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ACI Prensa's latest initiative is the Catholic News Agency (CNA), aimed at serving the English-speaking Catholic audience. ACI Prensa (www.aciprensa.com) is currently the largest provider of Catholic news in Spanish and Portuguese.
Updated: 2 hours 4 min ago

Senate passes resolution recognizing Armenian Genocide

4 hours 22 min ago

Washington D.C., Dec 12, 2019 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- The Senate on Thursday passed a resolution recognizing the Armenian genocide, after several previous attempts to do so were blocked at the direction of the White House.

Senate Resolution 150, introduced by Sens. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), expresses “the sense of the Senate that it is the policy of the United States to commemorate the Armenian Genocide through official recognition and remembrance.”

It was passed with unanimous consent by the chamber on Thursday.

From 1915 to 1923, the Ottoman Empire killed an estimated 1.5 million Armenians in eastern Anatolia in systematic fashion, with reports of forced displacement, torture, mass killings and mass graves in the region.

Thursday’s Senate resolution recognizes the empire’s “campaign of genocide against Armenians, Greeks, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Syriacs, Arameans, Maronites, and other Christians.” It comes after the House passed a similar resolution in October recognizing the genocide.

Turkey has long denied that the genocide took place, claiming that the number of those killed was far less than is commonly estimated and that many deaths were due to the ongoing First World War.

In response to the Armenian genocide resolutions passed by the House and then being considered by the Senate, Erdogan in a Nov. 13 joint press conference with President Trump at the White House condemned the congressional efforts to recognize the genocide.

“And some historical developments and allegations are being used in order to dynamite our reciprocal and bilateral relations,” he said. “Especially in the House of Representatives, some of the resolutions that were passed on October 29th served this very purpose and hurt deeply the Turkish nation, and they have a potential of casting a deep shadow over our bilateral relations.”

“Turkey and the United States stand side by side in order to fully eradicate Daesh and in order to bring peace and stability to Syria once and for all,” he said.  

After Erdogan’s visit, the genocide resolution was blocked from consideration by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), reportedly at the direction of the White House.

Subsequent attempts to bring the resolution up for consideration were blocked by Sens. David Perdue and Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.). The White House reportedly did not want the resolution enacted because of ongoing talks with Turkey about its purchase of a Russian S-400 missile system.

Cramer, in a statement provided to CNA, said he offered to block the resolution when informed of the White House’s disapproval.  “When I was told of their concern, I said I would block the UC [unanimous consent] if they would like,” he stated.

The campaign of displacement, violence, and killings of Armenians—mostly Christians—by the Ottoman Empire has been recognized by many scholars as genocide. Pope Francis has recognized the genocide several times by name, including at a mass in 2015 shortly before the centenary of the genocide.

In 2015, the Vatican made public some materials from its archives related to the Armenian genocide, including correspondence between the Holy See and regional political and religious leaders.

The archives spanned from decades before 1915, when state-sanctioned violence against Armenians was occurring, to well into the 20th century, and showed efforts by the Vatican to quell the violence against Armenians and to aid the victims of the genocide.

In his June, 2016 visit to Armenia, Pope Francis recognized the “Great Evil” of the “genocide” of Armenians.

White House summit on family leave follows new House bill

8 hours 22 min ago

Washington D.C., Dec 12, 2019 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- The White House hosted a summit on paid leave Thursday, hours after the House passed a bill with 12 weeks of paid parental leave for federal workers.

“We’re here today to support the heroic calling of working moms and dads,” President Donald Trump said Dec. 12 at the South Court Auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building of the White House. Attending the summit on paid leave and child care were members of Congress and business leaders.

Trump called families the “heart, soul, and backbone for our nation.” He noted the importance of giving mothers the “precious chance” to spend time with a new child through policies allowing them to take leave from work with some sort of compensation.

On Wednesday evening, the House overwhelmingly passed the “conference report” for a massive defense spending bill—the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)—that was the result of negotiations between members of the House and Senate. The bill received 377 votes and 48 votes against.

Among its provisions, the bill contains 12 weeks of paid parental leave for federal employees, beginning next October.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) praised the inclusion of paid parental leave in the report as a “significant first step” towards the goal of full paid family and medical leave.

He called for federal civilian employees and private sector employees to see the same benefits, and said he sent a letter to the conference when it appeared that only Department of Defense employees would receive paid parental leave in the bill.

The White House also praised the inclusion of paid parental leave for federal employees in a statement on Tuesday.

At Thursday’s summit, both the President and his daughter Ivanka, who serves as an advisor to the president, pushed for paid family leave as a next step in policy, and President Trump emphasized the importance of “expanded access to quality, affordable child care.”

“As the country’s largest employer, we must lead by example,” Ivanka Trump said, referring to the federal government. “We have a historic chance to pass paid family leave and child care reform,” she said, in order to promote the “dignity of work and the joy of raising a family.”

Members of Congress participated in two panels on paid leave at Thursday’s White House summit, giving acknowledgement to the House passage of the NDAA.

