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Three states consider abortion, religious freedom amendments in midterm vote

Tue, 11/06/2018 - 17:00

Washington D.C., Nov 6, 2018 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- As Americans headed to the polls on Nov. 6 to vote in midterm elections, much of the media focus has been on how the results will shape the national political landscape. But in three states voters will be considering proposed state constitutional amendments that would protect the rights of the unborn and promote religious liberty.


In Alabama, voters will be deciding on amendments which would change the state constitution to protect religious liberty and to establish a right to life of unborn children.


Amendment 1 would specifically protect the right to display a monument of the Ten Commandments on public property, something which has been challenged in state and federal courts.


“Amendment 1 does two things,” reads a description of the measure on the Alabama Secretary of State website.


“First, it provides that a person is free to worship God as he or she chooses, and that a person’s religious beliefs will have no effect on his or her civil or political rights. Second, it makes clear that the Ten Commandments may be displayed on public property so long as the display meets constitutional requirements, such as being displayed along with historical or educational items.”


The Supreme Court recently agreed to hear a case regarding the legality of a cross-shaped monument on public land. Previously, in 2005, the court found that a monument of the Ten Commandments at the Texas State Capitol was constitutional and did not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.


Amendment 2, if passed, would amend the Alabama Constitution “to declare and otherwise affirm that it is the public policy of this state to recognize and support the sanctity of unborn life and the rights of unborn children, most importantly the right to life in all manners and measures appropriate and lawful; and to provide that the constitution of this state does not protect the right to abortion or require the funding of abortion.”


While strongly worded, Amendment 2 will not be legally enforceable unless the Supreme Court overturned its decision in Roe v. Wade, which found a legal right to abortion throughout a pregnancy. If that were to happen, and the legality of abortion became a state-by-state issue, Amendment 2 could make abortion illegal in Alabama.


Oregon residents will vote on Measure 106, a citizen’s initiative to amend the state constitution to prohibit public funds being used for abortion, except when necessary to save the life of the mother, such as an ectopic pregnancy.


Current Oregon law states that “abortions may be obtained, when approved by medical professional, under state-funded health plans or under health insurance procured by or through a public employer or other public service.” If Measure 106 passes, this will no longer be the case.


Unlike many abortion restriction measures, in the Oregon proposal there is no exception for pregnancies that are the result of rape or incest.


Measure 106 narrowly qualified for the ballot in September with fewer than 300 signatures more than the legal minimum.


According to Americans United for Life’s annual “Life List,” which ranks states by pro-life laws, Oregon has some of the loosest abortion laws in the country. Oregon came in at 46, ahead of  only New Jersey, Vermont, California, and Washington.


In West Virginia, voters will be considering Amendment 1, which would “amend the West Virginia Constitution to clarify that nothing in the Constitution of West Virginia secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of abortion.”


This amendment was sponsored by 15 Republican members of the West Virginia legislature, and was passed with bipartisan support so that it could appear on Tuesday’s ballot. Unlike Oregon’s Measure 106, West Virginia Amendment 1 has an exception for pregnancies that are the result of rape and incest.

Currently, West Virginia law actually criminalizes both the procurement of and performance of an abortion, but this law is not in effect due to Roe v. Wade. If Roe were to be overturned, and Amendment 1 were to pass, it would prevent judges from interpreting the West Virginia constitution in a way which would protect legal abortion in any subsequent court battle.


Abortion is legal in West Virginia until 22 weeks gestation.


Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), who is considered to be one of the country’s more vulnerable Democratic senators, does not support Amendment 1. While he has often been seen as a pro-life Democrat, recent votes to continue funding for Planned Parenthood have undermined this position.

Did Iowa diocese give enough warning about abusive priest?

Tue, 11/06/2018 - 15:54

Sioux City, Iowa, Nov 6, 2018 / 01:54 pm (CNA).- A New Mexico man says that an Iowa diocese neglected to tell him about the extent of abuse committed by a priest living in his home. Leaders in the diocese told CNA they tried to warn the man about the priest’s past, and that current leaders have attempted to do everything possible to manage the priest’s situation, within the confines of canon law.

Fr. Jerry Coyle is a priest of Sioux City, Iowa, but he has lived in New Mexico for 32 years. He moved to the state in 1986, to take part in a treatment program at a facility for priests run by the Servants of the Paraclete. He was sent there after telling Bishop Lawrence Soens that over 20 years of priesthood he had abused about 50 male adolescents.

Coyle was removed from ministry and his faculties were revoked after that admission; he was not dismissed from the clerical state.

After Coyle’s time with the Paracletes was completed, he remained in New Mexico. There, more than 10 years ago, he befriended Reuben Ortiz.

Ortiz is a pious and practicing Catholic: he and his family do pro-life ministry, go to homeless shelters, feed the poor, pray the rosary frequently, and even performed music at a World Youth Day. Until recently, Ortiz was a daily Mass-goer.

When Coyle got into a car accident last year, Ortiz invited the priest to move into his Albuquerque home, to live with him, his wife, and his three teenaged children. Coyle lived with the family until June 29.

In a recent Associated Press report, Ortiz’ attorney said that the diocese did not disclose important information about the priest until he was already living in the Ortiz family home. The diocese, however, told CNA that it repeatedly discouraged the Ortiz family from taking in the priest.

Ortiz acknowledged that when he invited Coyle, 85, to live in his home, he already knew that the priest had committed an act of sexual abuse.

“He had told us that he had fondled a kid, and that, it wasn't, you know, that he knew, he went through treatment for it, and he, he was ok,” Ortiz told CNA.

Ortiz said that even though he knew the priest had sexually assaulted a minor, he wasn’t nervous about his own children.

“No, because he was very secure about the fact that he was wrong about it. And he was also very secure that he wasn't ever going to do it again,” Ortiz said.

“Because we asked him right out, 'Well Jerry, what does that mean for our kids?' And he said, 'No, no, no, that was wrong, that's the reason why I'm not doing [active ministry] anymore, I'm not going and serving at Mass; they didn't take away my priesthood, I'm good that way.'”

“He really, he did have a certain way about him that looked like it was okay. But for him to go and deceive us from the very beginning was already wrong,” Ortiz added.

‘Redemption and forgiveness’

In November 2017, shortly after Coyle got in a car accident and had his license revoked, Ortiz phoned Bishop Walker Nickless of Sioux City, to let the bishop know about Coyle’s accident, and to inform him that the priest had come to live with the Ortiz family.

“Reuben Ortiz called me after Jerry had his automobile accident, and wanted me to know he couldn't drive any more, and he needed a place to live because he couldn't take care of himself, and he wanted to take him into his own home, because they were good friends and he wanted to help Jerry recover from the accident, and he told me he can stay here as long as he wants,” Bishop Nickless recounted to CNA.

“I said to him, 'Reuben, do you know his history?' And he said, 'Yes. Father and I have talked about it; I know that he has abused minors in the past, and I believe in redemption and forgiveness.'”

Nickless said the diocese told Ortiz that because his minor children lived at home, “we think … that is not a good place for Jerry to be, and we'd like him to move.”

“He clearly said he wanted to keep Jerry living with him. We asked him to at least inform his children of Jerry's history – he said he hadn't done that – and he said, 'I'm not going to do that to my children.'”

The problem of where Coyle was to live was taken to the diocesan review board. The review board met Feb. 5, 2018, to discuss Coyle's living situation, and suggested that he go to a nursing home in New Mexico.

“They immediately recommended that he leave the house,” Nickless said. “I told Reuben that.”

The Diocese of Sioux City encouraged Ortiz to look for a nursing home for Coyle in the Albuquerque area.

“He refused to do that,” Nickless explained. “He kept saying, 'No, no, I want him here, I want him here, I want him here.'”

On Feb. 8, Fr. Brad Pelzel, vicar general of the Sioux City diocese, spoke with Reuben and his wife, Tania, on the phone, relating what the review board had decided.

At the request of the review board, Pelzel also wrote to Reuben and Tania Feb. 12, following up on their phone conversation. Pelzel’s letter urged that Coyle move to a nursing home. It was thought that one in New Mexico would be most appropriate, because the priest had lived there for so long.

The letter said that the review board was seriously concerned about “Coyle's self-revealed history of sexual attraction to and contact with boys.”

“When he self-reported his situation … Fr. Coyle admitted that, for a period of about 20 years, he victimized approximately 50 school boys, varying from 7th to 10th grade,” Pelzel wrote.

“The Review Board is grateful to you and your family for your kindness and the Christ-like attention and care you have provided Fr. Coyle, most notably your willingness to welcome him into your home following his traffic accident,” Pelzel wrote.

“While acknowledging the grace of Fr. Coyle's repentance and the 30-plus years of apparent success he has experienced in living out celibate chastity since moving to the Albuquerque area, the Review Board cannot condone the risk you take by allowing Fr. Coyle to reside in your home and recommends in the strongest of terms that the best form of assistance you can provide Fr. Coyle would be to help him find an institution with Assisted Living facilities.”

Ortiz said that it was shocking to see the letter that said Coyle admitted to abusing 50 adolescents. While he was comfortable with having Coyle around his family when he believed the priest had abused one or two adolescents, he felt he had been misled.

“You know the shock that was, what we took on? It traumatized us to see these pages of who this guy was. It shocked us to such a degree that I didn't want to let my wife know how scared I was.”

He related that he slept downstairs near Coyle, while the rest of his family was upstairs, from the time they received the Feb. 12 letter until Coyle left in June.

Ortiz told CNA fears that Coyle could have abused his son, who is 15.

Financial matters

Although Ortiz chose not to help Coyle find a nursing home, he did accept money from his boarder. Ortiz told CNA he asked the priest for financial contributions to the family home.

According to Nickless, Coyle gave Ortiz almost $30,000 during the eight months he lived in the family home.

Nickless said that Ortiz first told Coyle he needed to buy a larger car to take him to Mass; his family and Coyle could not all fit into their existing vehicle.

Coyle gave Ortiz $25,000 to buy a new car, Nickless told CNA.

A few weeks later, Ortiz said he needed some more money to handle some expenses.

Coyle gave Ortiz another $2,000, Nickless said.

Later, Ortiz said he needed an additional $3,000, “at which point Jerry balked,” Pelzel told CNA.

“Then Reuben demanded that Jerry give him power of attorney and access to his saving and checking account,” according to Pelzel.

“So then Jerry called us and said, 'This is strange, I think I'm coming back',” Nickless said.

