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ACI Prensa's latest initiative is the Catholic News Agency (CNA), aimed at serving the English-speaking Catholic audience. ACI Prensa (www.aciprensa.com) is currently the largest provider of Catholic news in Spanish and Portuguese.
Updated: 1 hour 59 min ago

‘Holy Foods Market’ brings customer service to local pantry

Sun, 09/16/2018 - 09:00

Washington D.C., Sep 16, 2018 / 07:00 am (CNA).- Northeast Washington, D.C., has seen rapid gentrification over the past decade. What was once a very poor neighborhood is now home to many high-end businesses, including a Whole Foods Market--and an innovative food pantry inspired in part by the upscale grocery store.

While the Whole Foods Market is open seven days a week, the “Holy Foods Market,” run by the Holy Name of Jesus Parish, located on K Street NE, is open twice a month.

Instead of a traditional food pantry, where those in need would receive a bag of food, clients who visit the Holy Foods Market are able to “shop” through the shelves and pick out what food items they would like.

The pastor at Holy Name of Jesus, Fr. Bill Carloni, said that he wanted to replicate the experience he had visiting Whole Foods in his parish’s food pantry. The idea grew into Holy Foods Market, which began operations in May, a little more than a year after the Whole Foods opened down the street. 

The pantry serves about 80 to 100 families a month, Carloni told CNA in an interview. Unlike many food pantries, few of the clients at Holy Foods Market are homeless. Most of the people served by the Market retirees, single parents, or the elderly. Each client is paired with a volunteer who assists them with the process of “shopping” for food.

Clients choose for themselves how much or how little food they need, within a certain limit. No one is required to take any particular food item, and some “customers” may only want certain things like milk, cereal, or peanut butter, Carloni said.

The setup of Holy Foods Market helps to preserve the clients’ dignity, the pastor told CNA. The pantry does not verify the income of its clients, though it does request that they either live within the approximate geographic boundary of the parish, or else have some sort of interaction with the church, either spiritually or as a volunteer.

"I've had feedback from a person, who said, 'You know, I'm so thankful that you treat me like a human being,’” said Carloni.

“I think that often they say 'beggars can't be choosers,' but that's the whole point. We don't want people to feel like beggars, and I think this does help humanize what we do. It does make them feel like they're shopping."

Allowing people to choose their own food items also has other benefits, Carloni explained to CNA. Because clients only pick items they actually want, no donated food is wasted.

The system also allows the Market to better accommodate clients with special diets or food allergies.

The previous system of distributing pre-packed bags of food resulted in many items going to waste, said Carloni, noting that cans of food were often found discarded outside of the pantry.

"There was one person who said specifically that she used to come, every month, to get food. But then when she would get home, she would empty the bag and she would keep about half the contents and then she would re-donate the other half back to the pantry, ” said Carloni.

“So she was trying not to waste it, actually, but what would end up happening is that she'd get the same stuff back the next month.”

Caroni told CNA that he believes sometimes people can approach ministries like a food pantry with a  “wrong mentality” and that those who are less fortunate “should be grateful and they should just take whatever they get.”

Fr. Carloni said that for many of the clients at the Market, it is extremely humbling to have to ask for a handout or for food assistance, and they strive to make the process of “shopping” as dignified and “customer oriented” as possible.

"I think a lot of people at one point or another have been in need of charity. Receiving love shouldn’t come at the cost of your dignity."

Catholic Charities in NY receives grant to treat rural opioid abuse

Sat, 09/15/2018 - 08:01

New York City, N.Y., Sep 15, 2018 / 06:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A Catholic Charities in New York has received a nearly $1 million grant to provide care to opioid addicts in rural counties in the southern part of the state.  

This year the Catholic Charities of Orange, Sullivan, and Ulster received $982,356 in federal funding, as part of N.Y. Governor Andrew Cuomo’s $25 million plan to tackle the state’s opioid crisis. This is the second year Catholic Charities has received funding to fight opioid abuse.

Dr. Dean Scher, CEO of this local Catholic Charities, told CNA that 10 percent of the U.S. population suffer from opioid abuse. He said opioid related deaths average about 185 per day in the nation.

The money will help Catholic Charities to provide addiction services, like more staff and equipment, to the New York counties of Orange, Sullivan, and Ulster, about 70 miles north of New York City. Scher said many of these people struggle with transportation issues.

“The money is used for us to hire staff and [purchase] equipment that allows us to embed the staff in the community in rural areas and in areas where people typically have a hard time accessing treatment,” said Dr. Scher.   

“We have a multidisciplinary treatment team as well as equipment that allows us to do telemedicine.”

He said the equipment purchased is of two kinds – transportation to bring the proper services to these people and technology, like computers and video cameras, which allow psychologists and physicians to determine treatment from afar.

In the teleconference, he said, the patients are pointed to some of the community resources, whether it be primary health care, psychiatric health care, or social safety net programs.

Some of the therapies patients’ access are Community Reinforcement and Family Therapy, Holistic Health Recovery, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and Seeking Safety.

Transportation is one of the barriers restricting people from access to addictive services and other forms of health care, said Scher, but he also said many of these people have not developed a habit of self-care.

“Statistics and research indicates that nine out of 10 people who suffer from an opioid use disorder do not access treatment,” he said.

“While transportation may be a barrier … another significant barriers is these people typically, traditionally do not engage in any kind of treatment service,” he added.

He said there is a high correlation connecting poverty and the development of diseases to further substance abuse. He said the goal of this Catholic Charities’ program is to directly treat substance abuse problems and to establish preventative measures to reduce future relapses.

“The focus of the work is not only to link these people up with the treatment for their substance use disorder, but all the other disorders,” he said. “The idea is to begin to develop relationships with these people and the trust of that relationship increases the probability that they’ll begin to enter treatment one a regular basis for all of their problems.”

This method also looks to reduce medical costs at the state level, he said, noting the large portion of people who do not seek medical treatment are responsible for a majority of the Medicaid dollars spent.

“I don’t think there is a person in the nation who has not lost a family member or a friend or someone they know to an overdose,” he said.

“We all need help,” he said. “It’s part of our mission – to provide help and create hope.” 

Archbishop Chaput: When we forget faith, we forget our humanity

Fri, 09/14/2018 - 19:03

Spokane, Wash., Sep 14, 2018 / 05:03 pm (CNA).- When man tries to cling to reason and separate himself from faith, he forgets who he is and loses his source of hope, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia said on Friday.

Chaput gave his Sept. 14 address at the Faith and Reason Institute at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, to mark the 20th anniversary of the encyclical Fides et ratio by St. John Paul II, which he recommended reading in tandem with Veritatis splendor.

Both encyclicals teach that the only way to discover the truths about man is through both faith and reason, which rely upon each other, Chaput said. Because the two are inseparable, when man loses his faith, as he is doing today, he loses much of what it means to be human.

“Today, at least in much of the developed world, theology is a backwater. Metaphysics is a museum piece. Politics, not religion, shapes our public discourse and monopolizes our zeal. The sexual revolution has crippled our institutions of marriage and family,” he said.

The catechism, he notes, has been replaced by “American advertising and entertainment.”

While there are signs of hope in regards to faith in the United States, which is still the most faithful country in the developed world, the country is also “bleeding out” when it comes to people who identify as religious, especially among the young, he said.

This hemorrhaging of faith is what makes the current scandals in the Church all the more difficult to bear, Chaput said.

“Our country and the world need a pure voice speaking the Gospel of Jesus Christ as a response. And this is what makes the current sex abuse crisis in the Church so damaging and dangerous, like a lit match in a roomful of kindling,” he said.

“The leaders tasked with witnessing Christian truth to the world as bishops and religious superiors are exactly the men who have too often failed their people, failed in their ministry, and even actively betrayed their vocation. We bishops and the Vatican itself are now seen as the problem. We need to face that fact honestly, and work to change it by our actions.”

The loss of faith also has a detrimental impact on three areas - sex, technology, and basic premises - that can shape or mis-shape society, Chaput added.

When man loses faith in God, he said, sex becomes little more than base instinct.

“Sex in today’s popular culture is mainly about impulse and desire, limited only – and sometimes not at all - by mutual consent. Rational self-mastery has little to do with it. Modesty is seen as a form of self-inflicted repression,” he said.

Technology then serves to drive the sexual revolution, which has forgotten God, Chaput said.

As for basic premises, Chaput said that America is increasingly seeking to base its morality on Enlightenment principles alone, which attempt to uphold human dignity, while cutting that dignity off from its supernatural roots.

“It doesn’t work, because it can’t work,” Chaput said.”It’s like cutting the heart out of a living creature.”

History issues dire warnings to man about what can happen when he is cut off from God and attempts to rely on reason or logic alone, Chaput noted.

“...the Jewish Holocaust was a tragedy without parallel,” Chaput said. “But it did have a precedent; a kind of test run.”

That test run was in the 1930s, when the Third Reich ordered the euthanization of more than 300,000 people with mental and physical disabilities. It was promoted as the “merciful” thing to do, Chaput said.

“Many of the victims were children, ages 6-15. The excuses given were legion: saving patients from their suffering; cleansing the Aryan gene pool; reducing the financial burden of unproductive citizens on the life of the community. Many patients were killed by injection. Some were starved. Others were gassed as groups in holding rooms or mobile ‘treatment’ vans,” he said.

Many of the targeted patients were housed in religious facilities, but only a few religious leaders, such as Bishop Clemens August Graf von Galen of Munster, spoke out against the program.

But part of the reason the program was so successful was because German doctors had started abandoning faith principles in favor of utility-based morality several decades prior, Chaput noted.