Some of those who need paid leave the most—low-income workers—are also much less likely to have benefits, said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) who with Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) introduced the New Parents Act earlier in 2019 to allow parents to draw from Social Security benefits to defray the cost of leave at the birth of a child.

“The advantage” of paid leave, Rubio said, “is the ability to not have to go on public assistance or debt when you have a child.” Ironically, “the people who can least afford to do that” are much less likely to have paid leave, he said.

Studies show that the vast majority of African-American mothers are the primary breadwinner in a household, Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) said. According to a report of the Black Women’s Roundtable “State of Black Women in the U.S. & Key States, 2019,” more than 70% of black mothers are the sole or primary breadwinners in their families.

The working poor might be back at work one or two days after the birth of a child, she said, leaving their children with a neighbor or family member. “The impact this is having on the child,” she said, “on the mother and her own health and well-being, is extraordinary.”

Policies like paid parental and family leave have a multi-layered benefit and are not just a financial bump for families, members said.

“If we’re going to think holistically” about improving health care while lowering costs, “these pieces of legislation actually feed into that,” Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) said. Scripture talks about the generational effects of sin, he said, and the passage of paid leave policies “is a wonderful thing that will pay off upwards” through generations.

Studies show that children experience better behavioral outcomes when they have a parent at home right after birth, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) said, showing “the long-term benefits of that initial bonding time.”

The financial strain of a lack of paid leave time results not just in a lack of resources for families, Rep. Joe Cunningham (R-S.C.) said, but takes an “emotional toll” on them. The work of “relieving that anxiety and relieving those pressures,” he said, “at the core of it, that’s why this is so important.”

Cunningham also pointed to the need for better paternity leave policies as he shared his story of the birth of his son when he, as a member of a small law firm, returned to work two days after his son’s birth.

“I regret that,” he said of his prompt return to work, noting that he was absent “for the bonding of my son Boone” and in “being there for my wife.”

“There’s no manual for having kids,” he said. “It’s emotionally draining,” yet “just being there” for one’s spouse “means the world.”

“It’s a shame that we are the only country in the industrialized world that does not have a full-on paid family leave program,” Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.) said, calling the provision in the NDAA a “huge victory” and a “win-win.”

Six California dioceses subpoenaed in sex abuse investigation

8 hours 49 min ago

Sacramento, Calif., Dec 12, 2019 / 11:33 am (CNA).- The office of California's attorney general has informed six dioceses in the state that they will be issued subpoenas as part of a review of child protection policies and procedures.

“To verify that safeguards are effectively in place and are being appropriately implemented to ensure the safety of our children and young people is crucially important and a shared interest,” the Diocese of Fresno, one of those being subpoenaed, said Dec. 10.

Subpoenas are being issued as well to the local Churches of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, San Jose, and Orange. The Los Angeles Times reported Dec. 10 that both the Orange and San José dioceses have already received the subpoena orders.

The state's 12 Latin rite dioceses were told in May that attorney general Xavier Becerra would be investigating their handling of sexual abuse allegations involving minors, and they were asked to retain documents related to such allegations.

The six dioceses that will be subpoenaed were also asked to produce documents on the allegations.

The Fresno diocese said it and the other five dioceses have voluntarily cooperated since May with Becerra's office.

“We have worked to accommodate the Attorney General's requests while also following the laws governing the privacy rights of employees, abuse victims and mandated reporters,” it stated. “An abundance of time and resources has already been dedicated to this high-priority undertaking and we will continue to do so until the process can come to completion and accomplishes its goal.”

Bishop Joseph Brennan of Fresno said, “I am committed to fully cooperating with the Attorney General's examination to the best of our ability in accordance with the law.”

“To now undergo a review by the Attorney General's Office is a welcomed process that will help us to advance efforts towards greater transparency; to further learn from our past, scrutinize our current performance in implementing mandated reporting procedures; and, to continue to tirelessly puruse and develop all reasonable measures to protect the vulnerable in our midst,” Bishop Brennan added.

Similarly, Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento had said Dec. 6 that the six dioceses have, since May, “been involved in a voluntary effort with the California Attorney General’s office to provide documents related to mandated reporting of child sexual abuse.”

“We share the Attorney General’s desire to conduct a thorough examination of the practices and procedures that seek to protect the children entrusted to our schools, churches and programs. Throughout this process, we have worked to accommodate the Attorney General’s requests while also following the laws governing the privacy rights of employees, abuse victims and mandated reporters,” he added.

Bishop Soto said the subpoenas “will move us toward our shared goal of ensuring that the safeguards in place for our children are working as they should. We remain committed to cooperating with the Attorney General’s inquiry to the best of our ability and as fully as the law permits.”

California adopted a law in October extending the statute of limitations for childhood sex abuse victims.

The law allows civil claims of childhood sexual abuse to be filed by victims until age 40, or five years after discovering the damages from the abuse. Previously, claims had to be filed by age 26, or within three years of discovering damages from the abuse.

