church deems credibly accused of sexual abuse of a minor, the AP reports.

Archbishop Byrnes has offered “deepest apologies” to the victims of Apuron, whom he listed by name. The victims were altar boys. They included the former archbishop’s nephew and a former seminarian. They said the crimes happened while Apuron was a parish priest.

The Vatican first opened its investigation in 2015 after a victim reported his alleged abuse to the apostolic nuncio for the Pacific. The Apostolic Tribunal of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in March 2018 found Apuron, 73, guilty of some of several abuse-related charges. He immediately appealed the decision.

The Vatican court upheld the original decision Feb. 7, and the CDF announced the final sentencing April 4. Apuron has maintained his innocence and said he is “deeply saddened” by Pope Francis’ decision to sentence him.

Apuron was sentenced to privation of office; forbidden from using the insignia attached to the rank of bishop, such as the mitre and ring; and forbidden from living within the jurisdiction of the archdiocese.

He was not removed from ministry or from the clerical state, nor has he been assigned to live in prayer and penance.


Tennis competition neglected student athletes who observe Sabbath, lawsuit says

Wed, 08/07/2019 - 19:50

Seattle, Wash., Aug 7, 2019 / 05:50 pm (CNA).- High school tennis players who observe the Sabbath on Saturday have challenged a Washington state athletics association in court, saying its rules wrongly disqualify them from participating in the tennis postseason.

Joelle Chung and her brother Joseph Chung, represented by the religious freedom legal group Becket, are challenging the rules of the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association, saying it should allow religious accommodations like it grants similar accommodations for other players.

Joelle was undefeated in her 2019 senior season playing for William F. West High School in Chehalis, Washington. She expected to win the qualifying tournaments to advance to the state tournament, which was scheduled for a Saturday. Both siblings are Seventh-Day Adventists who observe the Sabbath from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday through rest and worship, Becket said.

The tournament disqualified Joelle from all participation in the postseason, though her religious conflict with the tournament fell only on the last day.

The athletics association is authorized by state law to schedule interscholastic sports and other activities. Its failure to accommodate the Chung siblings’ religious observance and its discrimination against religious exercise is “unconstitutional” and “illegal,” charged the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington.

Joe Davis, legal counsel at Becket, said Aug. 7 that the athletics association’s failure to provide religious accommodations “hurts religious minorities and students of many faiths who honor the longstanding practice of keeping the Sabbath.”

“No student athlete should be kept from competition because of their faith,” he said Aug. 7.

The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association told CNA it does not comment on pending litigation.

Association rules require all participants to certify they will be able to participate in each level of the tournament to qualify for the championships. The rules make exceptions for injury, illness, or unforeseen events.

The Chungs had proposed moving the state championships or allowing Joelle to participate in the qualifying tournaments and use an alternate for the championships – the practice of athletes who are injured or ill. However, the association rejected these proposals.

Joelle is challenging the rules in hopes that her brother Joseph can participate in the state championships.

“As a senior, it was hard giving everything I had to support my team all season, only to be forced to sit out the entire postseason simply because of my faith,” she said. “I’ll never get the chance to play for a state championship again, but hopefully this case will protect other Seventh-day Adventists like my brother from having to choose between sports and their faith.”

Joelle’s coach Jack State discussed the lack of accommodations for her religious objections to Saturday play in comments to the Lewis County-based newspaper The Daily Chronicle earlier this year.

“It’s disappointing, she’s worked hard for four years to put herself in a position to try to do the best she can and she’s not being allowed to do that,” he said.

At Knights convention, Kendrick Castillo remembered, honored as ‘a hero’

Wed, 08/07/2019 - 17:42

Minneapolis, Minn., Aug 7, 2019 / 03:42 pm (CNA).- Kendrick Castillo, an 18 year-old who died in May while helping disarm a school shooter in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, was honored by the Knights of Columbus on Tuesday night with the Caritas Medal.

“And as we go through life, just remember, be like Kendrick. Be selfless,” John Castillo, father of Kendrick Castillo, said upon accepting the Caritas Medal on behalf of his son at the annual Knights of Columbus State Dinner on Tuesday.

“I wish could say I taught Kendrick those things. There’s a few things I did teach him,” Castillo said about his son’s reputation for service. “But in all actuality, he was the angel who saved my life, who taught me how to live. I will never forget him.”

