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What connection does Moderna’s vaccine have to aborted fetal tissue? 

Tue, 11/24/2020 - 8:33pm

Denver Newsroom, Nov 24, 2020 / 06:33 pm (CNA).- Amid debate over the ethics of a COVID-19 vaccine candidate under development by Moderna, a Catholic microbiologist told CNA that while research connected to aborted fetal cells may have contributed to the knowledge base being used in the vaccine’s development, the actual production of the vaccine does not use cells of any kind, fetal or otherwise.

Deacon Robert Lanciotti, a microbiologist and the former chief of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s diagnostic and reference laboratory in Fort Collins, Colorado, told CNA that the manner of production for the Moderna vaccine is ethically uncontroversial— in contrast to several other common vaccines, which are grown in aborted fetal cells.

Traditional vaccines use dead or altered viruses, and viruses have to be grown in cell lines, Lanciotti said. Some vaccines that are based on altered viruses are produced by growing them in aborted fetal cell lines, rendering them morally illicit for Catholics to take except for grave reasons.

In contrast, the production of RNA vaccines does not use cells at all, he said. During his 30 years as a CDC scientist, Lanciotti’s specialty was producing RNA in the same reaction used to produce the Moderna vaccine.

Moderna's vaccine is based on the coronavirus' RNA, and uses a spike protein, or peplomer, from SARS-CoV-2 rather than cell lines derived from aborted fetuses.

The RNA is injected into the recipient, which induces their cells to produce the spike protein. This triggers the production of antibodies and T-cells by the recipient.

Moderna’s vaccine is not completely free of any connection to abortion, as there is evidence that the vaccines have some connection with the use of aborted fetal cells in the early stages of vaccine design.

However, Lanciotti said, there is a distinction between “design” and “production.” Although it may seem like a subtle difference, he said in this case it makes more sense to assess the ethicality of the production of the vaccine itself, rather than any pre-existing knowledge and understanding that went into its development.

“The association with aborted fetal cells and these RNA vaccines is so distant that I don't think you would find a Catholic moral theologian that would say there's a problem at all,” Lanciotti said.

A complete bibliography of the Moderna vaccine reveals the HEK-293T cell line mentioned in some of the work that led to the vaccine's development.

The HEK-293 cell line is derived from a baby who was aborted in the Netherlands in the 1970s. However, the HEK-293T cells in question are not the direct descendants of these aborted fetal cells, but rather are genetically distinct variants.

The HEK-293T cell line was used by scientists to test the spike protein which was later used in the Moderna vaccine. Moderna scientists were among the researchers collaborating on the project, although it is unclear to what extent Moderna was involved in that specific part of the research.

Laciotti emphasized that the HEK-293T cells in question were not used to evaluate the vaccine itself, since the vaccine had not yet been designed, but rather went into the background knowledge that enabled the vaccine’s design.

He also explained that the spike protein itself is not contaminated with fetal cells, as the spike protein produced by the vaccine comes directly from the synthetic RNA injected, and is “100% newly derived and pure.”

Lanciotti also noted that there exists a knowledge base that was generated years ago— likely decades ago— about the basic biology of coronaviruses, which Moderna, a ten-year-old company, likely did not create themselves.

Moderna recently announced that a trial of its vaccine demonstrated it to be 94.5% effective. The trial involved 30,000 people, half of whom were given two doses of the vaccine, and half of whom received a placebo.

In an internal memo dated Nov. 23, Bishop Kevin Rhoades, who chairs the bishops’ committee on doctrine, and Archbishop Joseph Naumann, the head of the committee on pro-life activities, wrote to the bishops of the United States that the two RNA vaccine candidates appear to be ethically sound.

“Neither the Pfizer nor the Moderna vaccine involved the use of cell lines that originated in fetal tissue taken from the body of an aborted baby at any level of design, development, or production,” the bishops wrote.

“They are not completely free from any connection to abortion, however, as both Pfizer and Moderna made use of a tainted cell line for one of the confirmatory lab tests of their products,” the bishops wrote, referring to the HEK-293T cell line.

“There is thus a connection [to fetal tissue], but it is relatively remote,” the bishops concluded.

The Vatican has said that researchers have a duty to avoid using cell lines derived from aborted children in vaccine production, and have an obligation to “denounce and reject publicly the original immoral act [of abortion].”

The Church has allowed the use of vaccines produced in fetal cells if no alternative exists, while stressing the importance of protesting the vaccine’s production and encouraging “vigorous efforts to promote the creation of alternatives.”

The Pontifical Academy for Life, in a Nov. 22 statement posted to Twitter, said based on its own 2005 and 2017 guidance on the origin of vaccines, the academy has found “nothing morally prohibitive with the vaccines developed” by Moderna or Pfizer.

The Charlotte Lozier Institute, research arm of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, has listed the Moderna vaccine among the “ethically uncontroversial CoV-19 vaccine programs.”

However, Dr. Stacy Transankos, a PhD chemist, argued in a Nov. 20 National Catholic Register op-ed that listing a vaccine which has even a remote connection to aborted tissue as “ethically uncontroversial” could undermine the Catholic fight for ethical medicines.

“Instead of assigning this vaccine to a category that suggests no more caution is needed, I think it is better to slow down and look at the big picture...We need to speak up loudly with clarity and courage about the ethics and insist upon an ethical option. It could redirect this entire issue towards the good,” she wrote in her op-ed.

For his part, Lanciotti said that while all the COVID-19 vaccines remain in the testing phases, it appears that two of the three leading candidates are at least produced in an ethical manner free from the use of aborted fetal cells— which is more than can be said for some common vaccines such as MMR, polio, and chickenpox.

“We as Catholics should actually be very pleased that the two leading COVID vaccine candidates are both RNA vaccines with no ethical concerns,” he said.

“The third leading candidate, the AstraZeneca vaccine, is in fact a modified virus that is produced in HEK-293 cells. Therefore, that vaccine clearly has ethical problems and should be rejected by Catholics.”


New Catholic priests voice satisfaction in priestly life, but minority report 'troubling' adversity

Tue, 11/24/2020 - 6:50pm

Denver Newsroom, Nov 24, 2020 / 04:50 pm (CNA).- A survey of recently ordained Catholic priests reports that the great majority find satisfaction in their work celebrating sacraments and in their parish ministry, but there are also difficulties and areas for which they felt seminary life had left them unprepared.

A small minority of new priests voiced great dissatisfaction with their priestly life.

“We need to do a better job preparing our seminarians for living a life of celibacy as spiritual fathers, and... a much better job at helping them land successfully in their first year of priesthood and make the adjustments to a challenging environment,” Father Thomas Berg, a moral theology professor and director of admissions at St. Joseph’s Seminary and College in Yonkers, N.Y., told CNA.

“We also need to find the way to help them prepare better for real and practical challenges such as loneliness or the difficulties in maintaining friendships they began in seminary,” said Berg, who served as a coordinator on the study’s advisory board.

The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate collaborated with the National Association of Catholic Theological Schools from April to July 2020 in the study, published in the report “Enter by the Narrow Gate: Satisfaction and Challenges Among Recently Ordained Priests”.

Researchers sent a survey request to 1,379 priests recently ordained for both dioceses and religious orders. They received 1,012 valid responses, a 73% response rate. Respondents answered questions about areas of satisfaction or dissatisfaction with their priestly lives, discussed their seminary formation, and discussed difficulties of priestly life.

“By far, the areas they are most satisfied are related to their immediate ministries, including celebrating the sacraments in their parishes, serving the needs of their parishioners, teaching the faith to others, presiding at Masses and other liturgies, hearing Confessions, ministering to the youth, and providing pastoral counseling,” the report summary said.

However, their self-reported areas of least satisfaction include “performing administrative and human resource duties, the poor relationship they have with the pastors under whom they serve, feeling burned out from their workload, their frustration with their diocese/bishop, and the lack of fraternity among their fellow priests.”

Respondents’ average year of ordination was 2017, and their average age was 38 years. About 76% were diocesan priests, with the remainder from religious institutes. While many were foreign-born, 82% were born in the U.S. The racial and ethnic breakdown of respondents was 74% white, 12% Hispanic or Latino, 8% Asian or Pacific Islander, and 4% African-American.

More than half of new priests said they were well prepared to preside at Mass, to preach, and to hear confessions. Fewer than half said they were well prepared for hospital ministry, presiding at funerals, and pastoral counseling. Only 30% said they were well prepared in language skills needed for their pastoral work, 28% were well prepared for serving diverse cultures in their diocese, and 24% said they were well prepared for personal skills like time management and stress management.

The new priests said they were least well prepared in administrative, human resources, and leadership skills. Only 16% said they were well prepared for the areas of communication and conflict management, building consensus, or motivating people, and only 6% said they were well prepared in administrative skills like budgeting and investing.

About 59% of new priests reported being “very satisfied” with their life as a priest, with 22% saying they are “somewhat satisfied.” Another 6% said they were “somewhat dissatisfied,” and 13% said they are “very dissatisfied.” The researchers interviewed 16 of the hundreds of respondents, focusing on those who reported dissatisfaction with their lives.

Berg found it “troubling” that so many reported struggles in their first years as priests. 13% of respondents said their lives as priests were “very dissatisfying.”

“We need to dig further into the data, and get at those reasons, but I think this will be a wake up call for a lot of bishops,” Berg told CNA. “It seems our newly ordained priests are landing in unexpectedly adverse environments in their respective dioceses. The report tells us in clear language that we need to do a much better job of accompanying and supporting our newly ordained priests in their first years of ministry.”

While the study did not explicitly ask the priests about many personal problems, according to Berg a “low but consistent” percentage of recently ordained priests across dioceses experience a major crisis such as depression, alcohol dependency or other addiction, or entering a sexual relationship. Such a crisis might help lead them to abandon the priesthood.

“It was the desire to get at the causes of this phenomenon that occasioned the study,” Berg told CNA.

The reports said that when new priests are asked their largest problems on a daily basis, they “express their greatest frustration with their diocese and fellow priests.”

For 20% of respondents, differences among different age cohorts of priests are “very much” a problem, with another 26% indicating this was “somewhat” a problem. Another 20% named theological differences in the concept of the priesthood among fellow priests as a significant problem, with another 24% saying it was somewhat a problem. About 17% of respondents named feeling a lack of input into diocese-level decision-making processes to be a large problem.

A significant minority of respondents thought they had been assigned too many ministries and duties or were so busy they could not meet people’s pastoral needs. Ministering at more than one parish was a problem for some. They said there was not as much fraternal support among priests as they would like, and the “loneliness of priestly life” was a problem. Some 30% of respondents thought that “unrealistic demands and expectations of lay people” were a problem, though about half as many said actual conflicts with parishioners or lay people were problematic.

Some 4% said living a life of celibacy or chastity was “very much” a problem, with about 14% saying this was “somewhat” a problem. About 2% said that “resolving any personal psycho-sexual issues” was very much a problem, and 9% said it was somewhat a problem.

Some 10% of respondents said that “differences among priests with different sexual orientations in your diocese” was very much a problem, while about 13% said this was somewhat a problem.

“Being expected to represent Church teachings you have difficulty with” was “very much” a problem for 2% or respondents, and “somewhat” a problem for about 5%.

About one percent said feeling comfortable ministering to women was very much a problem for them.

The new priests were asked whether they would choose the same path, knowing what they know now, and they were overwhelmingly positive. 80% of respondents said they would “definitely” enter the priesthood again. Another 16% said they “probably” would. One percent said they would definitely not enter the priesthood again if they had the choice, and 4% said they probably would not.

The survey asked the new priests to consider their own future in the priesthood. A large majority, 76%, said they will definitely not leave the priesthood, and 18% said they probably will not. However, 5% expressed uncertainty about whether they would continue to exercise their priesthood.

Asked if they have ever thought about leaving the priesthood, about 40% cited “celibacy and the loneliness of the priestly life” as a reason they have considered leaving.

“The next most frequently cited reasons are frustration with their diocese, religious institute, bishop or superior and the disappointment they feel in regards to their current ministries,” the report said.

Some 79% know someone who left active ministry or the priesthood within five years of ordination. The respondents hypothesized that the reasons for this were “disillusionment with the actual life of ministry, loneliness, meeting someone they would like to be their romantic partner or to marry, and their desire to look for a romantic partner.”

Among all survey respondents, the priests tended to report being very satisfied in the respect they receive as members of the clergy from lay persons, their present financial situation, and their present living situation. They were least likely to report satisfaction in balancing work, personal and spiritual lives and in their training for administrative matters such as budgeting and managing staff.

The clergy sexual abuse scandals have “greatly” hindered the ministry of about 16% of respondents, while 64% said the scandals have “slightly” hindered their ministry.

Regarding their seminary formation, almost 90% reported that their seminary offered counseling with a psychologist. Another 76% said their seminary offered programs about formation in chaste celibacy, and an equal percentage reported prayer groups or prayer teams at their seminary. Some 66% said seminary offered mentoring during their pastoral year, while 61% reported that a pastoral year internship was available.

The least offered programs include a “propaedeutic”, or spirituality year, reported by only 23% of respondents; 30-day spiritual exercises, reported by 26% of respondents; and chastity support groups, reported by 38% of respondents.

Berg noted to CNA that the responses were overwhelmingly from men of the millennial generation. He said that if it was challenging to be a new priest in the last decade, it is “even more challenging in a post-McCarrick Church.”

“To be a priest in the coming decade I think will be to partake in a profound transformation of how the Church lives and experiences the faith: a Church with a smaller footprint as more and more parishes necessarily will have to be consolidated, merged or closed,” he said. In his view, the Church will be forced to “find fresh new ways to engage in discipleship and thrive, mostly likely, as smaller but more intentionally Catholic communities.”

“The priests of the next two decades will be part of this--major players. They will not tolerate a Church leadership focused simply on managing decline.,” he said.

Berg encouraged prospective seminarians and priests to read the report and make their own conclusions.

“Lean into the hard work of vulnerability and transparency in formation. Be brutally honest with yourself about your past wounds, about those areas where you need to mature and grow,” he said. “Take note of the many seminarians who reported how positively they benefited from counseling during formation.”

Seminarians should ask themselves and bring to prayer and spiritual direction various important questions:

"What am I looking for in the priesthood? Is what I am looking for what the Holy Spirit wants me to desire? Am I looking for the esteem of others, for power, influence and admiration? Or am I sincerely hungry to be a spiritual father and to give myself in spousal love for the Church? What am I really looking for?”

“Seminarians have to get to the bottom of that with raw honesty,” said Berg. “If you are looking for esteem, power, influence and admiration--pack and go home because you are not called to the priesthood.”

Berg also had advice for all Catholics.

“Always pray for your priests,” he said. “Be patient with your newly ordained priests. Simple things: be kind. But by the same token don’t be afraid to give them clear feedback--while not forgetting to complement them for the positive.”

“Remember -- and this is true of any priest--at any given moment priests are being pulled in a dozen directions at once,” he said. “Keep that in mind. They have far many more things on their minds and hearts than may be apparent as you just chat together after Mass.”

Analysis: Archbishop Gregory says he won’t deny Biden communion. How will Catholics respond?

Tue, 11/24/2020 - 6:25pm

Denver Newsroom, Nov 24, 2020 / 04:25 pm (CNA).-  

Washington’s archbishop, who will be made a cardinal this weekend, told a journalist Tuesday that in his diocese, he will not deny Holy Communion to a politician who has pledged to enshrine access to abortion in federal law and permit federal funding of abortions. That politician is President-elect Joe Biden.

Archbishop Wilton Gregory’s comment is sure to raise questions about the Church’s pro-life witness. But for some Catholics, the remark might also raise questions about the sincerity of U.S. bishops on the topic of ecclesial reform.