The new law also opens up a three-year window to revive past claims that would have expired under the previous statute of limitations. That window begins Jan. 1, 2020.

Surprise! Chicago suburb is home to a major Guadalupe shrine

17 hours 21 min ago

Chicago, Ill., Dec 12, 2019 / 03:01 am (CNA).- Marian devotion is intense among the hundreds of thousands of people who visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe each year on her feast day.

Not just her shrine in Mexico City. The Virgin of Guadalupe has a major place of honor in Des Plaines, Ill., a Chicago suburb.

“People make the journey to come, and they leave their flowers and their offerings. They light a candle,” said Father Esequiel Sanchez, rector of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe. “They want to get here, they want to get to her. When you talk to the pilgrims, you see the genuineness of the people’s faith.”

The shrine attracts over 1 million pilgrims each year, and can draw 250,000 people on the Dec. 12 feast day alone, Sanchez told CNA.

While most pilgrims arrive by vehicle, many people walk to the shrine either from Chicago or throughout the Midwest as a sign of devotion or mortification.

“They walk miles to arrive,” said Fr. Sanchez. They each have a story to tell. A 2016 pilgrim walked on his knees part of the final two-and-a-half miles to the shine.

People like him will say “my daughter’s sick, and I want Our Lady to help,” the priest recounted, adding: “the extreme of the expression only indicates the extreme of the concern for their petition.”

The shrine hosts a digital replica of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It is the most visited U.S. shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe, and the second most-visited in the world after Mexico’s Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Its origins date to 1987, when a group of Chicago-area Catholics decided to launch a mission to promote devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe using a special pilgrim statue from the shrine in Mexico City.

In 1995, construction began on an outdoor shrine in Des Plaines modeled after Tepeyac Hill in Mexico City, where the Virgin Mary appeared to the indigenous Mexican St. Juan Diego in 1531. The Virgin Mary left her image on his cloak, known as a tilma, and asked him to build a church on a hilltop.

The apparition helped inspire mass conversions of indigenous people to Christianity.

While devotion to the Guadalupe Marian apparition is strong among Mexicans and Mexican-Americans, Fr. Sanchez said other Catholics in America are “beginning to appreciate her a little more, and honor her.”

“I think American Catholics are looking at the story itself, and how much it sounds like the gospel,” he said.

The Catholic hierarchy in the U.S. is promoting Our Lady of Guadalupe, and she has become an image for the pro-life movement as well as for women’s issues, the priest noted. Other ethnic groups are growing in devotion to her, including the Indian and Polish communities.

Sometimes the mortifications of the pilgrims are extreme. In severe cold weather, senior citizens will still walk through the snow.

“Here we don’t judge them. We just get them to Our Lady,” Sanchez said. “Our job is to make sure you get there safely.”

Sometimes safety is a concern.

Once, a group of pilgrims traveled on foot through the northern Illinois city of Rockford on their way to the shrine. They were holding a banner and singing songs. A group of people voicing anti-immigrant attitudes began to assault them, told them to get out of the neighborhood, and threw rocks at them.

“It’s not necessarily a wonderful experience,” Sanchez said. “They continued their pilgrimage and made it.”

The priest suggested the pressures of contemporary American culture also drive devotion.

“Whatever the country is feeling, the community is looking for hope,” he said. “We live in a time when people feel less welcomed, where people feel scared, and often the only thing they feel they can trust is their prayer, and the one thing that has got them through the hardest times of their lives thus far: Our Lady of Guadalupe.”

The feast day can create a major traffic issue, with 300,000 people in a 36-hour period. Planning begins months in advance, with the local police department helping to manage the situation.

There are 150 to 200 volunteers just to care for the pilgrims Dec. 11-12.

“Our job is to take care of the pilgrims when they come. They are trying to get to her,” Sanchez said, adding that they aim to help the pilgrims feel loved and well-fed.

“We make sure that the people’s experience is one that is very, very festive,” he said. “There’s a lot of music, a lot of serenading mananitas, a lot of indigenous dancing, what you see in other shrines.”

Sanchez said there is a strong custom in Mexican Hispanic culture of “mandas,” which means “promises” in English.

“People make promises to Our Lady of Guadalupe for a specific intentions or miracles or an act of gratitude,” he said.

“The problem is a lot of people here in the U.S. can’t go back to Mexico. There are immigration issues, economic issues, health issues, there are a lot of issues that keep them from going to Mexico City to fulfill their life’s promise to Our Lady.”

To help these pilgrims fulfill their promises, the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City has offered them the same graces and indulgences if they visit the Illinois shrine.

Other pilgrimages come during the novena, the nine days before the feast day.

“We have a pilgrimage of truckers,” Sanzhe said. “They bring their tractor trailers, the truck, just the cab… and they decorate their trucks and they come to the shrine and they have a special Mass in which all their trucks get blessed.”

About 300 horseback riders come through for a separate blessing.

Devotees even organize through their occupations. The local landscapers’ union sought a special blessing and a Mass.