Kendrick Castillo was an 18 year-old student at STEM High School in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, killed on May 7 while rushing a gunman who was attempting mass murder at the school. Kendrick was just a week away from graduation, his father said. He was the only person killed in the attack at the school; eight others were injured.

As a student armed with a rifle entered Kendrick’s classroom, intending to execute students and teachers, Kendrick leaped from his seat and pinned the gunman against the wall. Two other students rushed the gunman to disarm him, but not before Kendrick was fatally shot in the chest.

“As we miss Kendrick here on earth, I know that he’s with his true Father in heaven,” Castillo said in a moving testimony before cardinals, bishops, priests, and Knights from around the world. “He was my best friend for 18 years, and the love of his mother’s life.”

For his heroism, Castillo received the Caritas Medal at the 137th Supreme Convention of the Knights of Columbus, held in Minneapolis, Minnesota from August 6-8. The Knights of Columbus is a worldwide charitable organization with more than 16,000 councils in over a dozen countries, and more than 1.9 million members worldwide.

The Caritas Medal is the second-highest award of the organization; a medal with an image of the Good Shepherd, it award was established in 2013 “to recognize those who most profoundly embrace our order’s principles of charity in their service and their sacrifice for others,” Supreme Knight Carl Anderson stated on Tuesday.

“Kendrick Castillo lived and died by this principle,” he said. “There are those who say that we don’t have heroes anymore. Tonight’s recipient of our Caritas Award proves that we do have heroes.”

Earlier on Tuesday, the Supreme Convention of the Knights of Columbus unanimously moved to grant Kendrick full membership in the organization posthumously, to a standing ovation.

Anderson honored Castillo in his address to the convention, attended by Knights councils from the U.S., Mexico, Canada, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, the Philippines, South Korea, France, Ukraine, Lithuania, Poland, Panama, the British island of St. Lucia and the Bahamas.

Kendrick wanted to be a Knight, his father John—a member of Southwest Denver Council 4844—said. The two combined for 2,600 hours of volunteer service with the organization, Anderson said.

John Castillo recounted how Kendrick served funeral Masses and assisted as an usher at an early age, mentored friends and supported them through struggles with school or family life, and assisted the elderly at Mass.

“It doesn’t surprise us that Kendrick would do what he did. He was a selfless individual who cared about other people. He was raised that way,” Castillo said, crediting local members of the Knights of Columbus for Kendrick’s formation. “Our community raised a young man and did good.”

Society is in need of “a stronger sense of family,” Castillo said, exhorting parents to “always remember to support their children. Be all in. Do everything that you can for your kids. Love them and support them in their endeavors, teach them about their faith.”

And, he added, a sense of “innocence” needs to be recovered and protected. “We don’t have to lose our innocence—we choose to,” he said. “We know what’s right.”

Following Castillo’s testimony, Anderson honored Kendrick’s parents. “You suggest to us to be more like Kendrick. And really, I think all of us should like to be more like you and Maria,” he said to John.

Tuesday night’s keynote speaker at the States Dinner, Cardinal Christopher Collins of Toronto, also praised the “sacrificial love of Kendrick.”

“It is through people that God speaks to us, through their virtue,” he said. “Sometimes brought to a heroic moment, sometimes day-by-day.”

“And that inspires us, guides us, shows us the way. And that’s why the Church takes time and effort and attention to hold up the example of saintly people, people who show us the path, the call to God, help us on our journey,” he said.


Federal judge extends injunction against Arkansas abortion laws

Wed, 08/07/2019 - 11:59

Little Rock, Ark., Aug 7, 2019 / 09:59 am (CNA).- A federal judge has extended a temporary injunction against three new abortion clinic regulations in Arkansas.

Saying that women would “suffer irreparable harm” if the laws were to be enforced, District Court Judge Kristine Baker of the Eastern District of Arkansas on August 6 blocked the regulations while legal challenges play out in court.

The laws in question would ban abortions after 18 weeks of pregnancy, except in cases of rape, incest, and medical emergency. They would require doctors who perform abortions to be board-certified or eligible in obstetrics and gynecology, and they would prohibit abortions based solely on a Down syndrome diagnosis for the baby.

The new regulations had been set to go into effect July 24.

On July 23, Baker had issued a 14-day injunction, concluding that the laws “cause ongoing and imminent irreparable harm” to patients. That injunction was set to expire on the night of August 6.

The new injunction means that the laws will not take effect while the legal challenges against it are heard in court.