Asked how much money the priest had given him, Ortiz declined to answer.

“Let me ask you something, okay? What do you, how do you think money has anything to do with this? How does money come into play? I curse the day I ever met him and if I could take back every time that we met, and everything that was spent, both ways, I would do it, gladly, just to avoid that one meeting with him,” Ortiz told CNA.

After Coyle decided to leave, the diocese began making arrangements for Coyle to return to Iowa. Within five days, on June 29, Coyle left the Ortiz' home.

Month after Coyle left his home, lawyers representing Ortiz told diocesan officials and reporters that the Diocese of Sioux City was guilty of a cover-up.

Ortiz agreed.

“You know what it's like when you go to your Church officials and they do absolutely nothing for you?” He asked. “They are totally bankrupt when it comes to morals.”

While Nickless told CNA that he tried to explain to Ortiz the allegations against Coyle from the beginning, Ortiz disagreed.

“They're accepting sin, in such a way that it's ok, and so they are shameless in this sin to such a point that they think we are going to agree with a letter of that magnitude. See, they told me that; they had gone and said that he had abused; I said he told us he abused a couple kids, we don't know the extent. But they said, well you know, they didn't really make it quite clear until the letter … do you know how scary it is to have somebody like this in your home?”

Although he acknowledged inviting Coyle into his home, Ortiz maintains he was used.

“I was used, as far as I'm concerned. I was used for the purpose of people who released this into our society as a plague, and it upsets me, it does. I don't think I'm ever going to recover from it.”

Ortiz also said that his spiritual director, whom he described as “no slouch in the priesthood” also failed him, because he did not sufficiently warn him not to allow an admitted perpetrator of sexual assault into his home.


When Coyle returned to Iowa, he was placed at Marian Home, a diocesan retirement home in Fort Dodge.

While the board of directors at Marian Home wasn't notified of Coyle's past, several staff members at the residence were.

Pelzel says he told the activities director “explicitly what Jerry was accused of, and she promised to be vigilant.”

Marian Home is located across the street from both St. Edmond Catholic School and Fort Dodge Senior High. Students at St. Edmond's sometimes visit Marian Home, but they did not have contact with Coyle as they do not go to the area in which he lived.

The schools were not informed when Coyle moved to the residence; “it did not occur to us that the school was there at that time,” Nickless said, acknowledging that “We made a mistake in not notifying the school … we should have done a better job of that.”

Coyle has since left Marian Home, and has been taken in by an acquaintance. Nickless said the priest is living “a life of prayer and penance.”

Nickless wrote a letter to the Sioux City diocese Oct. 31 discussing Coyle's situation, noting that “No one presently at the diocese has firsthand knowledge about Jerry Coyle and that includes me. For the past few months, we have been attempting to put the pieces together about what happened during the 1980s with the files and records that we do have on Jerry Coyle.”

“During the ensuing 32 years, there were no complaints of any misbehavior by Jerry Coyle. Psychologists in Albuquerque advised the diocese that Coyle was highly motivated to change. We know that many disagree with this point, and so do I.”

The bishop wrote that police “were not contacted when Coyle self-admitted, but policies have changed since 1986. Now the policy is to contact civil authorities, which we will follow, since we have [now] named victims of Jerry Coyle.”

In a Nov. 6 statement, the diocese elaborated.

“The issue that is most important for the public to understand is that many of the allegations made in the past, prior to the 2002 ‘Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People’ were not followed up with an investigation by civil authorities. The Church often sent priests to treatment, in hopes that any actions of misconduct could be cured. We know now that is not the way to handle any allegation of sexual misconduct, and with the 2002 Charter to guide us, we have protocols in place to follow, which we do,” the statement said.

“As far as Jerry Coyle, he has had no criminal charges made against him. He self-admitted, and there was not one allegation until 1986, and this individual was an adult, so the statute of limitations had run out. We recognize that when Coyle self-admitted, each parish should have been notified, and we should have asked victims to come forward. We apologize that this did not happen under the leadership of the Diocese of Sioux City at that time.”

Nickless wrote to the diocese last month: “If you are a victim of Jerry Coyle or any priest or person associated with the Diocese of Sioux City, please come forward.” In recent weeks, several alleged victims of Coyle have come forward to the diocese.

But in 2002, when the diocese initially reviewed its records with local prosecutors, there were no identifiable victims of Coyle. Pelzel said that at that time, a student at a local university had made allegations against Coyle to another priest; but the allegation was anonymous and the diocese had no way to contact the alleged victim.

Another individual had said Coyle had acted “kind of weird” in the sacristy, but didn't remember “anything else much.”

While Coyle was removed from ministry in 1986, he was not dismissed from the clerical state, and remains a priest of the Diocese of Sioux City. As such, the diocese is obliged under canon law to provide housing and board for him. The diocesan conduct review board is now discussing the possibility of pursuing a dismissal from the clerical state for Coyle.

However, “once a priest is elderly and frail and sick, as Fr. Coyle is, most of the time it's recommended [by the Vatican] that he live a life of prayer and penance,” Nickless explained.

In fact, the Sioux City diocese attempted to have another elderly priest dismissed from the clerical state, but the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith refused, citing his advanced age.

The review board has also been discussing the preparation and release of a list of credibly accused clerics of the diocese, especially how to make sure that such a list would be accurate. The diocese has stated that a list of credibly accused priests will be published “as soon as we know we have all of the information we need to move forward.”

The Nov. 6 statement said that Coyle’s case raises important questions about how the Church addresses sexual abuse.

“Bishop Nickless inherited many issues from the past. These are the ones we are dealing with today. One of the most difficult issues is this: where do we put known alleged abuser priests that are still alive, but have no charges against them? What do we do with these men? We know that you do not want them in your community. Many care facilities will not, or cannot, take them. Their families sometimes will take them in, but not always. They cannot go to a prison, as civil authorities say that the statute of limitations has run out to prosecute them. This leaves us with very few choices. We understand that the many members of the public are anxious and fearful about sex offenders, because the crime is so egregious. However, if they are not charged and sent to prison, there are few options for housing them.”

“Local Bishops do not have the authority to ‘defrock’ a priest, properly known as laicization. Laicization is a complicated process that is handled by the Vatican; however, a Bishop can remove a priest’s ability to function as a priest, and this has been done. Additionally, once laicized, Diocesan officials lose all ability to supervise formerly accused clergy,” the statement added.

“The Diocese of Sioux City does follow the Charter’s guidelines for all claims of abuse in the present day. As we follow up on past cases, we want to do that in a way that helps victims to feel that have some peace and justice. We set up a meeting on December 6, 2018 with the Attorney General of Iowa to discuss matters further. A list of credibly accused priests will be published, as soon as we know we have all of the information we need to move forward.”


Box set of Mother Angelica's spiritual writings released

Tue, 11/06/2018 - 14:39

Birmingham, Ala., Nov 6, 2018 / 12:39 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- EWTN released Thursday a box-set compilation of Mother Angelica’s spiritual writings.

The Spiritual Wisdom of Mother Angelica is a seven-book box set made up of pamphlets and mini-books she had written during the late 1970s. The writings were compiled by EWTN and the box set was released Nov. 1.

Father Joseph Wolfe, the chaplain for EWTN, said Mother Angelica's advice was relatable because she had undergone such sufferings as the divorce of her parents.

“She could speak to people because she understood. She could have compassion on their suffering because she knew what it was to suffer, lose heart and hope,” he told CNA.  

“She wanted to speak to the man in the pew so her teaching is not high theology… It was something that was practical, living it out in your day to day life.”

The seven books are titled: Praying with Mother Angelica, Christ and our Lady, Suffering and Burnout, Guide to the Sacraments, Prayer and Living for the Kingdom, Guide to Practical Holiness, and God: his Home and his Angels.

Wolfe said a good portion of these pamphlets were written by Mother Angelica during adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. The first book, Praying with Mother Angelica, involves her meditations on the rosary and other prayers.

“She would describe it as these booklets were born of light. That’s how she would describe this inspiration she would get when she was in adoration with the Blessed Sacrament,” he said.

After she would write down a spiritual topic, other sisters of Our Lady of the Angels monastery would copy them down in pamphlets and booklets. Wolfe said the distribution of these booklets helped promote Mother Angelica to the media world and create EWTN.

“She would write down these different spiritual topics and then … these little spiritual teachings were put into little booklets. These eventually got spread around and Mother started to get invitations to radio and television interviews, which led … [to] the beginning of EWTN.”

Wolfe said one of his favorite spiritual tidbits from the book involves a consistent theme Mother Angelica used throughout her ministry – the search for God in the present moment.

“Every moment in life is like a clean white sheet of paper on which we can write a new love song to the Lord,” Wolfe quoted from Prayer and Living for the Kingdom.

He explained that resentment can cause someone to live in the past and anxiety can force someone to live in the future, but neither of these states are really living.  

“We can live in the past, we can live in the future, but all we have is right now this present moment …which is all I have, is how I show my love for [God],” he said.

EWTN Global Catholic Network was launched in 1981 by Mother Angelica of the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration. The largest religious media network in the world, it reaches more than 275 million television households in more than 145 countries and territories.

In addition to 11 television channels in multiple languages, EWTN platforms include radio services through shortwave and satellite radio, SIRIUS/XM, iHeart Radio, and over 500 AM & FM affiliates. EWTN publishes the National Catholic Register, operates a religious goods catalogue, and in 2015 formed EWTN Publishing in a joint venture with Sophia Institute Press. Catholic News Agency is also part of the EWTN family.

Cardinal O'Malley elected chairman of Papal Foundation

Tue, 11/06/2018 - 11:52

Washington D.C., Nov 6, 2018 / 09:52 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston was elected chairman of the Papal Foundation’s board of trustees during a meeting in Washington, D.C. Oct. 30, taking over from Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who served in the position for eight years.

O’Malley has been a member of the foundation’s board for 12 years. He is also president of the Pontifical Council for the Protection of Minors and a member of Pope Francis’ Council of Cardinals.

The Philadelphia-based Papal Foundation gives grants in support of projects and proposals recommended by the Holy See. Since 1990, the foundation has given over $100 million in grants in service to the Catholic Church.

In a statement on his election, O'Malley praised the work of the foundation, through whose grants, he said, “families and individuals in underserved areas around the world have experienced profound improvements in their lives.”