“It’s wonderful to see they’re finding Our Lady of Guadalupe, and how much that really helps them,” the shrine’s rector said.

 

This article was originally published on CNA Dec. 12, 2017.

Pro-life doctor weighs in amid furor over Ohio ectopic pregnancy bill

19 hours 34 min ago

Columbus, Ohio, Dec 12, 2019 / 12:48 am (CNA).- Controversy continues over a bill in Ohio that would require doctors to attempt to “reimplant” embryos removed during procedures to treat ectopic pregnancy, with both pro-life and pro-choice advocates noting that doing so is not yet medically possible.

“I understand the theoretical ideal of being able to do something like that,” Dr. Mary Jo O’Sullivan, a high-risk obstetrician and Professor Emeritus of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Miami, told CNA in an interview.

“But it's an ideal, and it's theoretical, and I don't know that a lot of patients would go for it...you just have to have proper evidence that this is really a viable option.”

HB413 in the Ohio Legislature includes a provision that doctors must attempt to “reimplant” ectopic pregnancies in a woman’s uterus “if applicable.” The bill, which has garnered attention around the world, is currently in committee.

“[Reimplantation] is so theoretical at this point, that I can't imagine how anybody would vote to approve this,” O’Sullivan commented.

“It's food for thought, no question about that. Maybe it will stimulate some kind of research to see whether this can actually be done, at least in animals.”

An ectopic pregnancy occurs when an embryo implants outside the uterus, usually in the fallopian tube. Once implanted, the embryo’s growth is likely to rupture the fallopian tube, which can cause the death of both mother and child.

With modern ultrasound, it is possible to make a diagnosis of an ectopic pregnancy fairly early on, as long as you have an early first trimester ultrasound, O’Sullivan said.

There are three common medical procedures to address ectopic pregnancies, she noted, only one of which is widely considered to be moral from a Catholic perspective.

The patient may be offered methotrexate, which is an anti-cancer drug that stops the embryo’s cells from dividing; or the fallopian tube can be opened and the embryo “scooped” out, a salpingostomy; or the segment of the tube can be transected on each side and removed completely, a salpingectomy.

In all of the procedures, the embryo dies. However, in the first two, the procedure itself is an act to end the life of the embryo. A salpingectomy, in contrast, is an act to remove the damaged portion of the fallopian tube.

For this reason, salpingectomies are generally considered moral under the principle of double effect: the objective of the surgery is the removal of the affected tube, and the embryo dies as an undesired - although foreseen - side effect. Since there are no alternative procedures that can save the life of the embryo, this process is considered morally acceptable.

Dr. O’Sullivan said in her view, the methotrexate treatment and the salpingostomy are both abortions.

“What you're doing this time [in a salpingectomy] is you're taking out damaged section of tube, and since it's removed it's cut off from its blood supply, and ultimately the little baby, the little fetus, will die,” O’Sullivan explained.

“In the other two cases, the baby is going to die, too. But both of them are direct attacks on the baby itself. In this latter one, you primary intent is to remove the diseased section of the tube, and you know that the outcome of that will be the loss of the pregnancy.”

Kevin Miller, a Catholic moral theologian at Franciscan University of Steubenville, agreed.

“I think it is somewhere between extremely hard and impossible to conceptualize [methotrexate] administration for ectopic pregnancy as anything other than direct killing of the embryo,” he said.

“The embryo’s death is the chosen means to the end of resolving the ectopic pregnancy and saving the mother from possible hemorrhage – it is not a ‘side effect.’”

“Wait and see”— i.e. not taking any action, and waiting to see if the embryo will naturally dislodge itself— is an option, O’Sullivan said, but this option demands thorough conversation between the patient and physician, and both must be perfectly willing to accept the risk that while they are waiting, the tube could rupture, causing an acute emergency.

“It takes a great deal of counseling, and understanding, and cooperation on the part of both the patient and physician,” she said.

Dr. O'Sullivan said in her experience, in the hospitals she has worked in, patients facing an ectopic pregnancy are offered each of the three treatment options and given the chance to choose for themselves.

“In this world of patient autonomy, often the patient is presented with what the options are, and sometimes they make the decision as to which procedure they would prefer,” she explained.

The National Catholic Bioethics Center (NCBC) reports that incidences of ectopic pregnancy have increased by 600% in the United States in the last two decades.

“Epidemiologists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention attribute the rise to chlamydia and other sexually transmitted diseases that can scar the fallopian tubes, as well as failed tubal sterilizations and the increased use of drugs and surgery to induce ovulation. Other conditions, such as endometriosis, can also contribute to this pathology,” the bioethics center says.

Some Catholic bioethicists defend salpingostomy as also being an acceptable procedure. It is a less mutilating procedure than a salpingectomy, and could potentially preserve future fertility, the main reasons doctors may choose it. O’Sullivan said she knows pro-life doctors who have performed salpingostomies.

