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Man in custody after Delaware priest assaulted

Wed, 08/01/2018 - 02:01

Wilmington, Del., Aug 1, 2018 / 12:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A 25-year-old man is in custody after reportedly attacking an elderly priest and another parish employee in Delaware.

Joshua August allegedly attacked Fr. William Graney in his office at Resurrection Parish in Pike Creek. According to local media, he was discovered mid-assault after employees at the parish heard arguing and commotion in Graney’s office.

After August punched and kicked Graney, police say, he then poured a bottle of wine over the priest and struck him with the bottle, before spraying compressed air into Graney’s mouth.

Police say Graney was transported to a hospital, where he is in stable condition. Another parish employee was injured in the attack with minor injuries, according to reports. The parish remains closed and daily Mass has been canceled until further notice.

Parish employees convinced August to leave the church after they offered him money and a ride, and then locked the doors behind him, police say. After attempting to break into the church, August then left the scene on a skateboard, according to witnesses, and was quickly apprehended by officers. He is being held on more than $50,000 bail.

August has been charged with felony assault, resisting arrest, and criminal mischief.

No motive has been released for the attack.

Appeals court rules against Washington archdiocese in bus ad case

Tue, 07/31/2018 - 17:01

Washington D.C., Jul 31, 2018 / 03:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority was within its rights to ban the Archdiocese of Washington’s religious-themed advertisements, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled Tuesday.

In November 2015, WMATA issued 14 new guidelines for acceptable advertisements on its busses and trains. Guideline 12 expressly prohibited “advertisements that promote or oppose any religion, religious practice, or belief.” These new guidelines came out after someone attempted to purchase an advertisement featuring an image of Muhammad.

This past December, WMATA rejected a bus advertisement from the Washington archdiocese that directed people to a website for its “Find the Perfect Gift” campaign. The website contains Mass time information, basic information about Christmas and Advent traditions, and had links for various Catholic charitable organizations. The ads were rejected due to their religious content.

The court initially sided with WMATA in the ban, and the Court of Appeals heard the case in March. Judge Brett Kavanaugh, who is now nominated for the Supreme Court, appeared to be in favor of the Archdiocese during arguments.

Kavanaugh did not participate in Tuesday’s decision due to his nomination.

In the July 31 decision, Judge Judith W. Rogers wrote that “The Archdiocese has not shown … that WMATA is impermissibly suppressing its viewpoint on an otherwise permitted subject,” and that any claim of discrimination “is based on hypothesis.”

“Were the Archdiocese to prevail, WMATA (and other transit systems) would have to accept all types of advertisements to maintain viewpoint neutrality, including ads criticizing and disparaging religion and religious tenets or practices.”

Judge Robert L. Wilkins concurred with Rogers’ decision, and added that the policy did not infringe on the First Amendment because “It does not take sides; it restricts all speech on the topic equally, without discriminating within the defined category.”

The archdiocese may pursue another appeal against the policy.

“The Archdiocese of Washington is disappointed by today’s federal appeals court ruling, and we are reviewing the decision and opinions to determine our next steps,” Ed McFadden, secretary for communications for the Archdiocese of Washington, told CNA in a statement.

“Today, however, is a reminder that freedom of religion and expression in the public square should never be taken for granted, and we will continue to defend those rights at every opportunity.”

Ashley McGuire, a senior fellow with The Catholic Association, took issue with the Court’s claim that WMATA “does not take sides,” saying in a statement that this was “laughable.”

Instead, McGuire believes that the fedrally-funded metro system has “taken the side of restricting any and all religious speech,” which is in violation of the First Amendment.

“Tinder (a dating/hookup app) and Blue Apron (a meal service) can buy ads, but the Catholic Church cannot,” said McGuire.

“It’s a textbook case of discrimination; it sends the clear message that secular speech is welcome in the public, but religious speech is offensive and should be barred.”

Lonely but determined, pro-life Democrats speak up

Tue, 07/31/2018 - 16:01

Denver, Colo., Jul 31, 2018 / 02:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Former Michigan Congressman Bart Stupak has one word to sum up the plight of the pro-life Democrat: “Lonely.”

“We’re not trusted in our party. We are not appreciated by Republicans, even though nothing can pass without us,” he told a gathering of pro-life Democrats in Denver. “It really is a hard road to go.”

Stupak was among the speakers at the Democrats for Life of America annual conference held July 20-22 on the theme “We want our party back.”

When Stupak joined Congress in 1992, there were 20 pro-life Democrats. Now there are only three who openly take a pro-life stand.

“I think there’s more, I think there’s a lot more,” he said. “But our numbers have dwindled so much that there’s no leadership within the Democratic Party to ask these members to vote for pro-life legislation.”

He said he was positive a 20-week ban on abortion could pass Congress with enough key pro-life Democrats. In his view, about 30 Democratic votes are needed to counter to votes of pro-choice Republicans.

“Republicans will never admit it but if you go back and look no right to life legislation can pass in the U.S. Congress without the support of Democrats,” said Stupak.

The nine-term Congressman was a key leader in an amendment intended to limit the provision of abortion in the 2010 health care bill known as the Affordable Care Act. His 2017 book “For All Americans” discusses the passage of the act.

“You need to constantly support the right-to-life Democrats. Remind them they’re doing the Lord’s work. You have to be there for them,” he told his audience. “We have to support our pro-life Democrats and have to remind our party why we are such an integral part.”

Lincoln Davis, a former congressman from Tennessee, also attended the Denver event. U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.), who faced a strong primary challenge this year from a candidate backed by pro-abortion rights groups, addressed the gathering in a pre-recorded video. He received the Democrats for Life Bob Casey Whole Life Award, named for the former governor of Pennsylvania.

Michael Wear, a political strategist who directed faith outreach for President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, spoke to the conference via live video. He recounted his background in an all-Democrat, blue-collar union family. When he became a Christian, he said, it “put new life and meaning behind what I viewed as the central commitments of the Democratic Party: fighting poverty, civil rights, human dignity.”

“The pro-life movement needs Democrats, and the Democratic Party need pro-lifers. You have earned your place in politics, we have earned our place. Our responsibility is to steward the influence we have as best we know how to do the most good as we know it,” he said.

While on some issue the Democratic Party did not necessarily fit, Wear said, “you join a political party not for that party to influence you, but for you to influence that party.”

“Registering for a political party does not mean signing one’s conscience over to “every jot and tittle of the party platform,” he told the audience.

“You’re willing to hold in the tension of contributing to something you don’t always agree with all the time… but our civic life is not just about our personal preferences. It’s about the common good, about how we live together,” said Wear. “Political parties are a very important way of how to do that.”

Wear saw the Democratic Party of 2006 and 2008 as better for pro-life advocates than the current situation. In his view, the pro-life movement is a “helpful, sort-of-nagging element” that pushes Democrats to “stand up for life.”

He believed President Barack Obama cautioned his party against alienating others, including on the issue of abortion. Obama’s controversial visit to the University of Notre Dame had positive elements for Wear. The Democratic Party platform at the time had language about reducing abortion, language which “ended up pleasing nobody,” the president decided to keep this language in his speech.

The conference drew some opposition from Colorado Democrats and Democrat-leaning groups.

Progress Now Colorado, which previously attracted attention for misleading ads against pro-life pregnancy centers in the state, ran internet ads critical of the conference. In a parking lot outside the conference hotel, the group set up a billboard truck which said, “abortion access is a progressive value.”

On the morning of July 21, several critics gathered outside the hotel for a small press conference: Karen Middleton, executive director of NARAL Colorado; Sam DeWitt, access campaign manager for Compassion and Choices Colorado; and Democratic state legislators Sen. Rhonda Fields and Reps. Leslie Herod and Jovan Melton.

Herod objected to the effort to make space for Democrats who are opposed to abortion.

“Democratic values are not up for debate… the national and Colorado Democratic platforms are clear. Upholding the legal right for anyone to access a safe and legal abortion is essential and non-negotiable,” she said.

Herod characterized abortion as fundamental “to achieving the kind of gender, race and economic equality that we as Democrats have been fighting for, for decades.”

“Let me be clear: a Democrat is someone who stands for equality, stands for choice, stands for racial justice. If you don’t stand for those things then you are not a Democrat,” she said.

Middleton, herself a former Democratic state legislator, said Colorado was “a solidly pro-choice state” and contended that those gathered for the conference were not in fact Democrats, but present “under a ruse.”

“This notion, a false narrative of a false move into the party really needs to be pushed back,” she said. “We’re here to say, ‘No, we don’t believe you, you are not welcome here, we want to see you really let us move forward together, unifying access to abortion care for all.'”

Over a dozen pro-life Democrats and their allies held a brief counter-demonstration. Playing up the regional Planned Parenthood affiliate’s opposition to unionization of its workers, they held signs such as “Pro-Labor, Pro-Life.”

Just minutes later, the conference hosted speaker Justin Giboney, an attorney and political strategist from Atlanta who was elected as a delegate to the 2012 and 2016 Democratic National Conventions.

“A lot of Democrats disagree with the party on abortion but stay silent. We’ve got to speak up,” he said. “Without the assumption of ill intentions on the part of pro-lifers, people would have to acknowledge that there is another life at stake in these debates.”