“Churches, education and health care programs, evangelization and vocation efforts all have been made possible through the extraordinary generosity of the women and men who work closely with the Holy See in providing funding for our brothers and sisters in need,” he stated.

The foundation’s board of trustees voted Oct. 30 to approve $13 million in new scholarships and grants to go toward 127 projects worldwide.

The Papal Foundation is managed by a three-tiered board of trustees. American cardinals residing in the U.S. serve as ex officio members, and bishops and elected laity serve as trustees. Its members are Cardinals Sean O’Malley, Blase Cupich, Daniel DiNardo, Timothy Dolan, Roger Mahony, Adam Maida, Justin Rigali, Joseph Tobin, and Donald Wuerl.

In March, the Papal Foundation announced it would re-evaluate its mission and approach to grant-making following controversy over a $25 million grant from the foundation to a Rome hospital.

In 2017 Pope Francis asked CardinalWuerl for a $25 million grant through the foundation for the Church-owned hospital Istituto Dermopatico dell’Immacolata, which specializes in researching and treating skin diseases.

The Holy See later declined half the grant after objections from some board members. The critics went to the media, resulting in news coverage that questioned the integrity of the hospital and the wisdom of the foundation’s grant-making process.

The foundation responded to criticism by committing to taking any necessary corrective measures and pledging to provide members with the facts of the grant and a clearer understanding of the foundation’s mission and governance. It also committed itself “to renewing its bond of trust with the Holy See.”

In wealthy San Francisco, treatment of homeless draws UN condemnation

Tue, 11/06/2018 - 02:52

San Francisco, Calif., Nov 6, 2018 / 12:52 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As San Francisco prepares to consider a ballot measure to boost taxes for services to aid the homeless, a U.N. investigator has classed the treatment of the homeless in San Francisco and the Bay Area as a human rights violation.

Leilani Farha, the United Nations special rapporteur on adequate housing, visited the Bay Area and spoke with about 50 homeless people in San Francisco, Berkeley and Oakland.

She said she “can’t help but be completely shocked” by the treatment of the homeless.

“Every single person, whether it was in passing or in a long conversation, said they just want to be treated like a human being,” said Farha, a lawyer who lives in Canada. “What does that say? That is bleak.”

“I’m sorry, California is a rich state, by any measures, the United States is a rich country, and to see these deplorable conditions that the government is allowing, by international human rights standards, it’s unacceptable. I’m guided by human rights law,” she said, according to the news site SFGate.

The last count of homeless people in San Francisco alone estimated 7,500 people, though some believe they number between 10,000 and 12,000.

The city now spends $300 million annually on homelessness. In August 2016 it launched a unified Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing. The department has said its new counseling centers that aim to move people into permanent housing, known as Navigation Centers, have helped move over 1,500 very vulnerable people out of homelessness.

The median cost of a house in the city is $1.7 million, with an average salary for a tech worker $142,000, The Atlantic reports.

On Election Day 2018, San Francisco voters were set to decide on a ballot measure, Proposition C, which would fund homeless services by raising taxes on the largest companies to secure hundreds of millions of dollars in funding.

Due to complexities of San Francisco payroll tax, the ballot measure would mean higher taxes for bigger businesses with a high concentration of employees or revenue in San Francisco.

The measure has drawn opposition from several influential technology leaders, such as Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, but has the support of Mark Beinoff, CEO of Salesforce. The two have argued about the proposition on Twitter, with Dorsey saying the proposition could cost his payment processing company Square $20 million in taxes in 2019.

San Francisco mayor London Breed is worried the tax will cause companies with headquarters in the city to move elsewhere and take jobs with them. While saying its supporters are “well-intentioned,” the predicted long-term impacts on the city made him decide to oppose the measure.

A September poll showed 56 percent of voters backing the measure, though support dropped almost 10 points when pollsters told respondents how much it would cost in taxes, according to The Atlantic.

Farha’s report from the U.N. General Assembly, dated Sept. 29, is titled “On Adequate Housing as a Component of the Right to an Adequate Standard of Living.”

It addresses the Bay Area homeless situation in one section.

“Attempting to discourage residents from remaining in informal settlements or encampments by denying access to water, sanitation and health services and other basic necessities, as has been witnessed by the Special Rapporteur in San Francisco and Oakland, California, United States of America, constitutes cruel and inhuman treatment and is a violation of multiple human rights, including the rights to life, housing, health and water and sanitation,” the report said.

“Such punitive policies must be prohibited in law and immediately ceased,” it added.

The report said that after the U.N. Human Rights Committee voiced concern, the U.S. government introduced funding initiatives for municipalities to rescind laws that “criminalize homelessness.” However, the report advocated “more robust measures.”

Among those Farha spoke with were people living in an encampment before city officials ordered them to move during a “tent sweep.”

Such actions have negative consequences for people suffering homelessness, Farha said.

“It’s damaging because they always have to move,” she told SFGate. “They’re treated like nonentities.”

While officials sometimes say their confiscated belongings are put in storage, “more often they’ll dump everyone’s possessions into one dumpster.”

Farha said that in other countries of the world, such as the global south, there is a struggle to legalize encampments.

“Here, the struggle is simply to be able to create an encampment. In the south, there’s sort of a blind eye that has turned. Once an informal settlement is created, it’s established. Whereas here, they can’t create them.”

Resident complaints about tent encampments, needles and human feces topped 22,000 in 2016, five times the number reported the previous year.

Some tourism leaders in the city have said the homeless population and hygiene problems are causing a significant slow-down in tourism.

A 2016 count from the Department of Housing and Urban Development found almost 550,000 people to be homeless on a single night in January 2016. About 65 percent were individuals, while 35 percent were homeless as a family. About 40,000 were veterans.

California had about 22 percent of the total homeless population in the U.S., followed by New York with 16 percent and Florida with 6 percent.

The U.N. report criticized laws in rich countries that prevent the construction of rudimentary shelters by the homeless and criminalizes them even for eating and sleeping. States must help implement the right to basic housing as soon as possible, it said.

States must ensure that discrimination, harassment or criminalization on the basis of housing status are prohibited, the report continued. Informal settlements’ rights must be protected, and there must be rigorous action against forced eviction. The report said the judicial system should hear “systemic claims” related to inadequate budget allocations, failure to comply with homelessness response timelines and goals, and inadequate community engagement or collaboration.

The report was critical of police and security forces’ treatment of residents of informal settlements. In one instance cited, Canadian authorities spread chicken manure and fish fertilizer on an encampment to enforce a prohibition on overnight shelters in parks. After residents protested, a court ruled this prohibition a violation of constitutional rights.

Those who resist forced eviction and claim their right to housing must be treated as “human rights defenders” by authorities and security forces, said the U.N. report. The international community “should respond accordingly when their rights are violated.”


Buffalo diocese expands list of credibly accused clerics

Mon, 11/05/2018 - 19:32

Buffalo, N.Y., Nov 5, 2018 / 05:32 pm (CNA).- The Diocese of Buffalo is adding to their public list of clergy with credible allegations of sexual abuse against a minor.

Diocesan officials, including Bishop Richard Malone, held a press conference Nov. 5 during which they fielded questions from reporters about the investigation process for allegations of sexual abuse. Malone held a meeting with priests from across western New York earlier that day to discuss the current situation.

The new list contains an additional 20 names of clergy with “substantiated claims of sexual abuse of a minor,” as well as 16 names of clergy who were or are members of religious orders and had served in Buffalo.

The original list, published in March, included 42 names of accused priests. Leaked diocesan documents suggested that the diocese had received complaints against more than 100 priests when the list was created. Siobhan O’Connor, a former executive assistant to Malone, leaked the documents to a local television station.

Following O’Connor’s disclosure, Bishop Malone and diocesan officials are facing accusations that they culled a list of accused clergy in order to produce a “much lower number for the public to digest,” according to the investigative report from WKBW Channel 7.

Diocesan lawyer Lowler Quinlan stated at the press conference that the diocese had received 191 complaints of sexual abuse during 2018 alone; usually the diocese received an average of 11 complaints per year. This influx of cases meant the diocese had to take on additional staff, Quinlan said.

Bishop Malone admitted last week that he made mistakes in dealing with sexual abuse cases where adults were involved, but maintains that he has not mishandled allegations involving children. He also reiterated his decision not to resign.

The diocese has not released a list of clergy accused of sexual misconduct involving adults.

Sister Regina Murphy, chancellor of the diocese, is responsible for the files on accused priests. She told the press conference that she did an inventory in April of all the files in the diocese’ possession, and that they are “much better organized now.” She stated that there are no priests ordained in the last 20 years with an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor in the diocese.

Of the 132 clerics the diocese said its investigators had looked into so far, a total of 62 have now been publicly listed, and 45 are still living.

The list does not include the names of 48 deceased priests and 18 religious order priests with a single allegation against them; nor does it include 18 priests removed from ministry but whose cases have not yet been resolved. In some cases, abuse by a religious order priest did not occur within the Buffalo diocese, so their names also were not included.

In response to questions about why religious order priests were left off the original list, Quinlan said it was because the Diocese of Buffalo did not have the authority to discipline them. Regarding deceased priests with one allegation against them, Quinlan said that it would be unfair to the priest’s family to put them on the list since they would be unable to do anything to defend their own reputation. Beyond a single allegation, however, Quinlan said the bishop “made the call” and decided that it would be reasonable to include those names.

The list also does not include the names of four clerics whom the Diocesan Review Board cleared of sexual abuse charges.

Texas Senate race sparks debate in pro-life community  

Mon, 11/05/2018 - 18:11

Austin, Texas, Nov 5, 2018 / 04:11 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- After a pro-life leader said she is voting for a pro-choice Senate candidate because she believes he will best advance the cause of life, another pro-life advocate rejected this approach to fighting abortion.

Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa, founder of New Wave Feminists, said in an Oct. 31 column for the Dallas Morning News that she is voting this year for Democrat Beto O'Rourke, who is challenging incumbent Republican Ted Cruz for his seat in the Senate. O’Rourke has gained traction in the normally red state, and polls show a tight race ahead of the Nov. 6 election.

Currently a U.S. Representative, O’Rourke has said that he opposes efforts to limit abortion access. He is endorsed by NARAL Pro-Choice America, which gave him a “100% pro-choice” rating last year, noting his opposition to more than a dozen pro-life measures during that time.

Herndon-De La Rosa said that despite his voting record, she believes O’Rourke’s cooperative approach in seeking common-ground solutions will do the most to advance the pro-life cause.

