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LGBTQ+ law clinic at Gonzaga Law raises 'serious concerns' for Spokane bishop

Wed, 02/19/2020 - 19:08

Spokane, Wash., Feb 19, 2020 / 05:08 pm (CNA).- Gonzaga University’s plan to become the first Jesuit university to open a law clinic focused primarily on LGBT advocacy has raised “serious concerns” for Spokane's Bishop Thomas Daly.

“While the Catholic tradition does uphold the dignity of every human being, the LGBT Rights law clinic’s scope of practice could bring the GU Law School into conflict with the religious freedom of Christian individuals and organizations,” the Spokane diocese said Feb. 19 in a statement to CNA.

“There is also a concern that Gonzaga Law School will be actively promoting, in the legal arena and on campus, values that are contrary to the Catholic faith and natural law.”

“Bishop Daly and the diocese are studying the issue further and will be discussing these serious concerns with the university administration,” the diocese added.

The diocese told CNA it was not consulted before the university announced the creation of the clinic.

The Lincoln LGBTQ+ Rights Clinic at Gonzaga was developed in partnership with the school’s Center for Civil and Human Rights, the university said in an announcement Feb. 14.

The clinic “aims to advance the equal rights and dignity of individuals who identify as LGBTQ+ through education, programming, advocacy, research, and legal representation.”

It will also provide “a special opportunity for Gonzaga law students to help protect and advance the rights of the LGBTQ+ community,” the university added.

Gonzaga's law school dean, Jacob Rooksby, told CNA that the LGBTQ+ Rights Clinic fits within the Catholic identity of the university because “it allows our students the chance to learn firsthand how law and the work of lawyers can further respect for individual dignity.”

The university noted that Harvard, Cornell, Emory, and UCLA— all secular institutions— have developed LGBTQ+ law clinics.

Father Bryan Pham, S.J., a civil and canon lawyer and chaplain for the Gonzaga School of Law, told CNA that the goal of the clinic is to create a space that helps students understand the viewpoints of a broad range of clients.

"I don't think there's anything that the law school or the clinic will be doing that would be in opposition to the Church's teaching, other than the fact that we want students to engage in this in a civil context of a law setting," Pham told CNA in an interview.

He said the clinic is not “about converting people or trying to get them to believe one way or another.”

“The law in this country is pretty clear about discrimination, so how do we expand that conversation in a much broader context?” he said.

The Lincoln LGBTQ+ Rights Clinic will “offer legal services to members of the public” with the help of second- and third-year law students, under the direction of a full-time faculty member, the university’s announcement explained.

Pham said it will be up to individual professors to decide whether or not to present the Church’s teaching in the classroom. He said “when it's my turn to be part of the conversation, I will definitely bring it up, absolutely.”
 
Concerns mentioned by Daly about religious liberty seem rooted in litigation some Catholic institutions have faced in recent years.

In the United States, various Catholic schools and dioceses have faced lawsuits from employees who have been fired after contracting civil same-sex marriages in violation of the diocesan or school policy.

In some states, such as Illinois, California, and Massachusetts, Catholic adoption agencies which do not place children with same-sex couples have been forced to close their doors after losing legal challenges.

In addition, Catholic hospitals have faced lawsuits from people who identify as transgender and wish to recieve surgery or hormone therapy to change their sex.

CNA asked Gonzaga whether students participating in the clinic might find themselves representing clients who are suing Catholic institutions.

“We are in the early stages of this initiative, working to hire a director and launch the clinic in the fall. Given that we are early in our development in the clinic, it is premature on our part to respond to hypothetical circumstances,” university spokesperson Chantell Cosner said in an email response to CNA.

“We anticipate being in a position to speak more specifically about the work of the clinic later this fall.”

But Pham said even if the clinic advocates for same-sex marriage, “the Church won't recognize that, so this really isn't an issue.”

In 2003, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said that “in those situations where homosexual unions have been legally recognized or have been given the legal status and rights belonging to marriage, clear and emphatic opposition is a duty.”

“One must refrain from any kind of formal cooperation in the enactment or application of such gravely unjust laws and, as far as possible, from material cooperation on the level of their application. In this area, everyone can exercise the right to conscientious objection,” the CDF added.

According to Pham, more basic issues are likely to be the clinic’s focus.

“For us, it's more about how people are discriminated against. So in places of employment, housing, bank loans— you know, they won't give a loan to a couple because they're a same-sex union— so those are really basic human issues,” the priest said.

Pham said his main concern is people’s assumptions that the clinic will advocate for positions contrary to Church teaching.

"My concern is people jumping to conclusions, and just looking at the name of the clinic, and then making an assumption about it,” Pham commented.

“This is something that we're aware of, when we were thinking about doing this clinic. We are a Catholic Jesuit school, our foundation is within Catholic social teaching, so I think my main concern is people hearing about this and often jumping to conclusions without finding out.”

Pham said the university uses a 1997 document from the United State Conference of Catholic Bishops, “Always Our Children,” as a guide for how “we work with our students and with community members who are of that community."

“Always Our Children” was, at the time of its release, criticized by groups who say they are faithful to Church teaching, such as Courage. It was largely embraced by groups critical of Catholic doctrine, such as DignityUSA. The document was not voted on by the full body of bishops, nor even discussed by them before its issuance, according to the National Catholic Register.

“Always Our Children” was revised and reissued in 1998, again, without a full vote of the U.S. bishops. One of the changes was the addition of a footnote to a 1992 letter from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith regarding legislative proposals to address discrimination against people who identify as gay.

“There are areas in which it is not unjust discrimination to take sexual orientation into account,” the document says, “for example, in the placement of children for adoption or foster care, in employment of teachers or athletic coaches, and in military recruitment.”

“‘Sexual orientation’ does not constitute a quality comparable to race, ethnic background, etc., in respect to nondiscrimination,” the document continued.

“Including ‘homosexual orientation’ among the considerations on the basis of which it is illegal to discriminate can easily lead to regarding homosexuality as a positive source of human rights, for example, in respect to so-called affirmative action or preferential treatment in hiring practices.”

In 2006, the USCCB issued an new document, Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination. That document, which was approved by a vote of the bishops, cited the CDF’s 1992 letter more explicitly.

“As human persons, persons with a homosexual inclination have the same basic rights as all people, including the right to be treated with dignity. Nevertheless “‘sexual orientation’ does not constitute a quality comparable to race, ethnic background, etc., in respect to nondiscrimination,” the 2006 document said.

“Therefore, it is not unjust, for example, to limit the bond of marriage to the union of a woman and a man. It is not unjust to oppose granting to homosexual couples benefits that in justice should belong to marriage alone,” the document continued.

The Catholic Church teaches that while homosexual inclinations are not sinful, homosexual acts “are contrary to the natural law...under no circumstances can they be approved.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that people with “deep-seated homosexual tendencies” should be “accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”

For its part, the Diocese of Spokane said it will approach talks with Gonzaga with hope for a positive resolution to points of disagreement.

“Bishop Daly is a strong supporter of Catholic education and hopes that Gonzaga will continue to be a partner in the Catholic mission of faithful education in the Church,” the diocese said.

Biden touts Catholic faith as campaign falters

Wed, 02/19/2020 - 17:30

Washington D.C., Feb 19, 2020 / 03:30 pm (CNA).- Presidential candidate Joe Biden highlighted his Catholic faith in a new campaign ad, released on Tuesday, Feb. 18. The former frontrunner for the Democratic nomination has seen a sharp drop in his poll numbers following loses in the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary.

Biden, a baptized Catholic, said in the ad that “faith is what has gotten me through difficult times in my life,” including the deaths of his first wife, eldest daughter in a car accident, and his son Beau’s death from brain cancer. 

As Biden is speaking, the ad displays black-and-white pictures of the former vice president with various religious figures, including Pope Francis.

“Personally for me, faith, it’s all about hope and purpose and strength, and for me, my religion is just an enormous sense of solace,” he added.

“I go to Mass and I say the rosary. I find it to be incredibly comforting,” Biden said. 

The former frontrunner for the Democratic nomination quoted the philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, who said that “faith sees best in the dark,” to explain how his traumatic experiences have helped him develop and rely on his faith. 

“I marvel at people who absorb hurt and just get back up,” he said, drawing comparisons to the present state of the United States under President Donald Trump. 

“And I’m absolutely thoroughly convinced and optimistic about the prospects of this country. No, I really mean it,” he said. “There is nothing-there is nothing we can’t do.” 

While Biden is profiles his Catholicism in the advertisement, it has been a source of controversy over his lengthy political career, and he has endorsed policies that are contrary to Church teaching.

Shortly after his election as vice president, the then-bishop of his hometown of Scranton, PA, rebuked Biden for his views on abortion. 

“I will not tolerate any politician who claims to be a faithful Catholic who is not genuinely pro-life,” said Bishop Joseph Martino of Scranton in 2008. “No Catholic politician who supports the culture of death should approach Holy Communion. I will be truly vigilant on this point.”

During the 2008 campaign, Biden also received a letter from the then-bishop of the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee, after he received Communion at a parish in the diocese. The letter reiterated the Catholic Church’s views on abortion, and the bishop offered prayers that Biden would “live by the virtue of fortitude as you proclaim your support to the Person of Christ in the most vulnerable of his members: the pre-born child.” 

In October 2019, Biden was refused Communion at a Catholic church in South Carolina. The priest denied Biden Communion in accord with a 2004 diocesan policy that prohibits politicians who have been supportive of legal protection for abortion from receiving the Eucharist. 

“Catholic public officials who consistently support abortion on demand are cooperating with evil in a public manner. By supporting pro-abortion legislation they participate in manifest grave sin, a condition which excludes them from admission to Holy Communion as long as they persist in the pro-abortion stance,” says a 2004 decree signed jointly by the bishops of Atlanta, Charleston, and Charlotte.

At the time Biden was denied Communion, his website stated that one of his priorities as president would be to “work to codify Roe v. Wade” into federal law, and that “his Justice Department will do everything in its power to stop the rash of state laws that so blatantly violate the constitutional right to an abortion,” including laws requiring waiting periods, ultrasounds, and parental notification of a minor’s abortion. 

“Vice president Biden supports repealing the Hyde Amendment because healthcare is a right that should not be dependent on one’s zip code or income,” said his website. 

Biden’s website also pledges him to “restore federal funding for Planned Parenthood,” and promises to “rescind the Mexico City Policy (also referred to as the global gag rule) that President Trump reinstated and expanded.” 

During his career as a senator, Biden voted numerous times in favor of the Hyde Amendment and Mexico City Policy, and opposed public funding for abortions. 

During the last year, Biden has shifted his views on abortion. Over the course of one week in June, Biden went from publicly supporting the Hyde Amendment--which prohibits the use of Medicaid funds for most abortions--to pledging to repeal it if he were to be elected president. 

Previously, Biden supported some aspects of pro-life legislation. In addition to his Senate vote in favor of the Hyde amendment, he also supported the Mexico City Policy in 1984, voted again in favor of Hyde in 1993, and voted to ban partial-birth abortion in 1995 and again in 1997.