O’Sullivan said she could find evidence of only two reported cases of a successful replantation of an ectopic pregnancy, one of which allegedly happened in 1917, with the doctor's case report the only evidence that it occurred.

“You have no way of proving that happened. You have to accept what the guy wrote,” she commented.

She said the pregnancy would likely be at 5-6 weeks at the earliest before the doctor sees it, and trying to remove the embryo without damaging the amniotic sac, and trying to put it back into the uterine cavity through the cervix, is in her words “pie in the sky.”

It also would be difficult to get a procedure like this through an institutional review board, O’Sullivan said, because it would be extremely dangerous to test on humans.

“There's absolutely no animal evidence that this would work, that I could find,” O’Sullivan said.

“[The procedure] should be done in animals before you even attempt to do it in humans...I'd be reluctant to talk to a patient about that, and I'd be reluctant to do it without animal evidence of safety.”

 

Voices: 'Our Lady of Guadalupe gave my family a miracle'

Wed, 12/11/2019 - 6:45pm

Los Angeles, Calif., Dec 11, 2019 / 04:45 pm (CNA).- It was in December of 1991, while attending a novena in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe at St. Finbar Church in Burbank, that I learned that there existed a small piece of the tilma of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the city of Los Angeles.

The associate pastor at the time, Father Peter Irving, explained that this relic was stored at the archdiocesan Archival Center at the San Fernando Mission, and that he had requested it for the novena at St. Finbar. This tiny piece of the tilma is the only piece in existence outside of Mexico City. Being a devoted child of Mary, this fact providentially stuck with me.

Little did I know that Our Lady would save the life of my husband, Vicente, a decade later.

On Friday, May 3, 2002, my husband collapsed due to the rupture of a brain aneurysm. He immediately fell into a coma, flatlined en route to the hospital, and was given less than a 5% chance of surviving. He was 42 years old.

When we went to see him at the hospital, we were greeted by a medical team who took us into a private office and explained that he was gravely ill and that he would most likely not make it through the night. Two different priests went that night to anoint him. The neurosurgeon on call performed an emergency procedure of drilling a hole in my husband’s brain to relieve the pressure. The ventriculostomy drained his brain fluid and the blood from his bleeding brain into a bag. The doctor said that if he survived the night, he would attempt brain surgery.

Hundreds of people began to pray for his recovery. What followed was a series of one miracle after another.

Ian, a ten-year-old friend of the family, offered up his first Holy Communion on Saturday, May 4. Ian’s uncle was my husband’s physician and at the time that Ian was receiving Holy Communion, my husband miraculously woke up from the coma.

Through what I firmly believe to be divine intervention, my husband was transferred to Keck Hospital of USC where doctors were able to seal the brain aneurysm with a coil (a newly pioneered technique at the time) instead of open-brain surgery.

He spent the next four weeks in intensive care. He did not recognize anyone, not even me, his wife.  He developed multiple complications, and doctors at Keck wanted to wait for him to stabilize before placing a shunt in his brain, as he was draining more than 90% of his brain fluid into the external bag. 

I questioned several neurosurgeons about the idea of attempting surgery on such a sick man. They all said that he would definitely need such a surgery — to which I would reply that we were praying for his recovery without a shunt.

It was easy to see that we were praying: a Norbertine priest said Mass daily in his room, a priest of Opus Dei visited him daily, and the room was decorated with holy cards of Blessed Alvaro del Portillo and Saint Josemaria Escriva, among many others.

On May 12, Mother’s Day, the doctors came in to inform me that he had taken a turn for the worst. He had developed meningitis and they would not be able to place the much-needed shunt, which put him at greater danger of developing another infection.

To make matters worse, he was not responding to antibiotics. Nothing seemed to bring the fever down, so he was placed on an ice blanket in an effort to reduce his temperature. I asked again if the shunt was necessary and doctors told me that it was not only necessary, but urgent. I asked about his prognosis and the doctors were clear that he would likely never walk nor recognize people.

It was then that I remembered the relic at the San Fernando Mission.

Our family attended Mass at the mission and my husband was a Eucharistic minister. So I asked Msgr. Francis J. Weber, the archivist for the Archdiocese, whether he could bring the relic. He came to the hospital on May 15 and blessed my husband with the only piece of the tilma in existence outside of Mexico.

I was sure that Our Lady would work a miracle!  My husband had a tube coming out of his head and multiple IV’s. He was on an ice blanket. He had a brain infection, pancreatitis, and hepatitis, and he was not responding to treatment.

On Thursday, the doctor noted that my husband was draining only 50% cerebral fluid into the bag, only 25% on Friday, and nothing by Sunday. We had a miracle!

On Monday, a team of about 15 neurosurgeons and students came in to examine my husband and take a look at his medical record. Though he was not quite “out of the woods” and still in intensive care at that moment, the lead neurosurgeon said he did not have a medical explanation for the healing. 

The impossible became possible and my husband would not need a shunt. 

“Mrs. Cornejo, I don’t know who you prayed to, but if I ever need a miracle, I’ll be calling you,” the doctor said.