“Doctors, not the Third Reich, first pressed for euthanasia as national policy. What occurred among medical experts, in the words of one German psychiatrist, was ‘a change in the concept of humanity,’ with its perfectly logical consequences. Sentimental words about human dignity, unmoored from some authority or purpose higher than ourselves, were just that - words.”

Only through faith in God, who is love, can man overcome the brutal ends toward which a society based on reason alone leads.

“The genius of Fides et Ratio, the beauty and the glory of the text, is its defense of the capacity of human reason to know the truth; a truth rooted in the deep harmony of creation,” Chaput said.

“The world has a logic and meaning breathed into it by its Author, who is Love himself. And reason lit by faith can see that, and find the path to him.”

“Despite all the crises in the Church, despite all the failures and sins of her leaders, despite all our distractions and weaknesses and indifference as a people, God guides the world,” Chaput added.

“He informs and sustains it with his Love. In seeking that love, and finding it, and living it with all our mind and heart – therein lies our joy. Therein lies our hope.”

'Anything but a picnic' - Cardinal Dolan on the Church's summer of scandal

Fri, 09/14/2018 - 13:40

New York City, N.Y., Sep 14, 2018 / 11:40 am (CNA).- Cardinal Timothy Dolan has spoken about how the extended sexual abuse scandals facing the Church have taken a personal toll on him. The Archbishop of New York said that his own mother is “embarrassed to be Catholic.”

Dolan made the comments to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in a Sept. 13 interview. He said that his mother, who lives in an assisted-living home, told him that people knew her son was a priest and that she was ashamed of the scandals. 

“If you don’t think that’s wrenching, I tell you, it’s awful. This summer has been anything but a church picnic for us. It’s been a disaster--one crisis after another,” he said.

Dolan also said that, while scandals involving sexual abuse among the clergy were “not new,” he had listened to many survivors face-to-face throughout the years and that the damage done to them and to the Church was terrible.

The cardinal explained that when people came to him in anger and frustration about the revelations he told them how he shares their pain and outrage. Dolan also expressed his anger at how his fellow bishops could be “so negligent” in failing to properly respond to allegations of abuse.

Despite this anger at members of the Church hierarchy for mishandling or ignoring abuse claims, Dolan gave a strong vote of personal support to Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C.

Dolan said that Wuerl had a strong record as a reformer who has taken tough action against clerical abuse.

Cardinal Wuerl has faced numerous calls for his resignation in the fallout of the revelations concerning his predecessor, Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, and a Pennsylvania grand jury report on allegations of sexual abuse in several dioceses in that state.

"I’ve got to be personal,” Dolan said of Wuerl, “he's a good friend and he's a tremendous leader. I kind of hope he doesn't resign. We need him. He's been a great source of reform in the past.”

Dolan did, however, say that he would “trust” Wuerl’s decision if he felt it was necessary to resign.

Wuerl, the former bishop of Pittsburgh, was named over 200 times in the Pennsylvania grand jury report. In addition to persistent questions about his knowledge of the accusations against McCarrick, he has faced criticism for his handling of some cases involving accused priests during his time in Pittsburgh.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

Cardinal Wuerl submitted his resignation to Pope Francis following his 75th birthday three years ago, as is required by canon law. By not accepting the resignation, Pope Francis has allowed him to continue in office past the normal retirement age.

While it was widely thought that Wuerl hoped to continue in post at least until the U. S. Bishops’ conference met for their general session in November, an Archdiocese of Washington spokesman recently confirmed to CNA that he plans to travel to Rome “soon” to request that the pope accept his resignation.

As Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Dolan was responsible for overseeing the preliminary investigation into allegations that Archbishop Theodore McCarrick groped a 16 year old boy in 1971. McCarrick was serving as a priest in the Archdiocese of New York at that time.

That investigation, which began in 2017, determined the accusation to be credible and forwarded the charge to authorities in Rome. The public disclosure of that finding in June 2018 triggered a succession of public accusations that McCarrick had sexually assaulted or abused seminarians and priests over a period of decades, as well as a further accusation that he had sexually abused a minor.

Since then, numerous bishops in the United States and Rome have faced questions about when accusations against McCarrick had first been made known to Church authorities, and how he had been allowed to continue in ministry despite widespread rumors of his misconduct.

Kavanaugh vote delayed by one week

Thu, 09/13/2018 - 16:30

Washington D.C., Sep 13, 2018 / 02:30 pm (CNA).- The Senate Judiciary Committee will vote Sept. 20 on whether or not to recommend Judge Brett Kavanaugh for confirmation to the Supreme Court, committee chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) announced on Thursday. The vote will happen one week later than initially scheduled.

Senate committee rules allow for any member to request a one-week delay on a vote, though in this case several Democratic committee members supported the move.

In addition to the delay, Democratic members also filed several subpoenas requesting additional records relating to Kavanaugh’s time spent working for President George W. Bush. These requests were rejected by the committee by 10-11, with the vote split along party lines.

Because of the majority-Republican membership of the committee, Judge Kavanaugh is expected to be voted out of committee with a recommendation for the Senate to confirm his nomination.

Despite protests from observers and aggressive lines of questioning from some senators, Kavanaugh’s nomination appeared to be on solid ground at the end of last week. However, on Thursday afternoon, the process took an unexpected turn when Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), a member of the committee, said she had contacted federal investigators over an allegation of possible sexual misconduct involving Kavanaugh decades ago.

Sen. Feinstein issued a press release Sept. 13 which said that she had “received information from an individual concerning the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court,” and that while “the individual strongly requested confidentiality, declined to come forward or press the matter forward,” she had “forwarded the matter to federal investigative authorities.”

The New York Times reported that the information came from a letter that was sent to the office of Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and that it “included the allegation of sexual misconduct toward the letter’s author” when Kavanaugh was in high school.

Feinstein declined to release any further details and it is not clear if Kavanaugh is alleged to have committed a crime.

The contents of the letter have not been made public, nor has it been shared with Republican members of the judiciary committee. A spokesperson for Sen. Grassley said that the committee chairman had not seen the letter, but that he was aware of it. He also confirmed that there is “no plan to change the committee’s consideration of Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination.”

Another member of the Senate Judiciary Committee appeared to dismiss Feinstein’s press release. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), tweeted “Let me get this straight: this is statement [sic] about a secret letter regarding a secret matter and an unidentified person. Right.”

White House spokesperson Kerri Kupec said in a statement that, despite Kavanaugh’s 65 meetings with senators - including Feinstein - throughout the confirmation process and his more than 30 hours of testimony answering questions in both public and private sessions, “not until the eve of his confirmation has Sen. Feinstein or anyone else raised the specter of new ‘information’ about him.”

Kavanaugh has been “thoroughly and repeatedly” vetted by the FBI since his career in public service began in 1993, said Kupec. The Texas senator called the new letter an “11th hour attempt to delay (Kavanaugh’s) confirmation.”

Following the committee’s vote next week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is expected to schedule a floor debate and final confirmation vote by the Senate for the final week of September.

While the timeline is still to be determined, the final vote could happen as early as September 24, in time for Kavanaugh to take his place on the Supreme Court before the opening of its next session on October 1.

Bishop Rhoades cleared of wrongdoing by district attorney's investigation

Thu, 09/13/2018 - 15:03

Harrisburg, Pa., Sep 13, 2018 / 01:03 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A district attorney in Pennsylvania cleared Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend of any wrongdoing Thursday, and both the district attorney and the Fort Wayne diocese lamented that unnecessary harm was done to the bishop by speculation going public.

“After a full investigation, the Dauphin County District Attorney has determined that there is no basis to conclude that Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades ever engaged in a criminal or otherwise improper relationship with a person whom we will refer to as J.T.,” read a Sept. 13 statement by Francis Chardo, Dauphin County district attorney.

A cousin of J.T. (who died in 1996) had contacted the Diocese of Harrisburg saying he recalled Rhoades having travelled with J.T. when J.T. was a minor, and that he thought it was odd and was compelled to report it. Harrisburg is the seat of Dauphin County.

The suggestion of impropriety was leaked to the press.

The Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend stated that “While it’s important that allegations be brought forward, it’s equally important for due process to take place. The result of this investigation underscores the importance of allowing appropriate authorities to determine credibility of accusations before the reputation of any individual is impugned in the court of public opinion.”

Similarly, Chardo wrote that “This has been a case of a public airing of mere speculation of impropriety with no foundation. In this case, the leaking of what turned out to be an unfounded report did unnecessary harm. This has done a disservice to actual victims of sexual abuse. It has also caused significant and unnecessary harm to Bishop Rhoades.”

He encouraged “reports of any suspicion of the abuse of a child to law enforcement,” while adding that “once reports are made to proper authorities, they should be fully investigated without public speculation about guilt. Where appropriate, we will bring charges. Here, we found no evidence of wrongdoing. We now regard this case as closed.”

Bishop Rhoades, 60, was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Harrisburg in 1983. He became Bishop of Harrisburg in 204, and continued serving there until his 2009 appointment as Bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend.

Chardo explained that J.T. turned 18 in July 1988, and that Rhoades had no connection to J.T.'s parish until that month, and that he “would have had no opportunity to even meet J.T. before July 1988. In fact, he did not meet J.T. until almost two years later.”

Rhoades first met J.T. in 1990 at the Dauphin County Prison, the district attorney found. J.T.'s mother had asked Rhoades to visit her son in prison. Bishop Rhoade's recollection of events coincided with the records of the county jail, Chardo noted.

J.T. Was paroled April 6, 1990, after Rhoades told a court that J.T. could do community service at his parish.