In an interview shortly after the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, Biden refused to support unrestricted access to abortion and said that he thought the Supreme Court “went too far” in their decision. In 1981, he lent his name to the “Biden Amendment,” which bans the use of federal funds for biomedical research involving abortion or involuntary sterilization.

By 2012, in the vice presidential debate against then-Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), Biden described himself as being personally pro-life, though he also expressed his support for legally protecting abortion.

Picture this: Knights of Columbus publish new illustrated history

Wed, 02/19/2020 - 02:00

New Haven, Conn., Feb 19, 2020 / 12:00 am (CNA).- A multitude of photos and copies of historic records enliven a new history of the largest Catholic men’s organization in the world, “The Knights of Columbus: An Illustrated History,” to be released in March.

“It’s a testament to the power of faith in action,” Andrew Walther, a co-author of the book, told CNA.

Readers will “get a sense of just how many things the Knights have affected in so many different ways for the betterment of communities large and small.”

The book includes hundreds of photos depicting the Catholic men’s organization and its work through the decades alongside a written history of the Knights of Columbus, whose membership now numbers close to 2 million Catholic men around the world.

Walther is vice president for communications and strategic planning at the Knights of Columbus. He co-authored the book with his wife Maureen Walther, a lifelong parishioner at the Connecticut parish where the fraternal order was founded in 1882.

Father Michael J. McGivney, parish priest of New Haven’s St. Mary’s Church, launched the organization to help counter the pressures that Catholic men and their families faced, including peer pressure to leave the faith. If a family’s male breadwinner died, the family tended to be split up by the state for economic reasons and sent to poor houses or to relatives. This prompted McGivney to incorporate an insurance agency into the fraternal order to support its members and their families, and to use any profits from insurance sales to advance Catholic and charitable causes.

McGivney saw the need for an organization designed “to help men grow in faith together” and “to help keep families unified even in the event of tragedy,” Walther said.

“There was a sense that Catholics were second-class citizens, which was an additional level of pressure on these men in their faith,” Walther continued.

“Father McGivney named the organization after Christopher Columbus to make the clear point that a good Catholic could also be a good American, Columbus being the one Catholic hero of American history in the late 19th century.”

The Walthers’ book takes the reader from the founding of the Knights through the present day.

“It’s the first new history of the Knights in decades and it’s the first illustrated history ever,” he said, adding that the photos “really bring these stories to life in a way that people will find inspiring.”

Walther said he was surprised by “the breadth and depth” of the Knights of Columbus in its nearly 150-year history.

From the level of the local council to projects of a global scale, the Knights of Columbus have long been involved in charity work and disaster relief. Knights rallied to support victims of the massive 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire, and have aided victims of more recent disasters, like Hurricanes Katrina, Sandy and Harvey.

They have also spoken up for the faith in public life. In the early 1900s the order protested anti-Catholic policies in Cuba and the Philippines after the Spanish-American War. Knights objected to a strict French secularism law passed in 1905.

In the 1920s the Knights of Columbus opposed the persecution of the Church in Mexico, where anti-clerical Mexican leaders had made strict laws to hamper the clergy.  Priests who were not discreet risked execution. The Knights had “a real impact” on the thinking of the U.S. government, the American people and global opinion, Walther said.

“The Knights of Columbus was an organization decades ahead of its time on the integration issue,” Walther noted. The organization had African-American members in the 19th century and was the only U.S. group to run racially integrated recreation and hospitality centers for soldiers in World War I.

Responding to the exclusion of African-Americans from American history, the Knights commissioned the African-American scholar and civil rights advocate W.E.B. DuBois to write the book “The Gift of Black Folk.”

“We wanted to make sure the contributions of African-Americans were not neglected in the story of the country,” Walther said. The order also commissioned books about Jewish and Hispanic Americans.

“You see the Knights of Columbus having a real impact that was transformative in a lot of ways, and groundbreaking in others,” he added.

In the 1920s, the rise of the Ku Klux Klan empowered its strongly anti-Catholic politics. The Knights worked “to stop the Klan from outlawing Catholic education in Oregon” and funded the court case that led to a Supreme Court victory against a state law that mandated that all children attend public schools.

In the 1930s and 1940s, the organization spoke out against Nazi attacks on Jews and Catholics. Before and during the Cold War, it objected to communist persecutions. The knights backed religious freedom efforts in Poland and gave assistance to Pope John Paul II’s work to promote human rights in communist eastern Europe.

More recently, the Knights have supported persecuted Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East, especially those threatened by the Islamic State group. The order was instrumental in an official U.S. declaration recognizing the persecution as genocide.

In researching the book, Walther said the co-authors rediscovered some prominent people in history whose membership in the Knights of Columbus had been forgotten. This included Jim Thorpe, the athlete and Olympic gold medalist of the early 20th century; John Myon Chang, one of the founding fathers of the modern state of South Korea; and Prime Minister of Canada Louis St. Laurent.

“These men were leading figures and joined the Knights out of their sense of the faith and also because the knights were a really important element in their country and in their communities,” Walther said.

Other prominent men who were well-known Knights of Columbus include Major League Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Babe Ruth, U.S. President John F. Kennedy, National Football League champion coach Vince Lombardi, and poet and World War I soldier Joyce Kilmer.

Charitable figures of the Knights of Columbus are tallied together, representing thousands of local councils and 2 million men who “contribute in an incredible way at this local level that then generates this global impact.

Walther described local councils as “the backbone of the Knights of Columbus.” When Knights pioneered the first national blood drive, this was driven by action in the local councils.

Walther had praise for his co-author and wife Maureen, whose connections to New Haven meant the early history of the Knights was deeply interesting to her as a local.

“She’s just an amazing researcher,” he added. “She found incredible nuggets on so many different elements. She uncovered a lot of things that might otherwise have been missed in the annals of Knights of Columbus.”

“The Knights of Columbus: An Illustrated History” will be released on March 9, and is now available for preorder.

Supreme Knight Carl Anderson has praised the book, saying it is “not simply a record of yesterday’s harvest, but also contains within it the seeds of a future filled with promise.”

 

Christ is hope for the Church and the world, Archbishop Perez says at installation

Tue, 02/18/2020 - 18:48

Philadelphia, Pa., Feb 18, 2020 / 04:48 pm (CNA).- The hope of Christ is far more profound than hope as the world defines it, Archbishop Nelson Perez said during his homily at his installation Mass as Archbishop of Philadelphia on Tuesday.

“Hope is the confident expectation of what God has promised, and its strength is in his faithfulness. That’s hope,” Perez said.

He said that he chose “Jesus: Hope for the World” as the theme of the celebration of his installation.

During a Feb. 18 Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia, Archbishop Nelson Perez was installed as the 14th bishop and 10th archbishop of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, succeeding Archbishop Charles Chaput, who is retiring.

Besides Chaput and Perez, the Mass was attended by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, as well as Catholics, priests, and bishops from the area and from throughout the U.S., including from the Diocese of Rockville Centre, New York, where Perez had served as auxiliary bishop, and the Diocese of Cleveland, where Perez most recently served as bishop.

For Perez, the appointment to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia is a homecoming of sorts. While he was born in Florida and raised in New Jersey, Perez was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in 1989, and continued to serve there as a priest until 2012, when Benedict XVI appointed him as auxiliary bishop of Rockville Centre.

“My brother priests, I’ve always said that once a Philly priest, always a Philly priest, and while I left ministerially, I didn’t leave humanly,” Perez said in his homily.

“Know that I love you, and I need your support. I can’t do this alone and I shouldn’t do this alone, because this is not about me, it’s about us,” he added.

After he addressed and thanked the other bishops and priests in attendance, as well as his family, the people of Cleveland, and city officials, among others, Perez focused on the theme “Jesus Christ: Hope for the World.”

“What is hope, and what does hope look like? We know what the definition of hope is like in a dictionary...a feeling of expectation, a desire for a certain thing to happen, that’s how the dictionary defines it,” he said.

The word “hope” is used often, which can lead Christians to forget its Christian definition, Perez added.

“We say I hope you have a good day, I hope it doesn’t rain...I hope the Phillies win the World Series, and the Eagles the Super Bowl next year right?” he said. “Sometimes hope is just wishful thinking. I hope that I will weigh 30 lbs less in a month - wishful thinking.”

But Christian hope is rooted in the resurrection of Christ, Perez said.

“Where is the source of hope? Not in us, not in the self-help section of the bookstore. The source of our hope is Christ, the same Christ who walked the planet, who rose from the dead,” he said.

“At the very core of our Christian faith is a basic reality, a truth,” he said. “Someone asked me, with everything going on in the Chruch and the world, do you have hope? And I said to this person: Listen, I gave my life to a faith that believes that a dead man rose from the dead. Yes, I have hope.”

“This is the foundation of our Christian faith, this hope, that no matter how dark it gets, no matter how much it appears that it is the end, it is not,” he added.

Perez said he wants to see the Church continue to be a sign of hope for all, especially those who have been hurt by the abuse scandals.

“Despite...the sad betrayal of some of our own, who have deeply hurt those they were called to serve, for which I and we are ever so deeply sorry to these victims, we continue to work with hope that we will make it right and be a source of healing for them,” he said.

Perez also invited everyone to renew their relationship with Christ, and invited those who have been away from the Church to come back.

“So wherever you find yourself on your journey...it is time to reach out and grab His hand, the Lord’s hands. Like the woman who hemorrhaged for such a long time, she had the conviction and hope that if she could just touch his garment (she would be healed),” he said.

In their remarks, both Perez and Pierre also thanked Archbishop Chaput for his years of service to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and to the other places where he served.

“Chaput faced lots of challenges when he got here, and he embraced them with great steadfastness … and he made decisions that sometimes a father has to make, that sometimes brought him great suffering and criticism,” Perez said.

Chaput is “a man of great faith, incredible faith, who proclaims the truth of the Gospel and our faith with courage, and the archdiocese owes this man an incredible debt of gratitude for who he was, is and will continue to be,” he added.

Pierre, who presented Perez with the official announcement of his installation signed by Pope Francis, also thanked Chaput for his “tireless promotion of the faith.”

He said that Chaput showed “courage and prudence” when confronted with handling the sex abuse crisis that had happened in the archdiocese when Chaput arrived.

“You ensured that the joyful message of the Gospel can continue to go forward,” Pierre added.

“I thank you for a lifetime of dedication and service, and I believe firmly you have earned a little rest.”

At the end of his homily, Perez said he does not have a “plan” for the archdiocese, beyond listening to its people and learning from them, but that he does have a vision, which he is taking from Pope Francis’ 2013 apostolic exhortation Evangelii gaudium.

“The Church which ‘goes forth’ is a community of missionary disciples who take the first step, who are involved and supportive, who bear fruit and rejoice. An evangelizing community knows that the Lord has taken the initiative, he has loved us first, and therefore we can move forward, boldly take the initiative, go out to others, seek those who have fallen away, stand at the crossroads and welcome the outcast,” he said, quoting the exhortation.

The archbishop closed with his own quote, which he asked everyone present to remember: “Never underestimate the power of the Spirit of God working in you, through you, and despite you!”