He said he appreciates the Democratic Party’s “commitment to serving the least of these” and its recognition that government “has a role to play in improving people’s lives.

“The party must not turn away from these fundamental values,” he added.

Giboney, who is African-American, said his formation in traditional black Protestantism “means my faith cannot be separated from my politics.” He placed himself in the Progressive Era tradition of social programs for the poor, workers’ rights, government reform, and criminal justice issues.

Giboney rejected political progressivism that defines itself in “the Western European expressive individualism, permissive culture sense of the term.” While many people appreciate the Democratic Party’s stand on immigration and heath care, he said, they “see the party as speeding recklessly away not only from a sense of morality, but also a sense of reason, a sense of pluralism, and moving so far left on social issues that it is irresponsible. It has become illiberal.”

He feared that other issues will be sidelined for secular progressive issues he said are being championed and funded by a few interest groups.

According to Giboney, there were groups that wanted him kicked out of the Georgia delegation to the Democratic convention. He worried the party is “openly engaging in religious exclusion” to limit the participation of people with certain religious beliefs, hindering any pro-life Democrats’ run for office.

Such candidates will not get exposure or funding if they maintain their beliefs publicly; staff will leave candidates because they fear they won’t get a job later.

“While the party accepts the vote of religious voters, it will treat them as unfit if they try to run for public office,” he charged.

In Giboney’s view, some pro-life advocates on the political right had contributed to false narratives. He found it hard to relate to the Republican Party's version of the pro-life movement, which he said isn’t “whole life.”

“How can you care about the unborn, if you don’t care about the poor or the immigrant?” he asked. “People ask these questions because too many pro-lifers don’t have a strong record on some of these other issues.”

He stressed the need for pro-life advocates to show compassion for people in a crisis situation and to do more than simply encourage a pregnant woman to have a child, who will then grow up in poverty and the pressures of a harsh criminal justice system.

“I think pro-life Democrats are in the best position to do those things and we need to take up that task.”

What might happen for McCarrick, and for the Church in the US

Tue, 07/31/2018 - 14:01

Washington D.C., Jul 31, 2018 / 12:01 pm (CNA).- The 2014 movie “Calvary” is a reflection on mercy, sacrifice, and the difficulties that the sexual abuse crises of recent years have caused for those priests and bishops who have nothing to hide, but are now viewed with suspicion.

During a sobering scene in the film, an Irish priest- a pastor played by Brendan Gleeson- shares a brief moment of friendship with a young girl he has met as they both walk along the same stretch of country road.

The moment is interrupted when a car screeches to a halt in front of them, and the girl’s father emerges, yelling insults at the priest before driving away with his daughter. The priest is left standing alone on the road, not trusted enough for even an innocent conversation with a child.

The Irish reaction to Ireland’s sexual abuse crisis was sharper and more profound than reaction to the crisis in the United States. After detailed reports of sexual abuse by Irish clerics and religious began emerging in the early 2000s, Mass attendance dropped sharply and suddenly, and Irish anti-clericalism became vocal and commonplace. Of course, other factors have contributed to the decline of Catholic practice in Ireland, but the impact of the sexual abuse crisis was obvious and severe.

The American sexual abuse crisis has also been a serious issue for Catholics, and has had an obvious cultural effect on the Church in the United States. But its effect on the habits and attitudes of Church-going Catholics has not been as apparent, or as visceral.

Gallup polls showed a sharp dip in American Mass attendance in 2002 and 2003, the years the crisis came into full public view, but Mass attendance rates actually rose in 2004, before resuming the steady decline that began all the way back in 1955.

Of course, there has been a measurable and sustained decline in Catholic identity and Mass attendance among Catholics in the US for decades. But it is not immediately clear how much of recent declines can be attributed directly to the sexual abuse crisis. Instead, polls generally attribute declines to broader cultural trends toward secularization, and increasing popular disagreement with Catholic doctrinal issues, particularly with regard to sexual morality.

Many Catholic commentators predict that the McCarrick scandal might change that. Catholics across ideological, theological, and political divides are unified in anger and disappointment over the charge that high-ranking bishops knew of, and even tolerated, serious sexual malfeasance by a cardinal. That anger has led to calls for transparency, repentance, and spiritual renewal.

It seems entirely possible that the McCarrick scandal will become a bright line in American Catholic history, and have long-lasting and dramatic effect on the future of Catholic Church in the United States.

The kinds of changes that might be coming are not yet clear, but what happens next- for McCarrick, for the bishops, and for ordinary Catholics- will begin to demonstrate whether this crisis point will lead to a sharp period of decline, or to a period of renewal.

So what will happen next?


With regard to McCarrick himself, the Vatican has implied that the archbishop could face a canonical trial.

As is well known, in June a process in the Archdiocese of New York reached the conclusion that an allegation McCarrick sexually abused a teenager was “credible and substantiated.” That process, however, was only the first phase of the Church’s canonical process- the phase referred to as the “preliminary investigation.” A formal trial would be the next step.

While a trial has not been scheduled, the possibility of one was implied on Saturday, when Pope Francis accepted McCarrick’s resignation from the College of Cardinals. At that time, the pope also consigned the archbishop to a life of prayer and penance until, the Vatican said, until the conclusion of a canonical trial addressing the allegation.

But several complicating factors make a trial unlikely.

At the moment, McCarrick is only facing canonical charges for one of the sexually abusive relationships he is alleged to have had, and some aspects of that case could make it difficult to try- most notably the fact that the alleged victim was 16 at the time the abuse began, and therefore not considered a minor by the canonical standards in force at the time- the standards by which McCarrick would be tried. While he could face charges in that case for other, related, canonical crimes, they make the prospect of a trial more difficult.

Of course, it is plausible that McCarrick could be tried for other, more straightforward charges of abuse, given the number of allegations that have been made against him in the press. But the Archdiocese of Washington noted Sunday that although several alleged victims of abuse by McCarrick have spoken with the media in the last month, few have filed complaints directly with Church officials. Ordinarily, reports made directly to a diocese are the triggering event for Church investigations, and so it is unlikely that McCarrick will face additional canonical charges unless some of his alleged victims make such reports.

It is possible that a bishop- most likely Cardinal Donald Wuerl in Washington- could begin a preliminary investigation into the allegations that have been reported in the press even without direct complaints. Though that would an unusual move, Wuerl might judge it to be warranted in this case- especially if he had support from the Vatican to do so.

Still, there are additional complications.

Given McCarrick’s long tenure in Church leadership, and his wide network of friends around the world, it is not immediately apparent that the Vatican has a sufficient number of qualified personnel, without personal ties to McCarrick, available to assist in a trial.

Furthermore, several sources have told CNA that if McCarrick does face a trial, the pope would personally oversee it, as he has reportedly decided to do in several other high-profile cases involving bishops. Since the pope is apparently already involved in those cases, and since trials are time-consuming and he has only a finite amount of time, it seems probable that his direct involvement in McCarrick’s trial will keep it from getting off the ground anytime soon.

McCarrick is 88. Even under the best circumstances, canonical penal processes can take years. These circumstances are not the best. Barring unusually swift action from the Holy See to begin a complicated trial and bring it completion, or unusual longevity for McCarrick, he is unlikely to live long enough to see a canonical resolution to his case.

Instead, he is likely to see his name taken down from parish halls, his episcopal crest removed from cathedrals, and the visible signs of his leadership and influence scrubbed away. This week Catholic University of America rescinded an honorary degree he’d been given, and other colleges will likely do the same.

He is also, of course, unlikely to face criminal charges in the United States, unless allegations which have not yet reached a statute of limitations are made against him.

Sources say he is now living in a Church facility in Washington, and he is likely to remain there, or in some other discreet place, waiting for his case to be judged by the Vicar of Christ.


Regardless of what trial McCarrick faces, the dioceses, religious communities, and even the foundations he has been affiliated with are now facing serious questions. So are the bishops who succeeded him in the dioceses he led: Metuchen, Newark, and Washington, along with the auxiliary bishops and other advisors who worked for him in those places.

Of particular importance are questions about the 2005 and 2007 settlements with priests who claimed McCarrick abused them, and especially about who was, and was not, informed about them. Cardinal Wuerl said last week that he was never informed that those settlements had been reached. If that is true, why did Bishop Paul Bootkoski of Metuchen and Archbishop John Myers of Newark neglect to inform Wuerl that a cardinal living in Wuerl’s diocese had been accused of serious malfeasance?  

Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston has also faced criticism for not reporting to the pope a letter his office received about McCarrick in 2015. Likewise the apostolic nuncio- the pope’s ambassador to the United States- could also face questions about what, if anything, he knew about McCarrick, and about whether he was in communication with the Vatican about the matter.

CNA and other media outlets are pursuing those questions, and the media will likely begin to report findings soon. But media inquiries are not the same as official investigations.

There has been speculation that to probe those questions Francis might appoint a special investigator to the United States, as he did in Chile when scandals there become a media firestorm. Such an investigator would try to get clarity about who knew what about McCarrick, and when, and get a sense of how he advanced in an ecclesial career despite the persistence of rumors and complaints about him.