“During the time that J.T. was doing community service and spending time at St. Francis Parish, Father Rhoades decided to make a trip to Puerto Rico,” Chardo wrote. “A friend of Father Rhoades, a teacher, who was considering the priesthood, also made the trip. Upon learning of the impending travel to Puerto Rico, J.T. asked if he could also join the trip so that he could visit his grandmother there. Father Rhoades agreed. All three men made the trip to Puerto Rico and there was no sexual or intimate contact between them. We interviewed the teacher by telephone as he lives in England … He confirmed Bishop Rhoades’ account of the trip and that there was no sexual or intimate contact between Father Rhoades and anyone else during the trip.”

J.T.'s mother was also interviewed by detectives, and she “corroborated Bishop Rhoades’ account,” confirming that the Puerto Rico trip took place when J.T. was in his 20s, and that “she never had any indication of sexual contact between J.T. and Father Rhoades.”

Chardo noted that the investigation began with a report by one of J.T.'s cousins to the Harrisburg diocese that he recalled Rhoades “had travelled with J.T. to Puerto Rico twice and South America once when J.T. was 13 or 14 years old. The cousin did not witness any sexual or unlawful acts and did not receive information relating any such acts from any source. The cousin merely thought the conduct he remembered was odd and so he felt compelled to report it. The Diocese promptly forwarded the report to the Dauphin County District Attorney.”

The district attorney noted that when he was re-interviewed, “the cousin indicated that he was not certain of the timeframe but he was sure that the contacts between J.T. and Father Rhoades occurred after 1986, based upon a milestone in his own life. He conceded that it may very well have been when J.T. was in his late teens or early twenties.”

“Based upon the records relating to Bishop Rhoades’ assignments and the interviews of Bishop Rhoades and J.T.’s mother, we have determined that Bishop Rhoades first came in contact with J.T. at the request of his mother while J.T. was an adult inmate of the Dauphin County Prison. This contact was in the context of religious outreach to an inmate to provide spiritual guidance.”

Chardo also determined that the trip to Puerto Rico “occurred when J.T. was an adult” and that “this was the only time that Bishop Rhoades travelled with J.T.”

“The report relating to multiple trips was the result of an honest, mistaken recollection and the passage of nearly three decades. All of Bishop Rhoades’ contact with J.T. was in the context of pastoral care and arose out of the recognized tradition of prison ministry.”

Chardo noted that J.T.'s name was not disclosed “because the report by a member his family was made confidentially and without the expectation that it would be publicly aired.”

He added that “no witness has alleged observing any criminal or improper conduct by Bishop Rhoades with respect to J.T., and that “Bishop Rhoades and the family of J.T. fully cooperated in the investigation.”

The Fort Wayne-South Bend diocese noted its appreciation of “the swift and thorough investigation into the unsubstantiated allegation against Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades. As anticipated, the investigation exonerated Bishop Rhoades.”

The diocese said it “stands firm in sympathy and support for all victims of child sexual abuse and encourages victims to report allegations.”

Bishop Rhoades commented, “I have offered up the pain of this difficult time for the victim survivors of child sexual abuse.”

Planned Parenthood announces new president, pro-life advocates react

Thu, 09/13/2018 - 13:00

Washington D.C., Sep 13, 2018 / 11:00 am (CNA).- Dr. Leana Wen, a former Baltimore City Commissioner of Health, is the new president of Planned Parenthood. The abortion provider announced Wen’s appointment on Sept. 12. She replaces Dr. Cecile Richards, who was appointed to the role in 2006.

In a three-minute video posted by Planned Parenthood announcing her hiring, Wen described her immigrant background--she moved to the United States from China at the age of eight--and her past work as an emergency room doctor and as the health commissioner of Baltimore.

“Reproductive health care is health care. Women’s health care is health care, and health care has to be understood as a fundamental human right,” said Wen in the video.

“Having a physician as the head of Planned Parenthood--it is a sign that what we are doing is mainstream medical care.”

While Wen stressed her enthusiasm for the role, former Planned Parenthood clinic director-turned-pro-life activist Abby Johnson told CNA that she hopes to one day welcome Wen into her ministry for former abortion industry workers.

"Doctors take an oath to first 'do no harm' and when it comes to pregnant women, there are two patients. Doctors understand this, even those who do abortions,” said Johnson.

“We have had seven abortionists come through our ministry at And Then There Were None--they left their jobs and realized they could authentically practice that oath elsewhere. It's my hope that Dr. Leana Wen, Planned Parenthood's new president, comes to realize the atrocity of abortion for both mom and baby. We are here when she decides to quit and to use her talents to first do no harm."

Wen is the first physician to lead Planned Parenthood in five decades. In a statement on Twitter, she said her new position was “an incredible honor and privilege” and that she was “proud to stand alongside millions of (the organization’s) supporters as we embark on this next chapter together.

Americans United for Life President and CEO Catherine Glenn Foster said in a statement that she believes that Wen “puts politics ahead of women’s health,” and that she has an “abysmal and tragic record” combatting sexually transmitted diseases from her time in Baltimore.

During Wen’s time as a city commissioner for health, Maryland had some of the highest diagnosis rates in the country for diseases such as syphilis and HIV/AIDS, said Foster.

“Without irony, Wen further hails the ‘life saving work’ of the nation’s largest abortion network, even though Baltimore’s African-American community has been decimated by abortion.”

While in her post in Baltimore, Wen sued the Trump administration over funding cuts to a grant for teen pregnancy prevention programs. The funding was eventually restored.

Foster was also critical of Wen’s attack on conscience rights, saying “[Wen] refers to the principled decisions of doctors and nurses to refrain from the destruction of innocent human lives as ‘refusals,’ and teamed up with NARAL in the attempt to force pro-life pregnancy centers to refer for abortions.”

Planned Parenthood is the largest provider of abortions in the United States. In 2016, the organization performed about one out of every three abortions, the largest single share by far.

While Wen emphasised the “basic health care” offered by Planned Parenthood, the past decade has seen its number of patients decline by about 700,000, while the number of cancer screenings, contraceptives distributed, and prenatal services provided by the organization decreased as well.

Abortions, however, have increased by about 10 percent since 2006, despite Planned Parenthood seeing fewer patients.

The amount of federal funding received by Planned Parenthood increased by 61 per cent over the past decade. In 2016, Planned Parenthood received over half a billion dollars in federal funds.

Texas priest arrested for alleged child sex abuse

Wed, 09/12/2018 - 19:59

Houston, Texas, Sep 12, 2018 / 05:59 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A priest of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston was arrested Tuesday in connection with allegations that he sexually abused at least two children decades ago.

Police in Conroe, Texas have reported that the priest has been charged with four counts of indecency to children. While stationed at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Conroe, Father Manuel La Rosa-Lopez was accused in 2001 of kissing and  inappropriately touching a 16 year-old girl.

The priest was permitted to return to ministry after the allegation was reviewed by the Texas authorities and the archdiocesan review board in 2003, which allowed the priest to return to ministry in 2004. Reportedly, the women moved back in 2010 and saw that the priest had been transferred to St. John Fisher parish in Richmond, Texas.

After contacting the archdiocese, the woman was referred to counseling services and briefly met with Father La Rosa-Lopez, who offered his apologies, according to Click 2 Houston.  

A 36 year-old man presented a case of sexual abuse Aug. 10. The man said he had been sexually abused from 1998-200, also at Sacred Heart parish.

In a Sept. 12 statement, the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston said it immediately presented this case to Children’s Protective Services. The archdiocese also said that the priest has denied these allegations.

“We take these matters very seriously, which is why we reported the information we received from both individuals to CPS – and removed Father La Rosa-Lopez from ministry.”

An arrest warrant was issued for the priest by the district attorney of Montgomery County Sept. 11. Father La Rosa-Lopez turned himself in to the police that evening.

The archdiocese has not commented on the timing of Father La Rosa-Lopez’s removal from the parish.

However, archdiocese upheld its strong commitment to the protection of children and expressed its apologies to any victims who have been injured by sexual abuse.

“The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston recognizes it clearly has both a legal and a moral obligation to address any incidence of abuse – sexual or otherwise – to God’s children. Such behavior simply will not be tolerated.”

“To anyone affected by any form of abuse by anyone who represents the Church, the Archdiocese deeply regrets such a fundamental violation of trust, and commits itself to eliminating such unacceptable actions.”

The Archbishop of Galveston-Houston, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, is president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Together with several other USCCB officials, Cardinal DiNardo is meeting with Pope Francis Sept. 13 to discuss the clerical sexual abuse crisis that has roiled the Church in the US for several months.

Cardinal Wuerl to ask pope to accept his resignation

Wed, 09/12/2018 - 18:50

Washington D.C., Sep 12, 2018 / 04:50 pm (CNA).- An archdiocesan spokesman has confirmed that Cardinal Donald Wuerl will soon ask Pope Francis to accept his resignation as the Archbishop of Washington, D.C.

In a Sept. 11 letter to priests, Wuerl said that he would soon meet with the pope to discuss his future, but did not state at the time that he would ask the pope to allow him to resign.

The text of that letter has been posted on the website of the archdiocesan magazine.

A spokesman for Wuerl confirmed to CNA Sept. 12 that, at their next meeting, the cardinal intends to formally ask Pope Francis to allow him to step down. 

“Cardinal Wuerl understands that healing from the abuse crisis requires a new beginning and this includes new leadership for the Archdiocese of Washington,” the spokesman said.

As required by canon law, Wuerl originally submitted his resignation on Nov. 12, 2015, after turning 75 years old.

After Wuerl made a trip to Rome in late August, media reports said that Pope Francis had instructed the cardinal to return to Washington and consult with his clergy about the best way forward for him and the archdiocese.