As a result, the state’s last surgical abortion clinic will be able to remain open. The clinic, Little Rock Family Planning Services, said that it could have to close if the laws were to be enforced. Only one physician at the facility is OBGYN board certified or eligible, and he only rarely works there.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge says the board certification requirement is in the interest of women’s health and safety, while critics of the law argue that it is extreme and will limit women’s access to abortion.

Arkansas currently has a 20-week abortion ban, enacted in 2013, which has yet to be challenged in court.

In February, state Governor Asa Hutchison signed a “trigger law” which would ban most abortions in the event the Supreme Court overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade court decision that recognized abortion as a constitutional right in the United States. Alabama is one of several states with a trigger law on abortion.

Strong online boundaries make for the happiest relationships, study finds

Wed, 08/07/2019 - 04:55

Washington D.C., Aug 7, 2019 / 02:55 am (CNA).- Cutting ties with old flames, before the internet, used to be easy.

After a break-up, people could easily lose touch with their ex, who could move or change phone numbers. Tracking them down, sans Google or social media, was at least somewhat difficult.

Today, that has changed. An ex may be far from one’s mind, until a photo of their wedding, or baby, or recent vacation pops up in a social media feed.

That could spell trouble for current relationships, according to a new report on relationship happiness and online behaviors.

In a survey that included 2,000 married, cohabiting and single people spanning multiple generations in the United States, as well as data from the General Social Survey, researchers found that couples who flirted with online boundaries and relationships were less happy than those who kept strong online boundaries.

The analysis of the survey, entitled “iFidelity: The State of Our Unions 2019,” was a research project from the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia and the School of Family Life at Brigham Young University.

“Those currently married or cohabiting who blur those boundaries are significantly less happy, less committed, and more likely to break up while, conversely, those taking a more careful stance online are happier, more committed, and less likely to separate,” the study states.

“For example, those who did not follow a former girlfriend/boyfriend online had a 62% likelihood of reporting that they were ‘very happy’ in their cohabiting or marital relationship. Only 46% of those who did follow an old flame online reported being very happy.”

The survey asked about nine online behaviors, and whether or not participants considered them to be “unfaithful” or “cheating.”

According to the survey, most Americans (70% or more) rated six behaviors as cheating or unfaithful, including “having a secret emotional relationship or sexting with someone other than a partner/spouse without the partner’s/spouse’s knowledge and consent.”

Three behaviors were the exception - most Americans did not find flirting with someone in real life, following a former love interest online, and consuming pornography to be cheating or unfaithful behaviors.

The results also varied by age. Millennials were the most likely group to have permissive attitudes about online behaviors, and were also the most likely group to admit engaging in online behaviors ranked as “unfaithful” or “cheating.”

W. Brad Wilcox, editor of the survey and director of the National Marriage Project, told CNA that he thought there were at least three possible reasons for this discrepancy.

“Millennials have been shaped by the rise of the internet more than other generations so that has conditioned them to be more open to these kinds of boundary-crossing behaviors on the internet,” he said.

“Another possibility is that they’re just younger and that’s the story here, and as they age and mature they will be more prudent about how they approach the internet. The third possibility here is that they’re more likely to be cohabiting couples than married, and we’ve also seen the data that cohabiting couples are more likely to cross these emotional and sexual boundaries online compared to married couples,” he added.

One of the most surprising and concerning finds of the study for Wilcox was that there was a noticeable decline - an 8 point percentage over a 20 year span -  of people who said it was “always wrong” to have sex with someone who is not one’s spouse.

“This is a worrisome development because we know that support for sexual fidelity in principle and also living the virtue of fidelity in practice are both linked to higher quality and more stable marriages,” he said.

Jeffrey P. Dew, an associate editor of the study and an associate professor in the School of Family Life at Brigham Young University, told CNA that one of the findings of the survey that surprised him was that the rate of unfaithfulness in marriage has remained stable over the past few decades, despite increasingly permissive attitudes about marriage and sexuality.

“In terms of the percent of ever-married people who admit to having an affair, that’s been stable at about 15% for two or three decades now,” Dew said.

“That surprises me. Certainly as a society we’re much more permissive and tolerant of people’s lifestyle choices, and yet we still find, when it comes to their own behavior, the vast majority would just as soon make sure that their own relationship is exclusive.”

Part of the problem of unfaithful online behaviors is that they can be based on a false perception that greater happiness lies elsewhere, Dew said.