She described O’Rourke as a “different” kind of candidate who “talked about working with Republicans and independents alike.”

Dr. Joe Pojman, executive director of Texas Alliance for Life, said that he believes this line of thinking is “deeply flawed and very unfortunate.”

He told CNA that it is a “fallacy” to believe that voting for candidates who favor legal abortion will bring about an end to abortions.

In her Dallas Morning News column, Herndon-De La Rosa explained that she had long accepted the belief that being pro-life meant voting Republican.

“[F]or years I reluctantly supported candidates who talked about making the sand glow in other countries with bombs and who advocated taking children away from their mothers, simply because unlike us, they hadn't won the geographic lottery,” she said.

These votes often felt difficult for her as an independent who does not completely agree with either major political party, and as a “consistent life ethicist,” who opposes “all forms of violence against other human beings, including war, torture, the death penalty and abortion.” But she believed that compromise was necessary, because the right to life was so foundational.

However, Herndon-De La Rosa said the 2016 presidential election was eye-opening for her, showing her “just how deep the GOP had its hooks in the pro-life movement.” She stressed that “while I am 100 percent pro-life, I'm also 100 percent feminist, and I saw the way Trump treated women as an absolute deal-breaker.”

“I saw the way these politicians used unborn children's lives to get out the vote but then oftentimes forgot about those lives soon after,” she said. “I saw the way pro-lifers compromised so many of their own upstanding ethics and morals to elect a man thrice married, who bragged about his infidelities and predatory behavior. And why? So they could get their Supreme Court seats.”

She said the final straw was watching Republican Senator Susan Collins agree to vote in favor of confirming Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh only when he said that Roe v. Wade was “settled law.”

This convinced Herndon-De La Rosa that abortion must be eradicated on a cultural, rather than legal, level – “by creating a post-Roe culture while Roe still stands.”

O’Rourke’s proposed policies and willingness to work across party lines, she said, will help address the factors that lead women to feel that they must choose abortion.

“Abortion becomes unnecessary when women have so much support from within their community that the one violent choice never even becomes an option in their minds,” Herndon-De La Rosa said. “Abortion becomes unthinkable when women of color realize that having their children will not cost them their own lives because we have men like O'Rourke actually addressing the disproportionate number of minorities and children dying during childbirth.”

However, Pojman countered that Texas already “provides a tremendous amount of help for pregnant women” and does much to offer alternatives to abortion.

The state has more than 200 pregnancy resource centers that offer free to help to women in need, he said, and some half of these centers receive state funding. In addition, the state’s social service network provides health care for more than half of the minors in Texas, and the majority of childbirths in Texas are funded by Medicaid.

Rather than advancing the pro-life movement, Pojman argued, “O’Rourke would be a disaster.”

“He has shown himself to be entirely hostile to protecting unborn children from abortion. He has voted to allow late abortions, he has voted to support tax funding for abortions. If he became senator and had his way, he would eliminate the Hyde Amendment, which has been demonstrated to have saved some 2 million babies from abortion since it was first implemented in the ‘70s.”

Texas Alliance for Life has enthusiastically endorsed Ted Cruz for Senate. Pojman pointed to Cruz’s consistent record of voting for pro-life measures, including a ban on late-term abortions and an end to federal funding of Planned Parenthood.

The U.S. bishops’ guide to political engagement, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, stresses the importance of examining issues rather than voting automatically for any political party. The bishops emphasize the right to life as a foundational human right in evaluating candidates and issues.

“As Catholics we are not single-issue voters. A candidate's position on a single issue is not sufficient to guarantee a voter's support,” the document says. “Yet if a candidate's position on a single issue promotes an intrinsically evil act, such as legal abortion, redefining marriage in a way that denies its essential meaning, or racist behavior, a voter may legitimately disqualify a candidate from receiving support.”


U.S. will remain committed to protecting the unborn at the U.N., Haley says

Mon, 11/05/2018 - 18:00

New York City, N.Y., Nov 5, 2018 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- As negotiations begin on the annual United Nations humanitarian assistance omnibus resolution, the United States will remain committed to protecting the fundamental right to life for the unborn, a spokesperson for U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley told CNA.


Each year, the United Nations drafts a resolution that outlines various priorities they would like to see member states promote or protect regarding humanitarian aid and human rights. Since 2015, this resolution has encouraged member states to ensure that women and girls had access to “sexual and reproductive health-care services.”


Included among the United Nations’ definition of “reproductive health-care services” are the promotion of safe abortions and access to contraceptives, which sit alongside treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, access to pre- and post-natal care, and the prevention of female genital mutilation.


These resolutions are not binding in international law, but do reflect internal United Nations priorities and policies. The repeated inclusion of “sexual and reproductive health” in resolutions could result, over a period of time, in the United Nations adopting abortion as a human right.


Some have speculated that Haley could move to strike the phrase from the resolution, which currently appears twice in draft copies.


When reached for comment, Haley’s press officer Andrea Stanford declined to comment on specific actions that the ambassador may take regarding the language of the resolution, citing the recent start of negotiations.


However, she told CNA that “in general the United States is a world leader in advancing the cause of human rights, the first and most fundamental of which is life.”


Stanford said that the United States would be “committed to advancing policies that protect the lives of the unborn,” in “all multilateral forums, including the United Nations” in which it is a member.


Haley, who served as United Nations ambassador since the beginning of the Trump presidency, announced in October that she will be stepping down from her position at the end of this year. During her resignation announcement, she denied rumors that she was considering a presidential run. President Trump praised the ambassador’s service, and said Haley was welcome back in his administration at any time.


Trump indicated on Monday that he is planning on announcing his new pick for U.N. ambassador at the end of this week.

Buffalo whisteblower says she leaked abuse documents 'out of love'

Mon, 11/05/2018 - 16:42

Buffalo, N.Y., Nov 5, 2018 / 02:42 pm (CNA).- The former Diocese of Buffalo employee who leaked internal diocesan documents to the press wrote in an op-ed Sunday that she shared the documents “out of love for the survivors, my diocese, my community and my Church.”

“What I was witnessing boggled my mind, broke my heart and burdened my soul. My conscience felt as though it were in a vise that was tightening at an alarming rate,” Siobhan O’Connor wrote Nov. 4th in the Buffalo News.

O’Connor wrote that while she was executive assistant to Buffalo’s Bishop Richard Malone, she would often field calls from survivors of sexual abuse.

“After hearing survivors’ accounts of the abuse they suffered and the trauma they are still enduring, I was overcome with the desire to assist them with more than a sympathetic ear and the promise of prayer.”
Some of the documents O’Connor leaked suggest that Malone worked with diocesan lawyers to avoid releasing publicly the names of some diocesan priests accused of misconduct.

Ultimately the diocese culled down a list of over one hundred clergy accused of “criminal, abusive or inappropriate behavior” to a final, publicly released list of just 42, the documents show.

O’Connor wrote that she was approached in late July by local reporter Charlie Specht from WKBW Channel 7. The local news station published an exhaustive investigative report Aug. 22-23, citing documents leaked by O’Connor indicating that Malone allowed priests to stay in ministry, despite multiple allegations against them.

O’Connor revealed her identity in the week leading up to her Oct. 28 interview on CBS’ “60 Minutes.” She said in her op-ed that she loved working for the diocese, and previously held the bishop “in the highest esteem,” as emails released by the diocese Oct. 30 showed.

“As I have stated publicly, I bear no ill will toward Bishop Malone...Indeed, I still care about him and pray for him with a sincere heart,” she wrote.

Malone said in a Nov. 2 interview on local radio station WBEN that he believed no laws were broken when the documents were leaked, and that he trusted O’Connor followed her conscience in doing what she did.

O’Connor thanked the diocese’ “many wonderful priests and deacons, who have suffered deeply throughout these long months...for their faithful fortitude” and expressed her wish to work with them to “rebuild our local church with courage and charity.”

She concluded by imploring Malone to live out his episcopal motto, “Live the Truth in Love;” while she reiterated her call for his resignation.

“Be truthful with us, Bishop Malone. Put an end to this toxic secrecy and painful silence,” she wrote.

“And, if you love us, begin the process of allowing new episcopal leadership to come to our diocese.”

Though Malone apologized to victims in his Nov. 3 radio interview, but said he does not plan to resign. He stated that while he admits he mishandled allegations of sexual abuse involving adults, he maintains that his “record handling misconduct allegations with children is good.”

Also on Nov. 3, the diocese placed two more priests, Msgr. Frederick R. Leising and Father Ronald P. Sajdak, on administrative leave after receiving abuse complaints against them. The investigation is ongoing, and the diocese did not specify whether the alleged abuse involved children.

‘Incredibles 2’ designer says God’s creation is his inspiration

Mon, 11/05/2018 - 15:30

Oakland, Calif., Nov 5, 2018 / 01:30 pm (CNA).- A Catholic designer has spoken about how God and his faith inform his work. As a visual set designer at Pixar Animation Studios, Philip Metschan helped create the environment of “Incredibles 2,” most notably, the superhero Parr family’s new home.


Metschan told CNA that one of his favorite parts of being an environment builder is getting to take inspiration from the real world, filtering it through his own experience “to produce a world that’s never existed – fantastic things that no one has ever seen before.”


“I am definitely someone who likes to be out in nature and out in the world and experiencing it, because I think there are strong narratives that are created just from the existence of these places,” he said, adding that for him it is not possible to separate creation from the Creator.


“In a sense, I feel like whenever I’m using [real-world environments] as inspiration, I’m using [God] as inspiration,” he explained.


“Incredibles 2,” a sequel to the 2004 “Incredibles” movie, follows the adventures of a family of superheroes living in a world which is losing faith in people with incredible abilities.


A feature he appreciates about the stories told by Pixar, he said, is the importance placed on very universal themes, such as family, friendship, and other core principles. “Though we use these fantastic characters to do it, universal emotions are all very central,” he stated.


Though the stories are secular, Metschan also said he thinks each person can bring his or her own faith background to the viewing and find something to take away.


In “Incredibles 2,” for example, the goal of the movie’s villain is to “get rid of superheroes, because of her notion that having special people among us makes us weak, that we rely on these people instead of relying on ourselves,” Metschan said.


“As it relates to our Catholic faith, I would say that [the world’s] current heroes are not made of the stuff we would want them to be made of,” he said. “They’re not heroes for the reasons that I think we as Catholics look to our ‘heroes’ for, and the reason we venerate them.”