In a meeting with priests held Labor Day, Wuerl said he would be taking time to pray and reflect on how best to proceed.

The cardinal has been the subject of considerable criticism in recent months. As the successor to Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, Wuerl has faced questions about his knowledge of sexual abuse allegations made against McCarrick, which were first reported to the public June 20.

Following the release of a Pennsylvania grand jury report at the end of July, Wuerl’s record as Bishop of Pittsburgh, where he served from 1988 until 2006, came under close scrutiny. Some cases in the report raised concerns that Wuerl had allowed priests accused of abuse to remain in ministry after allegations had been made.

Although he has faced calls to step down and several recent demonstrations outside his residence, it has been widely believed that Wuerl hoped to remain in his position at least until the general session of the U.S. bishops’ conference in November. That session is expected to focus on the fallout of the recent sexual abuse crises, and Wuerl was said to want to play and active part in helping the Church respond.

Speculation will now turn to the candidates to succeed him in Washington. The Archdiocese of Washington is a highly visible and sensitive post, requiring political and ecclesial acumen. In the wake of the McCarrick scandals, Wuerl’s successor will be expected to lead reform initiatives and restore trust in archdiocesan leadership.

Sources in Rome have told CNA that on his recent visit, Cardinal Wuerl presented several suggestions for his eventual replacement in Washington. While the list remains confidential, several curial sources told CNA that one bishop named was Archbishop Bernard Hebda, the Archbishop of St. Paul-Minneapolis.

Hebda arrived in Minneapolis as an emergency apostolic administrator in 2015 following the resignation of Archbishop Nienstedt, who was himself accused of sexual misconduct. At the same time, Hebda served as the coadjutor Archbishop of Newark and had been slated to succeed Archbishop John Myers.

While in Newark, Hedba gained a reputation as a reformer with a close interest in archdiocesan affairs, conducting unannounced visits to priests and parishes, and choosing to live on the campus of Seton Hall University where the archdiocesan seminary is housed.

Following his arrival in Minneapolis, Hebda brought the archdiocese through a protracted bankruptcy process, following multiple suits brought against it for cases of sexual abuse.

The Archdiocese of Washington told CNA that no firm date had been agreed for Cardinal Wuerl to meet with Pope Francis, adding that the meeting would take place as soon as is convenient for the pope.

Bishop has not found 'natural causes' for weeping Mary statue

Wed, 09/12/2018 - 18:00

Las Cruces, N.M., Sep 12, 2018 / 04:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A New Mexico bishop has given an update an apparently weeping statue of the Blessed Mother, saying a diocesan investigation will begin to analyze the apparent miracle’s spiritual fruits.

Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces said the phenomenon taking place at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Hobbs, N.M., does not seem to have a natural cause.

“The first phase of the investigation is to determine if the phenomenon can be explained by natural causes. So far, we have not discerned natural causes for the statue’s emitting of liquid,” he said in an August statement.

“If the cause of the phenomenon is supernatural, we must discern if it is from God or from the devil. I remind you that the Church believes in the existence of fallen angels, who at times try to trick us,” he added.

A bronze statue of the Our Lady of Guadalupe began weeping May 20, the Solemnity of Pentecost, and has wept twice since then – the day after Pentecost, on the Feast of Mary, Mother of the Church and again on the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, June 9th.

Reportedly, the substance found on the statue is a rose-scented olive oil, which has been found to closely resemble the oil of sacred chrism. Nothing on the inside of the hollow statue was found that could have created liquid. There were a few cobwebs in the interior.

The diocesan investigation process has also involved interviewing the Mexican manufacturer who created the statue. According to Bishop Cantu, the owners said the production process involves high heat, which melts completely the wax molds around which the statues are formed, leaving no residue of wax that might have contributed to the phenomenon.

Father Jose Segura, pastor of the parish, reported the incident immediately to Bishop Cantu. The investigation was then initiated by diocesan chancellor Fr. Enrique Lopez and vice-chancellor Deacon Jim Winder, who gathered samples of the tears and testimonies of eye-witnesses.

Having given a public update of the investigation on July 15, Bishop Cantu said the weeping statue is not the product of any natural cause for which they have tested. In a recent statement, the bishop said it will take longer to determine the supernatural origin of the tears.

“The discernment of whether it is a phenomenon from God or from the Evil One is a longer process. The devil can sometimes imitate holy things in order to confuse us. So, we must be prudent and vigilant.”

Bishop Cantu said this discernment process will be based on the weeping statue’s spiritual fruits. He repeated the Fruits of the Holy Spirit mentioned in the Letter of St. Paul to the Galatians: charity, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, and chastity.

He reminded Catholics that the Church distinguishes between public and private revelations. Public revelation, which closed after the death of the last apostle, he said, differs from private revelation in that it does not provide any new knowledge on salvation.

“No new information regarding our salvation is to be gained from private revelations. The messages of private revelations only reaffirm and highlight what Christ has already revealed in Scripture and Tradition,” he said.

“Thus, Mary and the saints always lead us back to Jesus and to the Church. This is why Mary instructed St. Juan Diego, ‘go to the bishop,’ and ‘build a temple.’”

 

Pittsburgh bishop announces Year of Repentance

Wed, 09/12/2018 - 13:01

Pittsburgh, Pa., Sep 12, 2018 / 11:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In the wake of recent sex abuse scandals, Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh has announced a Year of Repentance in the diocese.

He has asked all the clerics to fast and pray for the purification of the Church, and invited all Catholics to join the initiative.

“Faced with the sinful actions of the members of our own ranks of the clergy, who are called to manifest the example of Christ, we feel both shame and sorrow, and are reminded of our own sinfulness and the need for mercy,” Bishop Zubik wrote in a Sept. 10 letter to the clerics and seminarians of the diocese.

“I invite the faithful to join with the clergy as they desire in our acts of prayer and penance. The year is open to individuals to go beyond what I am requesting as we continue to pray that the Lord come to our aid.”

The Year of Repentance will include the observance of the Ember Days, which were traditionally days of fast and abstinence.

Bishop Zubik has asked that on each of the 12 Ember Days in the coming year, clerics of the Diocese of Pittsburgh fast, abstain from meat, and make a Holy Hour.

Ember Days are tied to the seasons of the year, and are held on the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday of four weeks: the third week of September, the third week of Advent, the first week of Lent, and the octave of Pentecost.

In the Pittsburgh diocese's Year of Repentance, the Ember Days fall Sept. 19, 21, and 22, 2018, Dec. 19, 21, 22, 2018, March 13, 15, 16, 2019, and June 12, 14, 15, 2019.

Bishop Zubik will inaugurate the Year of Repentance Sept. 23 with Vespers and a Holy Hour at the cathedral.

The year will close with a Mass for the Assumption Aug. 15, 2019 to serve “as a sign of hope and healing for victims and for renewal in the Church through the intercession of Mary.”

In his letter, Bishop Zubik also encouraged the clerics of Pittsburgh to consider restoring the recitation of the prayer to St. Michael after all Masses.

Annual Mass honors 'rich cultural diversity' of Los Angeles archdiocese

Wed, 09/12/2018 - 11:01

Los Angeles, Calif., Sep 12, 2018 / 09:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- With nearly five million Catholics, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles is not only the largest diocese in the United States, it is also one of the most diverse, with people from about 70 different countries and every continent, and Masses said in 42 languages.

To celebrate this diversity, the archdiocese for the past 14 years has held a Mass to honor the nearly 40 ethnicities that are represented among its people.

This year, the Mass will be held Sept. 15, the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles.

The theme for this year’s Mass is “Do Not Be Afraid of Holiness.” Catholics of all ethnicities are invited to join the Mass in traditional ethnic wear.

“In Pope Francis’ Exhortation ‘Gaudete et Exsultate’ (Rejoice and be Glad), he calls us to respond to holiness in own practical ways in today’s world. This is what inspired this year’s theme,” Maria Aguilar, member of the Ethnic Community Council of the archdiocese’s Office of Ethnic Ministry and organizer of the Mass, said in a statement.

“The Catholic Church recognizes cultural diversity as an important constitutive part of our society,” the Office of Ethnic Ministry states on its website.

“Faithful from throughout the Archdiocese gather each year to celebrate the rich cultural diversity of Los Angeles and to recognize the unique gifts each of our communities bring to our Local Church.”

This year’s Mass will feature the Native American Prayer of Four Directions, a procession of 22 ethnic communities carrying a saint or a religious image, and a traditional Samoan story told by Deacon Maselino Alefosio, a representative of the Samoan community.

Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, who himself was born in Mexico, said he looks forward to the cultural Mass every year because “it is like a family reunion - with all our brothers and sisters from every nationality and ethnicity coming together as God's family to worship and give thanks to our heavenly Father.”

“If you want to experience the power of the love of God, join us for this joyful celebration,” he said in a statement.

According to the archdiocese, some of the groups that will be represented at the Mass are Filipinos, Vietnamese, Lithuanian, Japanese, Indonesian, Chinese, Nicaraguan, Italian, Belizean, Persian, French, Igbo-Nigerian, Korean, Croatian, African-American, Portuguese, Polish, Salvadoran, Costa Rican, and Mexican.

Aguilar said Catholics of different ethnicities can draw inspiration from the Church’s diverse communion of saints and martyrs, as well as from “the Blessed Mother (who) through her many Sorrows is the foremost force of our courage to not fear holiness.”

How a priest and teams of homeless people are transforming Detroit

Wed, 09/12/2018 - 05:01

Detroit, Mich., Sep 12, 2018 / 03:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Many homeless people of Detroit already recognize Father Marko Djonovic’s white Ford Excursion.