“I think even just following an old boyfriend or girlfriend can be problematic because you compare what you think you see online to your own real life, lived experience with your current partner,” he said.

“Of course we know that Instagram and Facebook and all those other social media sites -  everyone portrays life as this golden, glowing, happy thing, so of course following an old flame online might cause your own current relationship to sour somewhat,” he said.

Wilcox said the way people perceive their online lives as being somehow different or separate from their real lives could also be a factor in permissive attitudes toward online infidelity.

“Most of us are probably more considerate and thoughtful about how we treat others in person than when we are interacting with them online, in terms of a disagreement for example,” he said. “I think that same spirit of kind of greater orientation towards risk or being less careful also applies to this domain of our online lives.”

Jackie Francious-Angel and her husband, Bobby, are Catholic speakers on the topic of relationships and marriage, and are the authors of “Forever: A Catholic Devotional for Your Marriage.”

Jackie told CNA that she agrees that online infidelities might be easier to slip into, because people are less careful with what they say online than with what they would say in real life.

“With messaging and say things there you would never say face to face, because it’s so easy,” she said.

“Words carry weight and meaning,” Bobby added. “We could think, ‘well I didn’t do anything, nothing actually happened.’ We equate cheating with physical activity. But...our words and what we’re doing digitally has just as much an impact on our relationships as physical activity does.”

Jackie said that a good rule of thumb for couples to consider is whether or not they would be ok with their spouse reading their text messages or social media messages.

“I would say any time there’s a secret outside of your marriage with somebody else, that’s a bad sign,” she said. “We should be able to open books with our spouses. They should be able to open up our Facebooks, Twitter, Instagram, and we would be absolutely ok with anything our spouse sees. It’s a bad sign if we’re hiding something.”

Bobby told CNA that the internet and social media have placed young adults in a “weird era” where they have to reconsider what appropriate boundaries are in light of their online lives.

“So much of this stuff lives on online, where it used to be over and done, and I didn’t have to (see an ex),” he said. “But now it’s like look, here’s a picture.”

Jackie and Bobby said that when it comes to following old flames online, they believe spouses should discuss with each other what their boundaries are. If a former relationship was casual and mutually fizzled out, that might be ok, they said, but if it was emotionally intense, that might be a different consideration.

“We have friends who even on text messages, they’ll add me and Bobby both on a thread just to be above reproach,” Jackie said. “There’s not a lot of need to text people of the opposite sex” in a marriage, she added.

Bobby also noted that despite the attitudes reported in the survey, he still considers pornography to be cheating.

“(Pornography) hijacks our God-given ability to love and to long for beauty and just twists that so it’s a selfish, destructive force,” Bobby said.

“The reality is if I vow myself to look at and be faithful to one and only one woman, emotionally and physically, my whole sexuality, my intimacy - and then go out and seek out pictures and videos of other people - it’s absolutely cheating,” he said.

“It’s cheating yourself as well as your relationship. It’s a ripple effect. It doesn’t make (people) happier, it takes a toll on their family...because you’re just in this angry, dejected state. I think if you look at it from the world’s perspective of cheating, did you go out and have an affair? Well no. But I would say you’re cheating your relationship.”

Ultimately, Jackie and Bobby said good relationships need transparency, good boundaries and the self-knowledge necessary to avoid situations that could lead to infidelity, online or in real life.

“Nobody sits down and is like, ‘This year I’m going to cheat on my spouse,’” Bobby said.

“It’s this expression over and over again of ‘it just happened’...[but] there were nine boundaries crossed into this place of ‘it just happened.’ And we’re often not aware of these thresholds until it’s too late.”

Knights of Columbus announce groundbreaking of St Kateri shrine

Tue, 08/06/2019 - 18:58

Minneapolis, Minn., Aug 6, 2019 / 04:58 pm (CNA).- The Knights of Columbus will lead new initiatives to support Native Americans and First Nations people in the U.S. and Canada, and to assist refugees on the U.S.-Mexico border, the organization’s leader announced Tuesday.  