In 2004, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, then head of the Church’s doctrinal office, told U.S. bishops in a memo that a Catholic politician “consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws” is engaged in “manifest” and “formal cooperation” in grave sin.

In such a case, the politician’s “pastor should meet with him, instructing him about the Church’s teaching, informing him that he is not to present himself for Holy Communion until he brings to an end the objective situation of sin, and warning him that he will otherwise be denied the Eucharist,” Ratzinger wrote.

If the Catholic perseveres in grave sin and still presents himself for Holy Communion, “the minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it.”

Ratzinger’s memo was an application of canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law, which says that Catholics “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion.”

In short, Ratzinger’s memo gave bishops instruction on how to apply the Church’s law. On Tuesday, Archbishop Gregory said he has no plans to do so.

Some Catholics will soon raise objections to Gregory’s remark.

Pro-life activists will say bishops should stand up for the unborn, and that distributing the Eucharist to pro-choice politicians implies that abortion is not a serious moral issue. Some will accuse the archbishop of preferring secular approval to uncomfortable evangelical witness.

Those are exactly the arguments Catholics made when Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York said in 2019 that he would not deny the Eucharist to New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo, who signed one of the most permissive abortion laws in the country’s history, and again in October of that year, when Dolan said he would not deny Biden the Eucharist.

If history is predictive, other Catholics will praise Gregory as a witness of civility and tolerance. They will say that no one should politicize the Eucharist, and that denying Holy Communion is not pastoral, or prudent.

They will not be the first to use that language.

In 2004, when U.S. bishops discussed pro-choice politicians and the Eucharist, one cardinal among them was charged with summarizing the memo sent from Ratzinger to bishops on the subject, as few of them had yet received it. The cardinal downplayed the memo, saying addressing the matter at all was up to the discretion of U.S. bishops.

“The question for us is not simply whether denial of Communion is possible, but whether it is pastorally wise and prudent,” the cardinal said.

That cardinal was Theodore McCarrick.

At the 2004 spring meeting of U.S. bishops, which took place in Denver, McCarrick inaccurately summarized the instructions of the Vatican on Holy Communion, omitting Ratzinger’s normative direction. Under McCarrick’s influence, the bishops decided the best way to handle the question was to defer to the individual judgement of bishops.

The memo, incidentally, was sent ahead of the meeting to two U.S. bishops: McCarrick, and the president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, Bishop Wilton Gregory.

In the wake of McCarrick’s more recent scandal, pro-lifers will not be the only ones to lament Gregory’s decision about Biden. Catholics concerned with ecclesial reform are also likely to have concerns.

Gregory is charged with leading the Archdiocese of Washington after the scandal of McCarrick, and in the wake of serious questions raised about his immediate predecessor, Cardinal Donald Wuerl. The archbishop is charged with promoting healing, and enacting reform, and he’s pledged to do so.

But his critics are likely to see his remarks on Biden as a setback to reform. Some will argue that Gregory has substituted his own judgment for the law of the Church, and the Vatican’s instructions on how to apply it. That practice, they’ll say, is the kind of clericalism that made the McCarrick scandal possible.

Gregory may not see that matter that way, or believe himself to be flouting canon 915. But if his priests think he is not taking seriously ecclesiastical law, his reform agenda may be seriously jeopardized.

Archbishop Jose Gomez said last week that a Biden presidency promises “certain challenges” for the bishops of the U.S. As Gregory wades into controversy over canon 915, the reach of those challenges may soon become apparent.


Massachusetts governor must decide whether to veto bill expanding abortion access

Tue, 11/24/2020 - 6:01pm

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 24, 2020 / 04:01 pm (CNA).- A measure expanding abortion access in Massachusetts has passed both the state house and senate, and could prompt a veto from the governor.

On Nov. 18, the state senate passed amendment 180 by a vote of 33-7, according to The Herald News; the amendment would allow for some abortions until the point of birth.

Legislators had inserted amendments into house and senate budget bills that would effectively implement the “Roe Act,” a bill proposed in 2019 to legalize abortion in the state in the event Roe v. Wade were overturned by the Supreme Court.
The amendments would allow for abortions up until the point of birth in the event of a lethal fetal anomaly. They would also allow for minors as young as 16 years old to have an abortion without parental consent.
In addition, the bill calls for life-saving equipment to be in the room when a doctor performs a legal late-term abortion, but only says the equipment is to “enable” the doctor to safe the life of a baby surviving an abortion. Pro-life groups have warned that the language amounts to “passive infanticide” by not specifically requiring a doctor to save the infant’s life.
On Nov. 18, the senate passed its budget bill that included amendment 180, the abortion measure. Now both budget bills will be reconciled in a conference committee, after which the final version will be voted on by both chambers and sent to the governor for signature.
Gov. Charlie Baker (R) has already stated his opposition to the measures. Pro-life groups are calling on Massachusetts residents to contact the governor asking him to veto the measures.
However, both the house and senate passed the amendments with a veto-proof majority.
The state’s Catholic bishops have stated their opposition to the amendments.
“Abortion at any time, from the moment of conception to birth, is in direct conflict with Catholic teaching and must be opposed,” the bishops said Nov. 24.
The pro-life group Massachusetts Citizens for Life also says that the measures allow for late-term abortions when a physician determines it “necessary” in order “to preserve the patient’s physical or mental health.” Also, under the proposed amendments, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and nurse midwives could perform abortions.

Feinstein will not continue as head Democrat on Senate Judiciary Committee

Tue, 11/24/2020 - 5:21pm

CNA Staff, Nov 24, 2020 / 03:21 pm (CNA).- Following complaints from liberal groups on her handling of Amy Coney’s Barrett’s confirmation hearing, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) announced that she will not seek to continue as ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“After serving as the lead Democrat on the Judiciary Committee for four years, I will not seek the chairmanship or ranking member position in the next Congress,” she said in a November 23 statement. Feinstein added she looks “forward to continuing to serve as a senior Democrat on the Judiciary, Intelligence, Appropriations and Rules committees as we work with the Biden Administration.”

Feinstein faced calls to step down from the position after she was cordial with her Senate colleagues at Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings last month. Feinstein, a Democrat, thanked chairman Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) at the conclusion of the hearings, and said it was “one of the best set of hearings that I’ve participated in.”

“I want to thank you for your fairness and the opportunity of going back and forth,” she added. “It leaves one with a lot of hopes, a lot of questions, and even some ideas,” she said, noting that “perhaps some good bipartisan legislation” could happen in the future.

Feinstein and Graham hugged each other after the hearings ended. Feinstein did not vote to confirm Barrett to the Supreme Court.

Despite not actually supporting Barrett’s confirmation, Feinstein was criticized for lending an “appearance of credibility to the proceeding.”

Ilyse Hogue, the president of NARAL, added in an October 16 statement that she believed “the committee needs new leadership.”

NARAL had previously endorsed Feinstein, and had described her as someone “at the forefront of the movement to safeguard (abortion rights).”

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the Senate minority leader, said in October that he had a “long and serious” talk with Feinstein regarding her position on the Judiciary Committee. Following her announcement that she would be stepping aside from the role, Schumer thanked her for her service.

“I know Senator Feinstein will continue her work as one of the nation’s leading advocates for women’s and voting rights, gun safety reform, civil liberties, health care, and the rights of immigrants,” he said.

It is unclear as of now who will replace Feinstein as the ranking member of the committee. According to POLITICO, Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) are likely contenders for the role.


Federal court says Texas can withhold Medicaid from Planned Parenthood

Tue, 11/24/2020 - 12:05pm

CNA Staff, Nov 24, 2020 / 10:05 am (CNA).- A federal appeals court on Monday upheld the authority of states to not fund abortion providers through Medicaid.

A majority opinion of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, issued Nov. 23, ruled that abortion providers and their customers could not challenge Texas’ decision to withhold Medicaid funds from Planned Parenthood.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton praised the decision in a statement.

“Undercover video plainly showed Planned Parenthood admitting to morally bankrupt and unlawful conduct, including violations of federal law by manipulating the timing and methods of abortions to obtain fetal tissue for their own research,” Paxton stated.

“Planned Parenthood is not a ‘qualified’ provider under the Medicaid Act, and it should not receive public funding through the Medicaid program.”    

Texas in 2015 moved to defund Planned Parenthood, after undercover videos alleged that officials were unlawfully profiting from the sale of aborted fetal tissue.

The state’s determination of “qualified” Medicaid providers is between the state and the provider, the court ruled on Monday.

The case dates back to 2015, when citizen journalists with the group Center for Medical Progress (CMP) published undercover videos of conversations with Planned Parenthood officials. In the conversations, where the CMP members posed as fetal tissue harvesters, the videos appeared to show Planned Parenthood officials discussing the unlawful sale of fetal tissue for profit.

The research director at Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast appeared to suggest that the affiliate could alter abortion procedures to produce higher-quality tissue specimens for harvesters, having doctors perform abortions “in a way that they get the best specimens.”

Later that year, the Texas Office of the Inspector General said that Planned Parenthood was “no longer capable of performing medical services in a professionally competent, safe, and legal manner.” The state barred Planned Parenthood from receiving Medicaid funding.

In response, several Texas Planned Parenthood providers and their customers brought a lawsuit.

In 2019, the Fifth Circuit ruled in the state’s favor. On Monday, the court considered whether Medicaid beneficiaries had a right to challenge the state’s determination in court. The Fifth Circuit ruled that they did not.

Under federal law, “Medicaid beneficiaries have an ‘absolute right,’… to receive services from a provider whom the State has determined is ‘qualified,’ but beneficiaries have no right under the statute to challenge a State’s determination that a provider is unqualified.”

What Biden foreign policy picks mean for religious freedom

Tue, 11/24/2020 - 11:30am

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 24, 2020 / 09:30 am (CNA).- President-elect Joe Biden announced several foreign policy appointments to his cabinet on Monday, including a nominee for Secretary of State. If confirmed, nominees will shape U.S. foreign policy on a range of subjects, especially religious freedom.

Biden will nominate Antony Blinken, former Deputy Secretary of State under President Obama, to be the next Secretary of State. Binken also served as assistant and a national security advisor to Obama, and worked on the National Security Council in the Clinton administration.

The appointment of a former Obama official to lead the State Department could signal a shift in U.S. policy on international LGBTQ issues and on promoting religious freedom abroad.

Under the Obama administration, the U.S. invested tens of millions of dollars to promote LGBTQ concerns while being criticized by some religious freedom advocates for deemphasizing or taking a softer approach to promoting international religious freedom.

Some advocates pointed out lengthy gaps in time under the Obama administration where a key position at the State Department, the Ambassador at-Large for International Religious Freedom, remained vacant. The administration, meanwhile, established and appointed the first-ever Special Envoy for LGBTQ issues at the department in 2015.

Dr. Tom Farr, president of the Religious Freedom Institute, told CNA that through the special envoy, the U.S. could go further than simply trying to end violence against persons with same-sex attraction; the State Department could actively influence public opinion on the LGBT agenda in developing countries including by pressuring non-governmental organizations to change their beliefs on marriage.

In promoting international religious freedom, the State Department produces an annual report on the matter and lists certain countries in a tier rating system depending upon how poorly they protect religious freedom.

The Trump administration took a strong approach in presenting the report, condemning religious persecution and calling out bad actors by name. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned China’s abuses of largely-Muslim Uyghurs in Xinjiang more than two dozen times in less than a year.

The U.S. also formed the International Religious Freedom Alliance, and hosted the first-ever ministerial on religious freedom with religious and civic leaders attending from more than 100 countries.

Blinken, if confirmed, would also have to navigate these and other pressing humanitarian concerns, such as violence in Nigeria that has displaced millions of Muslims and Christians, and a dwindling Christian population in the Middle East.

The Biden administration could take a softer approach to dealing with bad actors, as some advocates, such as former USCIRF commissioner James Zogby, have called for a shift in the strategy of “naming-and-shaming” violators of religious freedom.

When he introduced the State Department’s 2015 religious freedom report, Blinken emphasized that “[t]he purpose of this annual report is not to lecture,” but rather “is to inform, to encourage, and ultimately to persuade.”

In Obama’s State Department, Blinken was part of an administration that pursued the nuclear deal with Iran and U.S. participation in the Paris Climate Accord—agreements that were supported by the U.S. bishops’ conference and the Holy See.

While the Trump administration withdrew from both agreements and ratcheted up “maximum pressure” sanctions on Iran, Blinken may work to revive U.S. relations with Iran and participation in international climate agreements.

Also on Monday, Biden named Linda Thomas-Greenfield as his pick for U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

Greenfield served in the Obama administration as U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, and before that as Ambassador to Liberia. Among other issues, she fought laws that she said discriminated against the LGBT community, including criminalization of same-sex relations in countries like Uganda and Nigeria.

The Obama administration promoted LGBT concerns in Africa, but backlash in African countries reportedly led to some stricter laws against persons with same-sex attraction and violence against them.

At an April, 2014 congressional hearing, Greenfield spoke out against proposed “anti-LGBT legislation” in Africa that was leading to “renewed violence against the LGBT community.” Uganda had just enacted a law criminalizing homosexuality.

“We're in the process of reviewing that relationship and our funding to see where changes can be made and in particular changes that will take funding away from those organizations and entities that discriminate against the LGBT community,” Greenfield said.

In 2015, around a visit of the Nigerian president to the U.S., she reportedly said that “As a policy, we will continue to press the government of Nigeria as well as other governments who have provided legislation that discriminate against the LGBT community.” 

After President Obama promoted “the rights of gays and lesbians” during a 2015 trip to Kenya, Nigerian Cardinal John Onaiyekan of Abuja responded that “our Church has always said homosexuality is unnatural and marriage is between a man and a woman.”

During the Trump administration, the U.S. also spoke out against abortion as an international human right at the United Nations General Assembly. As Biden has pledged to support legal abortion and overturn a ban on funding of foreign abortion promoters and providers, his administration might also promote legal abortion as part of diplomacy.

When senior advisor to the president Ivanka Trump tweeted that she was “unapologetically pro-life” on Oct. 30, Greenfield replied “Good! Pro life means supporting the lives of children taken from their parents at the border, poor children and people with Covid...”.

Biden has also tapped former Secretary of State John Kerry to serve in his cabinet, as Special Presidential Envoy for Climate.

Kerry in 2015 praised Pope Francis’ ecology encyclical Laudato Si’ as “powerful,” telling TIME magazine that the pope “thoughtfully applied” the value of environmental stewardship “to the very real threat our planet is facing today.”

Santa Cruz historical commission recommends removing city’s last mission bell

Mon, 11/23/2020 - 6:34pm

CNA Staff, Nov 23, 2020 / 04:34 pm (CNA).- The historical preservation commission of Santa Cruz, California last week advised the city council to remove a replica mission bell from a city intersection, saying the bell represents painful history for the indigenous people of the city.

In a Nov. 18 recommendation to the city council, the Santa Cruz Historic Preservation Commission wrote that some California indigenous peoples view the mission bells as a “colonial settler and racist symbol” that “glorifies the killing, dehumanization, forced labor and imprisonment of their ancestors.”

“The mission bells are a constant reminder of the brutal history of the Santa Cruz mission and to our indigenous populations,” Director of Parks and Recreation Tony Elliot told the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

“[They’re] really representative of a lot of pain. Of the genocide and the history related to the Santa Cruz mission.”

Spanish missionaries founded 21 California missions between 1769 and 1833 to evangelize the native people of the area. St. Junipero Serra is considered the founding father of the missions, as he led the creation of the first nine.