When Djonovic rolls up with his friend Marcus Cobb, it’s probably because they’ve got a job to offer, in exchange for lunch and some pay.

“Word is getting out on the street about us,” Djonovic said of his new ministry, which he dubbed Better Way Detroit.

“So when they see the white Ford Excursion they come up to us, asking, are you going to pick us up for work?” he told CNA.

Djonovic and Cobb are the two-man crew behind Better Way Detroit, and since May they have been teaming up with the city of Detroit and willing homeless workers to clean up the city’s parks, overgrown alleys, and vacant lots.

They drive around three days a week, stopping at shelters and other homeless hangouts, offering several hours of work for pay. The van can hold up to six people besides Djonovic and Cobb, and they typically take workers on a first come, first serve basis.

While he never worked with the homeless in any official capacity prior to starting this ministry, Djonovic said he was inspired by the individual interactions he had had with people on the streets.

After helping a mentally ill man get off the streets and into housing, he said he realized that while the homeless agencies are a “well-polished machine, there are gaps in that sometimes they can’t go out on the streets and find people and meet these people.”

He said he also discovered that many of the homeless had a strong work ethic and a desire to work for pay.

“When I see the homeless I don’t see hopeless objects of pity, but I see persons...with a sincere desire to work. They want to work. And there’s a great need in the city of Detroit, so putting those two things together moved me to to do this project,” he said.

Djonovic is also part of the newly-formed Congregation of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri at Our Lady of the Rosary parish in Detroit.

The spirit of service found in St. Philip Neri was an inspiration behind Better Way Detroit, Djonovic said.

“We serve following his spirit,” Djonovic said of the members of the Oratory. That service manifests itself in three ways: evangelization to youth, the cultivation of the spiritual life among the people through the sacraments, and service to the poor.

“I believe it’s what St. Philip would have done, he wasn’t afraid to out on the streets and preach the Gospel, to engage people, which included the homeless. St. Philip Neri was known as the apostle of Rome just because of that,” he said.

In the beginning, Better Way Detroit partnered with the City of Detroit Parks and Recreation Department to clean up parks through their Adopt a Park program. They now also help the city clear out overgrown alleys and vacant lots that can pose safety problems to neighborhoods.

Cobb provides much need insight to the ministry for how to work with the homeless because he was once a homeless veteran himself, Djonovic said.

“I learn a lot from Marcus, he understands the homeless culture; he’s very wise,” Djonovic said. He said Cobb has taught him the importance of being attentive to even the smaller needs of the homeless, such as if they want cigarettes or water, and to let them know they are respected.

Cobb said it helps instill a sense of respect and responsibility to the homeless that they work with if they are given ownership of the projects in which they partake. Every job starts with an evaluation of the site and the work to be done, and the homeless workers decide how best to get the job done, he said.

“You give them ownership, ask them how it should be done. It gives them responsibility,” Cobb said. “We get their input, and before you know it everyone’s teaming up. It makes them feel important, it gets better results, and they put the word out because they know it’s well worth their time.”

Cobb said he believes the ministry has been well-received among the homeless because “it gives them something to look forward to, and a chance to give back, and to get back into society.”

“Just because they’re homeless...doesn’t mean they don’t want to give back or try to get back in to society,” Cobb said.

It also appeals to the homeless because it gives them a chance to provide for some of their own needs “without a handout,” he said.

The partnership with the city, which is significantly understaffed, has also worked well, Cobb and Djonovic said, because their team is often able to get to jobs that the city doesn’t have the staff to do.

For example, the city gets a lot of calls from senior citizens who have lived in their neighborhoods for decades and have safety concerns about overgrown lots that may serve as hideouts or hubs for drug deals, Djonovic said.

“One woman was just singing our praises” after they cleared up a vandalized, overgrown lot in her neighborhood, he said. “Once (lots) are exposed, they feel safer, especially for the sake of children.”

Djonovic said he feels privileged to get to work alongside the homeless, and as they work, “sometimes I get to know their story, and they get to know my story,” he said.

“It’s happened a few times where guys ask me, why did you become a priest?” he said.

Every project concludes with lunch and a reflection on a bible reading. They have also handed out prayer cards to the homeless and do their best to connect them to housing, healthcare services, or other resources they might need.

“We at least just make them aware of the services available and encourage them to go, some guys aren’t aware of (everything available),” Djonovic said.

Djonovic currently funds the ministry entirely out of his own pocket, and through any donations he receives for the project. All of the money goes strictly to needed materials such as gloves or shovels and to pay the homeless for their work.

Djonovic and Cobb added that they are always looking for ways to expand and strengthen their ministry, and they are hoping sometime in the future to employ someone in a full-time position who can oversee the operation to make it more sustainable.

“Things are looking good we’re really enjoying it,” said Djonovic, who added that he’s been touched by some of the responses he’s seen from the homeless.

“One guy said: ‘I feel blessed because to be a part of something positive.’ He didn’t say, 'oh, now I’ve got some money in my pocket',” Djonovic recalled.

“Another young man, 25 years old, he said it was a grace” to participate in the project, he said.

Cobb said he would encourage Catholics to encounter and get to know the poor in their cities.

“Go out and start from the bottom and communicate with the people...go into the areas where the people don’t have the income, and approach them and talk to them halfway nice, and they’ll respond.”

Don’t use taxpayer money to buy aborted baby parts, pro-life investigators say

Wed, 09/12/2018 - 02:00

San Francisco, Calif., Sep 12, 2018 / 12:00 am (CNA).- Federal research agencies’ purchase of fetal tissue and body parts from a company under investigation for illegally selling them has drawn criticism from the investigative journalism group that filmed undercover videos exposing the practice.
 
“Advanced Bioscience Resources is under federal investigation right now for colluding with Planned Parenthood to sell aborted baby body parts for profit,” David Daleiden, Center for Medical Progress lead, said Sept. 10. “It is unconscionable that the United States government is still paying top-dollar in taxpayer money for the freshest, most high-quality dismembered baby hearts, lungs, livers, and brains.”
 
“By custom-ordering late-term aborted baby body parts for sale from Planned Parenthood partners like (Advanced Bioscience Resources), the FDA is directly complicit in these abortions and implies that these kids are worth more to the U.S. government dead than alive,” Daleiden continued.
 
At issue is the potential that fetal tissue is being sold illegally. Federal law does not allow fetal tissue or body parts to be sold for profit.
 
On July 25 the Food and Drug Administration signed a $15,900 contract with Advanced Bioscience Resources Inc., a California based not-for-profit, to acquire human fetal tissue for medical research using mice. It is the eighth contract between the FDA and the company since 2012, and seven of the contracts appear to relate to the same or similar programs.
 
The Center for Medical Progress has released a report saying its primary sources show that the non-profit company Advanced Bioscience Resources “sold aborted fetal specimens at prices far higher than its legally reimbursable costs.” Emails obtained through a public records request include an email to a University of Utah customer that shows the non-profit company admitting to billing almost twice its reimbursable costs. This was an admission to “massively overbilling,” the Center for Medical Progress charged.
 
Customer invoices show billing techniques like using multiple specimen charges for each body part, even if they were harvested at one time and shipped together in one package. The company’s fee schedules also show unexplained increases, the report says.
 
The fetal tissue used in research is obtained from elective abortions, according to a report from the Congressional Research Service.
 
The fetal tissue the FDA intends to purchase would be injected into mice with compromised immune systems in order to create a “chimeric animal” with an immune system like that of a human being.
 
The non-profit provider of fetal tissue was mentioned in a series of videos secretly filmed by the Center for Medical Progress, released in 2015, which also accuse Planned Parenthood of profiting from the sale of fetal tissue obtained through abortions.
 
The Center for Medical Progress claimed Advanced Bioscience Resources is “one of the largest and oldest companies dedicated solely to harvesting and reselling body parts from abortion,” with technicians stationed at Planned Parenthood and other abortion clinics across the U.S. These technicians identify and dissect fetal body parts for shipment.
 
One Center for Medical Progress video shows a procurement technician for the company appearing to admit to seeing fully intact fetuses delivered at abortion clinics when the company intended to harvest tissue.
 
The company “contracted for decades with Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest, based in southern California, to harvest aborted fetal specimens at Planned Parenthood in San Diego and Riverside for $60 per specimen and then resell them to taxpayer-funded researchers for up to $6,000 per specimen,” the Center for Medical Progress report charged.
 
In July, the FDA defended its contract and the research, saying that the agency is “committed to ensuring that its research is conducted responsibly, conforms with all legal requirements, and meets the highest ethical standards.” It told CNSNews.com this type of research is a “very small fraction” of the agency’s work. At the same time, the FDA defended the use of aborted human remains in research, saying the practice has led to “a better understanding of a number of conditions and diseases that affect millions of Americans.”
 
In the last two years, the National Institutes of Health have spent over $200 million on research projects using fetal tissue, the Center for Medical Progress report says, citing NIH’s own categorical spending report. NIH research conducted in government laboratories accounted for $20 million of this spending in 2017 alone.
 
Following two investigations, Congressional committees made criminal referrals for both the non-profit company and Planned Parenthood. There is an active Department of Justice investigation based on the criminal referrals.
 
“HHS must provide full transparency and immediately terminate any and all such contracts, and the U.S. Department of Justice needs to do their job and hold (Advanced Bioscience Resources), Planned Parenthood, and those like them accountable to the law,” Daleiden said.
 
The Center for Medical Progress said the company is similar to two companies successfully prosecuted for illegal sale of fetal tissue. DV Biologics and DaVinci Biosciences admitted guilt and ceased California operations in a $7.8 million settlement with a California district attorney.
 