“In the United States, as well as in Canada, there are communities that too often are ignored. That is why we are focused on launching a new initiative focused on Native Americans in the United States and First Nations people in Canada,” Supreme Knight Carl Anderson announced in his address to the 137th Supreme Convention of the Knights of Columbus, held in Minneapolis Aug. 6
The Knights of Columbus is a worldwide charitable organization with more than 1.9 million members.
Fr. Michael McGiveney founded the organization in 1882 for men to have opportunities for solidarity and service to the Church and to their communities, and for widows of members to have material support.
The “four pillars” of the Knights are charity, unity, fraternity, and patriotism, and a theme of the 2019 Supreme Convention that Anderson stressed is “Knights of unity.”
As part of the initiative to support Native American communities, Anderson said that the Knights, along with the Diocese of Gallup and the Southwest Indian Foundation, will break ground Aug. 11 on a St. Kateri Tekakwitha Shrine.
“It is our hope that in the years to come, this St. Kateri Shrine will become a national, spiritual home for Native Americans and, equally importantly, for all Catholics in North America,” Anderson said.
The Knights will “in the months ahead, find new ways to work with the Black and Indian Mission Office,” Anderson said, and will encourage local councils to reach out to Catholics living on Native American tribal lands and reservations.
Pope Francis also “expressed his great enthusiastic support for our efforts” at a meeting in November, Anderson said, where the Supreme Knight presented the Holy Father with a chalice made by Navajo craftsmen.
Anderson also announced that the national organization is “prepared to commit at least $250,000 immediately in humanitarian aid for refugees” at the U.S.-Mexico border, following the work of local councils to give food, clothing and water to refugees in the area. Anderson said that “we are prepared to expand” the initiative to refugee camps in every border state.
“Let me be clear: this is not a political statement,” Anderson said. “This is a statement of principle. This is about helping people who need our help right now. And it is a natural and necessary extension of our support for refugees across the world.”
Later in the address, Anderson brought up Kendrick Castillo, an 18 year-old Catholic who charged a gunman at STEM School Highlands Ranch school in the shooting there in May.
“His courage distracted the gunman, giving his classmates time to escape,” Anderson said. Castillo was a Catholic and the son of a Knight; his father, who was present at the convention along with family members, said that Kendrick wanted to be a Knight.
Anderson bestowed Castillo posthumously with the Knights’ highest award—the Caritas Award—and encouraged Knights to stand and vote to grant Castillo full membership in the Knights of Columbus, which they did with a standing ovation.

Noting the theme of “Knights of unity,” a letter to the convention from Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, on behalf of Pope Francis, said that “on the eve of His death, Our Lord prayed for the unity of His disciples,” and “the Church’s communion in charity is the wellspring of her mission.”
Pope Francis “thanks the Knights” for promoting prayer “for the sanctification of priests,” the letter said, especially through the Knights’ sponsoring of a U.S. tour of St. Jean Vianney’s incorrupt heart; the relic pilgrimage passed through stops in the 48 continental U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico from November 2018 through June 2019.
The pope also called on the Knights to uphold the “unity and solidarity between the generations” called for in the recent Synod on Youth, as young people are looking for examples of “faith,” “service,” and “commitment to the common good” in a culture of materialism.
President Donald Trump also provided greetings to the convention, saying that “I stand by with you in advocating for the most vulnerable among us, the unborn.” The president added that “we are all children of God.”
Elsewhere in his address, Anderson noted efforts by the Knights all over the world to serve others including devoting $2.7 million in disaster relief last year; the Knights helped the Florida panhandle rebuild after Hurricane Michael, which included $100,000 in donations to help a pastor whose rectory had been destroyed.
Also, the Knights helped victims of the conflict in Ukraine, and Anderson called on the Knights “to pray for a just and lasting peace that respects Ukraine’s territorial integrity.”
“To bring an end to anti-Catholicism in America was one of the reasons why so many men joined the Knights of Columbus,” Anderson said. Yet despite Catholics joining the “mainstream” of American society with the election of John F. Kennedy to the presidency in 1960, new threats have arisen, he said.
“Sadly I must report to you today that there are those who would turn back the clock and that they are on the rise,” he said, citing hostile questions to Catholic judicial nominees over their religious beliefs. He referenced Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-Calif.) comment to Catholic and mother of seven Amy Comey Barrett that “the dogma lives loudly within you,” during a confirmation hearing.
Another nominee, Brian Buescher, was a member of the Knights and was asked by Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) if he would leave the Knights to avoid a pretense of bias over the organization’s pro-life principles.
The Constitution “forbids a religious test for public office,” Anderson said, saying the incidents manifest “once again, ‘Catholics need not apply’.”
However, Catholics should not withdraw from public life, and “we will never let that happen,” Anderson said. “We will not sit idle while the great achievements of the past are stolen from us and from our children’s children.”