The Franciscans founded Mission Santa Cruz Aug. 28, 1791, seven years after St. Serra’s death.

Critics of the missions, and of Serra, have long maintained that the mission system contributed to the virtual destruction of native Californians’ culture and way of life.

Experts have disputed claims that Serra was in any way involved in genocide, and in contrast, there is evidence that Serra advocated for the rights of the indigenous people in the face of mistreatment by the Spanish military.

The mission bell in question, located at an intersection near a park in Santa Cruz, is a replica installed in 2006.

The commission said Valentin Lopez, chairman of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, contacted the city in 2019 to ask that all the bells be removed. The city council in October 2020 approved a resolution to update the city’s historic district to provide “a more accurate depiction of the history of the indigenous people of the area.”

Lopez in 2015 wrote to Pope Francis to express his tribe’s opposition to Serra’s canonization.

The bell would be the third and final one in Santa Cruz to be removed from its place since 2019.

During June 2019, officials from the University of California Santa Cruz removed a bell— also a replica, installed in the 1990s— from the school’s campus.

Another bell, installed in Mission Park Plaza in 1999, was stolen during a June 11 protest.

Hundreds of mission bell replicas have been installed over the years along the historic “El Camino Real,” which today roughly follows the route of Highway 101.

According to the California missions’ website, the original mission church, whose bell tower collapsed in 1840, contained nine or ten bells, none of which have survived. The current mission bell tower also contains a replica bell.

During the years that the missions were active, the bells were mainly used to wake the Franciscan friars for their daily prayers.

The decision whether to remove the final bell will come down to the Santa Cruz city council. Eliot, the parks and recreation director, suggested the bell could be moved to a museum and replaced with a historical marker that contextualizes the history of the area. 

Statues of the saint have this year become focal points for protests and demonstrations across California, with images of the saint being torn down or vandalized in protest of California’s colonial past. Nationally, rioters have targeted Catholic churches and statues of Christ and Mary.

A Oct. 12 protest at Mission San Rafael Arcangel began peacefully but then turned violent, as participants defaced another St. Junipero Serra statue with red paint before dragging it to the ground with nylon straps and ropes. The local district attorney ultimately charged five individuals with felony vandalism in connection with the incident.

A statue of Serra was torn down in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, June 19 by a crowd of about 100 people, and on the same day a statue of the saint was torn down in Los Angeles.
Rioters pulled down and defaced a statue of Serra in Sacramento on July 4.

Some California institutions, such as the University of San Diego, have put their statues of Serra in storage to protect them.

On July 11, a fire being investigated for arson gutted the 249-year-old Mission San Gabriel in Los Angeles, a mission church founded by St. Serra.

Catholic mental health council applauds Bishop Conley’s candor on mental illness

Mon, 11/23/2020 - 5:30pm

CNA Staff, Nov 23, 2020 / 03:30 pm (CNA).- When Catholic bishops and leaders share their experiences with mental illness, it encourages other Catholics to seek help and to know that recovery is possible, a national Catholic group has said.

In a statement issued Monday, the National Catholic Partnership on Disability’s Council on Mental Illness applauded Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, Nebraska “on his complete candor regarding his recent experience of coping with mental illness.”

“Based on Bishop Conley's public testimony, other individuals in leadership positions are more likely to be upfront about their mental wellbeing. They too are seen as capable of recovery and are finding ways to become more effective and committed to ministry than ever before.”

“An illness is an illness not a weakness of character,” the group said.

In an interview with CNA earlier this month, Conley shared his experiences after being diagnosed with depression and anxiety, and while taking an 11-month mental health leave of absence for his recovery.

“I was trying to fix myself and as time went on, I realized that I couldn't fix myself while I was still on the job, so to speak,” Conley told CNA in an interview published Nov. 14.

The misconduct of Catholic clergy, both locally and at large, weighed heavily on Conley, starting in the summer of 2018. There were also some difficult school closings and the death of a young priest, those events were triggers for the anxiety and depression that Conley experienced.

He tried first to get help while continuing his duties as a bishop, but in late 2019 Conley presented his case to the apostolic nuncio, who advised the bishops to take some time off and receive professional help. Conley spent 11 months on leave, receiving help in Phoenix, Arizona from doctors and psychologists and a spiritual director.

His return to the Diocese of Lincoln was announced earlier this month.

Conley told CNA he has been open about his experience because he wants to encourage others to seek help when they need it.
Such testimonies can be a helpful step in increasing awareness and advocacy for others with mental illness, the NCPD explained.

Conley told CNA this month he had initially been afraid that his mental illness would be seen as a sign of weakness. But he said that after he announced his mental health leave, people reached out to him, saying they were grateful for his willingness to share about his experience.

The group encouraged other Catholic leaders to share their testimonies of mental illness and recovery, and to work to connect their communities to mental health resources.

“Through the awareness made possible by such testimonies as Bishop Conley's, doors can open to ensure that anyone seeking help, including family and friends, will have easy access to information, referrals, and good sound advice,” the NCPD said.

The NCPD was founded in 1982, with the mission of providing resources and advocacy for disabled Catholics, with a focus on participation in the sacraments and parish life of the Church.

The NCPD's Council on Mental Illness was founded in 2006, with this mission: “Following Jesus who embraced all, we reach out to accompany our brothers and sisters with mental illness and their families while assisting the Catholic community by providing resources and education for spiritual and pastoral support.”

Advocacy for people with mental illness “promotes a just society and an end to stigma, which is the biggest obstacle towards healing and recovery,” the group said in its statement.

Bishop Malone and Buffalo diocese sued by NY AG over clergy abuse

Mon, 11/23/2020 - 1:40pm

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 23, 2020 / 11:40 am (CNA).- The State of New York is suing the Diocese of Buffalo and its former bishops for failing to protect children for clergy sex abuse.

New York’s Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit on Monday in the state’s supreme court against the diocese. The state also named Bishop Emeritus Richard Malone, retired auxiliary Bishop Edward Grosz, and Buffalo’s apostolic administrator, Bishop Edward Scharfenberger of Albany, in the lawsuit.


#BREAKING: I filed a lawsuit against the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo and former senior leaders after we found they failed to follow mandated policies and procedures that would help to prevent the rampant sexual abuse of minors by priests within the Catholic Church.

— NY AG James (@NewYorkStateAG) November 23, 2020 The state alleges that the diocese, Malone, and Grosz failed to properly investigate claims of clergy sex abuse. The state also claims diocesan leadership did not “refer unassignable priests to the Vatican,” monitor priests with credible accusations, or take necessary action against diocesan priests credibly accused of child sex abuse. Under state laws governing non-profits, the diocese did not act in “good faith” by failing to follow its own procedures on clergy sex abuse.

The state is seeking a court order for the diocese to comply with its own policies and procedures on clergy sex abuse, and for the appointment of an auditor to investigate the diocese’s compliance. In addition, the state is seeking restitution from Malone and Grosz, and a ban on their serving “a secular fiduciary role in a nonprofit or charitable organization” in the state.

A spokesman for the Diocese of Buffalo told CNA that the diocese “will be reviewing this lawsuit just announced by the New York Attorney General and weighing the Diocese’s response.”

“In the meantime,” the diocese said, “we wish to reiterate that there is zero tolerance for sexual abuse of a minor or of sexual harassment of an adult in the Diocese of Buffalo by any member of the clergy, employee or volunteer.” 

“The Diocese has put in place rigorous policies and protocols governing required behavior as well as a code of conduct which all clergy are expected to abide by. Moreover, the Diocese has committed to full cooperation with all civil authorities in both the reporting and investigation of alleged crimes and complaints.”

In 2018, then-Attorney General Barbara Underwood launched an investigation into the diocese over allegations of clergy sex abuse and the failure to investigate by diocesan leaders.

The office, now under James, said Monday that the two-year investigation had discovered that although “the diocese’s leadership found sexual abuse complaints to be credible, they sheltered the accused priests from public disclosure by deeming them as ‘unassignable,’ and permitted them to retire or go on purported medical leave, rather than face referral to the Vatican for possible removal from the priesthood.”

The diocese flouted the requirements of the U.S. bishops’ conference in responding to allegations of clergy sex abuse, the state claimed in its lawsuit.

Despite the USCCB implementing standards for responding to clergy sex abuse for dioceses acorss the country through the 2002 Dallas Charter and Complimentary Norms, the diocese “ignored” the charter “[f]or nearly two decades,” the state said.

The diocese did not conduct proper investigations of clergy sex abuse, as directed by the USCCB, and failed to refer more than two dozen priests with substantiated accusations of abuse to the Vatican.

When the diocese’s “mishandling of specific cases was exposed,” the state claims in the suit, it “misled its beneficiaries about its response to sexual abuse allegations and the measures that its leaders had taken to protect the public.”

The Buffalo diocese has been embroiled in scandal since November, 2018, when Bishop Emeritus Richard Malone’s former assistant leaked records reportedly showing that the diocese worked with lawyers to conceal credible abuse allegations from the public.

While the diocese had reported the names of some priests credibly accused of abuse, it had not reported others, the records appeared to show. Bishop Malone denied claims that he had covered up abuse.

Six months later, Bishop Malone apologized for his handling of the case of Fr. Art Smith, a diocesan priest who faced repeated accusations of abuse and misconduct with minors.

Bishop Malone had written to the Vatican in 2015, in a letter later reported in the press, asking that Fr. Smith be kept in active ministry. He admitted in the same letter that Smith had groomed a young boy, had been accused of inappropriate touching, and refused to stay in a treatment center. Smith was eventually suspended in 2018 after the diocese received a new substantiated allegation of sexual abuse of a minor. 

In August of 2019, the diocese was named in a RICO lawsuit alleging that its handling of clerical sex abuse was akin to that of an organized crime syndicate.

In September, 2019, Bishop Malone’s former secretary leaked audio of conversations where Malone appeared to acknowledge the legitimacy of sexual harassment accusations made against a diocesan priest months before the priest was removed from active ministry.

In Oct., 2019, a Vatican-ordered apostolic visitation of the diocese commenced, and in December, Pope Francis accepted Bishop Malone’s resignation.

The Buffalo diocese filed for bankruptcy in February of this year, after it was named in hundreds of clergy sex abuse lawsuits filed in New York courts.

Court allows Tennessee abortion ban to go into effect

Mon, 11/23/2020 - 12:00pm

CNA Staff, Nov 23, 2020 / 10:00 am (CNA).- A federal appeals court on Friday allowed a Tennessee ban on some abortions to go into effect.

A three-judge panel of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that a part of the state’s abortion law can go into effect, a “reason ban” that bars discrimination abortions.  

Tennessee in July enacted a law with several restrictions on abortion, including a “heartbeat ban” on abortions conducted as early as six weeks into pregnancy, and bans on abortions at other stages in pregnancy should the “heartbeat” ban be struck down by a court.

The law also banned doctors from performing abortions if they knew the mother was seeking the abortion “because of” the sex, race, or Down syndrome diagnosis of her baby—a “reason ban,” in Section 217 of the law.

Planned Parenthood, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and the ACLU challenged the law in court. In July, a federal district court halted the law from going into effect.

The Sixth Circuit on Friday put a stay on the lower court’s ruling with respect to Section 217, allowing that part of the law to go into effect.

Judges Eugene Siler and Amul Thapar issued the majority opinion. The plaintiffs’ claim, they said, that the law was vaguely written did not have “a likelihood of success on the merits.” The state, meanwhile, would suffer “ongoing irreparable harm” if the law was halted. Thus, they said the conditions were met to grant a stay on the lower court’s decision.

After the ruling, pro-abortion groups submitted another request for the courts to halt the “Reason Bans,” arguing this time that the bans violated a woman’s constitutional right to a pre-viability abortion.

A coalition of 18 states filed a brief at the court supporting Tennessee’s law.

“Protecting the most vulnerable members of society is an interest of the utmost importance for States. And it is hard to imagine a scenario where this interest comes into sharper focus than protecting unborn children from eugenics-motivated abortions,” the brief stated, which was authored by Kentucky’s Attorney General Daniel Cameron.

The states of Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia also signed onto the brief.

Kentucky is in court fighting to protect its own discrimination abortion ban, Cameron said.

In his dissent, Judge Eric Clay said that the state’s ban violates a woman’s constitutional right to a pre-viability abortion.

“If a woman seeks an abortion for a reason prohibited by the statute, a physician’s refusal to provide the service will pose an ‘undue burden’ on the woman in her effort to obtain a pre-viability abortion, a constitutionally protected choice,” Judge Clay wrote. 

Catholic couple donates hundreds of Thanksgiving turkeys in Brooklyn, Queens

Sun, 11/22/2020 - 5:01pm

Denver Newsroom, Nov 22, 2020 / 03:01 pm (CNA).- For one Catholic businessman in New York City, Thanksgiving has long been a time of sacrifice and generosity. For each of the past four years, Alphonse Catanese and his wife have donated hundreds of turkeys to needy families in the city.

This year, amid the toll of the coronavirus pandemic, the Cataneses have stepped up their giving to ensure the needy of Brooklyn and Queens still get a fitting Thanksgiving dinner.

"With the help of God, we'll continue to do it,” Alphonse told CNA.

When Alphonse was a kid, every November his dad would load hundreds of turkeys into a dump truck, pick up Alphonse and his brother from school, and together they would drive to brickyards and supply yards around Brooklyn.

They would visit all the people his father worked with throughout the year, give them a turkey at 12 o’clock on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Then Alphonse’ dad would release all his employees early so they could prepare to celebrate the next day.

“I could never figure out why we used to do this. One day we finally ask our father and he goes, ‘You gotta understand. It’s nice to help people and Thanksgiving is a special time of year,” Alphonse recalled.

Alphonse’ dad died in 2006, and Alphonse and his brother inherited the family business. Since his retirement, Alphonse has done real estate management and development and runs a company that does apartment upgrades and improvements.

“One day, I was sitting around and talking to my wife like, ‘Remember how it used to be this time of the year? We’d go crazy, pick up turkeys, put them in the dump truck, go out and take care of everybody?’” he said.

His wife suggested he revive the tradition, so he approached Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens— for whom he had done construction work in the past— to see what he could do.

Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens has hosted a Turkey and Trimming Giveaway for over a decade. Each person gets a voucher for a turkey and a basket of items such as dinner rolls, cranberry sauce, and stuffing to complete the Thanksgiving meal.

This year they’ve already distributed nearly 1,600 turkeys and 1,200 produce boxes to families in need.

In 2016, Alphonse and his wife Maria became lead sponsors of the giveaway, donating about 700 turkeys. They’ve kept that commitment every year since.

“Anybody can write a check or send a donation. But I gotta tell you, it’s truly a great feeling. You hand that person a turkey— the person will turn and look at you and they say ‘thank you.’ And you know it’s a genuine thank you,” Alphonse commented.

CCBQ has seen demand for its services skyrocket during the pandemic. A spokesman told CNA this week that many of the food pantries they operate year-round have seen a tenfold increase in demand since March.

CCBQ’s twenty food pantries are now serving twice as many families on a regular basis as they were last year, as more and more families turn to the charity for help. All told, CCBQ has served 1.2 million meals since the start of the pandemic, the spokesman said.

This year, the Cataneses stepped up their donation, despite the additional challenges wrought by the coronavirus pandemic. In addition to their regular 700 turkeys to Catholic Charities, the Cataneses also donated 200 to a local church.

While their commitment number to Catholic Charities was the same, the availability and cost of the turkeys was affected by the pandemic.

This year, Alphonse said they were forced to purchase larger sized turkeys than usual, at an increased cost. The reason? Smaller turkeys are flying off the shelves this year, making them harder to come by.
While many people are choosing to stay home and have smaller Thanksgiving celebrations this year, this actually means there will likely be a greater number of— albeit smaller— Thanksgiving feasts taking place across the country this year. People are buying smaller turkeys for these smaller gatherings.