My husband began to recover by leaps and bounds and was home by June 6. We even went on to have another daughter after five straight miscarriages (all of which occurred before Vicente’s illness). We named her Frances Marie, because, after all, we could not leave the Blessed Mother out of her name.

Though he was not able to return to work, seventeen years later Vicente is a loving husband and a joyful father to five children, a devoted parishioner at Guardian Angel in Pacoima, and still a passionate musician.

I put my story into words because we have seen her intercession in our lives, and I look back at my life knowing that we are safe in His arms. Being blessed in a special way by this relic is still possible in this great “City of Angels,” and so I can tell others with confidence: Take your needs to her, she will always be Our Mother. 

That is why tonight, December 11, 2019, Vicente and I will be celebrating the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, where the relic of the tilma is now permanently housed: to thank her and show our love to her.

 

 

This commentary was first published by Angelus News. It has been reprinted with permission by CNA.

Suspect arrested after arson destroys NJ church

Wed, 12/11/2019 - 6:33pm

Newark, N.J., Dec 11, 2019 / 04:33 pm (CNA).- A suspect is in custody after an early-morning arson destroyed a Catholic parish in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey.

James Mayers, who has been identified as a 26-year-old who lives in Franklin Lakes, was arrested shortly after a fire broke out at Most Blessed Sacrament Parish around 1:30 a.m. The fire completely destroyed the parish and was mostly extinguished by 4 a.m.

“An investigation revealed that James Z. Mayers entered the structure during the early morning hours of December 11, 2019, and purposely started the fire with the use of gasoline and a cigarette lighter. Mayers was arrested at the scene and treated by first responders for thermal injuries he sustained while starting the fire,” a statement released Wednesday afternoon by the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office said.

Mayers will be charged with one account of aggravated arson and one count of burglary. It was not immediately clear what Mayers is accused of stealing. He is being held in the Bergen County Jail awaiting a court appearance.

Fire crews arrived at the parish quickly after the fire was reported and began working to put out the flames.

The township’s police captain, John Bakelaar, told to local media that “damage to the church is complete” and that “the fire was extensive.”

It is unclear if Mayers was a parishioner at Church of the Most Blessed Sacrament, had attended its school, or was in any way connected to the church.

Classes were canceled on Wednesday at Academy of the Most Blessed Sacrament, which is located near the parish building. The school was not damaged by the fire.

A statement from the Archdiocese of Newark thanked those who worked to fight the fire and who attempted to save the church building, “during frigid conditions.”
“We are moving forward to ensure parish life continues and we are currently identifying alternative sites for Masses, liturgies, and parish activities,” the archdiocese said.

“We ask everyone to please pray for all who have been affected by this incident.”

US education department may allow religious to receive federal student aid

Wed, 12/11/2019 - 6:11pm

Washington D.C., Dec 11, 2019 / 04:11 pm (CNA).- The US Department of Education is proposing to restore eligibility to members of religious orders for certain federal higher education student aid programs.

In a proposed rule announced Dec. 10, the agency said regulatory changes would “restore the ability” of members of religious orders to access certain federal higher education aid programs, “eliminating regulatory provisions that treat members of religious orders as having no financial need in certain circumstances.”
 
The agency said the rule would ensure that “otherwise eligible students and faith-based entities” wouldn’t be shut out of Title IV, Higher Education Act programs on account of their religious affiliation.
 
Currently, members of religious orders are considered, under certain subsidized federal student aid programs, to have no “financial need.” They are eligible, however, for certain unsubsidized federal aid programs.
 
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said the proposed rule change protects against religious discrimination in federal higher education aid policy.
 
“Faith-based institutions should not have to worry about losing access to federal programs due to their faith,” DeVos stated Dec. 10.
 
“These new rules will ensure a level playing field and will guarantee that individuals and institutions can continue to practice their faith and adhere to their values without losing the federal funding opportunities otherwise available to others,” she stated.
 
The proposed rule would also “eliminate arbitrary limitations” on religious schools’ participation in the federal Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, which helps low-income students prepare for college.
 
Students who borrowed money to pay for college could defer some federal loans if they are volunteering full-time in a tax-exempt organization, and their responsibilities include religious instruction or other religious duties.
 
The Department of Education said it issued the rule in light of the Supreme Court’s 2017 ruling in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer that a church could not be shut out of a public grant program simply because it was a church.
 
The case was considered a significant ruling in favor of equal access of houses of worship or religious institutions to public grant programs, and against old state laws barring their eligibility for public grants simply on account of their religious status.
 
The rule was also based on the administration’s policy of promoting religious freedom, as outlined in President Trump’s May 2017 executive order on religious liberty, as well as October 2017 guidance from the attorney general on federal protections for religious liberty.

Archbishop Gomez asks prayers for Francis on his 50th anniversary of priestly ordination

Wed, 12/11/2019 - 5:50pm

Los Angeles, Calif., Dec 11, 2019 / 03:50 pm (CNA).- As Pope Francis prepares to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood Friday, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. bishop’s conference, is asking Catholics throughout the country to pray for the Pope.