Pro-life leaders with an impact win Catholic honors

Tue, 08/06/2019 - 13:24

Louisville, Ky., Aug 6, 2019 / 11:24 am (CNA).- Three Catholic pro-life leaders have won recognition for their diverse work, including outreach to pregnant and parenting women and public policy efforts.

The People of Life Award, presented by U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, honors those whose work has shown “significant and longtime contributions to the culture of life” in the spirit of Pope Saint John Paul II’s 1995 encyclical “Evangelium Vitae,” the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said Aug. 6.

One honoree, Cheryl Holley, has worked for three decades in ecumenical and multicultural efforts to unite pro-life communities. With the Archdiocese of Washington, she has coordinated two conferences on women’s sexuality and life issues.

She said her passion is “to work with teenage pregnant mothers and to share with them their God-given dignity.” She added that “education and the knowledge of God’s unending love are the keys to eliminating abortions and sexually transmitted diseases.”

Holley and two others were recognized at the awards dinner at the annual Diocesan Pro-Life Leadership Conference, held this year in Louisville, Ky. Over 100 Catholic diocesan pro-life leaders and guests attended.

Another recipient of the People of Life Award was Chuck Donovan, recognized for “his tireless dedication to developing critical public policy protections for conscience rights and the rights of unborn children.”

Donovan is president of the Charlotte Lozier Institute, the education and research arm of the Susan B. Anthony List pro-life advocacy group. His long career in the pro-life movement includes service as the National Right to Life Committee’s legislative director from 1979-1981. He has held a leadership role at the Family Research Council and co-chaired the Heritage Foundation’s Religious Liberty Working Group.

A third recipient of the award, Marian Derosiers, won praise for “her joyful and dedicated pro-life service,” the U.S. bishops’ conference said.

She has worked for decades in the Diocese of Fall River. She presently serves as the diocese’s pro-life director and led the diocese’s post-abortion ministry Project Rachel for 25 years. Additionally, she is director of advancement at Bishop Connolly High School and works to help women and children at the diocese’s transitional home for women.

There have been 37 People of Life Award recipients since 2007, when the award was established.


Archbishop Chaput: Look deeper than symptoms to solve mass violence

Tue, 08/06/2019 - 12:50

Philadelphia, Pa., Aug 6, 2019 / 10:50 am (CNA).- Gun control laws alone will not stop mass shootings effectively, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, said in a column written in response to the recent shootings in Gilroy, Calif., El Paso, and Dayton, Ohio.

Chaput belives that there needs to be societal shift to transform the present “culture of violence.”

Writing in his Aug. 5 column, Chaput said that while he fully supports the use of background checks and restrictions on who is able to purchase firearms, “only a fool can believe that ‘gun control’ will solve the problem of mass violence.”

“The people using the guns in these loathsome incidents are moral agents with twisted hearts. And the twisting is done by the culture of sexual anarchy, personal excess, political hatreds, intellectual dishonesty, and perverted freedoms that we've systematically created over the past half-century.”

Chaput drew from his experience as Archbishop of Denver consoling the community after the shooting at Columbine High School. At the time, he buried some of the victims, and met with their families.

During his testimony to the U.S. Senate shortly after the Columbine shooting, Chaput spoke of “a culture that markets violence in dozens of different ways” that has become “part of our social fabric.”

“When we build our advertising campaigns on consumer selfishness and greed, and when money becomes the universal measure of value, how can we be surprised when our sense of community erodes,” he asked at the time. “When we glorify and multiply guns, why are we shocked when kids use them?”

Chaput also addressed the use of the death penalty and the legality of abortion as “certain kinds of killings we enshrine as rights and protect by law,” which creates a societal “contradiction.” This contradiction has reduced the view of human life, he said.

In 1999, Chaput suggested that America embrace a “relentless commitment to respect the sanctity of each human life, from womb to natural death,” and that he did not think the shooting at Columbine High School would be the last mass shooting.

“In examining how and why our culture markets violence, I ask you not to stop with the symptoms,” he said. “Look deeper.”

Chaput repeated this call in his column Monday, saying, “treating the symptoms in a culture of violence doesn’t work. We need to look deeper. Until we’re willing to do that, nothing fundamental will change.”

In focusing on the hearts of those who commit mass schootings, twisted by the culture created in the past 50 years, Chaput’s statement was markedly different than others published by Catholic bishops in the wake of the shootings.