Bishops and aid agencies praise coronavirus response

Tue, 02/18/2020 - 16:41

Washington D.C., Feb 18, 2020 / 02:41 pm (CNA).- American bishops and leaders of Catholic aid agencies have praised Vatican and U.S. responses to the coronavirus outbreak, and encouraged the faithful to stay informed about the disease.

“As communities and public health officials respond to the outbreak of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in China and closely monitor its presence and progression in other parts of the world, we join in solidarity and prayer for those impacted or working to treat those infected by the disease,” said a statement from Bishop David Malloy of Rockford (IL), Sean Callahan, president of Catholic Relief Services, and Sr. Mary Haddad, RSM, president of the Catholic Health Association of the United States. 

Malloy is the chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on International Justice and Peace. 

The three organizations “hope that governments will work together in partnership to improve all nations’ capacity to prevent, detect, and respond to this virus.”

“The Catholic Church in the United States stands in solidarity with those affected by the coronavirus and their families, health workers who are valiantly trying to diagnose and treat patients, and those under quarantine awaiting results of their screening for the virus,” said the statement. 

They offered both prayers for continued healing, as well as for support for various organizations that are working to contain the outbreak and treat those who are sickened. 

The statement highlighted efforts by both the United States and Vatican. 

Earlier this month, the Vatican sent 700,000 respiratory masks to China, and “Catholic healthcare providers are at the front line of providing treatment and care to those impacted by the virus.” 

The U.S. has transported more than 17 tons of medical supplies to China, something the bishops conference said “demonstrates the critical importance of the need to work together and to invest in crucial health care systems here and in other countries, thus preventing and responding to community-wide emergencies.”

“We urge the U.S. Congress to support these efforts by protecting access to domestic health care safety net programs and by providing additional emergency international assistance to areas impacted by the virus,” said the letter.

The faithful are encouraged to follow the Centers for Disease Control for up-to-date information about the coronavirus. 

China has so far reported approximately 2,000 deaths from coronavirus, although experts have speculated that the number could be far higher. 

The coronavirus has sparked a massive public health response in China and neighboring nations, including widespread quarantines. Catholic Masses have been canceled in Hong Kong and Singapore in an effort to prevent the faithful from contracting the disease. 

Retired Bishop Joseph Zhu Baoyu of Nanyang, who is 98 years old, recently became the oldest person in China to fully recover from the coronavirus. Zhu was diagnosed with COVID-19 pneumonia on February 3, and was declared free of infection on February 14. 

Zhu’s remarkable survival has resulted in mainstream media profiles in China.

In last Mass as Philly archbishop, Chaput retires with gratitude

Mon, 02/17/2020 - 18:45

Philadelphia, Pa., Feb 17, 2020 / 04:45 pm (CNA).- Archbishop Charles Chaput has been a diocesan bishop for 31 years. For most of that time, his people have known where to find him on Sunday afternoon or evening: hearing confessions and offering Mass in his cathedral.

Chaput celebrated this weekend his last Sunday Mass as a diocesan bishop.

At the Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia, Chaput told his parishioners he is grateful to them, and pointed following Jesus Christ as the pathway to truth and happiness.

“I’ll still be around, I’m not dying, I’m just retiring,” Chaput said Feb. 16, just days before the Tuesday installation of his successor, Archbishop-designate Nelson Perez.
 
In a homily that stayed tied to the Mass readings, characteristic of Chaput’s preaching style, the archbishop cited the second reading from St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, saying it captures his experience of ministry to the Church in Philadelphia.
 
“What eye has not seen and ear has not heard and what has not entered the human heart: what God has prepared for those who love him,” St. Paul wrote. “This, God has revealed to us, through the Spirit.”
 
Chaput thanked the congregation for “the gift of your presence in my life.”
 
“God bless you,” he concluded.
 
The archbishop described his successor Perez, until recently the Bishop of Cleveland, as “a very good man” who “will serve you well as archbishop.”
 
“I am very grateful to those who have supported me at this Mass,” he said, thanking the choir, cathedral rector Father Gerald Gill, and the cathedral community.
 
“Some of you are regular Mass attenders at this Sunday night Mass,” he said. “I’m very grateful for your presence. It really is the highlight of my week.”
 
“It’s hard for you to believe, isn’t it? Looking at you is the highlight of my week. I must have a very bad week,” he joked, before turning serious. “It’s been a very important part of my life, I’m very grateful to you.”
 
In his homily, Chaput reflected on divine law and God’s revelation.
 
“One of the problems with the commandments is we think of them as laws or rules. What they really are is a pattern of life,” Chaput said. “They’re not there to test us to see if we’re good, because we know we’re not, right? The commandments are there to show us how to be good.”
 
“God is telling us if you want to be happy, then don’t steal. If you want to be successful, you won’t bear false witness. If you want to have successful marriages, you won’t commit adultery,” the archbishop explained.
 
“We have freedom to choose whether or not to be good,” he said. At the same time, he emphasized that Christians can’t keep the commandments on their own, but must depend on God’s grace. Some struggle and sin again and again, “sometimes because we depend on ourselves rather than God.”
 
“Think about the most difficult (sins) for you: gossip, adultery, not to kill, not to anger,” Chaput said, stressing the importance of the commandments.
 
“What’s at stake here is our salvation, our eternal life, or our eternal damnation,” he added. stressing the importance of the commandments.  “You and I determine our future by what we choose: life--following the commandments—or death. Good or evil.”
 
On Sunday’s gospel, the archbishop warned of the “danger of scandal.”
 
“One of the biggest sins that you and I can commit is leading someone else into sin,” he said. “It’s bad enough we lead ourselves into sin. But it’s much worse if we lead ourselves into sin, and through that lead someone else into sin.”
 
Chaput said he couldn’t state it any clearer than Jesus himself in the Gospel of Matthew: “Whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do so, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
 
Archbishop Chaput asked the congregation: “When’s the last time you led somebody into sin by your sin?”

As an example, he mentioned the sexual temptations facing young people who are dating, temptations through which they can lead one another into serious sin.
 
“It’s really awful because they’re leading somebody they love into serious sin, as well as committing it themselves,” he said. Others teach children to use foul language by their example, or lead people into “patterns of selfishness” shown by their own lives.
 
Not following the commandments has an impact on the lives of people who are very important to us, and can lead them away from God.
 
The reading from Gospel of Matthew also teaches us how Jesus sees himself, Chaput said. While the law given to Moses stresses “you shall not kill,” Jesus elevates this to say that whoever is angry with his brother will also be under God’s judgment.
 
“Jesus is telling us that he has authority over the commandments, and that he calls us to a greater level of obeying them than Moses called the Jewish people to,” Chaput said.

“That’s what he means when he says your righteousness must surpass the righteousness of the Pharisees. Because he calls us not only to follow the commandments literally but to apply them across the board in our lives.”
 
“Even though most of us don’t kill other people, all of us here are angry with others. And we can’t curse them, or say, ‘go to hell,’ and really mean it,” the archbishop said. “Jesus ratchets it up and calls us to a greater intensity in following (the commandments).”
 
When Jesus says a man looking at a woman with lust commits adultery, Chaput said the conclusion “isn’t that we shouldn’t go ‘that far,’ we shouldn’t go down that path at all.”
 
Jesus’ use of exaggerated language, such as recommending someone cut off his hand rather than sin, makes the point of the seriousness of the matter.
 
“It would be better for us, really, that we don’t have a hand than that we sin,” said Chaput. “And we take sin so casually in our life.”
 
“Does Jesus really mean we can’t divorce and remarry? Is it all that bad?” he asked, referring to Jesus’ own teaching that remarriage after divorce is adultery.
 
“Jesus’ words are very clear and it really seems that he doesn’t allow exceptions for any of us,” said Chaput.
 
Jesus does not only reject false oaths, but his call to “let your ‘yes’ mean yes” is something that “calls us to integrity and truth in our ordinary relationships, and not just when we make vows and solemn promises.”
 
“Jesus was very serious about the Ten Commandments and invites us to do the same,” said Chaput. “We ask the Lord to give us a love for the commandments. We don’t see them as a burden, but as a pathway to joy and peace and great happiness in our lives.”
 
Pope Francis accepted Chaput’s retirement and appointed his months after the archbishop turned 75, when bishops customarily submit letters of resignation to the pope.

 

Priest with brain tumor 'embraces it willingly' for victims of clergy abuse

Mon, 02/17/2020 - 17:41

Indianapolis, Ind., Feb 17, 2020 / 03:41 pm (CNA).- When Fr. John Hollowell went to Mayo Clinic for brain scans after what doctors thought was a stroke, he received a shocking diagnosis. The scans revealed that instead of stroke, he had a brain tumor.

While it is a serious diagnosis, Hollowell, a priest of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, said he believes the tumor was an answer to prayer.

“When the scandals of 2018 broke out, most of you know that they have affected me deeply, as they have most of the Church,” he wrote in his blog, On This Rock.

“I prayed in 2018 that if there was some suffering I could undertake on behalf of all the victims, some cross I could carry, I would welcome that. I feel like this is that cross, and I embrace it willingly.”

Hollowell was ordained in 2009 and serves as pastor of St. Paul the Apostle parish in Greencastle as well as pastor of Annunciation parish in Brazil, Indiana. He is also the Catholic chaplain at DePauw University and Putnamville Correctional Facility.

The plan for Hollowell’s treatment involves the removal of the tumor via brain surgery, and then both radiation and chemotherapy.

Hollowell said that while his treatments will not be as harsh as those for some other kinds of cancer, he still wants to offer up each day of his recovery, chemotherapy, and radiation for victims of clergy abuse.
“I would love to have a list of victims of priestly abuse that I could pray for each day. I would like to dedicate each day of this recovery/chemo/radiation to 5-10 victims, and I would like, if possible, to even write them a note letting them know of my prayers for them,” he said.

He encouraged victims, or those who know of a victim, to write to him with the victim’s name (with their permission) and with an address where he could send them a note when he prays for them.

He added that he would like to include in his prayers those victims who have been helped by the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, and asked that SNAP send him names of victims for whom he can pray.

Hollowell said he was grateful for his many “wonderful” doctors at Mayo Clinic and elsewhere who have been part of his care thus far.

“Each person has played a key role in this process, and I am very thankful and amazed by the state of medicine in the US in 2020,” he said.

Ultimately, the priest said he was “very much at peace.”

“Other than time in the hospital, the only effects of this tumor that I have had are 5 episodes of spasm/seizure that have each lasted 90 seconds. I also realize I am blessed to have uncovered it through this process vs. finding out about the tumor down the road after it had grown more in size,” he wrote.

“You all will be in my prayers, as I pray daily for the salvation of all the souls of those who live and study within my parish boundaries,” he added. “May Our Lady of Lourdes watch over and intercede for all those who are sick or suffering in any way!”

McCarrick gave $1 million to scandal-hit religious order

Mon, 02/17/2020 - 15:40

Washington D.C., Feb 17, 2020 / 01:40 pm (CNA).- Former cardinal Theodore McCarrick was a major donor to a religious community whose founder was found guilty of sexual misconduct.