Thankfully, “I think we still have the choice to choose our heroes,” he said.


As an artist, too, Metschen said it is easy to be aware of the existence of divine inspiration, and that this insight comes with a responsibility to create something which serves others.


As an artist, “you feel like you’ve been given some kind of special skill, or a special view of how to execute these new things and you also feel a responsibility that these things you create will be positive and enlightening.”

Peace Cross case headed to Supreme Court

Mon, 11/05/2018 - 14:00

Washington D.C., Nov 5, 2018 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- The Supreme Court will once again consider the legality of religious monuments on public land during the current session.

The Court announced November 2 that it had granted certiorari to Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission v. American Humanist Association.

The case concerns the so-called “Peace Cross” in Prince George’s County, Maryland, erected in honor of soldiers who lost their lives in World War I. In 2014, the American Humanist Association, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that promotes “secular humanist” beliefs, filed suit against the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission because of the shape of the monument.

The monument was erected in 1925, and was paid for by mothers of soldiers killed in the war. It lists the names of 49 members of the local community who died in service, as well as the seal of the American Legion and the words “valor,” “endurance,” “courage,” and “devotion” on the four branches.

The American Legion regularly hosts secular, patriotic events around the monument, and there has not been any sort of religious ceremony involving the cross in 87 years.

The American Humanist Association, along with a few local residents who joined the suit, argue that the cross-monument is an endorsement of Christianity on public land, and thus a violation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.

The Establishment Clause prohibits the government from establishing a state religion or giving preference to one religious belief over another.  

The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission has performed regular maintenance around the monument since 1961, as it is located on a median in the middle of a public road. This, the American Humanist Association has argued, is entangling government unnecessarily with religion.

The American Humanist Association had also sued the American Legion regarding the cross, but the cases were consolidated into one when they were granted certiorari.

The lawsuit was originally brought in 2014 and rejected by the District Court, which held that it was “uncontroverted” that the maintenance and display of the memorial was not “driven by a religious purpose whatsoever.”

In 2017, after the District Court initially rejected the case, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the monument was, in fact, unconstitutional. This ruling was then appealed to the Supreme Court.

The upcoming decision would impact not only the “Peace Cross,” but also other religious-themed monuments on public land, including Arlington National Cemetery. Currently, the law is unclear as to what exactly constitutes a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment when it concerns religious-themed monuments.

The last time the Supreme Court was presented with controversy over a religious monument on public grounds was in 2005, when they ruled that a 10 Commandments monument at the Texas State Capitol did not violate the Establishment Clause. Chief Justice William Rehnquist wrote the plurality opinion.

In his concurring opinion, Justice Stephen Breyer argued that while the 10 Commandments certainly has a religious connection, the context and location of that specific monument played a role in its constitutionality. These factors, as well as the fact that in its 40-year history no one had complained about it until the plaintiff brought suit, it was part of the “broader moral and historical message reflective of a cultural heritage” on display at the Capitol.

Man issued trespassing warning after disturbance at EWTN Mass

Sun, 11/04/2018 - 18:12

Irondale, Ala., Nov 4, 2018 / 04:12 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- EWTN Global Catholic Network has called for prayers for a man who caused a disturbance during the network’s televised Mass Nov. 4.

“We ask that our EWTN family keep this individual in their prayers,” said EWTN Chairman and CEO Michael Warsaw in a Nov. 4 statement. 

The man reportedly caused a disturbance and attempted to approach the altar during the 7:00 a.m. live televised Mass on EWTN.

EWTN security personnel promptly removed the man from the chapel. Local police detained the man and issued him a warning for trespassing. 

No one was injured in the incident and the Mass continued without issue, said Warsaw. 

EWTN Global Catholic Network was launched in 1981 by Mother Angelica of the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration. The largest religious media network in the world, it reaches more than 275 million television households in more than 145 countries and territories.

In addition to 11 television channels in multiple languages, EWTN platforms include radio services through shortwave and satellite radio, SIRIUS/XM, iHeart Radio, and over 500 AM & FM affiliates. EWTN publishes the National Catholic Register, operates a religious goods catalogue, and in 2015 formed EWTN Publishing in a joint venture with Sophia Institute Press. Catholic News Agency is also part of the EWTN family.

Trump declares National Adoption Month, says ‘every child is wanted’

Sun, 11/04/2018 - 15:30

Washington D.C., Nov 4, 2018 / 01:30 pm (CNA).- President Donald Trump issued a presidential proclamation Oct. 31 declaring November 2018 to be “National Adoption Month.”


The president called adoption a “life-changing act” and a “blessing for all involved.”


In addition to assisting families who seek to adopt, Trump said, “we must also encourage all Americans to recognize that adoption is a powerful way to show women they are not alone in an unexpected pregnancy.”


“Adoption affirms the inherent value of human life and signals that every child ‑‑ born or unborn ‑‑ is wanted and loved,” read Trump’s proclamation.


“Children, regardless of race, sex, age, or disability, deserve a loving embrace into families they can call their own.”


National Adoption Month will honor the thousands of families in this country who chose to adopt, said Trump.


Trump also highlighted the plight of the nation’s growing foster-care system, and said that he appealed to “families, communities, and houses of worship across our great Nation to help these children find a permanent home.”


The president said it was “unfortunate” that many children in the foster system reach the age of 18 without being adopted, and that “these children deserve a permanent family” that will provide them with love and stability.


Trump’s inclusion of “houses of worship” was noteworthy. Currently, there are several cases ongoing in which faith-based foster agencies are suing localities after being denied contracts, or shut out entirely, from the foster-care process due to their religious beliefs.


This is the second year Trump has recognized National Adoption Month. The tradition of presidents promoting adoption began in 1984, when President Ronald Reagan declared one week in November to be “National Adoption Week.” In 1995, President Bill Clinton expanded the awareness campaign into a month.


National Adoption Day, a separate event first observed in 2000, is celebrated the Saturday before Thanksgiving. On this day, thousands of children throughout the country who are being adopted from foster care have their adoptions finalized. National Adoption Day also seeks to raise awareness of the more than 100,0000 American children living in the foster care system who are eligible for adoption.


In the United States, the average foster child waits for three years before being adopted. Each year, about 2,000 children age out of the system without being placed in a permanent home.

USCCB General Assembly: Committee elections preview

Sat, 11/03/2018 - 16:00

Washington D.C., Nov 3, 2018 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- When the United States Conference of Catholic Bishop convenes next week, much of the attention with focus on how the bishops will address the recent clerical abuse scandals. But the bishops will also be electing new leadership for six of the conference committees.


The USCCB will gather in Baltimore for its general assembly Nov. 12-14. On the ballot will be candidates for the chairman of the Committee on Catholic Education Committee, as well as the chairmen-elect of five other committees: Clergy, Consecrated Life, and Vocations; Divine Worship; Domestic Justice and Human Development; Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth; and Migration.


The chairman-elect serves for one year shadowing the current chairman before assuming the role for a three-year term of office.


Conference members will also vote for a treasurer-elect for the USCCB. The office of treasurer manages the conference’s funds and sits as vice-chairman on the Committee on Priorities and Plans.


The current treasurer is Archbishop Dennis Schnurr of Cincinnati. Candidates to succeed him are Bishop Gregory Parkes of St. Petersburg, Florida, who worked in the banking industry for several years before entering the seminary and being ordained, and Archbishop Charles Thompson of Indianapolis, who holds a bachelor's degree in accounting.


The current chairman for the Committee on Catholic Education is Bishop John Quinn of Winona. The committee seeks to guide the educational mission of the Catholic Church and advocates for public policies aligned with Catholic values.


The bishops nominated to follow him are Bishop Michael Barber of Oakland, who has served as the Director of the School of Pastoral Leadership in the Archdiocese of San Francisco, and Bishop David Malloy of Rockford, who has degrees in biology, theology, and canon law.


The Committee on Clergy is currently headed by Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark and produces and coordinates documents and resources for vocational promotion and discernment. The potential chairmen-elect are Bishop James Checchio of Metuchen, and Bishop Michael Olson of Fort Worth.


Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta is entering his final year as the head of the Committee for Divine Worship, which is responsible for matters related to Latin rite liturgy in the U.S. The candidates for chairman-elect are Archbishop Leonard Blair of Hartford, who has served on several conference committees, including those on evangelization and doctrine, and Bishop David Ricken of Green Bay, who is a member of the Bishops’ Advisory Council for the Institute for Priestly Formation.


The Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, now led by Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, advises the U.S. bishops on national issues relating to human dignity, development, and poverty.


Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City and Archbishop John Wester of Santa Fe have been nominated to succeed him. Wester has previously served as a member on the bishops’ committee on migration.


Archbishop Charles Chaput is now in the final year of his term as chairman of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth, he will be replaced by either Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco or Bishop John Doerfler of Marquette.


Cordileone has served on the Governing Board of the International Theological Institute, while Doerfler has previously led the Marriage Research Committee of the Canon Law Society of America.


The Committee on Migration is currently chaired by Bishop Joe Vásquez of Austin. The committee seeks to provide awareness of and responses to the plight of immigrants, human trafficking, and refugees.


Washington, D.C. auxiliary Bishop Mario Dorsonville-Rodriguez of Washington, who has served as the director of the Spanish Catholic Center in Washington, and Bishop John Stowe of Lexington are the candidates to succeed him.

Regis University provost encourages faculty to attend campus ‘drag show’

Fri, 11/02/2018 - 21:00

Denver, Colo., Nov 2, 2018 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- The provost of Denver’s Regis University has encouraged faculty members to attend a student drag show on the university campus, and to take in-class measures intended to support the gender identity preferences of students.

An Oct. 29 letter from university provost Janet Houser and the university’s Queer Resource Alliance noted that “this week has been a challenging one for our LGBTQIA community at Regis, with recent reports indicating that the Trump administration is considering policy changes that would eliminate federal protections for transgender people.”

“Our Jesuit values call us to respect the human dignity of all individuals, to care for the whole person, and to serve the most marginalized members of our society.”

The letter referred to an October announcement that the Department of Health and Human Services would seek to define gender “on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable,” for the purposes of the federal Title IX program.

In response, Regis faculty were encouraged to “remember that you may have students in your class classroom (including out queer students, students from queer families, queer students who are not out yet, and others) struggling with this news and its implications.”