The USCCB issued a sweeping statement Aug. 4 requesting “effective legislation that addresses why these unimaginable and repeated occurrences of murderous gun violence continue to take place in our communities.”

“As people of faith, we continue to pray for all the victims, and for healing in all these stricken communities. But action is also needed to end these abhorrent acts,” said the bishops.

Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh called for various gun control measures in an Aug. 5 statement, including "limiting civilian access to high capacity weapons and magazines.” Zubik also said there was a need to address websites that encourage violent acts, as well as to improve access to mental healthcare and work to overcome racism.

Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso did not call for increased gun control measure, but instead urged the people of El Paso to “recommit to love” and to “brace ourselves for just action that will overcome the forces of division and build a more loving society.”

And Archbishop Dennis Schnurr of Cincinnati said Aug. 4 that “it is with a heavy heart that we turn to the Lord in prayer on this Sunday. As tragic and violent shootings continue in our country … I ask for everyone of faith to join in prayer for the victims and their loved ones. May we, the Catholics of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, in unity petition our Blessed Mother to intercede for our families and neighbors to know the peace and healing of Jesus, her Son.”

Indianapolis Jesuit high school makes Vatican appeal of disciplinary measures

Mon, 08/05/2019 - 18:30

Indianapolis, Ind., Aug 5, 2019 / 04:30 pm (CNA).- A Jesuit-sponsored high school in Indiana has asked the Vatican to overturn Indianapolis Archbishop Charles Thompson’s decision to revoke the school’s Catholic identity, and announced that a scheduled Mass for the opening of the academic year is not permitted at the school.

Fr. William Verbryke, SJ, president of Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis, announced this week that the Jesuits have begun the process of appealing  a June decree from Thompson, which said that the Archdiocese of Indianapolis will no longer recognize the school as Catholic.

“The appeal process is being led by Fr. Brian Paulson, S.J., the Provincial of the USA Midwest Province of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits), and his staff, in conjunction with input and support from our school leadership,” Verbryke wrote in an Aug. 4 letter.

“The first stage of the appeal involved formally requesting that the Archbishop reconsider and rescind his decree. He declined to do that. We are now in the second stage of the appeal, in which Fr. Paulson, on behalf of Brebeuf Jesuit, has asked the Congregation for Catholic Education in Rome to consider and address the issues at hand and, hopefully, suspend the effects of the decree during the appeal process.”

Thompson’s June 21 decree was issued after a disagreement about the school’s employment of a teacher who attempted to contract a same-sex marriage.

“In the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, every archdiocesan Catholic school and private Catholic school has been instructed to clearly state in its contracts and ministerial job descriptions that all ministers must convey and be supportive of all teachings of the Catholic Church,” the archdiocese said in a June 20 statement.

Teachers, the archdiocese said in June, are classified as ‘ministers’ because “it is their duty and privilege to ensure that students receive instruction in Catholic doctrine and practice. To effectively bear witness to Christ, whether they teach religion or not, all ministers in their professional and private lives must convey and be supportive of Catholic Church teaching.”

“Regrettably, Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School has freely chosen not to enter into such agreements that protect the important ministry of communicating the fullness of Catholic teaching to students. Therefore, Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School will no longer be recognized as a Catholic institution by the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.”

Verbryke’s letter also said a school Mass of the Holy Spirit, scheduled for Aug. 15 at the beginning of the academic year, has been cancelled because Thompson did not give permission for the Mass to be celebrated.

“Within the past two weeks, the Archbishop has informed us that, as a result of his decree, the current priests of Brebeuf Jesuit, Fr. Chris Johnson, S.J. and I, will require his express, advance permission in order to celebrate any Masses on campus.  Archbishop Thompson has given this permission for our daily 7:45 a.m. Mass, which is held each school day in our chapel.  However, although we duly complied with his request and sought the Archbishop’s permission to hold various other Masses on campus this year, he declined to grant his permission for those,” Verbryke wrote.

“We must, and do, acknowledge the authority of the Archbishop with respect to the celebration of Mass within the Archdiocese. In lieu of celebrating the Mass of the Holy Spirit as a traditional opening-of-the-school-year Mass on Thursday, August 15, our Brebeuf Jesuit community will call upon the blessings of the Holy Spirit in our school community for this academic year by holding a school-wide prayer service during the school day,” the priest wrote.