The Washington Post reported on Monday that McCarrick gave nearly $1 million to the Institute of the Incarnate Word (IVE) from 2004-2017. The religious community was founded in 1984 in Argentina by Fr. Carlos Miguel Buela, who retired in 2010 and was found guilty of sexual misconduct with seminarians by the Vatican in 2016.  

According to previous CNA reports, McCarrick used his status as a senior archbishop and cardinal to support the community and defend it against critics within the Church, including then-Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio, before his election as pope. 

McCarrick was laicized by Pope Francis in February of 2019, after a Vatican canonical process found him guilty of sexual abuse of minors and misconduct with adults. He previously served as bishop of the diocese of Metuchen, Archbishop of Newark, and Archbishop of Washington, D.C., before his retirement in 2006.

According to the Post’s report, McCarrick donated funds to the institute through the Archbishop’s Fund, a charitable account under the oversight of the Archdiocese of Washington through which he also sent hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations to charities and senior Vatican officials over the years. 

After his retirement as Archbishop of Washington, McCarrick resided at a house adjacent to the IVE’s Ven. Fulton Sheen Seminary, in Chillum, Maryland, from 2011 until late 2016 or early 2017.

Priests and seminarians of the community were assigned as staff to McCarrick while the cardinal lived there and after he moved out; those positions were funded by the Washington archdiocese.

The Post also reported Monday that McCarrick granted control of a church-owned property in Maryland to the institute for a seminary that opened in 2005. The website of the Venerable Fulton Sheen Seminary says it was opened in September 1998, two years before McCarrick was appointed to Washington. 

The archdiocesan Redemptoris Mater seminary, also located in Chillum, was opened in 2005, but that seminary is not connected to the IVE.

McCarrick took up residence near the IVE seminary after sanctions were reportedly placed on him by Pope Benedict XVI and he was ordered to move out of the Redemptoris Mater seminary where he had been living in a self-contained apartment.

In 2018, the former Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, alleged that canonical sanctions were placed on McCarrick in 2009 or 2010, and that he had warned Vatican superiors of McCarrick’s history of sexual misconduct with seminarians and priests as early as 2006. McCarrick’s successor in Washington, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, was first informed of an abuse allegation against McCarrick in 2004 while he was Bishop of Pittsburgh. 

In 2018, the Washington archdiocese repeatedly told CNA that McCarrick made his own living arrangements in his retirement, but sources at the IVE told CNA that Wuerl intervened to have McCarrick moved from his residence near the seminary.

While residing near the institute’s seminary, McCarrick would join the community for meals, and had a priest and seminarians from the institute assigned to him as his personal staff. The IVE property also includes St. John Baptist de la Salle parish, staffed by the institute, as well as the headquarters of its Province of the Immaculate Conception.

McCarrick’s presence was reportedly a source of tension within the community and formators warned students to avoid McCarrick’s “worldly” lifestyle. CNA has previously reported that McCarrick insisted on a special food menu, and that he made seminarians assigned to him accompany him to a casino and on trips to a beach house. McCarrick’s conduct triggered complaints by formators to the order’s leadership in Rome. 

McCarrick last ordained priests for the institute in 2017.

Catholic business leaders respond to 'no breaks' Bloomberg video

Mon, 02/17/2020 - 11:00

Washington D.C., Feb 17, 2020 / 09:00 am (CNA).- Catholic business leaders have said a work-life balance is critical for success after a video of presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg advising workers to avoid taking breaks went viral last week.

In a video clip of a 2011 interview with TechCrunch, Bloomberg—billionaire founder of the news and financial services company Bloomberg L.P., and former mayor of New York City—gave his recipe for workplace success. He advised employees against taking lunch breaks and even suggesting they should avoid going to the bathroom. The video was repeatedly shared on social media last week and viewed thousands of times.

 “I’m not smarter than anybody else, but I can outwork you,” Bloomberg said of his work ethic.

“My key to success—for you or for anybody else—is make sure you’re the first one in there every day, and the last one to leave. Don’t ever take a lunch break or go to the bathroom, you keep working. You never know when that opportunity is going to come along,” he said.

In 2013 on his radio show, Bloomberg gave similar advice in telling workers to “take the fewest vacations and the least time away from the desk to go to the bathroom or have lunch.”

On Feb 14., leaders at a Catholic business school responded that prayerful prudence is key to achieving a proper work-life balance, which is necessary to workplace success.

“I hope that when he said that, Bloomberg was exaggerating for effect,” Professor Andrew Abela, founding dean of the Busch School of Business at the Catholic University of America, told CNA on Friday.

“Hard work is necessary, but time for prayer, family, friends, community are absolutely necessary too, not just for a life well lived, but for a successful career as well,” Abela said.

Professor Maximilian B. Torres, J.D., who teaches business ethics and organizational behavior at the Busch School, said that as a father of eight with a spouse of 30 years, he believed a work-life “balance” can be fluid and depended upon the situations at work and at home.

“There are times when it would be criminal not to exert extra effort at work.  There are other times when it would be criminal not to make time for a late-night, father-son conversation, or a family dinner,” Torres said, adding that no boss or spouse should “demand 24/7/365 obsession.”

“Ultimately, balance lies in the counsels of prudence, and results from prayer,” Torres said.

In the 2011 TechCrunch interview, Bloomberg did go on to say that success is not all about money.

“We measure success by, ‘how much money do you have?’ That’s not the only measure of success. I know some very successful people who measure it by how many lives they’ve saved, or how many kids they’ve helped in the classroom, or how well they’ve brought up their children,” Bloomberg said.

He said of his time in “public service” as mayor of New York City that he hoped he could one day tell his grandchildren, “I’ve left you a better world.”

Employee perks offered by Bloomberg News might also contradict the billionaire’s advice on taking breaks, noted Paul Radich, assistant professor of practice, marketing, and social thought at the Busch School.

The company’s building in midtown Manhattan offers free pantry food and free soup at lunchtime to employees in a central location, he noted—although the motive is unclear whether such policies were instituted to take care of employees or to maximize worker productivity.

Bloomberg, L.P. has also drawn criticism from former female employees who have alleged a hostile workplace culture.

In 2008, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a discrimination lawsuit against Bloomberg L.P., saying pregnant female employees who took maternity leave received demotions or pay cuts, or were replaced.

Ultimately, 65 women were claimants in the lawsuit which was dismissed by a federal judge in 2011. The judge concluded there was a lack of evidence that the company engaged in a “pattern” of discrimination.

The New York Post reported in December 2019 that Bloomberg, L.P., had been the subject of nearly 40 discrimination and harassment lawsuits by 64 former employees.

According to a November report by the New York Times, one of the lawsuits alleged that Bloomberg told a pregnant employee “kill it,” referring to her baby, and complained about the number of pregnant women at the company. That lawsuit was settled without an admission of guilt.

On Friday, the Washington Post reported that a former Bloomberg technology writer said he witnessed the conversation where Bloomberg allegedly told the pregnant employee to “kill” her baby.

Other lawsuits alleged that Bloomberg made disparaging remarks about pregnant employees.

Virgil Dechant, long-serving KofC Supreme Knight, dies at 89

Sun, 02/16/2020 - 20:55

Washington D.C., Feb 16, 2020 / 06:55 pm (CNA).- The longest serving Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus died Saturday at 89.

Virgil Dechant was Supreme Knight from 1977 to 2000. He died in his sleep Feb. 15.

“God has called home a good man and one of the Knights’ great leaders,” Supreme Knight Carl Anderson said in a Feb. 16 statement.

“Virgil Dechant used to say that his goal was to leave the Knights better than he found it, and in myriad ways, he accomplished that. He leaves a lasting legacy and an excellent example of what it means to be a Knight and a fraternalist,” Anderson added.

The Knights of Columbus say Dechant was instrumental in helping to grow the Knights of Columbus, and fostering the organization’s collaboration with the Vatican during the pontificate of Pope St. John Paul II.

Dechant “forged a close relationship with the Vatican during the pontificate of St. John Paul II, leading the Order to sponsor numerous renovation projects – including of the façade of St. Peter’s Basilica, and working with the pope to promote the faith in Eastern Europe, which was then behind the iron curtain,” the Knights of Columbus said in a press release.

He also “oversaw tremendous growth in the Order’s membership as well as in its assets and insurance business, while also opening the Order to greater involvement by the wives and families of its members,” according to the statement.

Dechant was a Kansas native who farmed, sold farm equipment, and owned a car dealership before he began working for the Knights of Columbus as Supreme Secretary in 1967. He became Supreme Knight ten years later.

In recognition of his committment to the pro-life movement, Dechant received the National Right to Life Award in 1998. He was also the recipient of several Vatican honors,

In 2005, he escorted President George W. Bush to the funeral of Pope St. John Paul II at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. 

In 2012, Anderson said that his predecessor “was the model of Catholic fraternalism for an entire generation."

Dechant is survived by his wife Ann, four children, and the couple's grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

 

McCarrick was a 'devourer of souls,' former priest secretary tells parish

Sat, 02/15/2020 - 18:08

Washington D.C., Feb 15, 2020 / 04:08 pm (CNA).- A priest who was the personal secretary of former cardinal Theodore McCarrick said he is sickened by manipulative fundraising tactics employed while McCarrick was Archbishop of Washington. The priest called McCarrick a “manipulator” and a “devourer of souls.”

“For a portion of my priesthood, I worked directly for the foremost fund-raiser in the Church – in the whole Church, the universal Church.”

“He was a master of the art, and knew every technique and tactic to its finest point. He paired with that an extraordinary, even preternatural sense of people, what they wanted and what they needed,” Monsignor K. Bartholomew Smith wrote Feb. 15 on a blog he maintains for parishioners of St. Bernadette’s parish in Silver Spring, Maryland.

“My stomach churns at the recollection, and not only because of how successful he was at this; but also because of what he obtained by this. He received the gratitude, the affection, and the emotional dependence of untold numbers of people high and low, rich and poor, because he made himself the bestower of the approval that they craved, told them that they were good and God Himself was grateful to them, and delivered them from the authentic demands of Jesus and His Gospel.”

“This is what their giving purchased, and what his fundraising obtained.  But he took more from them than just their donations, for he was a ravening manipulator of human affections, and a devourer of souls,” Bartholomew added.

The priest, who was ordained in 1998, was McCarrick’s private secretary in the early 2000s, before being appointed to serve in a similar role for Cardinal William Baum, who was then living in Rome.

Smith told his parishioners that “you would be hard pressed to find a person in our Archdiocese, Catholic or not, who did not fall for [McCarrick’s] seduction to some degree, or at some time.  We all want approval; we all enjoy gratitude. He offered Divine approval and God’s own gratitude, and many were the ones who did his bidding to obtain it.”

McCarrick, Smith wrote, “was a master of convincing folks of the pernicious delusion that God Himself needed, approved, and in fact was grateful to them for the difference that they were making in the world. This, in one line, is the snake-oil song of the ecclesiastical fundraiser, and he was the all-time virtuoso chanter and enchanter.” 