To “support your LGBTQIA students, especially transgender students,” the provost suggested faculty members attend an on-campus “Drag Show featuring student performers,” along with other campus events commemorating the “Transgender Day of Remembrance,” on Nov. 15.

A Regis University spokesperson told CNA that “our Jesuit values call on us to respect the human dignity of all individuals, to care for the whole person, and to serve the most marginalized members of our society. Our faculty and staff strive to care for all our students with the respect, sensitivity and compassion they deserve, and to celebrate everyone’s gifts. We will continue to do so in manner that fulfills our mission and upholds our Catholic, Christian conviction that all lives are sacred.”

The Oct. 29 letter also encouraged professors to “avoid phrases that reinforce the gender binary, such as ‘ladies and gentlemen,’” “assign readings by queer, and especially transgender, authors,” and “add your preferred gender pronouns to your email signature (for example, "she/her/hers").”

Additionally, faculty members were encouraged to refer to students by their preferred names and gender pronouns, and to indicate their intention to do so on course syllabi.

“Ask students to give their names and preferred gender pronouns on the first day of class, and avoid reading from off the roster. You may read a student's ‘dead name’-a legal name that they no longer go by-which can be very upsetting for transgender students to hear,” the letter said.

The Queer Resource Alliance is a university-sponsored organization, that, according to the university’s website, “aims to create an inclusive, equitable, and supportive environment for community members of all orientations and gender identities by providing leadership, education, and advocacy related to challenges and issues faced by Regis LGBTQIA+ faculty, staff, students.”

The alliance offers a “Brave Space” training program, comprised of a “3-hour ‘Gender and Sexuality 101’ training meant to introduce Regis community members to issues and terminology relevant to LGBTQIA people, as well as how to be an ally to the queer community.”  

A university spokesperson told CNA that “young LGBTQIA people are among the most vulnerable in our society -- these youth seriously contemplate suicide at three times the rate of heterosexual youth; almost half of all transgender people have attempted suicide – thus compassion and welcoming arms to provide a safe, warm environment is an imperative for all educators.”

In the 2015 apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis condemned an “ideology of gender” that “leads to educational programs and legislative enactments that promote a personal identity and emotional intimacy radically separated from the biological difference between male and female.”

Although the letter’s recommendations are not officially university policy, Houser is the chief academic officer at Regis. The university’s website notes that Houser “serves as acting president in the extended absence of Father Fitzgibbons.”

“The provost shared the Queer Resource Alliance’s recommendations on how to advise all faculty on how they can best fulfill our mission. This includes being aware of readings that reflect a diversity of thought and lived experience whenever possible and appropriate. We are in the business of creating an environment in which all of our students can succeed academically, and support for LGBTQIA students is in line with this goal,” a Regis spokesperson told CNA.

Regis is a Catholic university sponsored by the Society of Jesus, and founded in 1877.

“Standing within the Catholic and United States traditions, we are inspired by the particular Jesuit vision of Ignatius Loyola. This vision challenges us to attain the inner freedom to make intelligent choices,” the university’s mission statement says.


Bishop Malone says he has never mishandled child abuse allegations

Fri, 11/02/2018 - 19:01

Buffalo, N.Y., Nov 2, 2018 / 05:01 pm (CNA).- The Bishop of Buffalo said Friday that although he admits he mishandled allegations of sexual abuse involving adults, he maintains that his “record handling misconduct allegations with children is good.”

Bishop Richard Malone said the diocese has never failed an annual audit determining if the diocese is in compliance with the 2002 Charter for the Protection of Young People.

“I still will say until my dying day: I have not made that mistake in dealing with allegations with children...My mistakes were when [allegations] came in involving an adult,” the bishop said.

Malone spoke Nov. 2 on local radio station WBEN, apologizing to victims and telling radio hosts that he does not plan to resign, despite the presence this morning of several protestors outside diocesan headquarters calling for his resignation. Malone is more than two years away from submitting his resignation on his 75th birthday, as required by canon law.

“There have been times through this whole horrible scenario when I’ve been embarrassed to be a bishop,” Malone said.

“The leadership of the Church has often not responded adequately to this crisis, and in response to victims, and I do get it...I just tell people of faith to focus on Jesus, and count on that.”

Questions about past cases

Malone was questioned about the case of Fr. Art Smith, who was placed on leave in 2011 after the mother of a boy at St. Mary of the Lake school complained that the priest was sending inappropriate Facebook messages to her son.

While Malone’s predecessor suspended Smith, Malone reinstated him in 2012, after the accused priest spent time in a Philadelphia treatment center, according to an investigation by local news station WKBW.

“Maybe I could have looked at it in a different way,” Malone said.

“We had decided with Art Smith— because, again, the Facebook incident did not rise technically to be sexual abuse— to keep him in some limited ministry,” Malone told WBEN.

Malone pointed out that he did not again assign Smith to a parish setting. Despite this, the WKBW investigation revealed that while working in nursing home, Smith heard confessions at a diocesan Catholic youth conference attended by hundreds of teenagers in 2013. There were also reports of inappropriate conduct with adults in the nursing home.

“That backfired, too, because even sending him to work in a nursing home...nothing happened with children, but there were some inappropriate actions with adults. So we were dealing with him, but not in a way that I would do now. I admit my failure there,” the bishop said.

He also signed off for Smith to become a chaplain on a cruise ship in 2015, and the bishop said now he is “kicking [himself] for that.”

In another case discussed up by the WBEN hosts, Father Robert Yetter was accused of misconduct during 2017-18. After an allegation surfacted, he met with Buffalo auxiliary bishop Edward Grosz, who referred him for counseling.

After another allegation was leveled against Yetter in Aug. 2018, Malone placed him on administrative leave, but reportedly wrote in an email: “We have no obligation, I believe, to report to [the media] or anyone else on adult misconduct allegations.” Neither canon law nor the state law of New York would have required Malone formally to report an allegation of sexual contact with an adult by a cleric.


Responding to a whistleblower

During the Nov. 2 interview, Malone also was asked about a recent “60 Minutes” interview with  former diocesan employee Siobhan O’Connor, who leaked internal documents from the bishop’s office that purported to show that the diocese knowingly omitted some priests from a list it published in March of clergy credibly accused of sexual abuse.

Malone said he believed no laws were broken when the documents were leaked, and that he trusted O’Connor followed her conscience in doing what she did.  
Malone also responded to a specific claim made in the “60 Minutes” report, saying he does not know of any priests currently in ministry in the diocese who have “allegations of any sort of assault” against children.

“I will maintain with the clearest of consciences that there are not eight or nine priests [in the diocese] with allegations of abuse of a minor. “60 Minutes” reported that, and it is false,” Malone said.

“Tell us who they are. If they’re out there and they’re guilty of abuse, tell me and I’ll pull them out.”


Recent and current investigations

Malone did not specify whether he was considering allegations against currently active priests that had not been deemed credible.

The diocese conducted an investigation in June resulting in three priests being being placed on administrative leave, but allegations against Fr. Dennis Riter were found not to be credible, according to local media, and he was returned to ministry at a parish in Dunkirk, New York.

Independent investigator Scott Riordan and the diocesan review board conducted the investigation, but reportedly did not give a public explanation as to why the allegations were not found to be credible.

In June lawyers representing Riter's alleged victims called his reinstatement a "startling and dangerous decision" and the alleged victims filed a lawsuit against the bishop and the diocese, claiming the diocese was engaged in an effort to hide the names of accused priests from the public.

The diocese announced Oct. 31 that it had placed Fr. Michael Juran on administrative leave after receiving a credible allegation of sexual abuse against him. The current lay investigator for the diocese, Steven Halter, was an FBI special agent for more than 27 years and worked with the Buffalo FBI Evidence Response Team to investigate the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Malone said that since 2001, all diocese have been required to report all credible allegations of sexual abuse to the Vatican, but added that before he became bishop in 2012, that didn’t always happen in the Buffalo diocese. He said he wished to ask his predecessors why that was the case.

Before Nov. 2, the diocese was not required to report by local prosecutors to civil authorities any allegation of sexual abuse made more than five years after it happened, and more than five years after the victim's 18th birthday. The Erie County District Attorney has now changed changed a 2003 memorandum of understanding with the diocese, and it is  required to report those cases.


Clergy sex abuse on the rise again, and church leaders are ignoring why, sociologist says

Fri, 11/02/2018 - 17:13

Denver, Colo., Nov 2, 2018 / 03:13 pm (CNA).- After years in decline, Catholic clergy sex abuse could be on the rise again, warns a professor-priest’s analysis of relevant data.

The professor’s report sees a rising trend in abuse, and argues that the evidence strongly suggests links between sexual abuse of minors and two factors: a disproportionate number of homosexual clergy, and the manifestation of a “homosexual subculture” in seminaries.
“The thing we’ve been told about the sex abuse is that it is somehow very rare and declined to almost nothing today is really not true,” Father D. Paul Sullins, a Catholic priest and retired Catholic University of America sociology professor, told a Nov. 2 press conference.
“I found that clergy sex abuse did drop to almost nothing after 2002, but then it started to creep up,” he continued. “It’s been increasing. And there are signs that the bishops or the dioceses have gotten complacent about that.”
“It’s not at the great heights that it was in the mid-1970s, but it’s rising. And it’s headed in that direction,” he added.
Clergy sex abuse incidence is today about one third as common as in the late 1980s. While sex abuse by clergy is “much lower” than 30 years ago, it has not declined “as much as is commonly thought.” Most of the decline since the 1990s is consistent with “a similar general decline in child sex abuse in America since that time,” Sullins’ report said.
The decline is not necessarily related to measures taken by the U.S. bishops. Sullins told the press conference he saw no link between a decline in abuse and the implementation of the U.S. bishops’ 2002 Charter for the Protection of Children and Young Adults.
“Recent experience calls into question whether the current understanding of the nature of the abuse and how to reduce it is accurate or sufficient,” said Sullins in his report.