“In honor of Pope Francis and in celebration of his service to the Church, I would ask that you consider encouraging the faithful in your dioceses to mark the Holy Father’s jubilee with special prayers for him in his priestly ministry,” Gomez said in a letter sent to U.S. bishops Dec. 5.

Jorge Mario Bergoglio was ordained a priest of the Society of Jesus Dec. 13, 1969, in Buenos Aires. Four years later, he made his final profession of vows, and he was elected to the papacy March 13, 2013.

“May Jesus the High Priest continue to renew, increase, and strengthen in Pope Francis the graces received at his ordination as he continues to carry his priestly ministry in service to our Holy Church,” Gomez added.

Attached to the letter to bishops were prayers for the Pope to be said during Mass or the Liturgy of the Hours for Pope Francis. The attachment also included a note that while Dec. 13 is normally celebrated as the memorial of St. Lucy, the Roman Missal allows the celebrant of a Mass to use one of the Masses for Various Needs on this day, if “some real necessity or pastoral advantage requires it.”

“In the first section of these Masses (the Masses For Holy Church), the second Mass is For the Pope and would be appropriate to use in honor of the fifty years of priesthood of Pope Francis,” the attachment notes.

Pope Francis’ 50th ordination anniversary is also being commemorated with two Vatican stamps of the pope; one a painting of a young Fr. Bergoglio, and the other a painting of him as Pope Francis.

Sainthood cause advances for religious sister, educator who fought racism

Wed, 12/11/2019 - 2:30am

Baltimore, Md., Dec 11, 2019 / 12:30 am (CNA).- In the race to see who will become the first canonized black American saint, one candidate’s cause has advanced: Mother Mary Lange, a renowned educator and founder of the Oblate Sisters of Providence, the first community of religious sisters in the United States for women of color.

In an announcement last week from the Archdiocese of Baltimore, where Mother Mary Lange lived and served, Archbishop William Lori said that “I’m happy to say her cause is moving along.”

After meeting with Vatican officials about Lange’s cause last week, Lori reported that the paper arguing for her life of heroic virtue was nearly finished, and that the “positio,” another document arguing for her cause for canonization, was complete and being sent to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. If approved, the document will be forwarded to Pope Francis, who would then be able to grant the title of “Venerable” to Mother Mary Lange.

Scant concrete details are known about the early life of Mother Lange. She was born Elizabeth Clarisse Lange sometime around the year 1784, most likely in a French-speaking area of Santiago, Cuba. Her parents were reportedly refugees who fled to Cuba from a revolution in their native Saint Domingue (in present-day Haiti), according to the Black and Indian Mission Office.

In the early 1800s, Lange emigrated to the United States from Cuba, and settled in Baltimore, Maryland, a popular landing spot for other French-speaking Catholic Haitian refugees at the time. She arrived in the U.S. well-educated and with some money to her name, indicating that her parents were also educated and well-off.

According to the Mother Lange Guild, Lange was living in Baltimore by 1813, and soon after realized that the children of her fellow refugees were in desperate need of education, something that was hard to come by for black children in pre-Civil War America.

Together with a friend, Marie Magdelaine Balas, Lange began offering free education to children of color from her home. In 1828, Lange was approached by a priest, Reverend James Hector Joubert, S.S., about officially founding a Catholic school for girls of color. Lange told the priest that she had been wanting to dedicate her life to God, and that she wanted to start not only the school but also a religious order of sisters for women of color. Permission was granted, and in 1829, Lange and three other women (including Balas) took their first vows as Oblate Sisters of Providence. Lange, who became the superior of the order, took the religious name of Mary, and became known as Mother Mary Lange.

The first paragraph of their order’s rule spelled out their vocation and mission: “The Oblate Sisters of Providence are a religious society of virgins and widows of color. Their end is to consecrate themselves to God in a special manner not only to sanctify themselves and thereby secure the greater glory of God, but also to work for the Christian education of colored children.”

“Our sole wish is to do the will of God,” Mother Lange once said of her order, according to the Oblate Sisters.

The school founded by the sisters, St. Frances Academy, is the oldest, continuously running school for black Catholics in the United States, and remains open today. By 1860, all children of color attending Catholic school in Baltimore were educated in schools run by the Oblate Sisters.

In 1843, the sisters suffered a blow at the death of Fr. Joubert, who had been their biggest supporter since the founding of the order. Combating poverty and racism, the sisters scrambled to shore up their order as some members left, and the Sulpician priests, the order to which Joubert had belonged, were no longer able to support the sisters.

“There was a sense of abandonment at the dwindling number of pupils and defections of her closest companions and co-workers,” the Mother Lange Guild states in her biography. “Yet, through it all Mother Mary never lost faith in Providence.”