“Many good works were accomplished in this manner, and benefits from them still accrue to this day. But the cost, the cost in human lives and dignity, the cost to the integrity of the Faith, the cost to the fabric of the Church, is only recently become apparent to all,” Smith added.

Smith’s remarks came in the context of the annual archdiocesan appeal. He told his parishioners that because of his experience with McCarrick, “I beg your indulgence if I eschew fundraising techniques, and avoid tactics with proven records of success.”

“Instead of a fund raiser, I am charged by God to be a faith-raiser,” the priest added.

McCarrick served as Archbishop of Washington from 2000-2006, capping an ecclesiastical career in which he had also been the Archbishop of Newark, the Bishop of Metuchen, and an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of New York.

In June 2018, a report emerged that McCarrick had been credibly accused of sexually abusing a minor. That report was followed by a torrent of sexual abuse, coercion, and harassment allegations against McCarrick made by priests, former seminarians, and laypeople. McCarrick was dismissed from the clerical state in Feb. 2019.

Catholics in the U.S. are awaiting a Vatican report on McCarrick that is the result of an internal investigation into the former cardinal’s ecclesiastical career. While the report was initially expected to be released in the early weeks of 2020, Cardinal Blase Cupich told EWTN News this week that it might be released in March, but the exact date of release is still under consideration by Pope Francis.

 

'No different from the rest of us'- Priests and mental health care

Sat, 02/15/2020 - 06:00

Denver, Colo., Feb 15, 2020 / 04:00 am (CNA).- After the suicide of a Missouri priest last month, psychologists talked with CNA about the issues priests can face when they need help with caring for their mental heatlh.

Fr. Evan Harkins of Kansas City took his own life in late January, leaving parishioners and friends across the country mourning the beloved priest.

Shortly after Harkin's death, Bishop Vann Johnston of Kansas City-St. Joseph said the priest had a “sunny” personality, but had begun to struggle with anxiety and his physical health.

The bishop said the priest's decision to end his life might have been connected to his medication.

He said Harkins had developed serious stomach and gastrointestinal issues, which seemed to cause him anxiety.

“He was given a prescription drug to deal with the anxiety and was experiencing some of the extreme negative side effects of this drug including terrible nightmares, among other things,” Johnston explained.

Though the factors leading to his death are no doubt comlicated, the priest’s death has begun a discussion about the mental health needs of priests, and the stigmas that surround them.

Dr. Melinda Moore is a Licensed Psychologist and Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at Eastern Kentucky University and has studied Collaborative Assessment and Management of Suicidality (CAMS).

Moore told CNA that suicide prevention steps are incredibly important. She pointed to studies that show how a single individual's suicide can have a devastating effect that ripples throughout the community.

“We've got 48,000 Americans who are dying by suicide every year. … [These are] Americans who are killing themselves and leaving entire families, networks, communities devastated by their deaths. We know that for every person who dies by suicide, there are 135 people exposed. Out of those 135, forty-eight people will be seriously impacted by the death.”

“What we know is these people who are impacted significantly, they have higher rates of depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, and another study showed suicide attempt. So not only are these 40,000 Americans killing themselves every year, they're leaving all this collateral damage that amounts to over 2 million people every year,” she said.

Suicide among priests, and pastors of other Christian denominations, occurs more commonly than expected, Moore said. However, she said religious leaders often face stigmas about seeking psychological help.

“Priests are no different from the rest of us. The difference is that priests and other clergy oftentimes are idealized and held to a standard where they feel like they can't ask for help. They are the individuals that other people come to for help, and so they themselves feel like they can't seek help.”

Moore said suicide is not always tied to mental illness. But she said people who commit suicide often encounter three feelings - not belonging, being a burden to others, and the sense that that could carry out lethal self-harm.

“They oftentimes feel like they’re a burden, and then they also sometimes feel like they no longer belong to a community that they once belonged to … It's like they really feel like people would be better off if they weren't alive, that they are a burden to their loved ones, ” Moore said.

“Lastly, there's this thing called acquired capability to enact lethal self-harm. It's sort of a fearlessness in the face of death. It actually takes a lot of courage to kill yourself,” she added.

Dr. Christina Lynch was director of psychological services at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver from 2007 until she retired about a month ago. Lynch is still a supervising psychologist for the seminary, and is an advisor for the Catholic Psychotherapy Association (CPA), which she previously served as president.

Lynch told CNA that stigmas among priests regarding psychology differ depending on several factors, like location, age, and community. She said counseling may be looked down upon by older generations, noting that millennials are more sympathetic to it.

Lynch also said a sense of shame about getting psychological help may worsen if the priest or seminarian does not view the therapy setting as confidential or safe.

Shame among priests about seeking help gets worse among priests if mental health care is not supported by the bishop or laity. Lynch applauded the decision of Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, who announced in December that he was taking a leave of absence to focus on mental health.

Lynch also said the laity have a unique opportunity to support priests, even through simple actions like inviting them over to dinner.

“If they don't have support from their bishop, they feel shame or they don't want to go to counseling. So the support they received from the bishop is really important. I'm sure you read the article by Bishop Conley. I've heard from so many priests since then that this just gave them courage.”

“The laity have a role to play with the parish priest. They need to be praying for them, be friends with them. A lot of times laity are afraid to be really friends with their priests … They need to be attentive to their priests and make sure they're supporting them … The more support a priest is going to get from everybody instead of criticism, the better it is going to be for them.”

Dr. Cynthia Hunt, a Catholic psychologist, is a board advisor for the Catholic Medical Association and has also served as Chief of the Department of Psychiatry at the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula.

Hunt said that stigmas about mental therapy are pervasive among clergy. She highlighted several reasons why priests might consider therapy a difficult process to access.

“There seems to be a shame surrounding the very human need for assistance in the mental health realm,” she said.

“Some difficulties which might bar priests from accessing therapy include their desire for more privacy (not wanting to sit in a waiting room), issues of shame, as noted above, as well as the desire to 'work things out on their own'.”

“Priests may consider their depression or anxiety a 'flaw' in their character. They also may not recognize the severity of their symptoms or realize that there is treatment,” Hunt added.

Hunt said that anxiety and depression can be as common among priests as it is among the general population. She said hereditary traits may contribute to a priest’s emotional issues, and addictions, like alcohol abuse, can exacerbate the problems.

The psychologist highlighted the options that priests can take to address these concerns.

“Priests may obtain therapy from a variety of disciplines including Licensed Clinical Social Workers, Marriage Family Therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, and other licensed professional counselors. The type of therapy can be tailored to the needs of the priest to include but not limited to psychodynamic Therapy, trauma-informed therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, and affirmation therapy,” she said.

While rural areas may face a lack of counselors, Hunt noted, there has been an increase in telemedicine, where priests can access therapy through video-platforms.

Hunt said psychological healing is best addressed through a holistic approach - a combination of biological, psychological, social and spiritual efforts. She said that while medication is not always necessary, it can be helpful, especially when coupled with counseling.

However, she added that some medications, like Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), have an occasional side effect, and people may continue to have recurring anxiety and depression throughout their life.

“SSRIs improve many symptoms of anxiety and depression through their biochemical action on neurotransmitters such as serotonin and others … With more balance again in the neurotransmitter system, many symptoms improve including but not limited to panic, chronic anxiety levels, low mood, sleep or appetite issues, fatigue, lack of enjoyment of things once enjoyed and suicidal thinking,” she said.

“As with all medications, there can be side effects. In the case of SSRIs these tend to be quite mild and short-lived such as nausea and headache. There are very rare but serious effects which can include increased agitation, restlessness or suicidal thinking.”

In order to address the possibility of suicide among priests, Dr. Moore told CNA that dioceses should focus strongly on education regarding suicide awareness and suicide prevention methods.

She said the topic should be addressed at the pulpit, and dioceses should also make more resources available, including the suicide hotline number and health care professionals.  She also said priests should educate themselves through books designed to address their needs. Hunt mentioned “Preventing Suicide: A Handbook for Pastors, Chaplains and Pastoral Counselors” by Karen Mason.

For her part, Moore applauded initiatives the Diocese of Lexington, Kentucky has begun to support suicide prevention and mental health. She the dioceses has provided resources and sought to be more sympathetic to the deceased and their families.

“[I am] very pleased that the Diocese of Lexington, which is led by Bishop John Stowe, has been very much an ally in putting out messages around being attuned and being sensitive to people who are in crisis …  but then also those people who've lost a loved one to suicide, making sure that the loved one who died is not demonized, and that the loved ones are provided resources.”

Father Anthony Sciarappa, the parochial vicar of Holy Spirit Parish of Lawrence County, Pennsylvania, told CNA about his experience with therapy and mental health. He said, during his first year of seminary, he struggled with anxiety and depression.

“We had lots of events as seminarians where we put on our seminary uniform and we were supposed to meet with people, talk with people and all that was overwhelming. I would be physically, like, ill and sick, just paralyzed with that.”

“I have been suffering from anxiety and depression and I thought that's just how everyone lives and that was just normal,” he said.

Sciarrappa’s bishop lived at the seminary where he studied. About six months into Scriarappa’s formation, the bishop, having spoken with the seminary faculty, encouraged the young seminarian to enter into therapy.

“When the bishop told me, I think I just started crying and his office right there, because it was just so overwhelming to be faced with the fact that I do need help,” he said.

It was a difficult concept to grasp, he noted, because therapy and mental illness were not topics typically discussed during his childhood. He said, among other stigmas, he considered therapy to be a tool for crazy people.

“I didn't know anybody who had done this before. It wasn't something that was ever just talked about in my circles growing up,” he said.

He went to a therapist for about three years. He went back to counseling during major seminary in Washington D.C. He described therapy as both a difficult and valuable process.

During counseling, Sciarappa said, he had to work through “core wounds” and the issues affected by habits learned during childhood. He said, “going through that is really hard work.”

“There were so many days I'd be exhausted after everything, but once [I brought] those things into the light I could make more sense of my life.”

It got easier as he progressed through the process, Sciarappa  noted, stating that he began to acknowledge the fruits of therapy and witness its impact on his health. He said, because of therapy, he learned the tools and skills to cope with depression and anxiety. He said it helped to better understand himself and what to expect from these kinds of struggles 

“It was like mechanisms and how to cope and strategies,” he said. “Now we see what's going on with the problem and why that's going on. For me, finding out why I struggled with this then helped me deal with it more and more.”

When asked about how to best priests can maintain mental health, Sciarappa stressed the importance of outside support, including spiritual direction, close friendships, and a priest support group to which he belongs.

The priestly support group meets once a month at one of the member’s rectories. At each meeting, there are two moderators, one a trained therapist, to help the team keep on track.

He said the group discusses personal struggles, like loneliness, but also struggles particular to priests, including the clerical abuse scandals, and priest relocation. Sciarappa said it is significant to have peers to confide in. It is not appropriate to be as open with parishioners, he added, noting it is nevertheless valuable to have community among the laity. 

“It's so important to have a brother priest so he can talk honestly about stuff, about difficulties, about insecurities,” he said. “I'm not going to spill my guts out to the random parishioner-- that would be unhealthy for them and for me.”