Efforts to address clergy abuse must acknowledge both “the recent increase of abuse amid growing complacency” and the “very strong probability” that the surge in abuse in past and present is “a product, at least in part, of the past surge and present concentration of homosexual men in the Catholic priesthood.”
The report was released Nov. 2 by the Louisiana-based Ruth Institute, where Sullins is a senior research associate. It has been reviewed by several scholars, including four social scientists, and is planned to be included in an upcoming book.
His study aimed to address a common question: is the sex abuse related in any way to homosexual men in the priesthood?
“I hear on the one hand denial of that, almost without even thinking about it, and I also hear advocacy of that, almost without even thinking about it,” Sullins said Nov. 2. “The question comes up logically because the vast majority of victims were boys. Usually in sex abuse of minors, two-thirds of victims are girls.”
Sullins’ report is titled “Is Catholic clergy sex abuse related to homosexual priests?” and he does not avoid the sometimes controversial question. The report compares “previously unexamined measures of the share of homosexual Catholic priests” and the incidence and victim gender of minor sex abuse victims by Catholic priests from 1950 to 2001.
Sullins’ sources included a 2002 survey of 1,854 priests by the Los Angeles Times that included questions about respondents’ sexual orientation, age, year of ordination, and whether they thought there was a homosexual subculture in their seminary. He measured abuse using data provided by the authors of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice reports, which themselves used reports of abuse provided by Catholic dioceses.
“Although over 8 in 10 of victims have been boys, the idea that the abuse is related to homosexual men in the priesthood has not been widely accepted by Church leaders,” said Sullins.
“(T)he data show that more homosexual men in the priesthood was correlated with more overall abuse and more boys abused compared to girls,” he added.
The increase or decrease in the percent of male victims correlated “almost perfectly” with the increase or decrease of homosexual men in the priesthood, he said, citing a 0.98 correlation. While the correlation was lower among victims under age 8, it was “lower but still strong,” 0.77. The statistical association between homosexual priests and abuse incidence was “extremely strong,” given that this scale ranges from -1.0, an inverse correlation, to 1.0, an absolute positive correlation.
Such results were “as close as you can get to a perfect correlation as I have ever seen,” Sullins said Nov. 2, adding that researchers usually consider correlation association above 0.3 or 0.4 to be a strong effect.
He took care to say it is the disproportionate presence of homosexual men in the priesthood, not the simple presence of any homosexual men, that appears to be the major factor.
“What I say in the paper is that when homosexual men were represented in the priesthood at about the same rate as they were in the population, there was no measurable problem of child sex abuse,” Sullins said. “It was only when you had a preponderance of homosexual men.”
The percentage of homosexual men in the general population is estimated at two percent. In the 1950s, homosexual men in the priesthood were about twice their percentage in the general population, making up four percent. in the 1980s they were eight times the percentage in the general population, 16 percent, according to Sullins.
“When you get up to 16 percent of priests that are homosexual, and you’ve got eight times the proportion of homosexuals as you do in the general population, it’s as if the priesthood becomes a particularly welcoming and enabling and encouraging population for homosexual activity and behavior,” he said Nov. 2.
Sullins was clear he wanted to avoid recommending any particular action based on his research.
“I would certainly not recommend that we remove all homosexuals from the priesthood,” he said. “The reason for that is: the abuse is not necessarily related to someone’s sexual orientation.” He cited his knowledge of men with same-sex attraction who are “strong, faithful persons,” adding “I would hate to have some sort of litmus test for that.”
If the Catholic Church in the U.S. were like most institutions, where two-thirds of abuse victims were female, people would reject the suggestion to eliminate all heterosexual men from the priesthood. That suggestion would be an “ideological reaction,” he said.
He suggested the priesthood should reflect the general population, as a sign priests are selected for “holiness and commitment to Christ and the things that we would hope would make for a good priest.”
“When you start to get a larger proportion of homosexuals It looks like you are actually selecting for same-sex orientation,” he said.
Seminary candidates have reported about the problems this disproportion creates, he continued. According to Sullins, Donald Cozzens' 2000 book “The Changing Face of the Priesthood” discusses accounts of homosexual students being so prevalent at some seminaries that heterosexual men felt destabilized and disoriented and left.
“That’s not a positive outcome. I do not think we would want to have that proportion of a homosexual culture in the priesthood,” said Sullins.
There appear to be verifiable trends in increases and decreases in the ordinations of homosexual priests.
“From 1965 to 1995 an average of at least one in five priests ordained annually were homosexual, a concentration which drove the overall proportion of homosexual men in the priesthood up to 16 percent, or one in six priests, by the late 1990s,” said Sullins’ report.
“This trend was strongly correlated with increasing child sex abuse,” he said.
Drawing on his findings, Sullins predicted that if the proportion of homosexual priests remained at the 1950s level “at least 12,000 fewer children, mostly boys, would have suffered abuse,” he said. As a percentage, this means abuse would have been about 85 percent lower.
The presence of homosexual subcultures in seminaries, as reported by priests considering their own seminary life, accounts for about half the incidence of abuse, but apparently not among heterosexual men.
“Homosexual subcultures encouraged greater abuse, but not by heterosexual men, just by homosexual men,” Sullins said Nov. 2. He suggested these subcultures encourage those who may have been attracted to male victims to act out more than would have been the case otherwise.
Sullins, a former Episcopal priest, has been married for 30 years and has three children. He was ordained to the Catholic priesthood in 2002 by then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington.
“I was surprised and shocked, like most of us earlier this year, to hear about Cardinal McCarrick,” Sullins said. “I was particularly impressed by that because I was ordained by Cardinal McCarrick in 2002, and probably knew him better than most people would have.”
His report follows the June revelations that former Archbishop McCarrick was credibly abused of sex assault on a minor, revelations which prompted men to come forward saying he had sexually abused them as seminarians—and prompted Pope Francis to accept the archbishop’s almost unprecedented resignation from the cardinalate. McCarrick was deeply influential and had been a leading personality in the U.S. bishops’ response to the 2002 scandals.
In August, a Pennsylvania grand jury released its report on Catholic clergy sex abuse in six dioceses. It tallied over 1,000 credible accusations against hundreds of priests over decades, though many of these accusations had been reported in 2004.
“What was new in 2018 was not primarily the revelation of abuse by priests, but of a possible pattern of resistance, minimization, enablement and secrecy—a ‘cover-up’—on the part of bishops,” said Sullins, who used some of the grand jury report data for his study.
As part of the U.S. bishops’ response to the first sex abuse scandal in 2002, the John Jay College of Criminal Justice issued two bishop-commissioned reports: a 2004 report on the nature and scope of clergy sex abuse and a 2011 report on the causes and context of sex abuse.
Sullins criticized the 2011 report’s claim that sex abuse perpetrators are mainly “situational or opportunistic” and the sex of the victim is less relevant to them. In his view, multiple offenders “abused a higher proportion of male victims than did single offenders, and the proportion increased with higher numbers of victims.” If multiple offenders were better at acquiring victims, “they appear to have used their skills to obtain access to more boys, not fewer.”
Abuse of girls dropped off at the same rate in the 1980s and 1990s, and the data suggest that as girls became more prevalent in priestly life, such as in the introduction of altar girls, abusers of boys “responded to the presence of fewer younger boys primarily by turning to older boys, not to female victims.”
For clergy offenders who were “classic or fixated pedophiles,” targeting only victims under age eight, they still strongly preferred male victims, “conditional on higher proportions of homosexual men in the priesthood.”
Sex abuse by Catholic clergy is “substantially less” than in similar institutions or communities, but it is notable that underage victims of sex assault by Catholic priests in U.S. Catholic parishes and schools have been “overwhelmingly male,” said Sullins. Comparable reports in Germany indicate that up to 90 percent of abuse victims of Catholic clergy have been male, compared to about half of victims in Protestant or non-religious settings in that country.
Some Catholic commentators have blamed clericalism for the abuse. Pope Francis’ August 20 letter on sex abuse, which did not mention homosexuality, said communities where sexual abuse and “the abuse of power and conscience” have taken place are characterized by efforts to reduce the Catholic faithful to “small elites” or otherwise replace, silence or ignore them.
“To say ‘no’ to abuse is to say an emphatic ‘no’ to all forms of clericalism,” the Pope said.
In a May 21, 2018 audience with Italian bishops, the Pope said it is better not to let seminary candidates enter if they have “even the slightest doubt” about the fitness of individuals with homosexual “deep-seated tendencies” or who practice “homosexual acts,” but want to enter the seminary.
These acts or deep-seated tendencies can lead to scandals and can compromise the life of the seminary, as well as the man himself and his future priesthood, he said, according to Vatican Insider.
A 2016 document from the Vatican’s Congregation for Clergy, “The Gift of the Priestly Vocation,” cites a 2005 Vatican document which says: “the Church, while profoundly respecting the persons in question, cannot admit to the seminary or to holy orders those who practice homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called ‘gay culture’.”
The bishops’ 2002 child protection charter drew criticism from Sullins. Its failure to acknowledge that bishops can commit abuse or cover up abuse “seemed to confirm the suggestion of a cover-up: indeed, to the extent bishops may have covered up priestly misbehavior, the charter itself may have covered up episcopal misbehavior.”
He faulted the 2011 John Jay report on the causes and context of clergy sex abuse, which said that a reported increase in homosexual men in seminaries in the 1980s did not correspond to the number of boys abused. Sullins noted that the authors acknowledged they did not collect or examine direct data on priests’ sexual identity and any changes in it over the years. They relied on “subjective clinical estimates and second-hand narrative reports of apparent homosexual activity in seminaries,” Sullins said.
The Ruth Institute, which published Sullins’ report, was founded in 2008 by Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, an economics-trained author and writer on marriage, family and human sexuality. She served as spokesperson for Proposition 8, the California ballot measure which defined marriage as a union of one man and one woman. The institute was backed by the National Organization for Marriage Education Fund until 2013.
Groups including the Human Rights Campaign, GLAAD, and the Southern Poverty Law Center have criticized the Ruth Institute’s stance against same-sex marriage and other LGBT causes.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which originally monitored foes of the civil rights movement, in the 1980s began tracking neo-Nazi groups and Ku Klux Klan affiliates. In recent years it has listed mainstream groups like the Ruth Institute, the Family Research Council and Alliance Defending Freedom as “hate groups” for their “anti-LGBT” stance.
In an Aug. 23, 2017 response to the listing, the Ruth Institute said it “categorically condemns white supremacy, racism, Nazism, and all violent totalitarian political movements.”
“People who cannot defend their positions using reason and evidence resort to name-calling to change the subject away from their anemic arguments,” the institute said. “The ‘hate group’ label is a club such people invented to bludgeon their political opponents.”


NY's Bishop John Jenik abused others, alleged victim says

Fri, 11/02/2018 - 16:40

New York City, N.Y., Nov 2, 2018 / 02:40 pm (CNA).- The alleged victim of New York’s Bishop John Jenik spoke at a Nov. 1 press conference about his experiences with the bishop, which he said involved years of sexual abuse.