The report also addresses experimental therapy products made with fetal specimens, products the report alleges to be “ineffective and dangerous.”

 

Wuerl to meet with Pope Francis to discuss resignation

Tue, 09/11/2018 - 19:19

Washington D.C., Sep 11, 2018 / 05:19 pm (ACI Prensa).- The Archbishop of Washington told priests Tuesday that he intends to meet with Pope Francis soon to discuss his resignation from office.

In a letter sent to priests of the Archdiocese of Washington Sept. 11, Cardinal Donald Wuerl wrote that a decision about his future role in the archdiocese is “an essential aspect so that this archdiocesan Church we all love can move forward.

“I intend, in the very near future, to go to Rome to meet with our Holy Father about the resignation I presented nearly three years ago, November 12, 2015.”

Wuerl presented his resignation to the pope in 2015 upon turning 75, the age at which diocesan bishops are requested to submit letters of resignation to the pope.

Calls for Pope Francis to accept Wuerl’s resignation have been frequent in recent months. In June, Wuerl’s predecessor in Washington, Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, was publicly accused of serially sexually abusing a teenage boy in the 1970s. As further accusations were made that McCarrick sexually coerced and assaulted seminarians for decades, questions were raised about whether Wuerl knew about McCarrick’s apparent sexual misconduct.

After the Aug. 14 release of a report from a grand jury in Pennsylvania, calls for Wuerl to be replaced intensified. That report suggested that Wuerl had been negligent in the supervision of priests accused of sexually abusing minors while he was Bishop of Pittsburgh, in one case permitting a priest accused of sexual abuse to transfer from ministry in one diocese to another, and signing off on the priest’s suitability for ministry.

An Aug. 25 letter from a former Vatican ambassador to the U.S., Archbishop Carlo Vigano, raised further questions about Wuerl’s knowledge of McCarrick’s misconduct, and a report that Wuerl permitted McCarrick to have seminarian assistants while under investigation for sexual abuse led to additional criticism.

Wuerl’s Sept. 11 letter noted that he had gathered with priests on Sept. 3, praying with them while trying to “discern the best course of action for me to pursue as we face new revelations of the extent of the horror of clergy abuse of children and the failures in episcopal oversight.”

“At issue is how to begin effectively to bring a new level of healing to survivors who have personally suffered so much and to the faithful entrusted to our care who have also been wounded by the shame of these terrible actions and have questions about their bishop’s ability to provide the necessary leadership,” Wuerl added.

A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Washington, Ed McFadden, told CNA that Wuerl’s letter is “evidence of a serious and constructive discernment process that Cardinal Wuerl went through, and his appreciation to the priests for their support and engagement in the discernment process, to help him work through it.”

“He understands the need for healing, and that he certainly wants to be a part of that and not bring damage or harm to the Church that he clearly loves,” McFadden said.

Wuerl plans to celebrate a Sept. 14 Mass for Healing in Washington. McFadden told CNA that Wuerl sent his letter before that Mass because the cardinal did not want his status to become a distraction to that event.

Wuerl, McFadden said, “wants the focus to be on the survivors and the start of the healing process” during that Mass.

The Archdiocese of Washington would not confirm when Wuerl will meet with Pope Francis.

 

Boston archdiocese says O’Malley will ‘personally review’ all abuse letters

Tue, 09/11/2018 - 18:00

Boston, Mass., Sep 11, 2018 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- The Archdiocese of Boston has announced changes to the way it will process and respond to letters addressed to Cardinal Séan O’Malley on matters related to sexual abuse.

A statement dated Sept. 9 and published on the archdiocesan website confirmed that, in the future, Cardinal O’Malley himself would handle all correspondence either related to his work as President of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors or on the subject of abuse generally.

“Recently, the Cardinal has revised the protocol for receipt of Commission related matters,” the statement said.

“He will now personally review all letters that come to his office related to the Commission or are abuse related, even if they address matters outside his authority. He has made a commitment to refer those requiring attention to the Nuncio to the United States and/or the Vatican.”

Previously, letters addressed to the cardinal were filtered through his personal secretary, Fr. Robert Kickham, who undertook to respond on O’Malley’s behalf if the letter fell outside of his competence either for the Commission or the Archdiocese of Boston.

The process came under heavy criticism in July of this year when it emerged that a priest, Fr. Boniface Ramsey, had sent a letter to Cardinal O’Malley in 2015 outlining various rumors and allegations he had heard concerning Archbishop Theodore McCarrick.

At the time, Fr. Ramsey received a response from Fr. Kickham thanking Ramsey for writing but explaining the matter was outside of Cardinal O’Malley’s areas of responsibility and that no further action would be taken.

When the exchange became public, Cardinal O’Malley confirmed in a statement that he had never personally seen Fr. Ramsey’s letter, and that it had been responded to “at the staff level.”

Sunday’s archdiocesan statement also included an expression of personal support for Fr. Kickham from Cardinal O’Malley, calling him “an essential and valued member of the cardinal’s senior staff.” It also explained that the cardinal often received mail from people who misunderstood his role at the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

“It is important to understand what the Commission’s role is in regard to the issue of sexual abuse,” the statement said. It went on to explain that the Commission was a purely advisory body, not empowered to either investigate specific allegations of abuse, or to prosecute abusers.

“There are other bodies in the Vatican, such as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith or the Congregation for Bishops, that review, investigate and adjudicate cases involving sexual abuse. The Commission is an advisory panel whose mission is clear and focused on three main areas and [to] share them now with all Episcopal Conferences and the laity: Healing and Care, Guidelines and Education.”

Cardinal O’Malley is widely regarded as one of the most credible voices in the Church hierarchy on the issue of sexual abuse. He is credited with restoring local trust following major abuse scandals both in Boston and in the Diocese of Palm Beach, which he previously led.

The policy change comes amid the continuing fallout of several sexual abuse scandals in the Church in the United States, including the resignation of former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and the release of the Pennsylvania grand jury report into clerical sexual abuse in several dioceses in that state.

On Aug. 10 Cardinal O’Malley announced an independent investigation into the “moral standards” at St. John’s Seminary in the Archdiocese of Boston, suspending the rector in the process. That announcement followed allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct made by former seminarians.

Later this week, Cardinal O’Malley is expected to travel to Rome with Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, to meet with Pope Francis on the sexual abuse crisis in the Church in the United States.

Missouri to enforce abortion regulations in wake of appeals court ruling

Tue, 09/11/2018 - 15:09

Jefferson City, Mo., Sep 11, 2018 / 01:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Missouri's health department announced Monday that it will immediately being enforcing state laws regulating abortion clinics and doctors, after a US appeals court ruled that the state may do so.

The 8th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Sept. 10 in Comprehensive Health v. Hawley to overturn a 2017 decision which blocked enforcement of state laws that required abortion clinics to have the same standards as similar outpatient surgical centers, and mandated that doctors who perform abortions have hospital privileges.

“In its opinion, the court noted that the good faith of state officers and the validity of their actions are presumed,” Randal Williams, director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, stated.

“As the Director of DHSS, a board-certified obstetrician/gynecologist for thirty years, and a defendant in the case, my commitment and that of the department is to act in good faith to follow the law and protect the health and safety of all women in Missouri, including those seeking abortions.”

The health department stated: “now that the injunction has been vacated, DHSS will immediately begin enforcing the hospital privileges and physical plant requirements for abortion facilities.”

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

In April 2017 a federal judge issued an injunction against the Missouri law, citing the Supreme Court's Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt decision.

The appeals court vacated that preliminary injunction, saying that Hellerstedt “did not find, as a matter of law, that abortion was inherently safe or that provisions similar to the laws it considered would never be constitutional,” and that the undue burden standard requires a weighing of regulations' benefits and burdens.

In its 2017 decision the district court “explicity refused to 'weigh [] the asserted benefits'”, Judge Bobby Shepherd wrote for the appellate court, and thus “in light of Hellerstedt the district court erred in so ruling.”

The appeals court judges remanded the case to the district court, saying it “should, at the very least, weigh the state's 'asserted benefits.'”

It added that the Hellerstedt decision did not find that provisions similar to those in Texas would never be constitutional, precisely because its analysis of the purported benefits of the law at issue related to abortion in Texas, and that “no such determination about abortion in Missouri was made.”

“Perhaps there was a unique problem Missouri was responding to,” the appeals court wrote. “Such a problem may required a different response than what was needed in Texas, and the Hospital Relationship Requirement may be appropriate given '[Missouri's] legitimate interest in seeing to it that abortion, like any other medical procedure, is performed under circumstances that insure maximum safety for the patient,'” quoting Hellerstedt, which was in turn quoting Roe v. Wade.

“Invoking the Constitution to enjoin the laws of a state requires more than ‘slight implication and vague conjecture,’” the appeals court wrote. “At a minimum, it requires adequate information and correct application of the relevant standard. Because we conclude that the preliminary injuction in this case was entered based on less than adequate information and an insufficient regard for the relevant standard, we vacate the preliminary injunction and remand.”

Planned Parenthood currently provided abortion services at only two locations in Missouri, in St. Louis and Columbia.

In 2017, Missouri passed further regulations which granted the attorney general more power to prosecute violations, and required stricter health codes and proper fetal tissue disposal.

The brutal, powerful 9/11 stories of Catholic priests

Tue, 09/11/2018 - 05:20

New York City, N.Y., Sep 11, 2018 / 03:20 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On the clear, sunny morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Fr. Kevin Madigan heard an explosion overhead.

He grabbed oils for anointing, ran out the door of St. Peter's parish in New York City, and wandered towards the center of the commotion – the World Trade Center only a block away.