For the most part, that shift left only larger turkeys available for Alphonse to purchase.

"On average they were 2-4 pounds larger," he explained.

Alphonse said his business took a revenue hit during the pandemic, since many construction projects ceased during the lockdown.

But he resolved not to waver from their annual commitment to donate the turkeys, recalling, "There are a lot of people in a position worse than us.”

Alphonse said he will often see the same needy people coming back year after year to get their Thanksgiving turkey.

"There's definitely a recurring need, and you see people who truly need it...This year we're going to help 900 people. It's a small amount compared to the millions of people that are in need, but from our end we're doing as much as we can.”

Alphonse said he is thankful that he is fortunate enough to be able to help so many people, and he encouraged others to help the poor as much as they are able.

"We take a lot of things for granted, like food on our table. But when you go to the sites at the various neighborhoods and people come out with a basket … you really see that people are in need, and they genuinely appreciate this.”

Cardinal Dolan: Stories of persecuted Christians should move hearts

Sun, 11/22/2020 - 5:13am

CNA Staff, Nov 22, 2020 / 03:13 am (CNA).- American Christians must be better advocates for the world’s persecuted Christians, said speakers at a Thursday event featuring victims of persecution, religious leaders, and global experts.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York encouraged Catholics to think universally “about our brothers and sisters in the faith now suffering grievously simply because they sign themselves with the cross, they bow their heads at the Holy Name of Jesus, they happen to profess the Apostle’s Creed every Sunday.”

Earlier this week, Dolan was elected chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Religious Freedom, where he is likely to play a role in conflicts with the incoming administration of presumptive president-elect Joe Biden.

“We bishops in the United States have, as you well know, legitimate and ongoing struggles to protect our first and most precious freedom,” said Dolan. “But even our problems as towering as they can be at times and as ominous as the future might now seem, they pale in comparison, don’t they, to the ‘via crucis’ that is currently being walked by so many of our Christian brothers and sisters in other parts of the world who are experiencing lethal persecution.”

“If our common membership in the mystical body of Christ is to mean anything, then their suffering must become ours as well,” he said.

Dolan cited Pope John Paul II’s description of the present times as the “new age of martyrs.” Half of all Christian martyrs in the 2,000 year history of Christianity were killed in the 20th century alone.

“This 21st century, I’m scared, doesn’t seem to promise much better,” the cardinal continued. “This century, only two decades old, has already seen 1.25 million people killed around the world, simply because of their belief in Jesus Christ. And that threat to religious believers is growing.”

The Nov. 19 symposium, “Act in Time: Protecting Imperiled Christians in Ancient and Other Lands,” was hosted by the Anglosphere Society, the Knights of Columbus, the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, the Institute for Ancient and Threatened Christianity, and the Catholic Near East Welfare Association. Most participants spoke via video.

Among the speakers was Mariam Ibraheem, a Sudanese woman who was arrested and charged with abandoning Islam. Under Sudanese law, she was considered a Muslim due to her father’s Muslim faith, despite the fact that she was raised as a Christian by her mother after her father left the family when she was 6 years old. She was also charged with adultery and sentenced to 100 lashes because her marriage to a Christian husband was not recognized under Sudanese law.

Despite being sentenced to death in May 2014, Ibrahim refused to renounce her Christian faith. Her young son lived with her in prison and she gave birth to a baby girl while in prison. After international attention, she and her family were released in June 2014 and they now live in the United States.

Dolan reflected on what American Catholics can do to help persecuted Christians.

“We’re members of one of the most richly blessed communities on this planet,” Dolan said. Though American Catholics show unity in defense of their own religious freedom, “we can’t stop there,” he said.

“We have to become advocates,” he said. “We need the enthusiastic backing of our people, not just our leaders. If we don’t have that, we’re not going to get too far.”

The cardinal cited Pope Francis’ reminder to conduct an examination of conscience on this topic. The pope encouraged Christians to ask themselves whether they are indifferent to Christian persecution or respond as if “a member of my own family is suffering.”

Among his recommended actions, Dolan said that believers should encourage constant prayers of intercession for the persecuted. Prayers for the conversion of Russia shaped Dolan’s childhood sense of life behind the Iron Curtain, and a similar “culture of prayer” in private and in liturgical celebration for today’s persecuted Christians could have an effect, he said.

“We also want to make people aware of the great suffering of our brothers and sisters using all means at our disposal,” Dolan said, commenting that he has asked pastors to speak on the issue and to include stories of present-day martyrs in their sermons. These stories are also fruitful for use in ongoing faith formation.

“Our experience defending religious freedom shows that when we turn our minds to an issue we can put it on the map,” he said.

Dolan praised groups like Aid to the Church in Need, the Catholic Near East Welfare Agency, Catholic Relief Services, In Defense of Christians, Open Doors, the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher, the Knights of Malta, and the Knights of Columbus for their work to help persecuted Christians.

Other speakers at the symposium included Robert Nicholson, executive director of the Philos Project, and Chinese civil rights lawyer and activist Guangcheng Chen, who is presently the Distinguished Fellow for the Center for Human Rights at The Catholic University of America.

Chen has defended women and families against the Chinese government’s forced sterilization and abortion policies. He was arrested, suffered beatings, and abused under house arrest before escaping to the United States.

Bishop Matthew Kukah of Sokoto, Nigeria told the symposium that Christians in Nigeria face difficulty securing land for churches in states that see the building of churches as undermining Islam. By contrast, most mosques are state funded.

He suggested a focus on “bread and butter” issues as a way forward, by addressing crisis areas like homelessness, orphan children, unemployment, and conditions that stop farmers from farming or harvesting crops. In areas that are struggling to build schools, having a Muslim presence in schools is “a guarantee that persecution will not continue,” he said.

Archbishop Basha Warda of Erbil spoke about the situation facing Iraqi Christians and other minorities like the Yazidis. He warned of “a growing loss of hope” for Iraqi Christians, whose numbers have declined from 1.6 million before the 2003 U.S. invasion to fewer than 250,000 today.

“This time, it’s quite likely that we will have disappeared by the time the world chooses to look upon us again. And yet as for now, we are still here, still working with whatever strength, courage and hope that we are able to still find.”

While rejecting a “culture of dependency,” he noted that Christians, like many others, are facing severe need in basic areas like security, food, employment, education and freedom of religion.

Also during the symposium, writer David Oldroyd-Bolt interviewed Lord David Alton, a former Liberal MP who is now in Britain’s House of Lords. Alton said that even though religious freedom advocates can’t solve all problems, “we can solve some of them.”

He cited the case of the abduction, forced marriage and forced conversion of a 13-year-old girl in Pakistan, resolved when her supporters secured help from “good members of the judiciary.”

Alton saw recent improvements in aiding persecuted Christians, like the creation of the All Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief, which is able to make common cause on some issues. He praised the work of Sam Brownback, U.S. Ambassador At Large for International Religious Freedom, as well as those from other countries with similar roles.

Alton suggested that on the topic of Christian persecution there is “a lot of indifference” that is driven by “contempt for religious faith.”

He criticized those who dismissed the Nigerian Islamic extremist group Boko Haram’s killing of Christians as having causes in climate change or population growth.

“Eleven Christians were murdered on Christmas day. That wasn’t climate change,” he said.

Alton, who has served as vice-chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on Hong Kong, said that regarding China, he tends to follow the view of Cardinal Joseph Zen, a critic of the Vatican’s deal with China. Zen has “said again and again you should not be dealing with the communist party.”

“It’s a bit of a betrayal to make a concord with Chinese communist party,” Alton said, calling the agreement “a huge historical error.”

“We should be standing alongside those who have suffered so much for their faith,” he said.

Multiple speakers, including Cardinal Dolan and Archbishop Warda, cited the example and the work of Andrew Walther, who died of leukemia only months after becoming EWTN News Chief Operating Officer and President. He had been a major leader in efforts to help persecuted Christians in his role as vice-president of communications and strategic planning for the Knights of Columbus.

The end of the symposium featured a pre-recorded tribute for Walther from Michael Warsaw, EWTN Chairman and CEO. He said Walther was a longtime friend who had hoped he would be able to continue his work on behalf of persecuted Christians in his new role.

“The impact of Andrew’s work in this area was immense,” said Warsaw, who added: “one of the best ways for all of us to honor Andrew’s memory is to recommit us to the cause of persecuted Christians.”


What pro-lifers can expect from a divided House and Senate

Sat, 11/21/2020 - 6:37pm

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 21, 2020 / 04:37 pm (CNA).- With nearly all U.S. House and Senate races decided, Congress will be sharply divided the next two years—possibly undermining the viability of extreme pro-abortion policies.

A Senate majority will hinge upon two Jan. 5 runoff elections in Georgia. Republicans would only need one of these seats to keep the Senate, but if Democrats sweep both races then they would effectively hold a majority in the chamber, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris being a tiebreaker in a 50-50 vote scenario.

The pro-life Susan B. Anthony List and its partner Women Speak Out PAC are “all-in” for the two Republicans Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, spending more than $4 million in the two races and aiming to reach 1 million voters before election day.

However, even if the Democrats sweep in Georgia, their narrow majorities would be more tenuous than anticipated—and could mean the abandonment of some of the more extreme goals that had been suggested ahead of the election.

Two changes that Senate Democrats flirted with before the election—abolishing the filibuster and adding justices to the Supreme Court—are possibly dead.

Both measures could have imperiled pro-life hopes, as pro-abortion bills would only need 51 votes to pass the chamber if the filibuster were abolished, and an expanded Supreme Court could further thwart any state attempts to restrict abortions.

“I do think that court-packing is dead for the foreseeable future,” Rammesh Ponnuru, senior editor at National Review, told EWTN Pro-Life Weekly on Nov. 5. “They [Democrats] are going to have a razor-thin [Senate] majority, they’re probably not going to even have that.”

President-elect Joe Biden would also need the support of the Senate to make cabinet appointments and nominations to federal courts.

Republican or Democratic control of the chamber thus could play a significant role in the number and rate of Biden’s appointments—particularly the confirmation of any judges who would rule in favor of pro-abortion groups.

During the lame-duck session, Congress will be pressured to pass another coronavirus relief package. Pro-life leaders have warned that health spending in such a bill could contain new funding streams for abortions, although it remains to be seen if Democrats would choose to pick a fight on that issue before the new Congress begins.

Even in the House, Republican gains could spur the abandonment of some pro-abortion policies such as repealing the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits funding of elective abortions in Medicaid.

With all but four of the races decided by Friday morning, Democrats will have at least 222 seats in the House. However, Republicans have already gained nine seats in total, and of the four outstanding races, they hold narrow leads in three of them—California’s 21st and 25th districts, and Iowa’s 2nd district—and a larger lead in New York’s 22nd district.

If Republicans sweep all four races, they would have only a nine-vote deficit. That would narrow the margin of success for Democratic priorities such as repealing Hyde.

Speaker Pelosi said in August that she would not include the Hyde Amendment on spending bills in 2021. President-elect Biden has promised to undo the pro-life policy as well.

“I think it would be a terrible political mistake,” said outgoing Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) to CNA last week. He noted that “a substantial majority of Americans support the Hyde Amendment,” and that “the party really put itself on the defensive” by trying to repeal it.

“I’m not sure if the votes would even be there in the House, much less the Senate, to get rid of the Hyde Amendment,” Lipinski said.

Nevertheless, he added, pro-lifers will have to be vigilant against the possibility of such a repeal.

Another consequence of the elections is the further entrenchment of the pro-life lobby within the Republican Party.

With the defeat of Lipinski (D-Ill.) in his March primary, and Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) being unseated in the general election, there will be no House Democrats next year with the endorsement of Democrats for Life of America.

Rep. Ben McAdams (D-Utah) also voted with pro-lifers some of the time, but lost his race as well. McAdams, Lipinski and Peterson were the only House Democrats not to receive an “F” rating from the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List. While Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) is known to sometimes buck support pro-life bills, he was not endorsed by Democrats for Life, and had a “F” rating from Susan B. Anthony List.

Lipinski warned that the pro-life cause should not be concentrated in one political party, but admitted that it has become harder to run for Congress as a pro-life Democrat.

“I think it’s bad for the pro-life movement if this becomes a one-party issue,” he said, noting that Republicans can more easily “take pro-life voters for granted.”

“I really think there’s going to have to be a concerted effort by pro-life groups to try to get some Democrats elected to Congress. And that’s going to mean getting involved in Democratic primaries,” he said.


The McCarrick Report: A timeline

Sat, 11/21/2020 - 5:22am

CNA Staff, Nov 21, 2020 / 03:22 am (CNA).- The following is a timeline of important dates from the McCarrick Report. Published by the Vatican Nov. 10, the report examines the “institutional knowledge and decision-making” regarding Theodore McCarrick, the former cardinal found guilty of sexual abuse of minors and seminarians in 2019 and laicized after an expedited canonical investigation.



Early Life:


July 7, 1930: Theodore Edgar McCarrick was born in New York City, the only child of Theodore E. and Margaret McLaughlin McCarrick.


1949: McCarrick graduated from Fordham Preparatory School, a prominent Catholic high school in New York. After graduation, McCarrick spent a year in Switzerland, developing his knowledge of French, German and Italian languages. 


1954: McCarrick graduated from Fordham University in New York with a Bachelor of Arts degree in philosophy.

1954-1958: McCarrick attended St. Joseph’s Seminary in New York, and attained a Master of Arts in theology.


May 1958: New York’s Cardinal Francis Spellman ordained McCarrick to the priesthood at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. McCarrick wass incardinated into the Archdiocese of New York.

September 1958: McCarrick was assigned to doctoral studies in sociology at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. During this time, he also directed the Institute for Spanish Studies at the Catholic University of Puerto Rico in Ponce.


1961-1963: McCarrick served as Dean of Studies, chaplain, and graduate school teacher at CUA. 


1963: McCarrick received his doctorate in sociology from CUA. He was appointed assistant to the rector at CUA and also the university’s first director of development (a fundraising position).

July 1965: McCarrick was approved for a leave of office to serve as president of the Catholic University of Puerto Rico.

Monsignor McCarrick/ “Uncle Ted”

November 1965: Pope Paul VI granted McCarrick the honorary title of Monsignor. 


1969: McCarrick was appointed Associate Secretary for Education for the Archdiocese of New York. He lived and engaged in pastoral work at the Church of the Blessed Sacrament in Manhattan.


1971: McCarrick became secretary to New York’s Cardinal Terence Cooke and lived in the rectory attached to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. McCarrick traveled with Cooke on multiple overseas trips and met some of America’s most prominent political and religious figures. He was also in regular contact with wealthy donors through his fundraising work for the Archdiocese, and became renowned for his competent fundraising skills.


During this time, McCarrick took on the nickname “Uncle Ted,” as he grew close with several large Catholic families in the area. With the blessing of their parents, McCarrick spent time with their teenage children, whom he called “nieces” and “nephews”, and traveled regularly with them, including overnight trips.

September 1976: McCarrick was called away from a fishing trip in the Bahamas with some of his “nieces and nephews” and asked to return to New York for the visit of Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, who was accompanied by his secretary, Stanisław Dziwisz. Cardinal Cooke assigned McCarrick to accompany Wojtyla and Dziwisz on the trip as a translator. Wojtyla and Dziwisz were on a brief visit to the U.S. for the International Eucharistic Congress.