Layton Payne-Elliot, the Brebuef teacher who attempted a same-sex marriage, is civilly married to Joshua Payne-Elliot, who was dismissed earlier this year from a different Catholic high school in Indianapolis, because contracting a same-sex marriage violates archdiocesan policies and Catholic teaching. Joshua Payne-Elliot has filed a lawsuit in protest of his dismissal.

Thompson has faced other criticism for his decision, and some Catholic pundits have suggested his decision is not in line with the pastoral approach of Pope Francis. The archbishop responded to that criticism in a July interview with The Criterion, his archdiocesan newspaper.

“Pope Francis appointed me here as archbishop of Indianapolis so I have to constantly be reading and listening to what he’s saying, and paying attention to what he’s doing—to have that guidance. And I discern it with other bishops. I don’t make decisions in a vacuum.”

“Not only am I committing this all to prayer, I’m also looking for guidance through the Holy Spirit. But also through consultation, from people within the archdiocese as well as people from outside the archdiocese. People who I believe have a good sense of Pope Francis’ leadership, his intentions and the direction he is leading the Church,” the archbishop added.

“I firmly believe that we’re in line with Pope Francis. If we’re not, I’d hope he’d let me know. I trust he would. But I believe we’re carrying on the vision of Pope Francis as well as any diocese in the Church.”


Bipartisan senators urge Trump administration to keep refugee program

Mon, 08/05/2019 - 18:26

Washington D.C., Aug 5, 2019 / 04:26 pm (CNA).- A bipartisan group of 18 senators is urging the Trump administration not to shut down refugee admissions, but rather to increase admissions.

Citing “alarming” reports that the administration might cut off refugee admissions in FY 2020 amidst what the United Nations Refugee Agency says are the “highest levels of displacement on record,” the letter from the senators asks the administration “to increase the refugee resettlement cap and to admit as many refugees as possible within that cap.”

“America has an obvious interest in demonstrating and promoting freedom of religion to the world, including accepting refugees who flee persecution because of their faith,” states the letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, and Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan.

The letter initiative was led by Sens. James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.).

A bipartisan group of senators signed on to the letter, including Senators John Thune (R-S.D.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Tom Carper (D-Del.),  Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Kristen Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), and Edward Markey (D-Mass.).

The refugee admission quota is currently at its lowest recorded level, a cap of 30,000 for FY 2019. That’s lower than the FY 2018 cap of 45,000, and just half of that number were actually admitted to the U.S. in FY 2018.

Now admissions could be shut off entirely in FY 2020. Politico first reported on July 18 that Trump administration officials were considering setting refugee admissions at zero, or limiting the number of admissions to anywhere from 3,000-10,000.

The chair of the U.S. bishops’ migration committee, Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin, said the report “if true, is disturbing.”

“The world is in the midst of the greatest humanitarian displacement crisis in almost a century,” he said. “Eliminating the refugee resettlement program leaves refugees in harm’s way and keeps their families separated across continents.”

Bishop Vasquez called for a return to the “historic norms” with resettlement goals of 95,000 refugees.

The Trump administration’s reduction in refugee admissions comes after the Obama administration accepted around 85,000 refugees in FY 2016, and planned to accept 110,000 refugees in FY 2017 before Trump ordered a four-month halt to refugee admissions to review the program when he took office, ultimately capping the number at 50,000 for the fiscal year.

The senators said they were “especially surprised” at the news of a possible shutdown in refugee admissions after the State Department’s Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom held in Washington, D.C. from July 11-13.

The second annual Ministerial was a gathering of religious and civic leaders from all around the world to discuss religious persecution and religious freedom. Survivors of religious persecution from various countries shared stories of harassment, imprisonment or torture on account of their religion.

Citing U.S. interest in harboring survivors of religious persecution, the letter says that “In fact, the administration acknowledges the partnership between refugee admission and protection of inherent human rights in both the 2018 Report on International Religious Freedom and the 2018 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.”

As for concerns about security, the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) is successful, the letter said, with refugees being “some of the most well-vetted travelers in the world” having to undergo “biometric and biographic checks” in “multiple stages throughout the process.”

Furthermore, the number of refugees alone who have either completed the screening process or are close to completing it would fill this year’s quota and would extend into next year, the letter said.

Citing the concerns of illegal immigration at the U.S.-Mexico border, the letter states that “It is inconsistent to maintain policies that promote in-country asylum and simultaneously eliminate the legal refugee process.”