But it is also possible that the pope intends accepting McCarrick’s resignation from the College of Cardinals to be his last word on the subject.

While there is focus on this story now, and bishops are speaking out about it, media attention is fickle, and it’s possible that some large-scale disaster or political crisis could divert press attention. That could lead to a scaled-down response, in which the bishops at their November meeting issue a new set of policies or procedures, the pope offers some words of regret, and the Church’s leaders move on to the next issue.

Two things might tip the scales toward a robust response from the Vatican and U.S. bishops:

The first is continued reporting from the Catholic and secular press about McCarrick, and the web of questions surrounding his situation. There are many threads to be pulled, probably more threads than are reporters to work on the story. But if media executives and editors decide that attention should be focused elsewhere, or if readers tire of reports on the subject, it will be easier for Church leaders to weather a momentary storm without the thorough investigation- or official inquiry- that might lead to some systemic changes in administrative procedures.

The second thing that will lead to a thorough response is for lay, seminarian, religious, and priest victims of sexual abuse, harassment, assault, or coercion to continue coming forward. If McCarrick’s misdeeds were as widespread as they are rumored to be, dozens of priests might come forward to make official complaints, along with former seminarians and others. Volume speaks volumes, and demands a response.

At the same time the Vatican is deciding whether and how to conduct an investigation, plaintiffs’ lawyers are likely considering what lawsuits might be filed in response to the McCarrick scandal.

The threat of possible litigation will complicate the Church’s response to the McCarrick scandal. Bishops will, on the one hand, want to see victims by compensated for the harms done to them and, at the same time, want to ensure that parishes, schools, and charitable offices that had nothing to do with sexual abuse do not lose their assets. Many bishops will want to be transparent and pastoral, and, at the same time, be concerned about the effects in the courtroom of their pastoral gestures of penitence and contrition.

It is difficult to make prophetic responses to a tragedy in a litigious environment, and bishops will have to navigate that difficulty, as many of them had to do in the wave of litigation that followed the 2002 sexual abuse revelations. Some will do this well, and some, most likely, will not.


Perhaps the most significant questions have to do with the attitudes that Catholics will hold in the aftermath of this scandal, and how Church leaders will respond to those attitudes.

If lessons be learned from Ireland, and other places in which bishops have been implicated in serious negligence and misdeeds, trust in the hierarchy of the Church is likely to erode and stay eroded, and Mass attendance could drop precipitously.

Bishops have begun making pastoral statements, and more will likely come. But this crisis may prompt a greater sense of urgency about the overall decline in Catholic life in the United States, and prompt bishops to consider what mechanisms might lead to renewal.

A friend said this week that the McCarrick scandal might be the final nail in the coffin of “beige cultural Catholicism” in America.

He meant that the scandal could lead to much broader recognition that much about the current model of Church organization and parish management doesn’t seem to be working- that many people leave the practice of Catholicism because of a broad crisis in catechesis, formation, and community and parish life.

This idea was part of the thrust of John Paul II’s “new evangelization” paradigm, which called Catholics to “remake the Christian fabric of the ecclesial community itself.”

It is certainly true that the growth areas in the Catholic Church in America are those that seem to have a clear missionary identity, or a particularly focused or intentional approach to Catholic life. Movements like Communion and Liberation and the NeoCatechumenal Way are loci of growth and energy. So too are missionary groups like FOCUS, and the communities devoted to traditional liturgy that have sprung up in places like Clear Creek, Oklahoma.

Those movements are often lay-led, and developed at some distance from chancery and diocesan structures. That means that, if trust in the hierarchy is eroding, they may be seen by many Catholics as having the integrity, authenticity, or transparency that some see as lacking among hierarchs in the wake of the McCarrick scandal.

The question now is, if decline in more typical parishes continues or hastens, whether bishops will see those groups and movements as mechanism of the “new evangelization” and welcome them, even at the cost of relinquishing some institutional and structural control.


Much remains to be uncovered about the McCarrick scandal, and much remains to unfold. But the scandal has already begun to point to changes in American Catholic life. If handled well, great good could come from those changes. “To live is to change,” Blessed John Henry Newman wrote, “and to be perfect is to have changed often.”

Catholic universities withdraw honorary degrees from McCarrick

Tue, 07/31/2018 - 12:05

Washington D.C., Jul 31, 2018 / 10:05 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Two Catholic universities have withdrawn honorary degrees from Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, amid numerous allegations of sexual assault and misconduct.

The Catholic University of America in Washington D.C. and Fordham University in New York both announced in recent weeks that they were rescinding the honorary degrees.

Pope Francis accepted McCarrick’s resignation from the College of Cardinals on Saturday. The pope directed McCarrick, the 88-year-old former Archbishop of Washington, to observe “a life of prayer and penance in seclusion” until the end of the canonical process against him.

A substantial and credible allegation of child sexual abuse against McCarrick was made public in June.

In recent weeks, McCarrick has faced several additional allegations of sexual abuse and misconduct. These include charges that he pressured seminarians and priests into sexual relationships, and another reported allegation that he had a serially sexually abusive relationship with a child.

The Catholic University of America said July 30 that its board had voted unanimously to revoke McCarrick’s 2006 honorary degree, the first time the university has done so in its history.

McCarrick had been a student at The Catholic University of America, where he earned his Master’s degree and Ph.D. in the 1960s. He later served in various roles at the university, including assistant chaplain, dean of students, development director, chancellor, and a member of the Board of Trustees.

“The entire Catholic University community acknowledges the tragedy of sexual abuse at the hands of clergy, and the deep and lasting pain and suffering of survivors,” the university said in a statement. “We offer our prayers and pastoral support for the survivors, that they and their families encounter healing and peace.”

The university encouraged abuse victims to contact the archdiocese’s Office of Child and Youth Protection for support and resources.

The move follows a similar decision by Fordham University earlier this month.

University president, Fr. Joseph M. McShane, released a July 5 statement announcing the removal of “McCarrick’s honorary degree and other honors the University has conferred upon him.”

“In taking these steps, we acknowledge the extraordinary and long-lasting harm done to children who were sexually abused by clergy members,” the statement said. “While we can never fully repair the sins of the past, we must respect the experience of abuse survivors, and accord them all the love and compassion of which we are capable.”

Department of Justice creates Religious Liberty Task Force

Tue, 07/31/2018 - 05:11

Washington D.C., Jul 31, 2018 / 03:11 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The announcement of a Religious Liberty Task Force being created at the Department of Justice drew praise from Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, who said that religious freedom is vital to the common good of the U.S.

“As Americans we intuitively understand that individuals should be free to live in accordance with what they believe to be true, that is, in accordance one’s conscience,” said Kurtz, who chairs the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ religious liberty committee.

Kurtz spoke July 30 at a Religious Liberty Summit hosted by the Department of Justice.

At the summit, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the creation of the new task force, saying it “will help the Department fully implement our religious liberty guidance by ensuring that all Justice Department components are upholding that guidance in the cases they bring and defend, the arguments they make in court, the policies and regulations they adopt, and how we conduct our operations.”

Sessions warned that “a dangerous movement, undetected by many, is now challenging and eroding our great tradition of religious freedom.”

Ultimately, confronting and defeating this threat will require an intellectual shift to remember the importance of religious freedom, a “core American principle,” that the Trump administration is committed to protecting, he said.

“This administration is animated by that same American view that has led us for 242 years: that every American has a right to believe, worship, and exercise their faith in the public square.”

In his remarks, Archbishop Kurtz stressed that religious organizations do a lot of good for society.

But in recent years, these organizations have found it harder to operate in line with their beliefs due to governmental policies, such as the Obama administration’s HHS contraception mandate, and the recent crackdown on faith-based foster care and adoption providers who place children only in homes with a mother and a father, he said.

Kurtz cited Illinois, Massachusetts, San Francisco, Philadelphia, and D.C. as among the places where faith-based organizations have been shut down or hampered by the government because of their religious beliefs.

The exclusion of faith-based groups from being able to serve the public - whether it be through homeless shelters, assisting migrants and refugees, or providing meals to the hungry - “makes no sense in a pluralistic society” like the United States, he said.

“We should look to have all hands on deck when it comes to tackling the greatest needs of our day.”

There are more than 400,000 children in the foster care system in the United States, and of those, about 100,000 of them are eligible for adoption. These numbers are only increasing, said Kurtz, in the wake of the opioid crisis.

“Now is not the time to limit agencies that are able to serve children,” the archbishop said. “Intolerance for religious views has real consequences, as vulnerable children suffer the most.”

He noted that in Arkansas, faith-based organizations are responsible for recruiting half of the state’s foster families.

“Our country is much richer when we have public-private partnerships that work well,” Kurtz said, emphasizing that faith-based groups often have “very deep roots” in a community, and have the the trust of community members.


Detroit celebrates the first feast of the 'approachably holy' Blessed Solanus Casey

Mon, 07/30/2018 - 18:39

Detroit, Mich., Jul 30, 2018 / 04:39 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Sixty one years after his death and eight months after his beatification, Blessed Father Solanus Casey is still able to draw crowds in Detroit.