“I think it's [valuable to have] supportive, close friends, priests, laypeople. That's the biggest thing,” he said. “I'll talk about different things in those different circles or talk about them in different ways, but that way nothing that is going on stays in the darkness.”
Sciarappa  said it’s difficult to enter into these suffering places, recognizing one’s need for help and therapy. However, he said the experience has also given him more empathy and allowed him to truly experience the grace of God.

“It's given me tools where I can recognize it in other people. The big thing … it's made me a more empathetic person,” he said.

“Going through that suffering and having Christ redeem it and heal me more and more, when I speak to people about hope, when I speak to people [about] how healing can happen, I can speak about it from a place of experience. It's not theoretical, I really mean it. And that's going to change the way you preach. That's going to change the way you talk to people.”

US bishops praise pope's 'clarion call' for nuclear disarmament

Fri, 02/14/2020 - 19:00

Washington D.C., Feb 14, 2020 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- The bishops of the United States released a statement on Friday calling for the United States and other nuclear powers to dismantle their arsenals and praising Pope Francis for drawing the world’s attention to nuclear weapons.

“The Committee on International Justice and Peace is grateful to the Holy Father for this renewed effort to bring about a world of peace and justice that is not based upon fear or the threat of nuclear annihilation but justice and human solidarity,” said the statement released Feb. 14. 

The statement was co-signed by the eight bishops who comprise the committee, as well as the two bishop consultants to the committee. The chairman of the committee is Bishop David J. Malloy of Rockford. 

The bishops referenced Pope Francis’ November visit to Hiroshima and Nagasaki while he was in Japan. Both cities were attacked with atomic bombs at the end of World War II. The bishops said the pontiff “spoke forcefully” on the issue. 

“Speaking at Nagasaki, he emphasized the need for a wide and deep solidarity to bring about security in a world not reliant on atomic weapons,” said the bishops.

They quoted the pope calling on “individuals, religious communities and civil society, countries that possess nuclear weapons and those that do not, the military and private sectors, and international organizations” to work together to rid the world of nuclear weapons.

In Hiroshima, the bishops recalled, Pope Francis stated that the use of nuclear weapons is always immoral, as is their possession.

“The words of Pope Francis serve as a clarion call and a profound reminder to all that the status quo of international relations, resting on the threat of mutual destruction, must be changed,” they said. 

The bishops noted that the continued existence of nuclear weapons “weighs on the consciences of all to find a means for complete and mutual disarmament based in a shared commitment and trust that needs to be fostered and deepened.”

“As such, we also call upon our own government to be part of and indeed renew its primary responsibility in that effort.” they said. In addition to the United States, the other nations possessing nuclear weapons “must take the lead in mutual reduction” of their stockpiles.  

“The international community [has] recognized the need to move away from the threat of mutual destruction and toward genuine and universal disarmament,” said the bishops. 

Currently, eight countries--the United States, Russia, France, China, India, Pakistan, North Korea, and the United Kingdom--are known to possess nuclear weapons. Israel is also believed to have nuclear weapons, but has refused to confirm the matter. 

The former Soviet states of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine, along with South Africa, have all disarmed themselves of nuclear weapons.

Alabama state Rep. proposes forced vasectomy law

Fri, 02/14/2020 - 14:30

Mobile, Ala., Feb 14, 2020 / 12:30 pm (CNA).- An Alabama state representative has introduced a bill that would require men of a certain age or state to have a vasectomy.

The legislation (HB 238) was introduced in the state legislature on Thursday by Rep. Rolanda Harris (D). It provides that a man must undergo a vasectomy “at his own expense” within one month of his 50th birthday or the birth of his third child, “whichever comes first.”

Harris tweeted on Thursday that her aim “is to neutralize the abortion ban bill” and “help men become more accountable as well as women” in family planning decisions.

Harris’s statements refer to the “Human Life Protection Act,” passed by the state legislature last year and signed into law by Governor Kay Ivey.

One of the strongest pro-life state law in the country, the measure outlaws abortion except in “cases where abortion is necessary in order to prevent a serious health risk to the unborn child's mother.”

The law also made performing or assisting in an abortion a felony offense for medical professionals; criminal penalties would not apply to mothers having abortions. Doctors performing abortions could be charged with a Class A felony and face up to 10 years in prison. No exceptions were made for cases of rape or incest.

The law has been the subject of legal challenges and was passed in part as an effort to force the reconsideration of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion in the U.S. The 1973 decision struck down state abortion bans and instituted a “viability” test where states could only regulate abortion when the unborn child is considered “viable.”

The 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision built upon that framework and said that states could not put an “undue burden” on a woman’s ability to get an abortion pre-viability.

Bishop Robert Baker of Birmingham, Alabama, stated his strong support for the 2019 Alabama law and expressed his hope to “eventually, to make the killing of unborn children in our country something that is no longer viewed as anything but the horrendous and inhumane killing of the most innocent among us that it is.”

In October last year, a federal judge blocked the law from going into effect.

Harris, on Thursday, said her bill aimed to “neutralize” the Human Life Protection Act by forcing men to sterilize themselves to cut down on the number of cases where abortion is considered.

“The responsibility is not always on the women. It takes 2 to tangle. This will help prevent pregnancy as well as abortion of unwanted children,” she tweeted.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 2399 lists direct sterilization as one of the “morally unacceptable” means of the regulation of births, along with contraception.

More wives, fewer penalties? Utah debates partial decriminalization of polygamy

Thu, 02/13/2020 - 23:40

Salt Lake City, Utah, Feb 13, 2020 / 09:40 pm (CNA).- The Utah Senate will consider a bill that would partially decriminalize polygamy after a state senate committee passed it unanimously, drawing strong views on both sides.

“The diocese is not taking a position on this bill, but I will say that we find the sponsors’ statements that the bill could help individuals come out of the shadows of polygamy to be very credible,” Jean Hill, director of the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City’s Office of Life, Justice and Peace, told CNA Feb. 13.

However, Ora Barlow, who grew up in a polygamous community, opposed changes in her testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Salt Lake City Tribune reports.

“The law is there for a reason,” she said. “And it’s for people like me who feel trapped.”

Barlow said she felt free when her church’s leaders were imprisoned and prosecuted. That action made her realize that she had been treated like property all her life.

Nicole Van Tassell-Henderson, a former member of a plural marriage, said lightening the legal penalties for polygamists will give “power and control” to community leaders, the Salt Lake City television affiliate Fox 13 reports.

Utah law presently punishes polygamy as a felony with a sentence of up to five years in prison.

Senate Bill 102 would treat polygamy among consenting adults as an infraction penalized less severely than many traffic offenses. Those cited for polygamy could be punished by fines of up to $750 and community service if the bill becomes law.

Polygamy could still be punished if the defendant is also convicted of fraud, child abuse, sexual abuse, domestic abuse, human smuggling, or human trafficking. In these situations, polygamy is penalized by up to 15 years in prison.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly known as Mormons, is the predominant religion in Utah. Its leaders supported the practice of polygamy in the 19th century, but ordered an end to plural marriages in the late 1800s, under heavy pressure from the federal government.

Some breakaway groups still continue the practice of plural marriage. An estimated 30,000 people live in polygamous communities in the state.

“The polygamous community is small, and very insular, with a few notable exceptions,” Hill told CNA. “The Catholic Church does not have many dealings with these communities and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not affiliated with the polygamous groups.”

“Catholic teaching does not recognize polygamy as a valid relationship,” Hill said, citing the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The Catechism teaches that “conjugal love between husband and wife is part of God’s plan for humanity.” It is a “a lifelong communion of a man and woman” that is a blessing to the couple, the Church and the world when it is “faithful, exclusive, and open to life.”

Sen. Deidre Henderson, a Republican sponsor of the Utah bill, told National Public Radio that strict enforcement of the anti-polygamy law in the mid-20th century did not deter plural marriage. She said polygamous families have been driven underground “into a shadow society where the vulnerable make easy prey.”

Henderson argued that the current law is unenforceable if there are no other crimes. She said the law has created a “full-blown human rights crisis” that makes victims of abuse and fraud afraid to come forward and which criminalizes citizens who otherwise follow the law, the Salt Lake City Tribune reports.

She also argued that the bill codifies current practice of the Utah Attorney General to prosecute only when other serious crimes are being committed.

Henderson said people in polygamous communities “long to feel part of society.”

“They are tired of being treated like second-class citizens,” she said. “They feel like Utah has legalized prejudice against them. They want to be honest people, but feel like they have to lie or teach their children to lie about their families in order to stay safe.”

Shirlee Draper, who grew up in a polygamous family in Colorado City, Arizona, told the Senate committee she was taught never to speak to law enforcement. Her father and other adults would warn children of raids on polygamous communities, which encouraged fear of outsiders as “kidnappers.”

Draper, a victim advocate who backs decriminalization, said abuse and violence cases come from a variety of family and religious backgrounds. She suggested that nobody argues that “it’s the family structure that causes those abuses.”

She said polygamous families are wrongly assumed to be committing illicit acts.

Other backers of the bill include the ACLU of Utah and the Statewide Association of Prosecutors.

Easton Harvey, speaking to the Senate committee on behalf of the polygamy critics Sound Choices Coalition, said members of these communities are afraid to report abuse because they fear ostracism from their community or divine punishment.

Angela Kelly, director of the Sound Choices Coalition, said polygamy is comparable to organized crime and slavery. Reducing criminal penalties would encourage more polygamous households and send the message that it is “an okay lifestyle.”

The coalition denies that polygamy is a choice, National Public Radio reports. It accuses fundamentalist Mormons of using their scriptures “to justify crimes and deviant behaviors” and “to subvert and oppress their wives and their numerous offspring who have been indoctrinated from birth into believing that a loving God commanded such suffering and disparity.”

The Sound Choices Coalition says that in polygamous practice, young men are pushed out of polygamous communities so that older men may monopolize young women as wives. It contends the practice is linked to child brides, incest, and the extortion of money in exchange for the promise of religious salvation.

Republican Sen. Dan Thatcher, the only member of the Senate committee who did not sponsor the bill, said he was not interested in hearing about the badness of polygamy because it would not cause him to vote against the bill.

“This is better than what we are doing now, and I have not heard a single person bring forward a better solution,” he said.

The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld the prohibition on polygamy.

In 2019 the American Psychological Association launched a special task force to counter what it said was the “stigmatization” of people who practice consensual polygamy.

In 2017 a Gallup poll found 17% of Americans find polygamy to be morally permissible. Support had particularly increased among non-religious Americans. The change in opinion followed the 2010 launch of the reality show “Sister Wives,” which presents a sympathetic portrayal of a polygamous family. Pollsters also attributed the shift of the popular concept of polygamy from patriarchal and masculine centered family to a gender-neutral definition.

Kody Brown and his four wives, featured on the television show “Sister Wives”, had challenged a polygamy ban.

A lower court initially said the law violated their right to privacy and religious freedom. In April 2016, an appellate court ruled the plaintiffs lacked standing to challenge the law because they were not charged under it.