Consideration for the Office of Bishop:

1968-1977: McCarrick was thrice considered for elevation to the office of Bishop. Fifty-two confidential inquiries were sent from the U.S. nunciature to people who had lived and worked with McCarrick - largely, priests and bishops - about McCarrick’s fitness for the office. 


The responses return glowingly positive for McCarrick. Some concerns were raised that McCarrick might be “ambitious,” and that he sometimes lacked “candor.” But overall, he was recommended as a highly intelligent and competent man whose moral conduct was “beyond question.” There were no mentions of any concerns about  misconduct.


Bishop of Metuchen and the first anonymous reports


November 1981: Pope John Paul II appointed McCarrick as Bishop of Metuchen in New Jersey, after again receiving glowing reviews of him in the terna evaluating him for the position.

1982-1986: As Bishop, McCarrick was successful in fundraising and fostering priestly vocations. He served on committees for the U.S. bishops’ conference and traveled extensively overseas, and met with Pope John Paul II on several brief occasions. He promoted annual spiritual retreats for clergy at a beach house on the Jersey Shore, and went on trips with his “nephews” - the teenage children of Catholic families in the area with whom he had fostered close relationships. Some of these young men shared a bed with McCarrick on overnight trips.

Mid 1980s: A New York Catholic mother, identified as “Mother 1”, sent out an anonymous letter to every Cardinal in the United States, as well as the papal nuncio, detailing concerns that McCarrick was “attracted to boys.” Mother 1’s family had grown close to McCarrick during his time in New York. Mother 1 grew suspicious after she observed McCarrick rubbing her sons’ inner thighs and chests, and when she was told he bought alcohol for the young men on overnight trips. Fearing backlash for speaking against the prominent cleric, she kept her identity anonymous. No copies of Mother 1’s letter were found for the McCarrick report. 


Archbishop of Newark 


May 24, 1986: Pope John Paul II appointed McCarrick, nearly 56 years old, as Archbishop of Newark, after receiving more strong recommendations from bishops in the U.S. None mentioned concerns regarding inappropriate behavior.

1986-2000: As Archbishop of Newark, McCarrick continued extensive international travels, mostly for work with the U.S. bishop’s conference on international affairs. McCarrick also served in U.S. government roles in the 1980s and 1990s, including committees focused on religious freedom and international affairs. Hence, McCarrick became known to many prominent international political and religious leaders, and built up an extensive network of connections.

McCarrick also frequently visited Rome for meetings at the Vatican. He often stayed at the Pontifical North American College during these trips, where he met American priests and seminarians, and attended public and private religious events with Pope John Paul II.

In the late 1980s, Archbishop McCarrick also helped create the Papal Foundation, using his connections and fundraising skills to fund charitable endeavors of the Vatican. He also began his decades-long practice of giving gifts to Curia and nunciature officials, as well as to prelates throughout the world.


Archbishop McCarrick was considered to be a capable and hard-working leader of Newark, where he fundraised money for poor parishes, fostered vocations and built Redemptoris Mater, a new diocesan seminary.  


He had frequent reunions with the families he had grown close to in New York, and celebrated some of his “nieces and nephews” marriages and baptized their children. These reunions, attended by priests, seminarians and lay secretaries of the Archdiocese, were not reported to be of an unhealthy nature. 


Accusations from seminarians and priests

1989-1996: Three priests, identified as Priest 1, Priest 3, and Priest 4, reported to Bishop Edward Hughes (McCarrick’s successor in Metuchen) instances sexual assault they suffered by McCarrick while he was in Metuchen. The accusations, reported in separate meetings, included sharing a bed with McCarrick and sexual touching and assault that occurred during overnight stays at the beach house at the Jersey shore while two of the priests were seminarians. One of the incidents, reported by Priest 3, occurred while he was a priest. These priests later said that Hughes listened to them, but either sent them on for therapy, or urged them to forgive McCarrick. There is no evidence that Hughes told anyone else of these priests’ reports of McCarrick’s misconduct.

January 1990: Monsignor Dominic Bottino, of the Diocese of Camden, New Jersey, attended a small celebration with McCarrick. Both Bottino and his Bishop, James Thomas McHugh, noticed McCarrick groping the crotch of a young priest. McHugh dismissed Bottino’s voiced concerns, and said that McCarrick was just “different.” Bottino told his spiritual director at the time of the incident, but no one else, since his bishop dismissed the incident.

1992-1993: Six anonymous letters and one pseudonymous letter alleging sexual misconduct by McCarrick were mailed to various Catholic prelates, including nuncio Cacciavillan, Cardinal O’Connor, and leaders of the U.S. bishop’s conference. The letters accuse McCarrick of pedophilia or incest and sharing beds with young men. Some of McCarrick’s “nephews” with whom he shared beds were his distant relatives.

The accusations against McCarrick at this time are dismissed on the basis of McCarrick’s good reputation, and due to the anonymity of the letter and the lack of specific accusations.

1993-1995: Newark is evaluated as a potential site for a papal visit by Pope John Paul II.


During this evaluation, Mother Mary Quentin Sheridan, Superior General of the Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma (Michigan), and a priest called Nuncio Cacciavillan about reports they had heard of seminarians abused by McCarrick. After consulting Cardinal James Hickey of Washington, D.C., about the allegations, Cacciavillan dismissed them as “possible slander or exaggeration.” 


Hickey told the nuncio he knew McCarrick and his associates very well and had never heard of or seen any inappropriate behavior from McCarrick.

1995: Pope John Paul II visits Newark, and the visit proceeds without any report of scandal.

1996-1997: Priest 1 had been accused of sexual assault of two minors and was on leave. In the course of an evaluation of his fitness for ministry, Priest 1 told psychiatrist Dr. Richard Fitzgibbons and priest-psychologist Msgr. James Cassidy of the sexual assault he witnessed and experienced at the hands of McCarrick. Cassidy reported the matter to Cardinal O’Connor, who told Bishop Hughes. In 2000, in an account to Nuncio Cacciavillan, Hughes stated that he was not sure whether to believe the report, as Priest 1 has a “history of blaming others for his own problems.”


March 1997: Dr. Fitzgibbons traveled to Rome to share the information he had received from Priest 1 with an official at the Congregation for Bishops. The Congregation unsuccessfully attempted to contact Priest 1. There is no evidence of further action taken. 


Consideration for New York and Washington, D.C.

June-July 1999: Pope John Paul II tells Cardinal O’Connor that he was considering appointing McCarrick to the Archdiocese of New York.

July 1999: Cardinal O’Connor advised Nuncio Montalvo that McCarrick should not be elevated to New York due to moral issues. Montalvo asked O’Connor to put his concerns in writing.


October 27, 1999: Nuncio Montalvo sent a report to Cardinal Lucas Moreira Neves, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, regarding the Archbishopric of New York. Based on recommendations from U.S. bishops and cardinals, Montalvo recommended McCarrick for the position and noted he would be a “worthy member” of the College of Cardinals. He added that McCarrick has been accused of “misplaced affection” but that there was no supporting evidence. 

October 28, 1999: After a delay for cancer treatment, Cardinal O’Connor wrote Montalvo with his concerns about McCarrick. O’Connor stated that it was common knowledge among clergy in the Archdiocese of Newark that McCarrick frequently shared beds with male guests, including priests and seminarians. He also noted that there had been a priest very close to McCarrick who accompanied him on at least one international trip who had since left the priesthood. Furthermore, he recalled that a psychologist and psychiatrist had confirmed the veracity of the claims of at least one priest who said he was victimized by McCarrick.


O’Connor also stated that McCarrick had written a letter of defense of a young man convicted of murdering a young woman. He also noted that the general attitude among clergy in Newark and Metuchen was that their concerns about McCarrick had been ignored. 


Montalvo forwarded the letter to the Congregation for Bishops and to the Secretariat of State. Archbishop Re, then Substitute of the Secretariat of State, informed Pope John Paul II of the letter. At the request of the Pope, Re consulted Cacciavillan, who had been nuncio in the U.S. when most of the allegations against McCarrick had occurred.


Cacciavillan cast serious doubt on all six of O’Connors concerns, saying the incidents were just a few rumors. He added that McCarrick had not been given a chance to defend himself. Still, he recommended that McCarrick go to Washington D.C. instead of New York, because O’Connor had not recommended McCarrick as his successor.


November 22, 1999: Archbishop Re, per the request of the Pope, wrote to Montalvo, asking him to look into the claims against McCarrick at his convenience “for the sake of the truth.”

February 8, 2000: Cardinal Neve of the Congregation of Bishops told Montalvo that, based on the accusations against McCarrick, as well as his age (almost 70), he should not be transferred to a different diocese. 


May-June 2000: Following the death of O’Connor, Montalvo investigated the claims against McCarrick. He asked Bishop James T. McHugh (Diocese of Rockville Centre, 1998-2000); Bishop Vincent D. Breen (Diocese of Metuchen, 1997-2000); Bishop Edward T. Hughes (Diocese of Metuchen, 1987-1997); and Bishop John M. Smith (Diocese of Trenton, 1997-2010), to send him any factual information or other observations about any moral weaknesses in McCarrick.

May 12, 2000: Bishop McHugh responds to Montalvo. He confirms knowledge of McCarrick sharing beds with seminarians, priests and other men, though he said he had not witnessed “improper behavior” but rather a “familiarity (that) was imprudent.” He confirmed McCarrick’s defense of the young man convicted of murder, and offered to be of further assitance.

May 16, 2000: Bishop Breen responds to Montalvo, saying he head rumors of “illicit activities with young men” but that he had no way to prove them. He recommends contacting Bishop Hughes for more information. 


May 18, 2000: Bishop Smith responds to Montalvo. He said while he lived with McCarrick, he would be visited by his “nephews” from New York on occasion, and that they would sometimes spend the night, but never indicated the next morning that they were upset or that anything improper had happened. He said he would be “completely shocked” if an individual were to accuse McCarrick of serious wrongdoing or moral failure. 


May 22, 2000: Bishop Hughes responds to Montalvo. He said he does not have factual information regarding McCarrick’s moral weaknesses. He noted that two priests who came forward with accusations, Priest 6 and Priest 1, did so in the course of admitting their own moral failures and may have been attempting to justify their actions. He recommends against McCarrick’s promotion, but also against disciplinary actions. 


June 21, 2000: Montalvo sent his findings to Archbishop Re, informing him that his investigation found that accusations against McCarrick “are neither definitively proven nor completely groundless.” Based on this, he said, it would be “imprudent” to consider McCarrick for any kind of promotions.


May-July 2000: Montalvo received more endorsements for McCarrick’s appointment for Washington.


July 2000:  Archbishop Re and Pope John Paul II concluded that it would be unwise to promote McCarrick to Washington, D.C.

August 6, 2000: McCarrick wrote to Bishop Stanisław Dziwisz, Pope John Paul II’s secretary, refuting the accusations against him. He said he was “tipped off” by a Curia friend about O’Connor’s letter which had “deeply attacked” him and left him “bewildered.”

“Your Excellency, sure I have made mistakes and may have sometimes lacked in prudence, but in the seventy years of my life, I have never had sexual relations with any person, male or female, young or old, cleric or lay, nor have I ever abused another person or treated them with disrespect,” McCarrick wrote. “...if I understand the accusations that Cardinal O’Connor may have made, they are not true.”

McCarrick added that he would accept whatever decision the Holy Father made.

August 2000: Dziwisz delivered McCarrick’s letter to the Pope, who gave the letter to Archbishop Re. Re later said John Paul II had become convinced of McCarrick’s innocence after that letter. 


Sept. 16, 2000: Pope John Paul II appointed Archbishop Re Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.

Sept. 20, 2000: The secretary for the Congregation of Bishops wrote to Archbishop Cacciavillan and asked that McCarrick be reconsidered for the Washington Archbishopric based on his letter to Dziwisz pleading innocence. 


September 25, 2000: In a written memorandum, Archbishop Cacciavillan recommended McCarrick to the Congregation for Bishops for the Washington position. He said McCarrick could defend himself against any accusations that may come to light with the appointment, since they were false. 

October 2000: McCarrick traveled to Rome for a private audience with Dziwisz and Pope John Paul II. There is no record of what occurred in the meeting.

October 11, 2000: Re recommended McCarrick as one of two candidates for the Washington position to Pope John Paul II.

Cardinal McCarrick in Washington, D.C.

November 2000: Pope John Paul II appointed McCarrick as the Archbishop of Washington, D.C. 


November 24, 2000: Dominican priest Boniface Ramsey, who taught at the seminary at Seton Hall University from the late 1980s-1996, knew of prevalent rumors of McCarrick sharing beds with seminarians. Alarmed at the news of McCarrick’s promotion, he wrote to Nuncio Montalvo, stating that he had heard from multiple seminarians about sharing McCarrick’s bed at the Jersey beach house. He added that while he did not know of any certain sexual relations that had occurred, “at the least the archbishop was seen to be acting with extreme impropriety and to be playing with fire.”

Ramsey declined to name specific seminarians, and suggested the nuncio speak with other rectors at the seminary to confirm the rumors. Ramsey told a friend and Montalvo that he strongly feared backlash for expressing his concerns. He did not recall receiving any response.

Early 2001: Montalvo received an anonymous note warning of serious scandal if McCarrick is made a Cardinal.

January 2001: Montalvo forwarded the anonymous note and Ramsey’s letter to Secretary of State Cardinal Sodano, who forwarded the letters to Pope John Paul II. The Pope gave them back to Sodano, who made a note: Nihil dicens, or “nothing is produced.”


January 3, 2001: Archbishop McCarrick is installed as Archbishop of Washington.

February 21, 2001: McCarrick is elevated to a Cardinal by Pope John Paul II. 


Cardinal McCarrick

Early 2000s: McCarrick continued extensive work on numerous national and international committees of the U.S. bishop’s conference, including a prominent role in constructing new policies for addressing child sexual abuse within the Church. He is also appointed to numerous Vatican council positions.

His position in Washington meant he regularly met with federal government officials, including President George W. Bush. Following Sept. 11, 2001, McCarrick played a prominent role in addressing the crisis with national figures.

McCarrick, despite refusing a salary as an Archbishop, continued large donations and financial gifts to the Holy Father, other prelates, religious orders, and disaster relief funds. His extensive international travels continued. He was also tasked by the U.S. government in 2001 with developing diplomatic relations between China and the Vatican, a project he enthusiastically undertook and which was supported by the nuncio. 


November 15, 2001: Cardinal Hickey, then Archbishop Emeritus of Washington, received a letter from a Catholic layman and former student about “wrongdoing” by a bishop, but he did not mention McCarrick specifically. The man requested a meeting to discuss the matter more. Montalvo assigned Bishop William Lori to meet with the man. In a written report, Lori said that the man could not recall any specific details of wrongdoing by McCarrick, and ultimately dismissed the allegation as “hearsay.”  

January 2002: The Boston Globe published a series of stories about child sexual abuse by U.S. priests, and a major scandal erupted in the Church in the U.S.

March 2002: Montalvo received another letter from a layman, who had spiritually directed a transitional deacon at Seton Hall, who claimed that McCarrick had been “sexually inappropriate” with him at the Jersey beach house. Montalvo contacted Newark Archbishop John Myers, who later responded that he did not recognize the deacon’s name. He added that he had received other anonymous accusations against McCarrick but that they were untraceable rumors and not concrete incidents. No further action or investigation is undertaken. 


April 2002: McCarrick admitted to Susan Gibbs, communications director for the Archdiocese of Washington, that he had shared beds with seminarians as she questioned him about rumors. He told Gibbs that he only ever traveled with groups of seminarians and not alone, and that they were always clothed when they shared a bed. He said he shared beds with them because he thought it was inappropriate to ask seminarians to share beds with each other. 