The porter priest and Capuchin friar’s first feast day was celebrated in the Archdiocese of Detroit July 30, with a novena for his canonization and various Masses and special events held throughout the area in his honor.

Four Masses for Solanus were celebrated over the weekend and on Monday, including two celebrated by Archbishop Allen Vigneron. Each Mass was packed to full or overflowing, Fr. David Preuss, OFM Cap. and director of the Solanus Casey Center, told CNA.

When asked why so many people of Detroit and beyond continue to be drawn to Solanus even decades after his death, Preuss said it is because Solanus was “good to people.”

“That’s it, he’s good to people, he always was, and he continues to be,” Preuss said.

“People were asking how many people are going to come (to his feast day events) and I said look...he is a powerful intercessor, and we hear about new favors every week, they happen all the time,” Preuss said, so he was not surprised at the overflow crowds.

Fr. Solanus was a friar and simplex priest, meaning that, due to lesser academic abilities, he was not allowed to preach or to hear confessions.

This meant he carried out simpler tasks, and in Detroit he is fondly remembered as the porter (doorkeeper) at St. Bonaventure Monastery in Detroit, where he served 1924-1945.

As porter, Fr. Solanus became the main link from the brothers to the outside world, and he became renowned among the people of Detroit for the gentle and willing counsel that he offered from his post at the door, and for the miracles attributed to his intercession.

In order to be beatified in the Catholic Church, a miracle must be attributed to a person’s intercession after their death and approved by the Vatican.

For Solanus, that miracle was the curing of a skin disease in Paula Medina Zarate, a woman from Panama, who also made the trip to Detroit this week to celebrate Blessed Solanus’ feast day.

At the Solanus Casey Center, located just down the street from the monastery in Detroit where Fr. Solanus answered the door, nine days of prayer were held for Fr. Solanus leading up to his feast day, which included prayers for his canonization and different themes each day based on various aspects of the friar’s life. There was a blessing for the sick, tours of and donations to the soup kitchen founded by Solanus, as well as Masses for families, young people, and consecrated religious.

A second Mass celebrated by Archbishop Vigneron honoring Blessed Solanus was held at the National Shrine of the Little Flower Basilica in Royal Oak, Michigan, a place where Solanus liked to retreat to pray.

Monsignor Robert McClory, rector of the shrine, told CNA that the chair Blessed Solanus used on his visits to the shrine was displayed for his feast day.

The shrine was also chosen as the first stop for a “relic tour” of a first-class relic of Blessed Solanus - a bone from his right thumb, which will travel throughout the archdiocese’s schools and parishes in the coming days for veneration.

“In the Detroit area it’s hard to meet a Catholic who was not in some way touched by Blessed Solanus Casey,” McClory told CNA.

“Every time I make a reference to Blessed Solanus in a homily, I will typically get anywhere from 6-12 comments afterwards of people telling me stories of how Blessed Solanus helped their father, their grandparents, and had a special role in their life,” he said.

His humility and simplicity gave Solanus “an approachable holiness” that drew so many people to him, McClory added.

“He had humility, and everybody could approach him, and he had a big heart for those who were suffering and those who were sick, and that included those who suffered materially, but also those who had deep spiritual needs,” he said.

The miracles worked through his intercession gave Solanus a kind of “credibility” with God to the people who came to him, McClory added, so they trusted the friar even when they were told their prayers would not be answered in the way they had hoped.

“It’s not just that he was a vehicle through which miracles occurred, but also because of that, in a beautiful way he had more credibility when he told people their prayer isn’t going to be answered the way that you want it to be, but God has a plan and it’s going to be ok,” McClory said.

A modern, local saint shows the people of Detroit that “Jesus is near, that he’s in our midst, that God loves Detroit,” McClory added, “and that God has a desire to build up holy men and women whose virtues we can imitate and whose intercession we can seek, and it makes holiness that much closer for us.”

Blessed Solanus Casey was beatified on Nov. 18, 2017 in Detroit. The next step in his canonization process is for an additional miracle to occur through his intercession and be approved by the Vatican.

Cardinal Tobin: McCarrick's resignation necessary for accountability

Mon, 07/30/2018 - 16:11

Newark, N.J., Jul 30, 2018 / 02:11 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark responded Saturday to Archbishop Theodore McCarrick's resignation from the college of cardinals, which came amid numerous allegations of sexual assault and misconduct. Tobin called for continued accountability in addressing sexual abuse claims.

“This latest news is a necessary step for the Church to hold itself accountable for sexual abuse and harassment perpetrated by its ministers, no matter their rank,” Tobin said in a statement.

He asked the faithful “to pray for all who may have been harmed by the former Cardinal, and to pray for him as well.”

Pope Francis accepted Cardinal McCarrick’s resignation from the College of Cardinals on Saturday. The pope directed McCarrick, the 88-year-old former Archbishop of Washington, to observe “a life of prayer and penance in seclusion” until the end of the canonical process against him.

A substantial and credible allegation of child sexual abuse against McCarrick was made public in June.

In recent weeks, McCarrick has faced several additional allegations of sexual abuse and misconduct. These include charges that he pressured seminarians and priests into sexual relationships, and another reported allegation that he had a serially sexually abusive relationship with a child.

Cardinal Tobin noted that news of the resignation “will impact the Catholic community of the Archdiocese of Newark with particular force.”

The Archdiocese of Newark is one of two New Jersey dioceses to pay settlements to two men who claim they were sexually assaulted by McCarrick while they were seminarians and young priests. McCarrick was then permitted to continue to function publicly as a cardinal.

Tobin took over as Archbishop of Newark in 2017, a decade after the archdiocese reached the settlement in the McCarrick case.

Since the allegations against McCarrick were announced, questions have been raised about whether any other bishops – including Tobin – were aware of the settlements and had spoken up about them. Tobin's statement did not address those settlements.


Albany bishop: Clerical sex abuse a 'profoundly spiritual crisis'

Mon, 07/30/2018 - 14:37

Albany, N.Y., Jul 30, 2018 / 12:37 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Bishop Edward Scharfenberger of Albany wrote to the clerics of his local Church Sunday, saying that abuse of authority and sexual abuse by clerics is, more than a crisis of policies and procedures, a spiritual crisis.

His comments come amid a scandal centered on Theodore McCarrick, the Archbishop Emeritus of Washington. Last month the Archdiocese of New York announced that it had concluded an investigation into an allegation that McCarrick had sexually abused a teenager, finding the claim to be “credible and substantiated.” Since then, media reports have detailed additional allegations, charging that McCarrick sexually abused, assaulted, or coerced seminarians and young priests during his time as a bishop.

McCarrick resignation from the office of cardinal was accepted by Pope Francis on Saturday.

“Let me be clear,” Bishop Scharfenberger wrote, “in stating my firm conviction that this is, at heart, much more than a crisis of policies and procedures. We can – and I am confident that we will – strengthen the rules and regulations and sanctions against any trying to fly under the radar or to 'get away with' such evil and destructive behaviors. But, at its heart, this is much more than a challenge of law enforcement; it is a profoundly spiritual crisis.”

The Bishop of Albany's July 29 letter was sent to clerics and seminarians, as well as parish life directors and department heads at the diocesan chancery.

He began by reflecting on the betrayal of Christ, saying that “Like Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, many of our faithful are now feeling betrayed and abandoned by their spiritual fathers, especially the bishops.”

“No doubt you have been and will be hearing from your people about how shaken and discouraged they are over public revelations of despicable behavior on the part of a very popular and charismatic Cardinal with priests and seminarians in his care.”

Bishop Scharfenberger shared that he had been texted by a friend who conveyed “his family’s utter despondency over this and that the USCCB should disband itself: '[t]heir credibility is shot, probably for decades.'”

The bishop said that further “words are not going to repair, let alone restore, the damage that has been done. Lawyering, pledges and changes in the bureaucratic structures and policy – however well intentioned – cannot do it either. I do not see how we can avoid what is really at the root of this crisis: sin and a retreat from holiness, specifically the holiness of an integral, truly human sexuality.”

Bishop Scharfenberger repeated “as clearly and directly” as he could the Church's teaching that sexual activity outside a valid marriage is a grave sin: “A cardinal is not excused from what a layperson or another member of the clergy is not … This is what our faith teaches and what we are held to in practice. There is no 'third way.'”

Gravely sinful sexual activity outside marriage “includes grooming and seduction,” the bishop wrote. Such acts of McCarrick were detailed by a priest of the Diocese of Albany, who was once a seminarian under the former cardinal, in an interview with America magazine published July 25.

“The psychological and spiritual destructiveness of such predatory behavior, really incestuous by a man who is held up as a spiritual father to a son in his care – even if not a minor – cannot be minimized or rationalized in any way,” Bishop Scharfenberger wrote. “On that, it seems to me, we are experiencing an unusual unity amidst the many political and ecclesial tensions in our communities.”

“Abuse of authority – in this case, with strong sexual overtones – with vulnerable persons is hardly less reprehensible than the sexual abuse of minors, which the USCCB attempted to address in 2002.”

He noted that the Charter for the Protection of Young People, adopted by the USCCB in 2002, “unfortunately … did not go far enough so as to hold cardinals, archbishops and bishops equally, if not more, accountable than priests and deacons.”