When the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003 struck down anti-sodomy laws that criminalized same-sex sexual relations, critics warned that it set the stage for recognition of same-sex unions as marriages. The U.S. Supreme Court then mandated the nationwide legal recognition of same-sex marriage in 2015.

Catholics leaders in US call for nationwide limit on payday loan interest

Thu, 02/13/2020 - 21:01

Washington D.C., Feb 13, 2020 / 07:01 pm (CNA).- Catholics in the US are pushing for a national, bipartisan bill that would limit the interest rate on payday and car title loans.

“Payday lending is modern day usury. These short-term, high-interest loans prey on the financial hardship of poor and vulnerable consumers – all for the sake of big profits, which only come when consumers fail,” the Montana Catholic Conference said in a Feb. 12 statement.

“This practice directly contradicts our Catholic understanding that the role of the economy is to serve people, not the other way around.”

The conference is urging Catholics in Montana to contact U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte, who represents Montana’s at-large congressional district, to urge him to support the Veterans and Consumers Fair Credit Act of 2019. (H.R.5050).

Introduced by Jesús "Chuy" García (D-IL) and Glenn S. Grothman (R-WI), the bill would expand the 2006 Military Lending Act rate cap - which only covers active military members and their families - to all consumers. The bill would cap all payday and car-title loans at a maximum of a 36% APR interest rate.

“That means that payday loan sharks would not be able to charge sky-high, triple-digit interest rates on their deceptive loans,” the conference further added.

It was introduced to the House of Representatives last November. In the near future, a companion bill will be introduced to the U.S. Senate by Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Jack Reed (D-RI), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH).

According to a statement from Grothman, 12 million Americans take out payday loans per year, and the average interest rate is currently 391 percent. As online loans have continued to exacerbate the problem, states have had a more difficult time regulating payday loans.

“We already protect military service members under the Military Lending Act, which means that we have recognized the predatory nature of high-interest loans to our men and women in uniform. This raises the question – if it is wrong to allow predatory lenders to target our service members, why is it right to let them target the rest of the community?” he wrote.

Last month, the US bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development signed a letter supporting the bill which was sent to the House Committee on Financial Services.

The Jan. 10 letter from the Faith for Just Lending coalition said that nearly 16,000 payday or car title loan stores operate within the United States taking advantage of loopholes and circumventing traditional usury laws.

“Each year, many households face financial crises. Over the last several decades, high-cost lending to those in need has increased significantly,” the letter said.

“Far too often, the result is families trapped in a cycle of debt with even less ability to pay the bills, keep food on the table, save for the next emergency, or provide for their children,” they said.

There are already 16 states, as well as the District of Columbia, who have capped the interest rate at 36% percent or lower, they said, noting that residents of these states now “use various methods to address budgetary shortfalls – such as utility payment plans and credit cards.”

As usury is often condemned in the Bible, they said, the issue is a concern of the Church. They urged parishioners, Church leaders, and government officials to take a stance against payday loans. They said actions should be taken to educate people on stewardship and responsible credit use.

“Scripture condemns usury and teaches us to respect the God-given dignity of each person and to love our neighbors rather than exploiting their financial vulnerability. Thus, just lending is a matter of Biblical morality and religious concern. Fairness and dignity are values that should be respected in all human relationships including business and financial relationships.”

The Church has consistently taught that usury is evil, including in numerous ecumenical councils.

In Vix pervenit, his 1745 encyclical on usury and other dishonest profit, Benedict XIV taught that a loan contract demands “that one return to another only as much as he has received. The sin rests on the fact that sometimes the creditor desires more than he has given. Therefore he contends some gain is owed him beyond that which he loaned, but any gain which exceeds the amount he gave is illicit and usurious.”

In his General Audience address of Feb. 10, 2016, Pope Francis taught that “Scripture persistently exhorts a generous response to requests for loans, without making petty calculations and without demanding impossible interest rates,” citing Leviticus.

“This lesson is always timely,” he said. “How many families there are on the street, victims of profiteering … It is a grave sin, usury is a sin that cries out in the presence of God.”

Virginia bishops join second annual state March for Life

Thu, 02/13/2020 - 20:00

Richmond, Va., Feb 13, 2020 / 06:00 pm (CNA).- Bishops Michael Burbidge of Arlington and Barry Knestout of Richmond each spoke at events associated with the second annual Virginia March for Life on Thursday, Feb. 13. 

The commonwealth's two bishops concelebrated a pre-march Mass, and Burbidge spoke at the rally held immediately before the march. 

Knestout, who delivered the homily at the Mass, said that the Virginia March for Life is “a day of prayer and advocacy for the full restoration of the legal guarantee of the right to life in Virginia,” as well as “a day of penance for violations to the dignity of the human person” which were incurred by abortion.

“Today is not just a day to march but also to pray and fast for the recognition and dignity of human life in the Commonwealth,” said Knestout. “God fashioned each of us in his own image and we have a dignity that no other beings on earth can claim.”

During the homily, Knestout praised the work of pro-life groups and other individuals “who act with compassion and practical help” to assist those who are grieving. 

“As a human and Christian family, we grieve the loss of so many lives,” he said. “And yet, even in our grief, we know there is hope.” 

After the Mass, the marchers moved to the Virginia Capitol building for a rally. The rally featured numerous pro-life figures, including March for Life President Jeanne Mancini. 

Burbidge opened the rally with a prayer, and thanked the members of the state’s Senate and House of Delegates who were present at the event. 

"Each life welcomed into this world must be welcomed with thanksgiving, and shown a love and joy that resembles (God's)," said Burbidge. "Sadly, as we mark the anniversary of the legislation of abortion in our country, instill in us the courage to continue working on behalf of the unborn and vulnerable, despite the challenges before us." 

Burbidge prayed that those at the March on Thursday would be inspired "to be renewed in the faith, and rededicated to ending abortion and all other acts that deny and offend the inherent dignity of the human person." 

The Arlington bishop also prayed for expectant mothers, particularly those who are in less-than-ideal situations. He said he hopes they "will be given the courage and strength to bear the precious gift within them, in the midst of their hardships."

He hoped God would bless elected officials to work towards the common good, adding, "there is no good to be found in abortion." 

"Help our elected officials, especially here in Richmond, to see your light and exhibit the political will to do what is right and just and holy," said Burbidge.

International pro-life group says pro-choice bias fueled investigative report

Thu, 02/13/2020 - 19:50

Columbus, Ohio, Feb 13, 2020 / 05:50 pm (CNA).- Heartbeat International, a pro-life group that operates or supports crisis pregnancy centers throughout the world, said a recent investigative report into their centers was fueled by pro-choice bias.

“The abortion lobby has continually waged a ‘fake clinic’ offensive on pro-life centers in recent years as it tries to preserve its public image and funding,” Heartbeat International said Feb. 11.

The statement followed the publishing of a Feb. 10 investigative report into the group by openDemocracy, an online publication that investigates and analyzes groups on the political right. One of the publication’s backers is the Open Society Foundations, HBI noted.

According to their report, openDemocracy sent undercover reporters to clinics supported by HBI in 18 countries, who said they uncovered the spreading of misinformation at some of the clinics.

Some workers at clinics reportedly said that abortion increases their risks for leukemia and mental illnesses. Other clinic workers reportedly said that abortions could “turn their partners gay” or could increase the likelihood that the mothers would become child abusers.

Some studies have shown a correlation between the rates of breast cancer and abortion, though not leukemia. Some studies also show that abortion may increase a woman’s risk for mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression. Abortion has not been proven to “turn partners gay” nor increase a person’s likelihood of become a child abuser.

HBI president Jor-El Godsey said Feb. 11 that he “stand(s) by our training and by our values” and that the openDemocracy report was a result of “misreporting” rather than “misinformation.”

According to the statement, HBI’s affiliates “must adhere to basic principles that affirm alternatives to abortion and ensure non-discrimination, but all other matters of policy and management remain under the direction of the centers’ local leadership, allowing for autonomy.”

Godsey added that openDemocracy did not give HBI adequate time to respond to their questions, as the group approached HBI on a Friday and asked for a response by Monday morning. Godsey said much of the staff was traveling over the weekend.

The misinformation openDemocracy reports to have uncovered largely occurred in international clinics in Europe or Latin America.

Ellen Foell, international specialist for Heartbeat International, said the group “stands firmly by ‘Our Commitment of Care and Competence’, while training continuously on it and promoting its use throughout the world...because we know that every woman deserves love and support during an unexpected pregnancy.”

“No woman should feel alone, coerced, or so hopeless that she ends her child’s life through abortion,” she stated.

Foell, who has worked with pregnancy help centers in 60 countries, added that while laws and cultural norms surrounding abortion differ throughout the world, abortion always “ends the life of a developing human baby.”

HBI said that they provided openDemocracy with scientific studies on the effects of abortion, but that these were not included in the final report.

HBI also refuted a claim from openDemocracy that they have “close ties” to Washington. HBI said the claims were false or misleading, such as the claim that Vice President Mike Pence has spoken at HBI events in D.C., when instead HBI was attending a roundtable event hosted by Students for Life of America, at which Pence spoke.

OpenDemocracy also claimed that HBI urged its allies to apply for funding from its “new friends in Washington.” HBI said that this quote came from Godsey, who was encouraging pro-life groups to apply for Title X funds after Planned Parenthood declined the funding so that it could continue providing abortions.

HBI said that the attempts to discredit pro-life pregnancy resource centers are not new.

“The attack is very familiar,” Godsey said. “It’s just coming from different players.”

On transgenderism: Common ground, and real differences, between Catholics and radical feminists

Thu, 02/13/2020 - 19:10

Washington D.C., Feb 13, 2020 / 05:10 pm (CNA).- This article is the second part of Mary Farrow's two-part series on the Church, gender-critical feminists, and transgender ideology. Part one was published on Feb. 10.

In their efforts to teach the truth in the face of the transgender ideology, Catholics are finding an unlikely ally: trans-exclusionary, or “gender critical,” feminists, who say the transgender movement hurts women.

But while there are some points of common ground between Catholics and gender critical feminists, there are also important points of disagreement, even on the issue of what gender is.

One point of unity between the Church and trans-exclusionary radical feminists is agreement that the growing transgender movement is especially dangerous to children, who will often outgrow feelings of gender dysphoria naturally, or are led to believe their gender differs from their biological sex simply because they have atypical toy preferences for their biological sex.

“We agree that children should not be subjected to medical experimentation by doctors who profit from ‘affirming’ children, especially girls, in transgender or non-binary identities” in ever-increasing numbers, Mary Rice Hasson, the Kate O’Beirne Fellow in Catholic Studies at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C. and director of the Catholic Women’s Forum, told CNA.

Kara Dansky, a board member of the Women’s Liberation Front, agreed, telling CNA that children going through the typically-turbulent time of puberty deserve care and guidance, but not medical treatments that could cause them permanent harm.

“A child who is confused about her or his sex definitely deserves compassion and care and guidance to understanding that they're not born in the wrong body. Their body is fine just the way that it is (barring physical, medical ailments that should be treated appropriately), but we're all born in the bodies that we're born in,” she said.