Gibbs questioned McCarrick multiple times about the rumors, and contacted former diocesan personnel of his, but none of them reported any specific instances of improper behavior. She also talked to reporters from the Washington Post and the New York Times, who also could not get anyone to go on the record or on background with any specific allegations.  


McCarrick was questioned for two separate media interviews about the sex abuse crisis, including the allegations against him. He told reporters that the accusation was anonymous, that he had brought it forward, and that he had never had sexual relations with anyone in his life.  


November 15, 2004: Bishop Donald Wuerl of the Diocese of Pittsburgh sent Montalvo a signed statement from Priest 2, the former seminarian and priest of the Diocese of Metuchen. In it, the priest recalled “problematic” and “extremely inappropriate” behavior including backrubs and bed sharing with McCarrick. He did not overtly accuse him of sexual abuse in the statement. There is no record that Montalvo forwarded the letter to the Vatican. 

February 24, 2005:  Archbishop Myers of Newark wrote to Nuncio Montalvo warning him that McCarrick’s behavior, according to Priest 2’s lawyer, may constitute abuse. There is no record that Montalvo contacted the Vatican about this.

April 2005: McCarrick traveled to Rome after the death of Pope John Paul II and participated in the conclave that elected Pope Benedict XVI.


June 2005: A settlement was reached with Priest 2 and the Diocese of Metuchen for $80,000. No lawsuit was filed, and McCarrick was not named specifically in the settlement, which also covered accusations of abuse from a high school teacher in the diocese. McCarrick sent $10,000 to the diocese around this time, apparently as part of the settlement. There is no indication that the nuncio or the Vatican knew of this settlement.

Late June 2005: In a dispute about Priest 1’s fitness for ministry, summaries of the instances of abuse from McCarrick suffered by Priest 1 are sent to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

June 22, 2005: The night before his 75th birthday, McCarrick submitted his resignation as Archbishop of Washington to Pope Benedict XVI, as is customary per canon law.

Summer 2005: Cardinal Re, after consulting Pope Benedict XVI, extended McCarrick’s position in Washington two more years. 


September 2005: A canonist working with the CDF wrote in an internal memorandum that Priest 1 had indicated that he did not want to cause public scandal in the Church with his allegations against McCarrick. Priest 1’s petition to return to active ministry was denied and the case considered closed by the Vatican.

November 5, 2005: Pope Benedict XVI reversed the decision to extend McCarrick’s term in Washington, based on credible accusations against him, likely obtained by Archbishop Levada, the new prefect for the Congregation of Bishops. Re informed the Congregation of Bishops of the request.

November 7, 2005: Re sent Nuncio Montalvo a copy of McCarrick’s August 6, 2000 letter pleading innocence to Bishop Dziwisz. Re added a note stating that new information had surfaced, making the accusations seem credible, and that he was going to ask McCarrick to withdraw from Washington. Re also wrote to McCarrick asking him to come to Rome before the end of the month to discuss the decision.

December 5, 2005: Re met with McCarrick in Rome. McCarrick admitted to sharing beds with seminarians but said that nothing sexual ever happened, including no “incomplete” acts. He accepted moving his resignation up to Easter 2006 but asked that it be done in a way that would not be seen as a “punishment.”

Shortly thereafter, Bishop Bootkoski of the Diocese of Metuchen forwarded to Nuncio Montalvo specific allegations previously made by Priest 1 and Priest 2. Priest 2 recalled specific instances of sharing a small bed with McCarrick during which there was “inappropriate...although not clearly sexual” physical contact.

Priest 1 said he had witnessed “sexual touching” of McCarrick with his sleeping partner on one trip, and that he was told he “would be next.” On a subsequent trip, McCarrick shared a bed with Priest 1 and touched him in a sexual way. The reports were forwarded to Cardinal Re.

December 17, 2005: Montalvo announces his retirement from the U.S. nunciature, and Archbishop Pietro Sambi is named as his successor. 


December 28, 2005: Cardinal Re wrote to Nuncio Montalvo, still in office, to inform him of his meeting with McCarrick and to ask him to start the process of finding McCarrick’s successor in Washington, D.C. 


January 17, 2006: McCarrick met again with Re in Rome. This time, McCarrick brings a three-page handwritten refutation of the allegations against him. He emphasized that he never had sexual relationships with anyone in his life, and vigorously denied that he had ever had any inappropriate contact with anyone, swearing to it on his “oath as a bishop.” He then said he would accept the judgement of the Holy Father. 


March 2006: McCarrick asks Msgr. Robert Sheeran, president of Seton Hall University, about residing part-time in an on-campus residence for priests, close to the seminary. Archbishop Myers told Sheeran he strongly opposed the move. McCarrick arranged to live part-time at the Redemptoris Mater seminary in Hyattsville, Maryland.

May 16, 2006: Pope Benedict XVI accepted McCarrick’s resignation as Archbishop of Washington. Bishop Donald W. Wuerl is selected as his successor. As Archbishop emeritus, McCarrick received housing, a stipend, health benefits, an office, a secretary, and transportation. He declined to draw a pension.

June 2006: An attorney representing Priest 1 met with officials from the Diocese of Metuchen, and an incident report was filed with the diocese. Priest 1 had since moved to a different state and had been removed from the clerical state due to accusations that he had sexually assaulted two minors. The report noted that Priest 1’s allegations against McCarrick had also been filed with multiple district attorney’s offices as well as dioceses in New Jersey, New York, Maryland and Pennsylvania.

In the report, Priest 1 recalled that he witnessed McCarrick having sex with another priest, and that on multiple, specific occasions, he felt forced to share a bed with McCarrick, who would touch him in a sexual manner.

August 2006: Priest 1’s attorney and representatives of the dioceses of Newark and of Metuchen agreed to a mediation conference with a former civil judge on November 15, 2006.

October 3, 2006: Archbishop Myers of Newark faxed the incident report to the U.S. nunciature. In a memorandum, a nunciature official noted the unequal relationship of McCarrick to Priest 1, as the incidents took place when Priest 1 was a seminarian - “thus a ‘superior – subordinate’ relationship.” The nunciature faxed the report to the Congregation of Bishops.

October 17, 2006: Re, prefect of the Congregation, responded to U.S. Nuncio Sambi and, fearing media scandal, advised that McCarrick move out of his seminary residence and live a life of quiet prayer “so as to not cause himself to be spoken of.” Re added that he discussed McCarrick’s situation with Wuerl in Rome, but that the nuncio should be the one to ask McCarrick to move and live a quiet life of prayer. 


November 2006: Priest 1’s testimony about incidents regarding McCarrick were video recorded. No records indicate that the recording was sent to the Vatican. The parties agreed to a settlement for Priest 1’s claims.

Nuncio Sambi advised Secretary of State Cardinal Bertone against involving McCarrick in further foreign and domestic affairs of the Church due to allegations of abuse against McCarrick.


Dec. 6, 2006: Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, at the time the Delegate for Pontifical Representations within the Secretariat of State, wrote a memorandum related to the November 2006 communication from Nuncio Sambi to Cardinal Bertone.

In it, he noted that Priest 1’s accusations “amount to the crimes of entrapment, solicitation of seminarians and priests to commit wicked acts, repeatedly and simultaneously with more than one person, making a mockery of the young seminarian who tried to resist the Archbishop’s seduction in the presence of two other priests, absolution of the accomplice to these wicked acts, and sacrilegious concelebration of the Eucharist with the same priests after committing such acts.” 


Viganò’s memorandum was read by Archbishop Leonardo Sandri and Secretary of State Cardinal Bertone, who phoned Cardinal Re to speak about the matter. The memorandum is then archived.

December 2007: Nuncio Sambi met with McCarrick to discuss his move out of the Redemptoris Mater seminary and the request that he live a quiet life of prayer. An emotional McCarrick told Sambi that because Priest 1 was 25 at the time of the allegations, what had happened was not a crime, and that his continued pursuit of the allegations seemed to be a grab for money. 


January 2007: Sambi reported his meeting with McCarrick to Re, and added that he looked into whether the leaders of Redemptoris Mater seminary considered McCarrick an active threat. Seminary leaders said McCarrick was “touchy” they did not consider him to be a threat.

January 15, 2007: Bertone and Pope Benedict XVI discussed problems relating to McCarrick in a private and unrecorded audience. Bertone later recalled that Benedict XVI wanted McCarrick’s activities “contained” but did not think it necessary to pursue a CDF investigation.

May 2007: Legal counsel for McCarrick tried to get Priest 1, as part of the settlement, to sign a statement saying that McCarrick never had sexual relations with Priest 1 nor did Priest 1 observe McCarrick having sexual relations with anyone. Priest 1 refused to sign. 


August 2007: Priest 1 reached a $100,000 agreement with the Archdiocese of Newark and the Diocese of Metuchen. The settlement does not name Archbishop McCarrick or include an admission of wrongdoing. There is no record that the Vatican was informed that a settlement was reached. 


2007-2008: McCarrick remained active in work for multiple U.S. bishop’s conference committees, as well as work with other Catholic nonprofits and maintains an extensive international travel schedule for this work. He attended several international events where Benedict XVI was present, and engaged in occasional diplomatic work for the Vatican.

McCarrick kept Sambi regularly informed of his extensive travels. McCarrick wrote to Nuncio Sambi about having spoken with Pope Benedict XVI during a 2008 General Audience: “I did see the Holy Father during the public audience and his greeting to me was, ‘You are still traveling a lot.’” McCarrick admitted he did not know if this was a warning or a friendly greeting. 


Sambi sought McCarrick’s input on numerous matters including politics, international affairs, and U.S. bishop appointments. He regularly encouraged McCarrick’s activities and thanked him for his work. It appeared Cardinal Re was unaware of McCarrick’s travels at this time.

McCarrick maintained residence at Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Hyattsville, Maryland during this time, where he lived in his own wing. 


April 2008: Pope Benedict XVI traveled to the U.S. Cardinal McCarrick concelebrated Mass with Pope Benedict XVI at St. Patrick’s Cathedral and attended dinner with the Pope in New York.

Spring 2008: Shortly after the Pope’s trip, psychotherapist and former Benedictine monk Richard Sipe published an online “open letter” to Pope Benedict XVI titled Statement for Pope Benedict XVI About the Pattern of the Sexual Abuse Crisis in the United States.

Sipe claimed that abuse in the Church was “systemic” and used McCarrick as an example. He said he had heard from several seminarians about the sleepovers at the beach house, and that he had written testimony from priests about sexual advances made toward them by McCarrick.

May 2008: Cardinal Re wrote to Sambi regarding the open letter, telling him to follow McCarrick closely and to let Re know if he needs to repeat his warnings to McCarrick about his residence and travels. He suggested working with Wuerl to find McCarrick an alternative residence to the seminary. 

Archbishop Viganò wrote a second internal memorandum related to McCarrick to the Congregation for Bishops, noting the accusations in the open letter. He includes an urgent appeal to Benedict XVI to discipline McCarrick. He said dealing with the McCarrick case before legal authorities and before a scandal erupts could be healthy for the Church, and he recommended a CDF investigation. No action was taken.

Mid-May 2008: McCarrick traveled to Rome and appeared at a public event with Pope Benedict XVI. Cardinal Re was displeased to see McCarrick in Rome and confronted him about disobeying instructions to live a more private life. McCarrick “does not take it well.”

May 27, 2008: Sambi reported to the Congregation of Bishops that he and Wuerl recommended that McCarrick cease public appearances in the U.S. but that he should be allowed to keep his international travels, as they believe it would cause McCarrick “psychological collapse” to live a life of full retirement.

June 2008: Cardinal Re responded to Sambi and McCarrick separately. Re told them both that McCarrick was not to travel publicly in the U.S. or abroad, barring rare exceptions made by the Holy See. McCarrick was also to seek residence in a home run by religious sisters or a monastery, Re suggested. Re later recalled he had communicated the substance of the letters to Pope Benedict XVI, who responded “Good, very good.”

August 2008: McCarrick wrote to Sambi about the restrictions against him. He said he was “bewildered” by Re’s letter because he thought he had been following Vatican instructions by not actively seeking invitations to travel, but rather by accepting them from bishops. 


He said he was concerned that sudden cancellations of events, or a sudden move to a monastery, would raise red flags in the media. He asked to be moved to a parish, Seton Hall University or other Universities, or Rome for his retirement, rather than a home for the elderly or a monastery. He promised to cease public engagements. 


McCarrick kept numerous domestic and international public commitments made prior to this letter, which had been left to his judgement. 

September 2008: McCarrick appealed to Re and Bertone for leniency regarding his residence and travels.

September 8, 2008: Cardinal Re responded to Nuncio Sambi, saying that McCarrick must consult with Wuerl about moving to a parish, and must decline public engagements both in the U.S. and abroad, unless he has explicit permission from the Vatican to do otherwise.


September 17, 2008: Cardinal Bertone met with McCarrick in Rome and reiterated restrictions from Re, regarding his residence and public engagements.

October 1, 2008: McCarrick wrote to Nuncio Sambi to clarify the sanctions against him, and asked permission to attend some interreligious meetings with the Catholic Delegation to the Vatican. He added that he will appeal to the Holy Father for permission to visit Rome.

October 3, 2008: Sambi responded to McCarrick and reiterated the sanctions against him, including that he should not travel for groups and agencies of which he is a member. 


October 7, 2008: McCarrick wrote his letter to Cardinal Re, with blind copy to Cardinal Bertone. He asked for leniency on the travel sanctions, particularly to be allowed to go to Rome to pray and attend public audiences of the Pope. He also asked to be allowed to travel to help with Catholic Relief Services projects in developing countries.

October 21, 2008: Cardinal Re responded to McCarrick. He said McCarrick would be allowed to visit Rome for private pilgrimages and to visit friends. He told McCarrick to decline future invitations to engage in meetings for Muslim-Christian dialogue and Catholic Relief Services work, unless given explicit permission from the Congregation for Bishops.

Early November 2008: McCarrick met with Re, on Re’s invitation. There is no record of the meeting.

November 4, 2008: McCarrick emailed CRS president Kenneth Hackett and Archbishop Timothy Dolan (then chairman of CRS’s board of directors), with a blind copy to Sambi. McCarrick reported that he had permission to continue work with CRS “as long as I can do it without too much publicity.”

December 21 2008: Following the election of President Barack Obama, McCarrick wrote to Sambi and Bertone, saying he had made important contacts in the new administration and asking if he should keep those contacts as a liason for the Holy See with the new administration.

December 27, 2008: Sambi relayed McCarrick’s message to Re, and said it would be dangerous to allow McCarrick to have permission to act as a liaison to the White House. Sambi said he told McCarrick that he should instead suggest the President of the USCCB or the Archbishop of Washington in his place. 


January 5, 2009: McCarrick sent a confidential letter to Cardinal Francis George of Chicago. He told him of the Vatican sanctions against him “in case you do want to pursue this.” He also told him of the political connections that he has “so that you too can guide me in any efforts that I should make in the political arena in whatever years ahead the Lord desires to give me.”

January 7, 2009: McCarrick wrote Sambi to report on a meeting he had with an Obama foreign policy advisor. 


January 15, 2009: McCarrick wrote a letter to Sambi, which enclosed a letter to Cardinal Re. McCarrick tells Sambi that he is “doing his best” to keep to the sanctions from Re, and asks Sambi to look over his letter to Re. He also informed Sambi that he will be traveling to Israel for a Council of Religious Institutions meeting.

January 19, 2009: After speaking with Sambi, McCarrick wrote to Re, asking if he may participate in APSA meetings since he considers them low profile. He adds that it has been “very difficult” to turn down invitations to attend public event invitations from the White House. He added: “it is so interesting that my reputation among so many of my brother Bishops and among the leaders of government, who have access to investigative agencies, still remains so high that they want me present at their functions while the Church seems unwilling to have any confidence in me.” 