Bishop Scharfenberger said he believes the vast majority of clerics “live or, at least, are striving to live holy and admirable lifestyles. I am ashamed of those of my brothers, such as the Cardinal, who do not and have not. As your Bishop, you can be sure of my support for you and all the faithful during this very difficult time.”

He expressed gratitude for “all of those who have come forward to expose these patterns of sin in the lives of some – as well the institutional sins of denial and suppression of those brave witnesses whose warnings went unheard or unheeded, so that some of the harm might have been prevented.”

“I hope and pray that others who may have suffered such traumatic experiences at the hands of their spiritual fathers will find the courage to say so. To you, if you are among them, and to them I offer my support and assistance in any way the resources I have can muster.”

Bl. Paul VI's Humanae vitae “prophetically warned … of the long-range consequences of the separation of sexuality and sexual behavior from the conjugal relationship,” he said.

“Contemporary culture in our part of the world now holds it normative that sex and sexual gratification between any consenting persons for any reason that their free wills allow is perfectly acceptable. This is not a sexuality befitting of human beings that responds to the need and true desire of every human person to be respected and loved fully and unconditionally.”

Clerics “must practice what we preach and teach,” he emphasized. “We also need to uphold what our faith proclaims about the gift and beauty of human sexuality, fully lived in its essential conjugal meaning.”

“A culture of virtue and chastity – in short, personal holiness – rooted in a trusting and committed relationship with Jesus Christ is the path toward healing and wholeness, even as we seek to drive the evil behaviors among us from the womb of the Church.”

Bishop Scharfenberger commended preparation for a Eucharistic Congress as “a time of spiritual renewal for all of us seeking to follow in the footsteps of our Lord and Master who was himself betrayed by his closest friends, but died for us to save us from ourselves and to offer us a way to living our humanity fully in this life and in the heaven to come.”

Bishops announce nine-week novena ahead of Supreme Court confirmation

Mon, 07/30/2018 - 05:00

Washington D.C., Jul 30, 2018 / 03:00 am (CNA).- A Novena for the Legal Protection of Human Life is being led by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Catholics are being encouraged to take part ahead of the Senate confirmation hearings for Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court.

The novena will be prayed each Friday between August 3 and September 28. The initiative is part of the USCCB’s ongoing Call to Prayer for Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty.

Every Friday, those who have signed up to the Call to Prayer program will receive the day’s prayer intentions by email or text message.

Senate confirmation hearings are set to begin in September, and there are expectations that Kavanaugh could be confirmed by the time the Supreme Court begins its next session in October. Kavanaugh’s nomination was welcomed by Catholics and pro-life groups who hope he could form part of a majority on the court in favor of overturning controversial abortion decisions like Roe v. Wade.

Roe, along with the companion decision in the case Doe v. Bolton, found a legal right to abortion throughout all nine months of pregnancy, regardless of circumstances.

The novena is tied to the confirmation process and the prayers of Catholics are important, Greg Schleppenbach, associate director of the USCCB Pro-Life Activities Secretariat, told CNA. He predicted that the confirmation process will be “very contentious,” with much of the debate centered around the issue of abortion.

"As we've already seen, the pro-abortion side is making this all about Roe v. Wade. It will clearly be contentious on that issue alone and perhaps others. But certainly, the other side has been making Roe vs. Wade a central issue, if not the central issue, in this confirmation process."

Schleppenbach hopes that the novena and prayer initiative will help teach the public and Congress about what the Roe decision and its effects have actually meant in the United States.

The novena “presents an opportunity for us to educate the public on Roe v. Wade, and to urge them to pray for this very important intention [life] that transcends even this particular nomination,” he told CNA.

"One of the things we know about public opinion, about public knowledge, is that there's a lot of misunderstanding about how radical Roe v. Wade is.”

Schleppenbach believes that recent polls indicating a high level of support for the decision are misleading, as most simply do not know what exactly overturning Roe would mean.

This prayer effort will go on even after Kavanaugh’s confirmation process ends, with hopes that this is just the beginning of a shift toward a culture where “unborn children are protected in law and welcomed in life.”

The Novena for the Legal Protection of Human Life is a “very concrete and effective way” for those who are concerned about human life to combat the “culture of death,” said Schleppenbach.

“The fact that this effort focuses on and encourages people to pray and to fast is critically important. It is absolutely one of the most productive, effective pro-life actions that we can take,” he told CNA. 

“I very strongly encourage everyone to participate in the prayer and fasting, and to utilize the educational materials on Roe, sharing them with others."

The novena begins Friday, August 3, and information on how to take part is available from the USCCB website.

After McCarrick resigns, DC archdiocese praises abuse victims' courage

Sun, 07/29/2018 - 18:38

Washington D.C., Jul 29, 2018 / 04:38 pm (CNA).- Alleged abuse victims are “courageously stepping forward” with new claims of abuse by former cardinal and retired Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, but these claims weren’t previously known to the Archdiocese of Washington,  the archdiocese said in a Sunday statement.

“These experiences shared by survivors are profoundly troubling and represent a breach of trust and wounding that no person should bear alone,” the archdiocese said July 29. “Cardinal Wuerl again recently affirmed that those coming forward with new allegations show also a confidence in the Church to take seriously these charges and act quickly in responding.”

The archdiocese voiced continued prayers for abuse survivors and expressed understanding about “how difficult it is to share such painful memories.”

“While the struggle to confront such experiences is difficult for survivors, the archdiocese wishes to accompany them and help them through this process,” its statement continued. “The archdiocese encourages all coming forward to share these experiences with any diocese in which they reside so that these grave issues can be reviewed promptly by Church authorities, and that we can offer assistance to begin the process for healing and peace.”

Pope Francis accepted Cardinal McCarrick’s resignation from the College of Cardinals on Friday. The Pope directed McCarrick, the 88-year-old former Archbishop of Washington, to observe “a life of prayer and penance in seclusion” until the end of the canonical process against him.

The fact that there had been a substantial and credible allegation of child sexual abuse against McCarrick was made public in June.

The archdiocese said that it reviewed its own files when the first claim against Archbishop McCarrick was filed in the New York archdiocese. The Washington archdiocese found “no complaints of any kind” against the archbishop, who had led the archdiocese from 2001-2006.

“Further, the confidential settlements involving acts by Archbishop McCarrick in the Diocese of Metuchen and the Archdiocese of Newark were not known previously to Cardinal Wuerl or the Archdiocese of Washington,” the statement said.

As CNA previously reported, last week the Washington archdiocese’s vicar general Monsignor Charles Antonicelli sent a letter to priests of the archdiocese claiming that its current archbishop, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, did not know until recently about settlements made by two New Jersey dioceses in response to allegations of  misconduct on the part of former cardinal Theodore McCarrick.

Sources close to the Archdiocese of Washington also told CNA that Wuerl was not informed of legal settlements in two New Jersey dioceses until June 2018.

In recent weeks, McCarrick has faced several additional allegations of sexual abuse and misconduct. These include charges that he pressured seminarians and priests into sexual relationships.

Cardinal Wuerl said the decision to accept the cardinal’s resignation shows that Pope Francis “takes very seriously the allegation of an abuse of a minor.”

“I think this was a big step forward in trying to act quickly, decisively, even though the whole procedure isn’t concluded yet,” Cardinal Wuerl said told the Washington-area radio station WTOP Saturday. “The pope is saying that we need to show that we are hearing these things, paying attention and acting.”
Although the alleged abuse happened decades ago, he said, “people are now coming forward and saying, ‘I know I’m going to get a hearing in the Church’.”

“It’s encouraging people who have kept these things buried to step forward and say, ‘Even though this happened a long time ago, I want you to know it happened’,” said Wuerl.

Wuerl told WTOP he had never been approached with allegations that McCarrick committed abuse. He also said he was not aware of the decades-old rumors about McCarrick’s alleged misconduct.

US bishops to honor three people with 'People of Life' award

Sat, 07/28/2018 - 18:01

Phoenix, Ariz., Jul 28, 2018 / 04:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- More than 100 Catholics will attend the 2018 People of Life awards next week to honor three pro-life individuals for their dedication to the Gospel of Life.

The awards will go to Janice Benton, a proponent for disability rights; Monsignor Joseph Ranieri, an advocate for post-abortion healing; and James Hanson, who campaigned against medically assisted-suicide and who will be honored posthumously.  

The awards will be presented in Phoenix as part of the Diocesan Pro-Life Leadership Conference July 29 – Aug. 1, sponsored by the US bishops' Secretariat on Pro-Life Activities.

More than 125 people are expected to attend, including Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix, Bishop Brendan Cahill of Victoria in Texas, and Bishop Eduardo Nevares, Auxiliary Bishop of Phoenix.

The awards are given to men and women who have made significant and longtime contributions to the pro-life movement, promoting a culture of life and respect for the human person.

Janice Benton has served as the executive director of National Catholic Partnership on Disability for 15 years. Before that, she spent 25 years ministering to people with disabilities, working in areas such as a camp counselor for people with intellectual disabilities.

She also worked for the American Coalition of Citizens in Washington D.C., beginning in 1979, where she advocated for Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Education for All Handicapped Children Act.