Fifty blocks uptown, Fr. Christopher Keenan, OFM watched with the world as the smoke rising from the twin towers darkened the television screen. Looking to help, he went to St. Vincent's Hospital downtown to tend to those wounded in the attack – but the victims never came.

All the while, he wondered what had happened to a brother friar assigned as chaplain to the firefighters of New York City: Fr. Mychal Judge, OFM, named by some the “Saint of 9/11.”

Seventeen years ago on this day, hijackers flew planes into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, and the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. In a field in southern Pennsylvania, passengers retook control of the cockpit and crashed the plane before it could reach its intended target, presumed to be in Washington, D.C.  

The consequences of the attacks have rippled throughout the United States as the attacks spurred a new global war on terror and irreversibly changed the country’s outlook on terror, security, and international engagement.

For Fr. Madigan, Fr. Keenan and Fr. Judge, the day changed their own lives and ministries, as a pastor lost nearly his entire congregation, and a friar put himself in harm's way to take on a new position – an assignment he only received because another friar gave the ultimate sacrifice as the Twin Towers came down.

“This experience has seared our soul and our spirit and our life, and it has so seared our spirit and our life that it has penetrated our DNA,” Fr. Keenan told CNA.  

“It has changed our lives and we will never be the same,” he said.

It was like losing a village

On Sept. 11, 2001, Fr. Kevin Madigan had been assigned to St. Peter’s Church in the financial district of Lower Manhattan. The parish is the oldest Catholic church in New York State, “half a block literally from the corner of the World Trade Center,” Fr. Madigan explained to CNA.

“Prior to 9/11 it was a parish that basically serviced the people who came to the neighborhood who came to Mass or Confession, devotions and things like that.” The parish had a full and well-attended schedule of liturgies and prayers, with multiple Masses said during the morning and lunch hour. September 11th changed that.

“Immediately after 9/11, that community was no longer there, because it was like losing a village of 40,000 people next door.”  

Fr. Madigan was leaving the sanctuary that morning, heading back to the rectory when overhead he heard the first plane hit the towers. Immediately he made his way towards the commotion, looking to minister to anyone who had been hurt by what had happened.  

“I took the oils for anointing anyone who was dying – I didn’t know what was going on there,” he said. However, most of those fleeing the building did not need anointing, Fr. Madigan recalled. “Most people either got out alive or were dead. There weren’t that many people who were in that in-between area.”

Then, there was another explosion from the other tower, and an object – the wheel of an airplane, in fact – went whizzing by Fr. Madigan’s head.

“After the second plane hit I went back to the office and made sure all the staff got out of there fast,” evacuating staff who were unaware of the chaos outside.

Fr. Madigan was back on the street when firefighters began to wonder if the towers might fall.

Thinking it ridiculous, Fr. Madigan kept an eye on a nearby subway entrance, which linked to an underground passage north of the towers. Then, a massive cloud of dust swept towards Fr. Madigan and another priest as the towers did collapse; they ducked into the subway station, emerging amidst the thick smoke and dust several blocks away.

After the towers came down, Fr. Madigan made his way first to the hospital for an emergency health screening, then back to check on St. Peter’s. While he was away from his parish, firefighters and other first responders made use of the sanctuary, temporarily laying to rest over 30 bodies recovered from the wreckage.

The death of Father Mychal

In September of 2001, Fr. Christopher Keenan had been assigned to work with a community ministry program near the parish of St. Francis in midtown Manhattan. At St. Francis, he lived in community along with several other Franciscan Friars, including an old friend he had known for years – Fr. Mychal Judge, chaplain for the Fire Department of New York City. Through Fr. Judge, the Friars became especially close with some of their neighbors at a firehouse across the street, who let the friars park their car at the firehouse.

Although the plane flew overhead, Fr. Keenan told CNA that “like everyone else, we found out while watching TV.” As the friars and brothers watched the events unfold on the television, they saw the second plane hit the South Tower; Fr. Keenan decided to go to St. Vincent’s Hospital – one of the closest medical facilities to the Word Trade Center. At the time, he thought there would be injured people who would need to be anointed or would like someone to hear their confession.

However, once he got to St. Vincent’s he found a long line of doctors, nurses and other responders who had come to help: together they “were all waiting for these people to get out who never came.” Victims were either largely able to walk away on their own, or they never made it to the hospital at all.

Instead, Fr. Keenan told CNA, “my responsibility was after people were treated to contact their family members to come and get them.”

As patients began to go home, Fr. Keenan continued to wonder about his brother friar, Fr. Judge, asking firefighters if they knew what had happened to the chaplain. Fr. Keenan left the hospital in the early evening to go hear confessions, but stopped at the firehouse across the street to ask the firemen if they knew where Fr. Judge was: “they told me his body was in the back of the firehouse.”

The mere fact that his body was intact and present at the firehouse that day was in itself a small miracle, Fr. Keenan said. “Mychal's body that was brought out was one of the only bodies that was intact, recognizable and viewable,” he said. Among those that died in the Twin Towers, he continued, “everyone was vaporized, pulverized and cremated” by the heat of the fire in the towers and the violence of the towers’ collapse. “He was one of the only ones able to be brought out and to be brought home.”

That morning, Fr. Judge had gone along with Battalion 1 to answer a call in a neighborhood close to the Trade Center. Also with the battalion were two French filmmakers filming a documentary on the fire unit. When the towers were hit, the Battalion was one of the first to arrive on the scene. In the film released by the brothers, Fr. Keenan said, “you can see his face and you can tell he knows what’s happening and his lips are moving and you can tell he’s praying his rosary.”

The group entered the lobby of the North Tower and stood in the Mezzanine as the South Tower collapsed – spraying glass, debris and dust throughout the building.

“All the debris roared through the glass mezzanine like a roaring train and his body happened to be blown into the escalators,” Fr. Keenan relayed the experience eyewitnesses told him. In the impact, Fr. Judge hit his head on a piece of debris, killing him almost instantly.  

“All of a sudden they feel something at their feet and it was Mychal, but he was gone.“

Members of the fire department, police department and other first responders carried Fr. Judge’s body out of the wreckage, putting his body down first to run as the second tower collapsed, then again to temporarily rest it at St. Peter’s Church. Members of the fire department brought it back to the firehouse where Fr. Keenan saw his friend and prayed over his body.

Fr. Mychal Judge was later listed as Victim 0001 – the first death certificate processed on 9/11.

Despite the sudden and unexpected nature of the attacks, Fr. Keenan told CNA that in the weeks before his friend’s death, Fr. Judge had a sense his death was near.

“He just had a sense that the Lord Jesus was coming.” On several occasions, Fr. Keenan said, Fr. Judge had told him, “You know, Chrissy, the Lord will be coming for me,” and made other references to his death.

“He had a sense that the Lord was coming for him.”

The grueling aftermath

“There was no playbook for how you deal with something in the wake of something like that,” Fr. Madigan said of the aftermath of 9/11. Personally, Fr. Madigan told CNA, he was well-prepared spiritually and mentally for the senseless nature of the attacks.   

“I understand that innocent people get killed tragically all the time,” he said, noting that while the scale was larger and hit so close to home, “life goes on.” For many others that he ministered to, however, “it did shake their foundations, their trust and belief in God.”  

While the attacks changed the focus of his ministry as a parish priest at the time, they also posed logistical challenges for ministry and aid: St. Peter’s usual congregation of people who worked in and around the World Trade Center vanished nearly overnight. Instead, the whole area was cordoned off for rescue workers and recovery activities as the city began the long task of sorting and removing the debris and rubble.

In addition, a small chapel named St. Joseph's Chapel, which was cared for and administered by St. Peter’s, was used by FEMA workers as a base for recovery activities during the weeks after the attack. During that time, the sanctuary was damaged and several structures of the chapel, including the pulpit, chairs and interior, were rendered unusable. According to Fr. Madigan, FEMA denies that it ever used the space.

Still, the priests at St. Peter's saw it as their duty to minister to those that were there – whoever they were.

“The parish, the church building itself was open that whole time,” he said, saying that anyone who had clearance to be within the Ground Zero area was welcome at the church. In the weeks after the attacks, the parish acted as sanctuary, as recovery workers who were discovering body parts and other personal effects “would come in there just to sort of try to get away from that space.”

“Myself and one of the other priests would be out there each day just to be able to talk to anyone who wants to talk about what’s going on,” he added. “We'd celebrate Mass in a building nearby.”

Today, Fr. Madigan has been reassigned to another parish in uptown Manhattan, and St. Peter’s now has found a new congregation as new residents have moved into the neighborhoods surrounding the former World Trade Center site.

Only two months after the attack, Fr. Keenan took on the role of his old friend, Fr. Judge: he was installed as chaplain for the 14,000 first responders of the the FDNY.

Immediately, Fr. Keenan joined the firefighters in their task of looking for the remains – even the most minute fragments – of the more than 2,600 people killed at the World Trade Center. “The rest of the recovery process then was for nine months trying to find the remains.”  

For the firefighters in particular, there was a drive to find the remains of the 343 firefighters killed at the World Trade Center and help bring closure to the family members. “You always bring your brother home, you never leave them on the battlefield,” Fr. Keenan said.

The resulting amount of work, as well as the “intense” tradition among firefighters to attend all funerals for members killed in the line of duty meant that the job became all-consuming, with all one’s spare time spent at the World Trade Center site. Sometimes, Fr. Keenan said, he would attend as many as four, five, or six funerals or memorials a day – and many families held a second funeral if body parts were recovered from the site.

“Here are the guys, overtime, going to all the funerals, working spare time on the site looking for recovery, and taking care of the families,” he said. “I was 24/7, 365 for 26 months.”