He added that he was “trapped” into accepting an invite to say the prayer at the Opening of Congress for the House of Representatives. He also noted that he will be traveling to Israel for a project with the State Department, as well as to Kosovo, Serbia and Georgia for CRS projects.


February 23, 2009: Archbishop Mamberti, the Secretary for Relations with States, wrote to Nuncio Sambi regarding McCarrick’s activities with the White House. Mamberti wrote that McCarrick should hand over all civil invitations to Wuerl or to the President of the USCCB. Mamberti forwarded a copy of the letter to Re.

Early 2009: McCarrick moved to St. Thomas the Apostle parish in Washington, D.C., as arranged by Wuerl. According to the report, McCarrick still maintained an office at the Redemptoris Mater Seminary “and traveled there frequently for work.”

McCarrick’s Holy See diplomatic passport was renewed, and was sent to him through Sambi. The passport came with a note that said it would be particularly useful for trips to the Middle East.

May 15, 2009: McCarrick wrote to Re, asking permission to attend APSA meetings in Rome and the Pallium ceremony for Archbishop Dolan’s induction to the Archdiocese of New York.

May 30, 2009: Re responded to McCarrick, approving his attendance at APSA meetings since they are private. He added that McCarrick must not attend the Pallium ceremony for Dolan, due to the media attention the event will receive.

Mid 2009: There is no further record of correspondence between McCarrick and Re or any other member of the Congregation of Bishops. No investigation was launched into the investigations against McCarrick.

Heretofore, the “indications” or sanctions imposed upon McCarrick were not explicit directives of the Holy Father and thus not considered “orders” under Canon Law. McCarrick was still allowed to continue active ministry, include publicly celebrating Mass, and the activities previously mentioned.

July 16, 2009: Archbishop Viganò left his position in the Secretariat of State and was appointed Secretary General of the Governorate of Vatican City, “where he would not have been involved in matters pertaining to McCarrick,” according to the report.

Fall 2008-Fall 2011: McCarrick maintained membership in a number of USCCB committees and attended its semiannual meetings. He also remained on the board and foundation for CRS and made a number of trips for this work. He maintained an extensive international travel schedule during this period. He communicated his travel plans to the Vatican only “on rare occasions” during this time. He also continued to participate in public liturgies and consistories in Rome. There is no record he was reprimanded for this.

He continued to celebrate public Masses in the Archdiocese of Washington, give public statements, and testify before Congress.

According to the report, he kept Sambi informed on most of his travels and activities and thanked him for his support. Sambi corresponded with him regularly, particularly about foreign affairs, and thanked McCarrick for his work. 


May 2010: An official with the Archdiocese of Washington contacted Monsignor Peter B. Wells, the Assessor for General Affairs of the Secretariat of State, seeking a letter from the Pope or Cardinal Bertone offering blessings on the occasion of McCarrick’s 80th birthday. Wells had heard “rumors” of McCarrick’s misconduct with seminarians but was not aware of the restrictions placed on McCarrick’s movements. 


June 2, 2010: In an internal memorandum of the Secretariat of State, Cardinal George and Archbishop Wuerl said a birthday message from the Holy Father “seemed inopportune” because it could prompt a “nasty” article from the New York Times about McCarrick’s moral life. Wells decided that a birthday message will not be sent.

June 2010: A Mass was celebrated for McCarrick’s 80th birthday and attended by prominent political officials and Catholic prelates. 


Late 2010-early 2011: McCarrick moved from St. Thomas the Apostle Parish Church to a small house near the Church of the Saint John Baptist de la Salle Parish in Hyattsville (Chillum), Maryland, which was under the care of the IVE religious order. 


January 12, 2011: McCarrick was appointed by the Library of Congress as the distinguished senior scholar in the Library’s John W. Kluge Center to study the role of religion in diplomacy and peace negotiations. He accepted the appointment after consulting Sambi. 


July 27, 2011: Nuncio Sambi died suddenly. Monsignor Jean-François Lantheaume was the person responsible for the Nunciature until Sambi’s successor was appointed.

McCarrick communicated to Sambi and then the Lantheaume his interest in continuing to help build relationships with China and offered his assistance as needed in this area. 


August 2011: Priest 3 filed a civil complaint in the Superior Court of New Jersey against the Diocese of Metuchen, the Archdiocese of Newark and Bishop Bootkoski. It did not name McCarrick but describes three incidents involving him in explicit detail. The complaint was not forwarded to the nunciature.

September 2011: McCarrick traveled to Iran to meet with the country’s president and other officials about two American hikers being held in the country. The hikers are soon after released, and the trip was highly publicized.


October 19, 2011: Archbishop Viganò was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI as Sambi’s successor as U.S. nuncio. According to the report, Viganò received no written instructions regarding McCarrick, though Cardinal Ouellet, who was appointed Prefect in 2010, recalled telling Vigano that McCarrick’s movements were restricted due to past conduct.

In his 2018 testimony, Vigano said he repeated sanctions to McCarrick in a meeting with him. According to the report, there is no record of this meeting, and McCarrick denied that it took place.

During Vigano’s nunciature, McCarrick kept up his normal activities with the USCCB committees of which he was a member, as well as his activities with CRS. He also continued extensive international travels and made numerous public appearances.

McCarrick regularly communicated his activities and travels to Vigano, and according to the report, there is no record that Vigano recommended McCarrick stop them. 


March 2012: Priest 3’s counsel filed a certification in the New Jersey case “signed by Priest 3 under penalty of law, which detailed the three incidents involving McCarrick.” There are no records of the nunciature being informed of the certification.

June 2012: McCarrick wrote to Vigano, letting him know of multiple upcoming international trips and meetings. McCarrick said that though he enjoyed “the give and take of these meetings, I am most willing to go into a more retirement mode if Your Excellency or my other Superiors feel that this would be preferred.”

There is no record that Vigano asked McCarrick to enter into a more low-profile retirement mode.

June 29, 2012: A parishioner from Maryland wrote to the Archdiocese of Washington expressing concerns about McCarrick, calling him a “predator.” She expressed concerns about his residence at the seminary, his assignment of priest “secretaries”, and his freedom to “roam the world seeking the destruction of souls.” There were no specific accusations made.

Vigano notes the “serious” accusations, but the record does not indicate that he followed up with anyone about the letter.

July 24, 2012: McCarrick and his priest secretary attend a dinner at the nunciature with Vigano. McCarrick sends a thank-you note the next day.  


August 6, 2012: Priest 3 wrote a letter to Vigano. He said he was sexually assaulted by McCarrick during his time in Metuchen, which he believed was the cause of his “recent problems with the Diocese of Metuchen.” He said he felt he had been wrongfully accused of financial mismanagement and transferred from the Portuguese and Brazilian communities he had been serving.

“Cardinal McCarrick was a sexual predator. As one of his victims, I saw firsthand what it was to be a priest in America,” he wrote.

He added that his civil case was pending, but that regardless, he planned to go public with his accusations against McCarrick, as well as accusations of misconduct against Bishop Bootkoski, and to take his case to the CDF. 


August 13, 2012: Viganò wrote to Congregation for Bishops Prefect Cardinal Ouellet, attaching Priest 3’s letter and  a copy of Cardinal Re’s June 2008 letter directed to McCarrick. He noted that this was the first he was hearing of accusations against Bootkoski.

Vigano noted that McCarrick had not followed Re’s instructions to live a private life, and traveled extensively and continued to accept public invitations. He also added that he only recently changed residences, and that his new residence still gave him access to young religious of the IVE.

“Accordingly, one can affirm that Cardinal Re’s admonition to him is a dead letter,” Vigano wrote. He said he awaited instructions on how to act, and feared a public scandal regarding McCarrick was imminent. 


Copies of the letter were sent to Archbishop Becciu, the Substitute in the First Section of the Secretariat of State, and to Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller, the new Prefect of the CDF.

September 8, 2012: Viganò wrote Ouellet, after seeing an advertisement that McCarrick has been invited to be a featured speaker at a vocations retreat in the Archdiocese of Washington. He asks Ouellet to issue new restrictions against McCarrick. Vigano then informs Wuerl, who said he was unaware of the event and would cancel it.

September 12, 2012: Ouellet responded to Vigano with instructions for McCarrick. He told him to 1.) Clarify Priest 3’s accusations, 2.) Reiterate to McCarrick that he should live a reserved life of prayer and only travel or accept invitations with the explicit permission of the Holy See. He told Vigano to evaluate McCarrick’s current residence to see whether it presented a problem.

According to the report, there is no record that Vigano ever contacted Priest 3, who later recalled that he was disappointed to not hear a response from Vigano. Viganò instead  “telephoned Bishop Bootkoski, who informed Viganò that Priest 3 was neither credible nor reliable.”


There is no record of Vigano informing leadership of the USCCB or CRS about the renewed restrictions against McCarrick, or of an investigation into McCarrick’s new residence. 


Mid-November 2012: At the Fall General Assembly of the USCCB, McCarrick met with Vigano to complain that he went through Wuerl to cancel the vocations dinner. McCarrick recalled in later interviews that he told Vigano to talk with him directly if he had a problem. McCarrick said Vigano stayed silent during the meeting and  “never said anything more to me. He never said I was doing anything wrong. He never did say anything to me about my ‘conduct.’” 


McCarrick reported this meeting to Wuerl. There is no record of this meeting elsewhere, in correspondence to the Vatican or in nunciature files.

February 10, 2013: Pope Benedict XVI announced his intent to resign. While McCarrick was too old to vote in the next conclave, he attended meetings in Rome with the cardinals and remained in Rome for the duration of the conclave.

March 13, 2013: Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected Pope and took the name Francis.

Pope Francis met with McCarrick prior to his papacy during McCarrick’s trips to Argentina in 2004 and 2011. According to the report, Francis knew McCarrick was an “indefatigable traveler” engaged in Church work throughout the world despite being retired.

Prior to becoming Pope, Francis would not have known of the accusations or restrictions against McCarrick, nor were they discussed in meetings with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. 


Early May 2013: Cardinal McCarrick ordained an IVE seminarian in California, without the proper authorization required by the Code of Canon Law. Wuerl, recognizing the error, writes to Vigano to grant McCarrick the authorization, as he was also scheduled to ordain priests at the end of May for the Archdiocese of Washington.

Vigano submitted the request to Rome, and informed Wuerl once permission was granted. There was no discussion about whether it would be appropriate for McCarrick to perform ordinations. 


McCarrick wrote to Vigano and Pope Francis to thank them for the prompt granting of permission to ordain priests.

May 20, 2013: Bishop Bootkoski wrote to Vigano, informing him that a confidential settlement had been reached with Priest 3, the Diocese of Metuchen, and Bootkoski, without “any admission of liability.” 


Bootkoski enclosed a letter sent to Priest 3 after the settlement was reached. Priest 3 had been placing flyers on windshields in the dioceses, accusing Bootkoski of engaging in homosexual relations and accusing McCarrick of being a sexual predator. Bootkoski outlined “remedial measures” for Priest 3, including supervision, therapy and spiritual direction. 


June 13, 2013: Nuncio Viganò wrote to Cardinal Ouellet, forwarding Bootkoski’s letters. According to the report, this “constituted Viganò’s sole response to Ouellet’s letter of September 12, 2012.” There was no other correspondence with Vatican officials about the accusations or restrictions against McCarrick, or Priest 3’s case. 


The report noted that Pope Francis was still not consulted in matters regarding McCarrick. It added that Archbishop Giovanni Angelo Becciu, who was serving as Substitute in the Secretariat of State since mid-2011, later recalled that he had mentioned restrictions in McCarrick to Pope Francis sometime in 2013, and once again in the next few years.

Pope Francis later recalled that he had never heard specific accusations, and that he assumed that had been found to be without grounds, because of John Paul II’s elevation of McCarrick. John Paul II was so “morally strict, of such moral rectitude, that he would never have permitted a rotten candidacy to move forward,” Francis said.

June 20, 2013: Pope Francis received McCarrick in a brief private audience at the Domus Santa Marta.

June 21, 2013: Pope Francis individually greeted over 100 nuncios gathered for a meeting in Rome, including Vigano. 


June 23, 2013 and October 10, 2013: Pope Francis meets with Viganò at Santa Marta. Vigano later said that during these meetings, he told Francis that there is a thick file of accusations against McCarrick at the Congregation of Bishops, that he had committed “crimes” and was a “serial predator.”

Pope Francis said in a later interview that he did not recall Vigano speaking of McCarrick with any “force or clarity.” He said he likely would remember being told of any crimes or abuse committed by McCarrick since he was familiar to him.

There are no written records of these meetings, nor any other written records of Vigano communicating with the Secretariat of State or the Congregation of Bishops or Cardinal Ouellet about McCarrick. 


McCarrick’s activities 2013-2017: McCarrick kept up his activities with CRS, the USCCB, as well as numerous public events, Masses, ordinations, and the consecration of bishops, as well as an extensive international travel schedule. He also continued his customary gift-giving to Vatican officials at Christmas. 


Until 2016, McCarrick lived in the second story of a house at the IVE seminary in Maryland. In early 2017, he moved to a retirement home run by the Little Sisters of the Poor, at the request of Wuerl and due to declining health.

Between these years, he also wrote 17 known letters to Pope Francis, often discussing his overseas travels. He also made recommendations for bishop appointments in the U.S. He was occasionally thanked for these letters by Cardinal Parolin, Archbishop Becciu, and a few times by the Pope.


In the course of his travels, McCarrick met with Pope Francis privately on June 2013, February 2016 and February 2017. He also occasionally saw him while staying at the Santa Marta in Rome.

McCarrick regularly communicated with Vigano as well, including about his travels and participation in ordinations and other public events. 


2013-2014: McCarrick increased his trips to China in order to improve Vatican-China relations. According to the report, these trips were funded by private lay U.S. Catholic donors. Pope Francis’ advisor on China at the time was Cardinal Parolin. 


April 2014: McCarrick was sent by the U.S. State Department with other religious leaders to the Central African Republic on a conflict resolution mission. The trip receives some media publicity in the U.S.

May 5, 2014: Vigano, concerned with McCarrick’s movements, writes to Cardinal Parolin. He asks whether there are new instructions regarding McCarrick, given that he was continuing to make public appearances despite the Congregation of Bishops’ restrictions. 


July 14, 2014: After a brief conversation with Parolin, Ouellet wrote a letter to the Secretary of State about the restrictions given against McCarrick, including that he move out of Redemptoris Mater seminary, and that he live a private life of prayer and not accept invitations in the U.S. or abroad.

Parolin made a note to speak with McCarrick about what he had learned from Vigano and Ouellet. The report added that Parolin “adhered to the diplomatic precept that it is best to promote dialogue and ‘never close a door’” and thus allowed McCarrick’s China project to continue. Parolin did not take any further action.

March 16, 2015: Archbishop Becciu responded to Vigano’s May 2014 letter regarding McCarrick’s travels. He said the information had been “carefully noted.” 


February 2016: McCarrick traveled to Beijing and discussed environmental policy and the encyclical, Laudato Si, with an NGO leader. After the trip, he met with Parolin in Rome to discuss what he had learned. 


March 8, 2016: McCarrick wrote to Pope Francis thanking him for allowing him to continue his work and travels, but offers to go into retirement at any time. He also wrote to Parolin, informing him of upcoming meetings with Muslim leaders, but also offering to go into retirement.