Monsignor Ranieri has served as a parish priest of the Archdiocese of Washington for more than 60 years. There, he involved himself with Project Rachel Ministry, a post-abortion resource group.

According to the Catholic Anchor, Monsignor Ranieri encouraged priests, who will hear about abortions in the confessional, “to listen, to be open and to be patient. These people need to talk about what happened, often more than once.”

James Hanson was a U.S. Marine Corp veteran and president of the Patients Rights Action Fund, a strategic and financial support group advocating against assisted suicide legislation. Hanson suffered from glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer. Before he passed away in December 2017, Hanson campaigned against legislation permitting assisted suicide.

The People of Life award was established in 2007 by the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities. The award seeks to honor Catholics dedicated to the pro-life movement as described by St. John Paul II in his 1995 encyclical on the value and inviolability of human life, Evangelium Vitae.

According to the USCCB website, the People of Life award “is presented to individuals who have consistently answered this call of the Gospel of Life.”

“Recipients are recognized because, through their personal or professional contributions, they have demonstrated their lifetime commitment to the pro-life movement, to promoting respect for the dignity of the human person, and to advocacy for an end to the culture of death in this nation.”

Wuerl was not informed about McCarrick settlements, DC letter claims

Sat, 07/28/2018 - 11:54

Washington D.C., Jul 28, 2018 / 09:54 am (CNA).- A letter sent this week to priests of the Archdiocese of Washington claims that Cardinal Donald Wuerl did not know until recently about settlements made by two New Jersey dioceses in response to allegations misconduct on the part of former cardinal Theodore McCarrick.

"Neither the Archdiocese of Washington nor Cardinal Wuerl knew about these confidential settlements until this most recent credible and substantiated allegation against Cardinal McCarrick was made public," said the July 25 letter, sent to Washington priests by archdiocesan vicar general Monsignor Charles Antonicelli.

"For clarity, the Archdiocese of Washington did not participate in, make any contributions to, nor was invovlved in any way with these settlement agreements," the letter added.

The settlements in questions were reached in 2005 and 2007 by the Diocese of Metuchen,  the Archdiocese of Newark, and two men who claim they were sexually assualted by McCarrick while they were seminarians and young priests.

McCarrick was Bishop of Metuchen from 1981-1986, Archbishop of Newark from 1986-2000, and Archbishop of Washington from 2000-2006. Wuerl succeeded McCarrick in Washington and is the current Archbishop of Washington.

The first settlement took place while McCarrick was still Archbishop of Washington, and the second was reached after Wuerl had taken the helm of that archdiocese. Neither settlement, according to Antonicelli's letter, was reported to Wuerl.

The letter also said that the Vatican is "overseeing any further decisions," regarding McCarrick, and added that "our offices are aware only of the same information regarding these allegations that you are seeing in media reports...We know from past experience with failings of the Church, that this is not an issue that will simply fade away."

Wuerl, according to the letter, encouraged anyone with information regardin abuse of harrassement to "bring it forward as soon as possible so that it may be promptly and fully investigated."

Sources close to the Archdiocese of Washington have also told CNA that Wuerl was not informed of settlements until June, when a substantial and credible allegation of child sexual abuse against McCarrick was made public.

In recent weeks, McCarrick has faced several additional allegations of sexual abuse and misconduct, including charges that he pressured seminarians and priests into sexual relationships, and an another reported allegation that he had a serially sexually abusive relationship with a child.

On July 28, Pope Francis accepted McCarrick's resignation from the College of Cardinals, and consigned him to a period of prayer and penance until a canonical process regarding the investigations is concluded. McCarrick is 88.






Pa. Supreme Court orders release of redacted grand jury report

Fri, 07/27/2018 - 19:20

Harrisburg, Pa., Jul 27, 2018 / 05:20 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Friday ordered that a redacted version of a grand jury report detailing sex abuse in six of the state's eight Catholic dioceses be released next month.

News outlets, victims, and the state attorney general have pressed for the release of the report.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court had stayed the release of the report June 20, after numerous individuals named in the report objected to its release, citing concerns of due process and reputational rights guaranteed by the state constitution.

Lawyers for the media outlets requesting the report's release have said a redacted version could be released to respond to those concerns, while the court considers challenges to the full report's release.

The court's July 27 order effectively adopted that suggestion.

“The Commonwealth is directed to prepare a redacted version of Report 1, which removes specific and contextual references to any petitioner who has an appellate challenge pending before this Court,” read the opinion of the supreme court.

Petitioners who have appeals pending with the court can appeal over the redactions by Aug. 7. If no challenges are made, the interim report and responses are to be publicly released by Aug. 8; but if challenges are made, the public release of the redacted report can be delayed until Aug. 14.

The supreme court wrote that the grand jury had undertaken “the salutary task of exposing alleged child sexual abuse and concealment of such abuse, on an extraordinarily large scale, which the grand jurors have pronounced was perpetrated by trusted members of a religious institution.”

“Thus, the grand jury submitted a report for publication specifically finding that more than 300 people, identified by name, committed criminal and/or morally reprehensible conduct,” the supreme court wrote.

“Ideally, living persons so identified would have been afforded the opportunity to appear before the grand jury and to respond, in some reasonable fashion, to the grand jury’s concerns. For those among the present challengers who were denied such opportunity, and who otherwise have submitted proper appeals seeking the remedy of a pre-deprivation hearing, we hold that they are entitled to this Court’s further consideration of whether additional process can and should now be provided as a curative measure.”

Oklahoma celebrates the first feast day of Blessed Stanley Rother

Fri, 07/27/2018 - 19:00

Oklahoma City, Okla., Jul 27, 2018 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- On Saturday, parishes across Oklahoma will celebrate the first feast day of the first U.S. born martyr, Blessed Stanley Rother, marking the 37 anniversary of his death.

Special masses, relic veneration services, and other events will take place throughout the Oklahoma City-area on the weekend of July 28. Catholics from Guatemala, where Rother served as a priest and was killed, are expected to attend.

His feast day will be celebrated in churches in the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, the Diocese of Tulsa, and the Diocese of Little Rock, Arkansas.

The first Catholic Church dedicated to Rother is located in Decatur, Arkansas, and was dedicated shortly after Rother’s beatification.

The Diocese of Sololá-Chimaltenango, where the priest served the native people of Guatemala for 13 years, will also celebrate the feast day.

Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City has prepared readings for churches to use in honor of Blessed Stanley Rother.

The Heritage Gallery of the Oklahoma archdiocese was open to facilitate pilgrimages throughout the month of July. The gallery also includes a museum with Rother artifacts and information on the life of the martyr.

On July 28, a special Mass will be celebrated at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church. Here, relics and medals of Rother will be given to members of the martyr’s family. Another Mass will be led by Archbishop Coakley later that evening at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Okarche, the martyr’s hometown.

Other churches and pastoral centers will host prayers services, including times to venerate a first-class relic of Rother at St Francis de Sales Chapel on Saturday and Sunday. The church’s gift shop will feature Blessed Rother’s medals, prayer cards, and posters.

Last September, more than 20,000 people attended a beatification Mass in downtown Oklahoma City, making Blessed Rother the first U.S. born martyr to be officially beatified. Pope Francis approved Rother’s martyrdom in December 2016.

In 1968, the Oklahoma priest arrived at his Guatemala parish in Santiago Atitlan, a poor rural community of mostly indigenous people.

As a missionary priest, Blessed Rother was called on to say Mass, but also to fix the broken truck or work the fields. He built a farmers' co-op, a school, a hospital, and the first Catholic radio station, which was used for catechesis to the even more remote villages.

Over the years, the violence of the Guatemalan civil war inched closer to the once-peaceful village. Disappearances, killings and danger soon became a part of daily life, but Fr. Stanley remained steadfast and supportive of his people.

In 1981, armed men broke into his rectory, intending to abduct him. He resisted and struggled, but did not call for help, so others at the mission would not be endangered. He was shot twice and killed.

“He is a model of priestly holiness and fidelity. He came from an ordinary home and a small town, growing up on a farm where he learned to work hard. He knew the importance of family and community,” said Archbishop Coakley in a July 25 press release.  

“He placed all his natural gifts and talents at the service of his priestly ministry and missionary endeavors. With so many challenges facing our priests today, here is a priest we can embrace and celebrate – the shepherd who didn’t run.”


How CRS is changing life for disabled children in Vietnam

Fri, 07/27/2018 - 18:54

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, Jul 27, 2018 / 04:54 pm (CNA).- Life used to be very isolated for Ho Ngoc Linh, an 11-year-old girl living in central Vietnam.

She lived at home with her family and went to school with her peers. But she could never make the connections she wanted - and needed - because she was deaf.

“If you can imagine; you’re 11 years old, you aren’t able to communicate with your family or your friends or your teachers, you can’t hear anything,” said Leia Isanhart, a senior technical advisor for Catholic Relief Services.

“That’s going to be pretty frustrating. Especially as you get into this adolescent age.”

But Linh’s world shifted this year when she became one of the more than 5,400 children to benefit from Catholic Relief Services’ programs for children and adults with disabilities in Vietnam.