Jenik, an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of New York, maintains his innocence.

Michael Meenan, 52, said that Jenik cultivated an inappropriate relationship with him during the 1980s that involved dozens of trips upstate to Jenik's country house, where he allegedly was groped while in bed with Jenik.

“[Jenik] began taking me on and spending time with me as a means of cultivating a relationship that was immoral, inappropriate, and in some instances illegal,” Meenan said, calling it “the greatest evil I have witnessed in my lifetime.”

Meenan, speaking to reporters outside St. Patrick’s Cathedral, said the abuse took place roughly between the ages of 13 and 17. He claimed Jenik, who was then pastor of a Bronx parish, targeted him because the priest knew that family issues at home made Meenan vulnerable.

When asked why he chose to report the allegation after so many years, he said God told him in prayer that he should “tell the truth.”

Meenan described himself as “an Ivy League graduate living on food stamps” and said his life is “in a ditch.”

As a freelance journalist for the New York Times, Meenan said he occasionally wrote stories about clerical sexual abuse. He also said he would discourage fellow reporters from writing positive stories about Jenik’s work in the local community, adding that he had related his abuse experience in “informal conversations” with some reporters.

“I am John Jenik’s worst nightmare,” he said. “And I’m here to tell you I’m not the only [victim]. There are others.”

Meenan’s allegation was reviewed by the Lay Review Board of the Archdiocese of New York, which concluded “the evidence is sufficient to find the allegation credible and substantiated.”

“Jenik did nothing to make sure that I grew up as a proud gay man,” Meenan stated.

“He made sure to scramble my brain as much as possible with alcohol and immoral behavior, so I could not stand here today to tell you this story.”

He said Jenik celebrated the marriage of his sister and baptised two of his nieces.

This is Meenan’s second sex abuse case involving the Church; the first involved a religion teacher at Fordham Prep, who reportedly sexually assaulted him in 1984. The teacher, Fernand Beck, was dismissed in 2016 after the school determined that Meenan’s allegation was “credible.” Meenan said Thursday that case is “pretty much handled.”

The alleged victim is represented by Mitchell Garabedian, an attorney with experience representing Boston-area victims after the 2002 sexual abuse crisis. Garabedian also represented Meenan when he reported the Fordham Prep abuse in 2016.

Meenan claimed that there are Catholic priests who are “attracted to young boys” and become priests in order to have access to children. He called Jenik “a disturbed person who is a danger to young boys.”

He said Cardinal Timothy Dolan did the right thing by swiftly removing Jenik from ministry, while adding that in his view the cardinal has not yet done enough. He called for Dolan to work with the government of New York to pass new laws to hold perpetrators of abuse accountable.

“There are guys in bad shape that need help,” he said. “God has given you the dignity that you deserve to live by...what are we doing with the Church’s money if we are not going out and rescuing people’s lives?”

Jenik, who has served as pastor at Our Lady of Refuge parish since 1985, wrote in an Oct. 29 letter to his parishioners that he continues “to steadfastly deny that I have ever abused anyone at any time.”

The bishop asked parishioners to pray for the person who had accused him of abuse, and “for all those who are victim-survivors of abuse.”

The case will be reviewed by the Vatican, most likely at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, sources say, before being passed to Pope Francis for judgment. Canon law establishes that only the pope may judge a penal matter involving a bishop, unless the pope delegates that responsibility elsewhere.

Jenik is the first active bishop to be accused of abusing a minor since more than a dozen states including New York opened investigations this fall of sex abuse and cover-ups in the Catholic Church.

How the Archdiocese of Detroit plans to 'Unleash the Gospel'

Fri, 11/02/2018 - 06:00

Detroit, Mich., Nov 2, 2018 / 04:00 am (CNA).- A year after Detroit’s archbishop released a letter outlining a plan for his diocese’ revitalization, the diocese is working to put his words into action with a campaign called “Unleash the Gospel.”

The archdiocese held a year of prayer in 2014, asking the Holy Spirit to revitalize their diocese, which is facing a steady decline in practicing Catholics. In 2016 the diocese held a synod, a meeting of lay Catholics, priests, deacons, and religious, to discuss evangelization, the challenges facing the diocese, and potential solutions.

Communication director Edmundo Reyes told CNA that he hopes the archdiocese’ new initiative, which is primarily based around short videos, will encourage parishes, individuals and families to cultivate a missionary attitude.

Reyes said more than 550 volunteers plan to encourage parishioners at all 218 parishes Nov. 3-4 to sign up for the Archdiocese’ daily “Unleash the Gospel” emails. There will also be reflection booklets available for those without a smartphone or computer.

The initial goal, Reyes said, is to encourage parishioners to spend five minutes in reflection and prayer per day for six days, guided by short videos emailed to them the day after they sign up. Reyes hopes the videos will encourage parishioners to reflect on what it means to be a Church “on mission.”

He said the initiative is not primarily about “social justice,” although helping people, especially the poor, is a key part of the Archdiocese’ revitalization. Rather he hopes the videos and the initiative in general will refocus people on the “original issue” of Christianity, which is proclaiming the Gospel.

“It's about us understanding that the main mission of the Church is to share the Gospel with others. That's the wrong that need to be righted,” Reyes said. “The videos are trying to explain how to do that.”

Archbishop Allen Vigneron laid out some of the particular obstacles to evangelization in the Archdiocese of Detroit his 2017 letter. He wrote that these challenges have contributed to “a widespread pessimism of the possibility for authentic renewal.”

“For several decades the number of practicing Catholics has been in steady decline, a significant factor leading to many painful closings and mergings of parishes and schools, which has in turn caused more people to drift away in discouragement or frustration,” the Archbishop wrote.

“The number of active priests has also dropped considerably. In the last half century our metro area has suffered from urban blight, economic decline, racial tensions, family breakdown, substance abuse, and crime.”

Some solutions the archbishop offered in his letter had been discussed at the diocesan synod. They included an emphasis on repentance, personal testimonies, utilizing new media, and witnessing to faith within families.

In light of these challenges and using the archbishop’s letter as a guide, Reyes said the goal of the “Unleash the Gospel” initiative is to move from a focus maintenance of problems to an emphasis on outward-focused, mission oriented Church. He said a lot of archdiocesan parishes have already embraced the call to action, including Our Lady of Good Counsel parish in Plymouth, which he described as a very vibrant parish that is already cultivating a missionary atmosphere.

"[Jesus is] asking us to step up and share the Gospel with others," Reyes said.

"It's about evangelization, it's about sharing the Gospel, it's about being joyful missionary disciples, and to do things in a different way."

Reyes said the diocese’ initiative was in the works before the current sexual abuse crisis began during summer 2018. He said his team made changes to at least one of the videos to emphasize the need for missionary renewal in the face of crisis in the Church.

“It is clear to us that we are called to “unleash the Gospel” not in spite of the crisis, but because of the crisis,” Reyes said.

“Sin is real, and it's present in our society. We can see that very clearly...there's sin in our Church as well. This is why the time to “unleash the Gospel” is now. This is why we should bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to people, to ourselves and to our Churches.”

Michigan’s Attorney General announced an investigation in September into all of Michigan’s eight diocese to look into any potential coverup of sexual abuse, which Vigneron said he welcomed.

The archdiocese will launch a new diocesan website in the coming days, and Reyes said other initiatives are in the works, including podcasts and training for all parishes to be "radically hospitable" to Catholics returning to the Church at Christmas. The archdiocese plans to launch a separate magazine and website for Unleash the Gospel in 2019.


Philadelphia foster families continue fight for Catholic Social Services

Thu, 11/01/2018 - 21:00

Philadelphia, Pa., Nov 1, 2018 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- Foster parents in Philadelphia will be in court next week, asking a judge to allow a Catholic agency to continue placing kids in foster care during a lawsuit that charges the city has unjustly discriminated against the agency.

“This is an important question – can the city end the ministry of an organization that has provided foster care for a century all over a political disagreement because that agency will not provide written certifications for same sex couples?” Lori Windham, senior counsel at Becket, told CNA.

In March, city officials stated that Philadelphia would no longer allow Catholic Social Services (CSS) to place kids in foster care. The officials cited the group’s unwillingness to place foster children with same-sex couples due to its religious beliefs on traditional marriage.

However, “No same-sex couple had ever actually approached Catholic [Social Services] and asked them to provide this certification,” said Windham.

CSS asked the U.S. Supreme Court in July for an injunction that would allow the organization to continue placing children in foster care while the legal action was decided. The court declined, but three justices, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch, agreed with the request. Five justices are needed to grant an injunction. That question will now be put to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in oral arguments Nov. 6.

The agency says if the court declines its request, it will be forced to discontinue foster care services.  

Several foster families, who rely on CSS to help foster children, are plaintiffs in the case, including Cecilia Paul, who has fostered more than 100 children, and Sharonell Fulton, the leading plaintiff who has worked with CSS for 25 years.

CSS has placed children in foster care for a century and has had a contract with the city for half that time. CSS typically serves about 120 foster children in 100 foster homes. Last year, the charity says it helped more than 2,200 children in the Philadelphia area.

Ten days before it announced it would not renew its CSS contract, the city announced it was 300 beds short of what it needed to help children.

“As of today, there are more than two dozen open homes available to take children in today, and the city will not place children in those homes,” said Windham.

She said the city council issued “a resolution condemning discrimination under the guise of religious freedom.” However, she said, the city had struggled to find the law which CSS has supposedly violated.

“They have pointed to a couple of different things that we’ve shown, either, don’t apply to foster care or are riddled with exceptions,” she said.

“The city allows agencies to refer couples elsewhere. Testimony was that referrals happen all the time and the city acknowledges that. At least in some cases, it’s allowed to refer a respected foster parent to another agency, who is a better fit for them, but they are refusing to allow Catholic to make referrals.”

This is not only a religious freedom issue but also a free speech issue, Windham said.

“The city wants Catholic to provide a written document that is endorsing these relationships; Catholic can’t do that and so they are happy to refer these couples elsewhere to someone who can provide them with that certification.”

Windham said this is similar to one decided in June, when the Supreme Court decided Jack Phillips had the right to refuse to provide a wedding cake for a gay marriage based on his religious beliefs.

“It makes this case similar to the Masterpiece Cakeshop case … where the Supreme Court said religious claims are entitled to neutral and respectful consideration.”