Parolin later recalled briefly mentioning “gossip” about McCarrick’s “past imprudent acts” to Pope Francis around this time, but he said he did not present it as grave matter. He said Francis responded that perhaps McCarrick could still be useful.  


April 12, 2016: Vigano’s resignation was accepted by Pope Francis. Archbishop Christophe Pierre is appointed the new U.S. Nuncio. Toward the end of his term, Vigano thanked McCarrick in a letter “for your commendable ministry to the Church Universal and your reaching out most recently to China and the Muslim world, efforts that will no doubt bear much fruit.”


June-November 2016: McCarrick attended several meetings with Chinese officials in Rome. According to the report, these “secondary contacts initiated by Cardinal McCarrick appear to have played no role in leading to the eventual formal agreement between China and the Holy See related to bishops in September 2018.”

June 8, 2017: The Archdiocese of New York received a claim through its Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program alleging that McCarrick “unlawfully touched” Minor 1 in the early 1970s, when Minor 1 was 16 or 17. This was the first allegation against McCarrick involving a named minor. The allegation was reported to local law enforcement.

September 7, 2017: Cardinal Dolan wrote to Parolin for instructions on how to proceed with the allegation. 


October 18, 2017: Pope Francis, via the Cardinal Secretary of State, told Dolan to conduct the preliminary investigation called for in Canon Law, and to have the Review Board of the Archdiocese examine the allegation according to its own norms and that of the USCCB. 


October 28, 2017: Parolin, at the request of Pope Francis, told Dolan to submit the findings of these initial investigations to the CDF. 


December 2017-April 2018: The preliminary investigation was conducted with the assistance of lay investigators. The Review Board conducted interviews with the claimant and McCarrick and unanimously found the allegations to be credible. 


April 23, 2018: Dolan communicated the Board’s findings to Parolin.

May 8, 2018: Dolan recommended to Parolin that, given the gravity of allegations against McCarrick, he be permanently removed from public ministry to a life of prayer and penance, and that the case be made public, as it involved sexual abuse of a minor. 


May 2018: Becciu informed Pope Francis that the allegation against McCarrick involving Minor 1 was found to be credible. He later recalled that the Pope was “shocked” by the news.

May 22, 2018: Parolin wrote to Nuncio Pierre, asking him to send a letter to McCarrick. The letter told McCarrick “in the name of the Holy Father” to strictly refrain from public ministry and appearances “until a final decision is made” regarding the allegation.

June 20, 2018: The decision to pull McCarrick from public ministry was made public. Following this, more individuals and information came forward about McCarrick’s misconduct, including a second minor. The Holy See started a search to identify even more possible victims.

July 28, 2018: Pope Francis accepted McCarrick’s resignation from the College of Cardinals.

December 14, 2018: Pope Francis authorized the CDF to conduct an administrative penal proceeding regarding the McCarrick case. With CDF support, Fr. Richard Welsh, the Judicial Vicar of the Archdiocese of New York, gathered evidence and testimonies from witnesses. 

January 3, 2019: McCarrick was heard and his legal counsel submitted a defense. The information from the proceedings was sent to the CDF and to the civil authorities.

January 11, 2019: Based on the findings of the proceeding, the Congresso of the CDF issued a decree which stated that McCarrick was found guilty of solicitation during the Sacrament of Confession, as well as “sins against the Sixth Commandment with minors and adults, with the aggravating factor of the abuse of power.”


The prescribed penalty was dismissal from the clerical state. McCarrick attempted an appeal of the decision.

February 13, 2019: After considering McCarrick’s appeal, the CDF confirmed the original verdict and penalty, which was soon after confirmed final by Pope Francis. 


2018-2019: The USCCB, and the dioceses of New York, Newark, and Metuchen, as well as Seton Hall University, all launched their own investigations into files related to McCarrick, or cooperated with Vatican and civil investigations. 

Besides knowledge of bed sharing and inappropriate conduct with seminarians, as well as the reports made to the Diocese of Metuchen by the priests, these investigations did not uncover prior knowledge of sexual abuse of minors by McCarrick by anyone at these entities.


Tulsa diocese leaves Christian coalition over abortion

Fri, 11/20/2020 - 9:01pm

CNA Staff, Nov 20, 2020 / 07:01 pm (CNA).- The Diocese of Tulsa has withdrawn from the Oklahoma Council of Churches because the group will not defend the life of unborn children from abortion, its bishop said earlier this month.

The OCC “will not commit itself to defending the right to life of babies in the womb, the most marginalized, mistreated, abused and discriminated against group in the country,” Bishop David Konderla wrote in a statement dated Nov. 6.

“I believe that a Christian group that wants to publish moral statements but cannot agree that abortion is a grave evil should continue without the Catholic diocese as a co-signer of its statements.”

Bishop Konderla's decision was prompted by a statement on racism and anti-discrimination prepared by the Christian council. The statement affirmed the “equality and equity of all God’s children, without exception, and that no person should experience discrimination regardless of their sex, religion, race, immigration status, sexual orientation, political affiliation, age, gender identity/gender expression, ability, or socio-economic status.”

It committed to advocating for “equal access to healthcare”, but did not refer to abortion, as the members of the coalition do not agree in their beliefs about the problem.

Bishop Konderla wrote that “The reason I decided to leave formal membership in the OCC is because I believe that although the OCC wants to make a strong moral statement, its statement amounts to a house built on sand.”

“In my view racism and unjust discrimination are issues that require and deserve moral clarity and consistency,” he continued.

The bishops said the OCC's statement on racism and anti-discrimination, “with its glaring exclusion of the most vulnerable group of persons in our midst, is rendered at best inconsistent or even politically motivated.”

“This is the reason I did not want to be a cosigner of the statement. Nor is this the first time I have needed to pass on co-signing a statement the OCC wanted to make and for a similar reason.”

The Archdiocese of Oklahoma City had earlier left the OCC, in similar circumstances.

Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City withdrew from the group in September 2018, writing to its executive director and president of the board that he had “been concerned in recent months by a change of tone,” shifting from what he identified as “ecumenism and Christian witness to secular politics.”

“The ecumenical spirit is willing to embrace a 'both/and' attitude, where as politics thrives on creating and [sic] 'either/or' dichotomy,” the archbishop wrote.

Shannon Fleck, a minister of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), became executive director of the OCC in June 2018.

Bishop Konderla publicized his own letter to Fleck which severed the Tulsa diocese's membership in the OCC.

“I believe that such an organization should be able to be forthright in its defense of the unborn and of the institution of marriage between one man and one woman.  Gender theory increasingly threatens religious liberty and the fundamental right of parents to educate and catechize their children and must be guarded against,” the bishop wrote.

He added that the diocese “will continue to collaborate where our paths cross.”

“But at this time, the areas of crossover are so peripheral that I think it is clearer that we not be listed as a member.”

In his statement, Bishop Konderla noted that LGBT persons should be protected against unjust discrimination, citing the Catechism of the Catholic Church's statement to that effect.

The bishop wished to clarify, because he said an article in The Tulsa World “left the impression that I do not believe that persons with a same sex attraction or a gender discordance, often referred to as LGBTQ, should be protected against discrimination. This is erroneous.”

He added that the Church “has also been clear that racism is a sin and must be fought against at all times.”

Fleck said Nov. 18 that since its founding in 1972 the OCC “has not taken a stance on either side of this issue [abortion] because our denominations are not all in agreement and they've known that.”

18 states file brief supporting Tennessee's discrimination abortion ban

Fri, 11/20/2020 - 8:25pm

CNA Staff, Nov 20, 2020 / 06:25 pm (CNA).- An 18-state coalition filed a brief this week supporting a Tennessee law banning abortions based on an unborn child’s race, sex, or Down syndrome diagnosis.

“Protecting the most vulnerable members of society is an interest of the utmost importance for States. And it is hard to imagine a scenario where this interest comes into sharper focus than protecting unborn children from eugenics-motivated abortions,” reads the brief, which was filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

The brief was authored by Daniel Cameron, attorney general of Kentucky. The states of Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia also signed onto the brief.

The coalition is voicing support for a Tennessee law passed earlier this year to ban abortions that are sought on the basis of race, sex, or a diagnosis of Down syndrome. The law also bans abortion after the point at which a fetal heartbeat can be detected - as early as six weeks into pregnancy.

The ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and other pro-abortion groups have challenged the legislation. In July, U.S. District Judge William Campbell issued a temporary injunction blocking the law from taking effect while it is being challenged in court.

In their brief, the 18 states call on the appeals court to reverse the injunction and allow the law to take effect during litigation. Many of the states in the coalition are defending similar laws.

“It is firmly established that States have a compelling interest in eliminating discrimination on the basis of race, sex, and disability,” the brief says. “Unsurprisingly, the United States Supreme Court has long recognized the importance of states’ interests in preventing discrimination.”

In a statement, Attorney General Cameron noted that his office is “currently in court fighting to protect Kentucky’s own abortion discrimination ban and fetal heartbeat law, and we have a duty to assist other states in their efforts to defend similar laws that protect the unborn.”

“States have a compelling interest in enacting laws that protect our most vulnerable, and we believe that this interest is never more apparent than when we’re protecting unborn children from eugenics-based abortions,” Cameron said.

Federal appeals court hears arguments over California abortion mandate

Fri, 11/20/2020 - 7:01pm

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 20, 2020 / 05:01 pm (CNA).- The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments on Friday in the case of California churches against the state’s abortion coverage mandate.

“This is an ongoing injury,” said Jeremiah Galus, senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, on behalf of churches before a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit.
Galus said that “each day that passes is another day that the churches are required to cover something that violates their sincerely-held religious beliefs.”
ADF is representing three Christian churches which challenged a California state mandate that they cover abortions in employee health plans. The churches are Foothill Church in Glendora, Calvary Chapel Chino Hills in Chino, and The Shepherd of the Hills Church in Porter Ranch.
The California Department of Managed Health Care in 2014 required employers to cover abortions in health plans.
According to ADF, internal emails between DMHC and Planned Parenthood reveal that the organization pushed the state to require abortion coverage by churches and religious groups. The state’s health department had initially not included religious groups in the abortion coverage mandate.
Karli Eisenberg, arguing for the state Nov. 20, claimed that the DMHC director “inadvertently approved plans” that include abortion coverage, but when she realized the discrepancy, “reminded those noncompliant plans of their obligation to comply with preexisting state law.” The state, she said, includes abortion coverage as part of basic health services.
Pro-life groups and the California Catholic Conference filed legal motions against the 2014 mandate, and appealed to the Obama administration under the Weldon Amendment, a 2005 law that bars federal funding of states and localities that force health care entities to provide abortions. The administration said that the law had not been violated.
In January, the Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services ruled that the state had violated the law, and threatened to withhold federal funds to California unless the state stopped forcing groups to cover abortion against their conscientious beliefs. The Missionary Guadalupanas of the Holy Spirit were one of two groups to file complaints with HHS.
In response, the state’s attorney general Xavier Becerra refused to comply with the federal demand.
On Friday, ADF argued that the abortion coverage mandate was “an unnecessary and unprecedented infringement on religious beliefs” that “warrants strict scrutiny.”

Michigan Catholic deacon recovering after stabbing

Fri, 11/20/2020 - 4:00pm

CNA Staff, Nov 20, 2020 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- A deacon who was stabbed outside a Michigan church this month is recovering in a rehabilitation hospital, the Diocese of Kalamazoo reported this week.

"We’re happy to share that Deacon Joe Schmitt is doing well. He’s been released from the hospital and working with rehabilitation services to work on improvement in strength and endurance. We’re grateful for all those who have prayed for Deacon Joe and his wife Becky and we continue to hold him in prayer for continued healing," the diocese said in a statement released Nov. 17.

Schmitt, 71, was stabbed multiple times Nov. 5 outside St. Mary’s Church in Kalamazoo.

The deacon, who is assigned to a different parish, went to St. Mary’s the evening of Nov. 5 for a Mass. But according to his wife, he had gotten the date of the Mass wrong, and there was no one at the parish when he arrived.

Becky Schmitt, the deacon’s wife, told WWMT News that as he stood outside the church, a man approached and demanded her husband’s wallet. After the deacon said he wasn’t carrying a wallet, the mugger stabbed him repeatedly in the neck and shoulder, she said.

"Joe was able to stand back up, he lost his shoe, lost his glasses, lost his alb and stole and was able to walk," she told WWMT. "He knew there was a daycare nearby, so he was able to go there. He said he was holding his mask over his wound."

After daycare workers called 911, the deacon was taken to a hospital only seven blocks away. He had emergency surgery for a punctured trachea, and several stab wounds. Doctors told Schmitt's family the deacon had lost 20% of his blood.

This week he was transferred to a rehabilitation hospital.

Kalamazoo police are searching for a suspect.

Schmitt, who was ordained a deacon in 1989, is expected to return home next week. His wife said parishes and other organizations have reached out with support. She also said she hopes for both justice and mercy for her husband’s attacker.

"I think there are a lot of desperate people around because of the circumstances of coronavirus, poverty, job loss, racism, all that stuff," she told WWMT, encouraging prayer for both justice and mercy. 

Could Trump issue an executive order recognizing unborn babies as persons?

Fri, 11/20/2020 - 5:28am

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 20, 2020 / 03:28 am (CNA).-

With just two months left in Donald Trump’s presidency, some pro-life intellectuals are calling for an executive order that offers legal protection for the unborn.

In “The Lincoln Proposal,” unveiled Nov. 5 in the journal Public Discourse, several Catholic scholars argue that a presidential executive order protecting unborn children under the Constitution could play a pivotal role in pro-life policy for years to come.

Dr. Chad Pecknold, theologian at The Catholic University of America; Joshua Craddock, former editor-in-chief of the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy; and Catherine Glenn Foster, president of Americans United for Life, all collaborated on the proposal.

In a statement to CNA, Craddock called the proposal “a bold new vision to reclaim the executive’s independent role in constitutional interpretation, based on historical precedent, to ensure that the constitutional guarantees of due process and equal protection are extended to preborn persons.”

Craddock, Peckbold, and Foster say the executive branch is tasked with preserving and upholding the Constitution, and argue that the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision - which mandated legal abortion nationwide - was flawed. They say a president could act in “correcting Roe’s first and foundational error.”

In the proposal, a president could recognize unborn children as “persons” who are “entitled to due process and equal protection of the laws” under the 14th Amendment.

This act could be taken under the authority of Article II of the Constitution, they said, in the directive to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution” and to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.”

By protecting the unborn as persons, a president would simply be extending Constitutional rights to all people under his or her lawful authority, they argued.

An executive order could easily be overturned by a new administration, Pecknold acknowledged in a Nov. 19 piece for First Things magazine, yet such an act would at least set up a “litmus test” for other future presidents to abide by.

He cited the Mexico City Policy—which bars funding of overseas abortion providers or promoters—as another executive policy that is regularly overturned and reinstated by different administrations. Like the Lincoln Proposal, the Mexico City Policy “is not a short-term fix, but rather a long-term commitment” for the president to protect the unborn, Pecknold wrote.

And, he added, it could help underline the extremism of opponents of protections for unborn children.

“If an executive order were in place to protect human life in the womb, Catholics who claim to be pro-life but vote for pro-abortion presidents would have to ask themselves hard questions when their president reverses such an order,” he wrote.

An executive order could be implemented throughout the administration, thus posing “significant legal ramifications for the abortion debate,” Craddock said.

For instance, when courts rule against state abortion restrictions, the Justice Department could come out in opposition. The agency could also investigate permissive state abortion laws.

In diplomacy, the State Department could work to protect unborn children in multilateral treaties. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) could suspend its approval of the abortion pill. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) could withhold assistance to states unless they strip abortion providers of any taxpayer funding.