In February, Catholic Relief Services paired Linh with a speech therapist who taught her to read lips. Lip reading was the best option for Linh because her hearing loss was too profound for a hearing aid and nobody in Linh’s community knows sign language.

Linh attends a government-run school where neither her peers nor her teacher know how to communicate with her. But when Linh returns home, her speech therapist helps her to practice lip reading while reviewing lessons from the classroom.

When Linh began speech therapy in February, she was completely nonverbal. By June, she was making dozens of sounds.

“That’s a huge jump...she’s a very bright girl,” Isanhart said.

Isanhart visited Linh’s home in the Thang Bing district of Vietnam’s Quang Nam province in June. She said Linh’s new skills have transformed the 11-year-old’s home life.

Isanhart said Linh’s parents seem less frustrated, because they are finally able to effectively communicate with their daughter. Linh’s parents also have more support thanks to a parent association organized by CRS for parents of children with disabilities. Parents meet in their neighborhoods to learn positive parenting skills and techniques to handle common behavioral challenges, Isanhart said.

“We’re giving these families and children access to speech therapy that then is opening up their world and helping them to communicate,” Isanhart said. “That lessens some of the frustrations within the home.”

But Linh was also making meaningful connections with other children in her neighborhood.

During her visit in June, Isanhart watched as Linh’s speech therapist gathered Linh, Linh’s siblings and several neighbor children into a circle. The therapist then lead all the children in several popular Vietnamese games.

In one game, the children repeated one word while pointing to the object that word defined. Linh was able to look at her siblings and peers to see what that sound or word looked like on the lips of different people while also making associations between the words and the objects they described.  

“Promoting social inclusion through play; it was quite impressive,” Isanhart said.

Linh’s story is just one of thousands from Catholic Relief Services’ long-running program for children and adults with disabilities in Vietnam.

CRS, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary of service this year, has several projects in Vietnam; including tracking unexploded landmines from the Vietnam War, disaster risk reduction and a clean water initiative. But Julie Keane, CRS’ country manager for Vietnam, said work with children and adults with disabilities is CRS’ flagship project in the country.

For more than 20 years, CRS has worked to offer direct services to people like Linh and her family, while also advocating for large-scale changes to make life in Vietnam more welcoming to those with disabilities. Their work ranges from providing ramps and handrails at schools to programs training children with disabilities to recognize and report abusive behavior.

“It’s kind of that dual approach that is really successful and helpful because you’re not just delivering a service that then is done when we’re done, but it’s really changing the overall system of support for children and adults with disabilities,” Keane said.

CRS is also introducing this year organized play and organized sports for the disabled in Vietnam. Through a partnership with the Special Olympics, CRS was able to host an inclusive soccer match and bocce ball competition this June for 100 children with disabilities and dozens of their peers.

“There are so many benefits that come to the child’s development through sport,” Isanhart said. “We’ll be tracking the benefits to all the kids who are playing together and forging friendships between kids.”

CRS’ ultimate goal is to empower communities to organize inclusive sports clubs, Isanhart said. The provinces that hosted the June events procured more than $800 in donations from members of the community.

“It was really great to see the buy-in of so many stakeholders from within the community to support these kids to have the opportunity to play and build their friendships through organized sport,” Isanhart said.  

For Keane, CRS’ program for the disabled in Vietnam is one of the most life-changing programs she has seen in her more than a decade with the Catholic aid agency.

“In Vietnam, it (having a disabled child) is still truly very much still a stigma and so often parents don’t go and get help for their children...and that early intervention is so important,” she said.

“I think for us - for CRS - it’s really about ensuring that all human beings have a life that has value and that the most vulnerable are not left behind. There’s still a lot of work to be done … we are making progress on de-stigmatizing life for people with disabilities but there’s still a ways to go.”

The genius of woman: Redefining the strong, independent woman

Fri, 07/27/2018 - 18:00

Denver, Colo., Jul 27, 2018 / 04:00 pm (CNA).-  Today CNA says farewell to our summer intern, Lizzy Joslyn. In her final week at CNA this summer, Lizzy offered "The Genius of Woman," a four-part series of interviews and profiles, based on Pope St. John Paul II's "Letter to Women," and interviews with seven Catholic women from very different walks of life. Today, she offers her own commentary on the "feminine genius."

As a young woman immersed in popular culture, especially via social media, I have heard--and often joined--the battle cry for women to be “strong” and “independent.”

Taken at face value, these are great qualities to possess. Of course, every woman--every person--should strive to be strong and independent.

But what exactly do those words mean in the context of some modern feminist viewpoints? I’d like to pinpoint the specific shade of each word as it applies to culture’s tagline of the “strong, independent woman,” then re-adjust the hue of their meanings to their purest and most original form--what it means to be a “strong, independent women” according to the Church.

There are women who think that being strong in the world has to mean hiding her femininity, lest she be judged by the world to appear weak or soft. And women sometimes do face social pressures that lead us to feel nearly obliged to avoid any semblance of gentleness or emotional warmth.

 It’s true, of course, that women have spent years battling glass ceilings, sexual violence and lacking representation in many spheres, and these battles rightfully continue. It’s true that women have to be prepared for those battles.

Despite this, women, I have discovered that we do not have to hide or throw away the warm, gentle side of our nature--or any part of our nature, for that matter. In fact, we shouldn’t.

Strength, in God’s eyes, means having the courage to embrace our womanly qualities, not to stifle them. We shouldn’t have to be embarrassed for our keen social skills and sensitivity to others’ emotions. We shouldn’t have to conceal our desire to care for others or our instinct to nurture. To grow the world’s appreciation for what women are: this is the true battle, the one worth fighting.

Independence, for women, is sometimes attached to the idea of “not needing” men, specifically in the context of romantic relationships. There is actually some truth to this. Women should not hold the concept of marriage as the ultimate goal in life, and neither should men. God does not call every woman and man to marriage.

But the idea of independence is most meaningful in the sense that women should focus on the unique path God is creating for them.

Though women’s lives do not hinge on men (or vice versa), they do, and should, depend on each other to bring their respective strengths to the world’s needs. This is the beauty of complementarity that John Paul II wrote about.

While I acknowledge that each woman has a different personality and a different set of gifts, I argue that these differences are varying reflections of the feminine genius. Some women may be more or less emotional or inclined to nurture than others. Women are called to work in various areas of the workforce; some are called to be mothers, some to both. Some women are more soft-spoken and gentle, others, perhaps, more vocal and audacious.

But no woman lacks the feminine genius, and no woman escapes its serious responsibilities, however it manifests itself in each woman’s highly specific calling. God made women different from men for a reason, and it is this we must embrace in order to live the feminine genius to its fullest.

So, my fellow sisters in Christ, let’s be strong in God’s plan for us, and independent on our search for his purpose for our lives.



Bay area project expands Gregorian chant instruction to children, teens

Fri, 07/27/2018 - 05:01

San Francisco, Calif., Jul 27, 2018 / 03:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- An initiative in the Archdiocese of San Francisco to form the Catholic imagination through beauty will next month host a workshop on how to teach “chant camps,” in which children and teens are educated in Gregorian chant.

The Benedict XVI Institute for Sacred Music and Divine Worship, founded by Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone in 2014, is holding a Teaching Children's Chant Camp Workshop in Menlo Park, about 30 miles south of San Francisco, Aug. 9-12.

The institute means to promote the vision of the Second Vatican Council, whose constitution on the liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, said that Gregorian chant is “specially suited to the Roman liturgy” and that “therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services.”

Maggie Gallagher, executive director of the Benedict XVI Institute, told CNA that children are particularly receptive to Gregorian chant.

“Kids, teens, and tweens take to chant like a duck to water. For two reasons: First, music is a language and like all languages it is best learned young,” she said.

“Secondly, kids are fascinated by doing 'grown-up' music. People keep offering 8 and 9 year olds 'children's' hymns at the exact moment tween are looking to put aside the babyish and assume older identities.”

Gallagher's words echoed those of Pius XI, who wrote in his 1928 bull Divini cultus that in “their earliest years” young people “are able more easily to learn to sing, and to modify, if not entirely to overcome, any defects in their voices.”

This is the first summer the Benedict XVI Institute has held chant camps for children. The camps' director, Mary Ann Carr-Wilson, however, “has taught children's chant camps for the past ten years, helping to pioneer the form,” Gallagher said.

Carr-Wilson directs choirs at St. Anne Catholic Church in San Diego, has been a soloist with the San Diego Chamber Orchestra and other groups, and holds an M.M. from San Diego State University.

“Learning from Mary Ann is learning from the best. We're very grateful she's decided to join the Benedict XVI team,” Gallagher stated.

Rather than teaching solely performance, the camps impart a sense of the meaning of the Mass, and what is participation in the liturgy.

She has said that during the week-long chant camps, children learn how to chant the Mass, in a way that engages them immediately. Older and more experienced singers mentor the younger and weaker ones, and children who thought they couldn't sing find that they are able.

Most importantly, Gallagher has said, is that the children participants deepen their understanding of the Mass.

Gallagher reported to CNA the words of Fr. Corwin, the chaplain at a recent chant camp, that “These kids get more catechesis at chant camp than they do all year. They learn what the Mass is. They learn than chant is not performance, it's prayer.”