“And we need to learn how to love ourselves physically and emotionally,” Dansky added. “So any child who is struggling to figure out what sex they are really needs caring, compassion and concern and guidance, but not sterilization and mutilation.”

Hasson said she hopes parents are aware of how the growing transgender movement is “radically reshaping how our children understand themselves and others, in ways that are incompatible with Christian beliefs. We need to be compassionate and kind to those who embrace transgender ideology, but we must be wise, and educate and guard ourselves - and our children- against the lies it proposes.”

On Causes, churches, and homophobia

On the causes of transgenderism, feminists and Catholics have both points of agreement and of disagreement.

Feminist Mary Kate Fain, who grew up in a conservative Evangelical church and community, said she thinks that in some cases, an overly rigid take on gender roles has contributed to the rise in the transgender phenomenon. For example, she said that feminists have long fought the gender norm that the only way to be a woman is to desire to stay home, cook in the kitchen, and raise children.

Feminists have argued that women can partake in any role in society that she wishes, Fain said.

But today, she said, a pervasive social message has become: “If you want to stay at home, work in the kitchen, and be feminine, have children, then you must be a woman. And therefore, if you don't want to do any combination of these things, you must not be a woman.”

Fain also said that from her perspective, some communities with rigid gender roles also speak about homosexuality in particularly negative or disparaging ways. That can lead children in these communities who experience same-sex attractions to believe they were born in the wrong body, Fain believes.

She added that she has friends from such communities who, upon experiencing same-sex attractions, choose to identify as transgender or non-binary (neither male nor female), rather than face the stigma of identifying as gay or lesbian.

“We're seeing this new ‘trans-the-gay-away’ movement happening, and people think that it's progressive, when in reality this is happening in some of the most conservative areas across the globe,” Fain said.

“It's happening in Iran where the government outlaws homosexuality on pain of death, but they're paying for homosexual people to transition in order to no longer be gay. Then we see it in the United States, where the most red states are where you have the highest rates of transgenderism, and it's no wonder that this is deeply linked to homophobia,” Fain said.

But Hasson cautioned against the assertion that homophobia in Christian and conservative churches is a significant contributor to the rise in transgenderism in youth. She said the assumption that most Christian churches with a biblical view of homosexuality are homophobic is unfair.

“I can’t speak to the views of ‘conservative’ or 'evangelical’ churches as such. But I can say that those who adhere to biblical morality, like Catholics who adhere to Catholic teaching, are frequently charged with being ‘homophobic’ because they believe that homosexual sexual activity is wrong, or that the homosexual inclination is not what God intended, because sexual desire should be ‘ordered’ rightly towards the opposite sex,” Hasson said.

“So there’s an unfortunate tendency for those who identify as gay or lesbian to cry ‘homophobia’ when a Church teaches against same-sex sexual relationships or behavior,” she noted.

Hasson said most churches today that teach a biblical view of sexuality do so with the distinction of the action and the person. - the Church’s rejection of homosexual acts is not a rejection of the person, but of the act of sexual relations outside of marriage, which the Church holds is only possible between a man and a woman. 

“But there are a significant number, including Catholic churches, that rightly reject the expression of sexuality towards a same-sex partner (which is always outside of marriage, as understood by the Church). We need to push back on the left's talking point that Catholic teaching is by definition ‘homophobic.’”

Furthermore, Hasson said, she doubts the assertion because Christian parents by and large would not prefer that their children be transgender instead of homosexual, as both transgenderism and homosexuality go against God’s plan for human sexuality.

“...conservative churches and evangelicals who are against homosexual behavior are generally not going to accept assertions of a trans-identity,” Hasson said.

“They both involve deviations from God’s explicit design, plus no parent would prefer a trans-identity over a same-sex attraction issue with a child, given the chemical castration and surgical interventions that are becoming commonplace ‘treatments’ for identity confusion.”

Hasson acknowledged that there are some fringe Christian communities that could be perpetuating truly homophobic attitudes. She also added that she is aware of a small subculture of Catholics who hold overly-rigid gender roles, such as that women shouldn’t wear pants and are not capable or fit to hold jobs outside the home.

“I think it's not healthy when someone does that and that strain of Catholicism is nothing new,” Hasson said, though she added that the sliver of truth there is that there is a different between men and women, and there are certain social cues used to distinguish between men and women that vary from culture to culture.

“Within that narrow slice, my sense is that someone who's growing up and feels constrained, if they feel some sort of weight of conscience like - ‘Oh, my gosh. I'm being a terrible woman,’ - they're also going to be getting a message that there are men or women,” Hasson said.

She said she didn’t necessarily see how someone who failed to fit into rigid gender stereotypes would then assume that they were actually a different biological sex.

“The most fundamental thing is whether you are a female, and that just doesn't change,” she said.

“And the fact that someone has put you in a box as to how to express that, it would take quite a leap of logic or something to talk that around and say, ‘Oh, that means I must be the opposite sex,’ when everything else that you would be taught in that same environment would say, ‘No, you are one sexual or another.’ And your body tells you that. And science tells you that.”

First-person voices

A growing number of people who were given medical treatments to transition their gender, and then regretted it, are now speaking out against the push to medically treat minors with gender dysphoria.

Keira Bell, a 23 year-old woman in the UK, has recently joined a lawsuit against the gender clinic that began her gender transition when she was 16 and wanted to be a male.

At 16, Bell was given hormone blockers to stunt her development as a female, and then was given male hormones. Bell said the treatments gave her symptoms of menopause, depleted her sex drive and weakened her bones, and may have rendered her infertile. At the age of 20, the National Health Service paid for a surgery that removed her breasts, the Daily Mail reported.

It was not long after the surgery that Bell started to question her gender transition. She told the Daily Mail that she felt “stuck” between male and female, and that she didn’t feel she fit with either gender. At the age of 22, she decided to detransition back to female, and to fight giving such treatments to other young people. She said she felt like a “guinea pig” that was experimented on by the gender clinic, without much thought given as to how the treatments would affect her life in the long-term.

Bell is now considered a key witness in a high-profile case against Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the gender clinic where she had gone for treatments. The lawsuit was brought against the clinic by a psychiatric nurse formerly employed at the clinic, who is arguing in the suit that children are not capable of consenting to the powerful and experimental puberty blockers and hormones being prescribed to them.

Bell is just one of many people - many of them women - who are speaking out after having gone through experimental gender transitioning treatments as minors and who are now in the process of detransitioning.

Charlie Evans, a 28 year-old woman living in the UK, is in the process of detransitioning after identifying as trans since her teenage years. After sharing her story, Evans was contacted by so many men and women who regretted their gender transitions that she was inspired to found The Detransition Advocacy Network, a non-profit that seeks to support men and women who regret their gender transitions.

Evans told The Telegraph that she attributes her own desire to transition as a young person to abuse that she suffered outside of her family, that made her hate her own body so much that she wanted to cut parts of it off. That experience seems to be common among the people who contact her Detransition network, she added.

“...you can’t be born in the wrong body – it’s our minds that need treatment, not our sex,” Evans said.

 

Lay seminary prof in Buffalo charged with cyberstalking investigative reporter

Thu, 02/13/2020 - 18:01

Buffalo, N.Y., Feb 13, 2020 / 04:01 pm (CNA).- The FBI in Buffalo has arrested a lay, adjunct seminary professor who is accused of making a death threat against a local investigative reporter.

Paul Lubienecki appeared in federal court in downtown Buffalo Feb. 12 and was charged with cyberstalking, WKBW reported. If convicted, he faces up to five years in prison.

Lubienecki was an adjunct professor at Christ the King Seminary and also served as an adjunct at State University of New York Fredonia.

WKBW investigative reporter Charlie Specht, who has been covering the Buffalo diocese for well over a year, began receiving threatening voicemails from an unknown number during August 2019.

WKBW reported that Lubienecki also has left threatening messages for former diocesan employee Siobhan O’Connor, who leaked confidential chancery documents to the press during November 2018, and for Father Ryszard Biernat, an assistant to Emeritus Bishop Richard Malone who leaked secret recordings of the bishop to the press.

Buffalo’s apostolic administrator, Bishop Edward Scharfenberger of Albany, announced earlier this month that Christ the King Seminary will close its doors at the end of the spring semester.

On Feb. 4, the day that Scharfenberger announced the seminary’s closure, Specht reported live from the seminary on television. Moments later, the mystery caller left Specht a voicemail.

“You must be so happy the seminary’s closing. You’re a bad person. I know where you live...I’m gonna find you. I’m gonna kill you,” the voicemail said as reported by WKBW.

Specht called the police, and WKBW’s parent company, the E.W. Scripps Co., made plans for Specht, his wife and children to receive around-the-clock protection at an undisclosed location from a private security firm, WKBW reported.

An agent from the FBI Buffalo Field Office was assigned to investigate the matter, and obtained records that allowed the identification of Lubienecki as the suspect.

Bishop Scharfenberger decried Lubienecki’s actions in a series of tweets Feb. 13.

“There is no place - nor should there be any tolerance - for threats or harassment towards members of the news media or any one else. This is against who we are as Christians, but also against our nation’s founding principles that guarantee freedom to the press and freedom of speech,” Scharfenberger said.

“As a Church we must be able to withstand the glaring light of scrutiny - even as we seek to pierce the darkness with our own light, demonstrating Christ’s abundant love, forgiveness and care for us all.”

In its Feb. 4 statement, the Buffalo diocese said that Scharfenberger is forming a committee “to ‘re-imagine’ and provide specific recommendations as to how priestly formation will continue for seminarians of the Diocese of Buffalo, while also providing ongoing education in pastoral ministry and theological training for lay women and men, as well as for those seeking ordination to the permanent diaconate.”

There are currently 26 seminarians enrolled at the seminary; 15 of whom are studying for the Diocese of Buffalo. The diocese said it will look for other schools for its seminarians.

Bishop Richard Malone, who resigned during December 2019, faced numerous accusations from whistleblowers of mishandling abuse cases during his time as bishop, and was the subject of an apostolic visitation by Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn during October 2019.

During Bishop Malone’s tenure, the diocese faced charges that Christ the King faculty engaged seminarians in salacious and inappropriate conversation during a party at a parish rectory.

In April 2019, seminarians described the conversation as “pornographic,” and described lewd sexual references in a written report, other priests who attended the party told reporters they did not hear all of the salacious talk the seminarians claim to have heard, and say they wonder whether some aspects of the conversation were misinterpreted.

Malone removed the priests from ministry after the allegations of their misconduct was made.

Another seminary-related controversy began in August 2019, when Malone’s secretary leaked audio of conversations among himself, Malone, and diocesan lawyers and staff.

In the audio of the conversations, Malone admitted that a seminarian’s accusations of grooming and the violation of the seal of confession against a diocesan priest were probably true, but months later the priest remained in active ministry.

“We are in a true crisis situation. True crisis. And everyone in the office is convinced this could be the end for me as bishop,” Malone said, noting that if the matter—which could appear to be a “love triangle” between the seminarian and two priests—were leaked to the public, “it could force me to resign.”

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