In addition, Fr. Keenan and the rest of the FDNY worked inside “this incredible toxic brew” of smoke, chemicals and fires that burned among the ruins at Ground Zero for months.  

“I would be celebrating Mass at 10:00 on a Sunday morning down there,” he recalled, “and just 30 feet from where I’m celebrating Mass at the cross, the cranes are lifting up the steel.”

While both buildings had contained more than 200 floors of offices, there was “not a trace of a computer, telephones, files, nothing. Everything was totally decimated.” Instead, all that was left was steel, dirt and the chemicals feeding the fires that smouldered underground in the footprint of the towers.

“The cranes are lifting up the steel and the air is feeding the fires underneath, and out of that is coming these incredible colors of yellow, black and green smoke, and we all worked in the recovery process.” The experience working the recovery at the World Trade Center site is one that Fr. Keenan considers a “gift” and an “honor.”

“It was an incredible experience really,” he said.

Fr. Keenan recounted a conversation the firefighters had with him a few days after he was commissioned. After pledging to “offer my life to protect the people and property of New York City,” the other firefighters told their new chaplain “we know you’re ours, don’t you forget that every one of us is yours,” promising to stand by their new shepherd. “I’m the most loved and cared for person in the world and who has it better than me?”

While the formal recovery process has ended and a new tower, One World Trade Center, stands just yards from the original site of Ground Zero, the experience – and the chemicals rescue workers came in contact with for months – still affect the firefighters.

In 2016 alone, “we put 17 new names on the wall,” said Fr. Keenan, “who died this past year from of the effects of 9/11.” He explained that in the years following the attack, thousands of rescuers and first responders – including Fr. Keenan himself – have developed different cancers and illnesses linked to their exposure at the World Trade Center site. In fact, at the time of the interview in 2016, Fr. Keenan had just returned from a screening for the more than 20 toxic chemicals the responders were exposed to. He warned that the “different cancers and the lung problems that are emerging are just the tip of the iceberg,” and worried that as time progressed, other cancers and illnesses linked to the attack recovery would emerge.

The first responders are also dealing with the psychological fallout of the attacks among themselves, Fr. Keenan said, though many are dealing with it in their own way, and with one another.

Looking back, Fr. Keenan told CNA he still finds it difficult to express the experience to others or to make sense of what it was like when he would go down into “the pit” to work alongside the firefighters and other first responders. “The only image I had as time went on and I asked ‘how do I make sense of this as a man of faith?’ is that it was like I was descending into hell and I was seeing the face of God on the people that were there.”

The same image had come to his mind to make sense of taking care of patients with AIDS in the 1990s, he said, even though nothing can fully make sense of events like these.

“I was like a midwife to people in their birthing process from life to death to new life,” he recalled. “All I can do is be present there, they have to do the work, I can be present there, I can pray with them.”

“That’s how in faith I kind of sort of comprehended it.”

 

This article was originally published on CNA Sept. 11, 2016.

Kavanaugh's birth control comments spur controversy- What did he say?

Mon, 09/10/2018 - 19:00

Washington D.C., Sep 10, 2018 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- Opponents of Judge Brett Kavanaugh have suggested that a reference to birth control pills as “abortion-inducing drugs” during Senate confirmation hearings last week represented the judge's own view on contraceptives.

During last week’s hearings, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) asked Kavanaugh about a 2012 lawsuit filed by the pro-life organization Priests for Life against the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) over the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate. Kavanaugh wrote a dissenting opinion in response to a lower court’s refusal to re-hear the case.

The mandate obliged insurers to include chemical contraception in a list of medications that would be covered without a copay. Cruz asked Kavanaugh to explain the case, and his opinion on the matter.

“Under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the question was, first, was this a substantial burden on the religious exercise? It seemed, to me, quite clearly, it was,” said Kavanaugh.

“It was a technical matter of filling out a form, in that case. But they said filling out the form would make them complicit in the provision of the abortion-inducing drugs that they were, as a religious matter, objected to."

In 2015, the Supreme Court agreed to review the Priests for Life suit along with six others, in the consolidated case Zubik v. Burwell, eventually remanding the individual cases back to the lower courts. In 2016 the government settled with Priests for Life, agreeing not to enforce the mandate and its associated fines, and to pay Priests for Life’s legal fees.

Kavanaugh's remarks referred to the organization's description of the contraceptives; he did not characterize them as his own views. However, many opposed to Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court have said the exchange illustrates pro-life bias by the nominee.

The Women’s March called the statement an “emergency, all-hands-on-deck moment for women” and said that “now we know he thinks birth control is abortion.” A statement issued via email did not clarify that Kavanaugh had been offering a summary of the case, not a personal view.

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), who is considered to be a potential Democratic presidential candidate in 2020, said via Twitter that while Kavanaugh “chooses his words very carefully,” his response to Cruz was a “dog whistle for going after birth control.”

Harris also said that Kavanaugh “was nominated for the purpose of taking away a woman’s constitutionally protected right to make her own health care decisions,” and that his nomination was “about punishing women.”

The tweet included a video of Kavanaugh saying: “Filling out the form would make them complicit in the provision of the abortion-inducing drugs that they were, as a religious matter, objected to.” The video left out the part of the exchange where the judge clarified that it was the group that believed this, not himself. The fact-checking website PolitiFact rated Harris’ characterization as “false.”

Kavanaugh, a practicing Catholic, has not publicly stated his thoughts about birth control or the Church’s teaching on the topic.  He has rather affirmed his commitment to judicial precedent and the need for judges to apply the law to each case with dispassion.

As US closes Palestinian office, Catholics urge that Palestinian voices be heard in peace process

Mon, 09/10/2018 - 18:38

Washington D.C., Sep 10, 2018 / 04:38 pm (ACI Prensa).- The U.S. State Department announced Monday it will close the Palestinian Liberation Organization office in Washington because it says Palestine has failed to take “steps to advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel.”

The Palestinian Liberation Organization, or PLO, is recognized by the United Nations as “the representative of the Palestinian people” and has diplomatic relationship with over 100 states, including the Holy See.

“I am reminded of the teachings of the great popes of our time who have pleaded that the voice of the Palestinian people be heard,” Father David Neuhaus, a Jerusalem-based priest, told CNA.

In 1948, Pope Pius XII wrote in an encyclical on Palestine, “Even before the armed conflict began … We manifested our lifelong solicitude for peace in Palestine, and, condemning any recourse to violence, We declared that peace could only be realized in truth and justice.”

The Holy See has been in dialogue with both Palestine and Israel for decades. Pope John Paul II met with then-PLO chairman Yasser Arafat in 1987.

The Vatican signed an agreement with the State of Palestine in 2015, which recognized the importance of religious freedom in Palestine and backed a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A new Palestinian embassy to the Holy See opened in Rome in 2017.

“Without hearing that voice, the dream of justice and peace for Israel, for Palestine and for the Middle East will remain impossible. Closing the Embassy is an attempt to silence that voice,” Neuhaus continued.

Father Neuhaus sees the PLO office in Washington closing as consistent with other steps the Trump administration has taken with relation to Palestine, including the discontinuation of funding for East Jerusalem hospitals and for the UNRWA, the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees.

Reuters reported Sept. 8 that President Donald Trump redirected $25 million in aid designated for Palestinians in East Jerusalem hospitals to other “high-priority projects.”  Dan Shapiro, a former U.S. Ambassador to Israel, said that cutting off aid to Palestinian hospitals is “indefensibly cruel.”

Earlier this year, Catholic Relief Services and Jesuit Refugee Services signed onto a letter asking the White House to reconsider withholding funds from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). The Trump administration permanently cut its funding on Aug. 31.

The State Department defended its decision to close the PLO mission in a statement on Sept. 10, “PLO leadership has condemned a U.S. peace plan they have not yet seen and refused to engage with the U.S. government with respect to peace efforts and otherwise.”

The Trump administration’s decision is closely linked to Palestinian attempts to prompt an investigation of Israel by the International Criminal Court (ICC) earlier this year.

The International Criminal Court, based in the Hague, Netherlands, has jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for war crimes, genocide, and other crimes against humanity.

National Security Advisor John Bolton announced the PLO office closure as a part of a Sept. 10 speech that also criticized the ICC. The speech came at a Federalist Society event entitled, “Protecting American Constitutionalism and Sovereignty from International Threats.”

“Since its 2002 inception, the Court has spent over $1.5 billion dollars, while attaining only eight convictions. This dismal record is hardly a deterrent to dictators and despots determined to commit horrific atrocities,” Bolton said on Monday.

Bolton called the ICC an “unprecedented effort to vest power in a supranational body without the consent of either nation states or the individuals over which it purports to exert jurisdiction.”

“As Americans we understand that consent of the governed is a necessary prerequisite to true legitimacy and we reject such a flagrant violation of our national sovereignty,” he continued.
In 2002, Bolton, then the Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, orchestrated several bilateral agreements aimed at exempting the U.S. from the multilateral treaty that had created the International Criminal Court.

Pope Francis met in Sept. 2017 with the former president of the the International Criminal Court, Judge Silvia Fernández de Gurmendi, who encouraged the Holy See to consider becoming a party to the ICC treaty, the Rome Statute.

The judge and the pope also discussed the court’s investigations and cases for crimes such as the recruitment of child soldiers, sexual violence in conflict, attacks on civilians, and the destruction of religious property.

In Christmas Day, 2017, Pope Francis encouraged prayer for all people in the Middle East.

 “We see Jesus in the children of the Middle East who continue to suffer because of growing tensions between Israelis and Palestinians,” the pope said.

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