Fr. Corwin added, “They are intrigued to find out they are singing the same prayers their favorite saints prayed through the ages. They are tasked with mastering the Tradition and then charged with handing it down. They love the responsibility. They love the Mystery. And they love the beauty they offer to glorify God and sanctify the Faithful.”

The Benedict XVI Institute's promotion of Gregorian chant is in line with the Second Vatican Council, and with popes from St. Pius X to Pope Francis.

In his 1903 motu proprio Tra le sollecitudini promoting active participation in the liturgy, St. Pius X focused on the importance of chant, writing that “Gregorian Chant has always been regarded as the supreme model for sacred music.”

He directed that “special efforts are to be made to restore the use of the Gregorian Chant by the people, so that the faithful may again take a more active part in the ecclesiastical offices.”

Pius XI said, “so that the faithful may more actively participate in divine worship, let Gregorian chant be restored to popular use.”

Ven. Pius XII wrote in his 1947 encyclical Mediator Dei that Gregorian chant “makes the celebration of the sacred mysteries not only more dignified and solemn but helps very much to increase the faith and devotion of the congregation.”

In his 2007 apostolic exhortation Sacramentum caritatis, Benedict XVI wrote that “while respecting various styles and different and highly praiseworthy traditions, I desire, in accordance with the request advanced by the Synod Fathers, that Gregorian chant be suitably esteemed and employed as the chant proper to the Roman liturgy,” adding that “nor should we forget that the faithful can be taught to recite the more common prayers in Latin, and also to sing parts of the liturgy to Gregorian chant.”

The 1967 instruction on music in the liturgy, Musicam sacram, which was an implementation of Vatican II, stated that “the study and practice of Gregorian chant is to be promoted, because, with its special characteristics, it is a basis of great importance for the development of sacred music.”

And in an address marking the 50th anniversary of Musicam sacram, Pope Francis praised the instruction and its focus on active, conscious, and full participation in the liturgy.

In his March 4, 2017 address to participants in a sacred music conference, Francis lamented that “At times a certain mediocrity, superficiality and banality have prevailed, to the detriment of the beauty and intensity of liturgical celebrations.”

He urged that musicians and others “make a precious contribution to the renewal, especially in qualitative terms, of sacred music and of liturgical chant.”

Among the participants in the Benedict XVI Institute's Aug. 9-12 workshop are the Missionaries of Charity, who Gallagher has said “told us they wanted our help to learn both to improve their own prayer life and so they can teach children how to participate in the Mass in this special way.”

Gallagher told CNA that “if you'd like to bring a chant camp or a chant camp workshop to your parish or school or youth choir, contact us Rose Marie Wong at”

She added that one or two slots with scholarships for the Aug. 9-12 How to Teach Children Chant workshop are available.

How Fr. Spitzer wants to make Catholicism credible for doubting Millennials

Fri, 07/27/2018 - 02:00

Washington D.C., Jul 27, 2018 / 12:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- How can Catholics respond to young people’s questions and concerns about faith, science, and modern problems?
Father Robert Spitzer, S.J. thinks a new educational series called Credible Catholic can help.
“The problem of faith and science and evidence is really significant. Just invest a couple hours of your time and you’ll improve not just the faith of your children, not just their sense of transcendent dignity… at the same time they’re going to be a lot happier,” Spitzer told CNA July 25.
Spitzer is a past president of Gonzaga University and frequent commentator on the relationship between science and religion. He has produced seven television series for the EWTN Global Catholic Network. He is the president of the Garden Grove, Calif.-based Magis Center, which aims to revitalize Catholic and Christian belief among contemporary Americans.
The Magis Center has helped develop the Credible Catholic series, which has seven presentation modules specially dedicated to common intellectual challenges to faith.  The Credible Catholic presentations can be viewed directly from the Credible Catholic website or downloaded.
“Our hope is to turn the tide of Millennial unbelief,” Spitzer said.

Surveys from the Pew Research Center show a “steep decline” in religion in the U.S. among younger generations. Self-identified religiously unaffiliated “nones” numbered 39 percent among the age 18-29 demographic in 2016, up from 23 percent in 2006. If the trend continues, this proportion will grow to 50 percent in the next five years, the Credible Catholic website said.
Credible Catholic contends religious disaffiliation is being driven by “secular myths”: the idea that science has proven that God does not exist; the idea that suffering proves God does not exist; the idea that humans are just like other animals, made of atoms and molecules, with no proof of a transcendent “soul”; and the idea that there is no proof that Jesus was special or divine, and no proof of his existence or Resurrection.
Father Spitzer has selected seven Credible Catholic modules as essential. They deal with evidence of the soul from medical science; evidence of God’s existence from science; proof of God’s existence from philosophy; and proof of Jesus’ resurrection and divinity. Other essential topics address the question “why be Catholic?”, the nature of true happiness, and why an all-loving God would allow suffering.
The modules aim to address the stated intellectual reasons Millennials are leaving the Church.
When young people leave their faith, a significant minority give up belief in God entirely. Among this group, half do so “because of a perceived contradiction between faith and science,” Spitzer said.
In Spitzer’s view, young people are being strongly exposed to “a raft of pretty superficial arguments for atheism.”
“They’re easy to address, and there’s a ton of evidence to do it with,” he added. “Once you give all this evidence, it makes the faith look more credible than anything they might have heard from their friends in high school or their professors in college or especially on new media.”
In Spitzer’s view, young people seem particularly affected by “a malaise that is arising out of the problem of suffering.”
“The kids just can’t figure out if there is any good that can come from suffering, and why a good God would allow it,” he said. This is an age-old question, rather than a scientific problem, but “it has a really good answer.”
The Credible Catholic modules are designed with the goal that no special training is needed for them. Presentation guides aim to help a presenter lead the module. Individual guides and student workbooks are also available,
At present the Credible Catholic series is a set of 20 modules that serve in a complementary role to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The modules help explain difficult concepts and cover materials addressing issues that affect society today.
“You want to invest in your child’s happiness in moving him out of superficiality to a life of real dignity and leadership for the good?” Spitzer asked. “Just please, invest three or four hours in watching these modules. I swear it’ll make a difference not only to them but to you.”
Other planned programs in the Credible Catholic series will discuss faith and morals; the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults; Marriage and pre-Cana courses; Baptism; and Confirmation. When completed the modules will cover the complete Catechism of the Catholic Church.

The Credible Catholic series is available at the website


FEMM aims for data-driven approach to fertility awareness

Thu, 07/26/2018 - 21:00

Washington D.C., Jul 26, 2018 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- For some, the idea of “fertility awareness” can seem daunting- full of charts and confusing formulas. The FEMM Health App seeks to change that, by providing an easier way for women to understand their fertility, and their overall health.

FEMM, which is an acronym meaning “Fertility Education & Medical Management,” describes itself as a “comprehensive women’s health program that teaches women to understand their bodies, and hormonal and other vital signs of health.”

The health app was launched on iOS in 2016. In addition to the app, FEMM offers classes and connections with medical professionals in order to help women better understand their hormonal cycles.

FEMM is a partner of the World Youth Alliance, an NGO that says it is “committed to building free and just societies through a culture of life.”

All women, regardless of age, are able to use the FEMM Health App.

On the app, women can record data about their menstrual cycles, as well as trackable observations about their emotional and physical well-being.
Using the data provided to the app, each cycle will be analyzed via an algorithm. FEMM can then offer predictions for the start of the woman’s next menstrual period or ovulation date, or provide alerts if something appears to be out of the ordinary, such as an abnormally short luteal phase.

Armed with this knowledge, a woman can seek out a FEMM teacher familiar with the app to further sort out any issues, and seek further medical treatment if a problem arises.

“There isn't a single problem that I've encountered in my medical practice that can't be mitigated by using the FEMM work-up,” Dr. Mary Martin, an OB/GYN based in Oklahoma City who works with FEMM, told CNA in an interview.

“So, the best thing about it is for people who don't have as much experience, let's say, in this area, can simply go to the materials and know exactly what to order, and using the treatment algorithms, have treatment success” without having to utilize more invasive techniques or procedures.

While the algorithms prove useful for identifying underlying problems, this information can also be used by couples who are seeking to become pregnant--or for those seeking a natural way to avoid pregnancy without the use of artificial contraceptives.

Martin was rebuff to any skeptics or naysayers who say that using an app to avoid pregnancy is foolish.

"I've wagered my credibility on this," said Martin. "It works. It's based on the science of Billings ovulation method.” The FEMM Health App, she said, makes it even easier for couples to use this technique, as it will remind the woman each day at 8 p.m. to record that day’s observations.

The app also has advantages for those struggling to conceive, said Martin.

"I use the FEMM app as well for my infertile patients, so they can identify the potentially fertile days."

The advantages of FEMM, Martin explained, is that it provides a way for doctors like herself to provide actual diagnoses for issues such as endometriosis or abnormal bleeding. All of these conditions have result from an endocrine issue that must be addressed, but doctors liker herself are “not actually challenged to diagnose the underlying issue.”

“This is a breakthrough.”

Addie Mena contributed to this report.