During her lifetime, Lange and her sisters not only educated children of color, but they housed orphans and vulnerable elderly, and took in extra washing and mending and begged on the streets to support those in their care. In 1832, the sisters also cared for the terminally ill during the cholera epidemic. After the Civil War, the sisters cared for dozens of black orphans who were living in Baltimore. On February 3, 1882, after a long life of service to others, Mother Mary Lange died.

“Mother Mary Lange practiced faith to an extraordinary degree,” the Guild wrote of her. “In fact, it was her deep faith which enabled her to persevere against all odds. To her black brothers and sisters she gave of herself and her material possessions until she was empty of all but Jesus, whom she shared generously with all by being a living witness to his teaching.”

Lori added that Mother Lange was “a person who was in every way a pioneer” who “stood head and shoulders above the racism of her era.”

Should Lange be declared Venerable, the next step in her cause for canonization would be for a miracle through her intercession to occur and be approved by the Vatican.

China punishes families of those who speak out in America, Congress hears

Tue, 12/10/2019 - 9:00pm

Washington D.C., Dec 10, 2019 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- A Uighur-American whose mother has been held captive in a Chinese detention camp was one of several witnesses to testify on Tuesday before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs on the unfolding human rights crisis in China. 

The hearing was titled “Authoritarianism with Chinese Characteristics: Political and Religious Human Rights Challenges in China” and was hosted by the Foreign Affairs’ Committee’s Subcommittee on Asia, Pacific and Nonproliferation.  

“Stop allowing China to take away freedom so totally in Xinjiang, in Tibet, increasingly in Hong Kong, and even here on your own soil,” said Ferkat Jawdat, a Uighur American who testified before the subcommittee. 

“Xinjiang security officials freely deliver threats, psychologically torture, and extortion, against your laws, to silence your own citizens here,” he told memebrs of Congress on Dec. 10.

“China is effectively taking the world hostage. Please do not let your voices be silenced. Begin to speak with meaningful actions,” he said in testimony that was published on the committee’s website.

Jawdat explained that while most of his family moved to the United States in 2011, his mother remained in China as she had been denied a passport. She has since faced the consequences of her son speaking out against the Chinese government. He said that he had been labeled a “terrorist,” and his other family members in China have been convicted of “bogus crimes” and sentenced to prison. 

His mother was sent to a re-education camp for Uihgurs. 

“On February 6th, 2018, my mother left me her last message on WeChat, the Chinese equivalent of WhatsApp and other messaging platforms that it does not allow in China,” said Jawdat. “She told me she was going to the ‘school’ – the euphemism the whole world now knows China uses for its concentration camps. She then disappeared.”

His mother was eventually released from the camp in June 2019. 

Jawdat was critical of how President Donald Trump has handled the situation in China, and pleaded with the president to “stop allowing China to silence you.” He said he hopes that Trump would sign the “Uyghur Act of 2019” into law before the end of the year, and that Congress will pass legislation prohibiting companies in the United States from using products produced by forced labor in the province of Xinjiang. 

“Find a voice that speaks of freedom and justice, like Reagan’s, to the world to end tyrannies. Do not succumb with envy for their rich autocrats who have stolen billions from their own people and treat their suffering as badges somehow making them ‘great leaders.’ They are tyrants who rule for life, secured only by the wealth they steal,” he said. 

The United States, said Jawdat, should “Rededicate (...) our commitment to ‘Never Again!’ by taking action to convince China to empty its concentration camps and dismantle, rather than export, its high-tech mass surveillance police state.” Additionally, he feels as though the U.S. should fund organizations that will expose the human rights abuses happening in Xinjiang. 

“The Chinese government is spending billions every year to spread its propaganda around the world,” he said. 

“We should counter its propaganda by denying it such unequal access here and empower those who tell the truth with more resources and manpower to ensure facts pierce through China’s fiction,” Jawdat said.

DC basilica attack leaves 'Mary's Shrine' shaken, and at prayer

Tue, 12/10/2019 - 6:55pm

Washington D.C., Dec 10, 2019 / 04:55 pm (CNA).- A violent attack at “Mary’s Shrine” in Washington D.C. on Tuesday shook the community and prompted prayer and solidarity among staff and regular attendees.

“It was evil, it was tragic—it could have been worse,” Monsignor Vito Buonanno, associate rector and director of pilgrimages of the Shrine, told CNA.

“It’s happened before in other places—people have entered houses of worship and killed people there. That’s the only reason why, I think, we all say we’re grateful to God, it could have been worse,” Buonanno said.

On Tuesday morning at 9:14 a.m., the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department responded to a 911 call at the basilica, where a suspect had struck a female security guard with his vehicle.

The basilica’s rector, Monsignor Walter Rossi, spoke at a press conference inside the basilica’s upper church on Tuesday afternoon. He said the assailant pinned the female security guard between his vehicle and other vehicles at the basilica’s east parking lot. The attacker allegedly tried to run the female staff member over.

A male security guard confronted the attacker in an attempt to help his coworker, and was pursued by the attacker into the basilica. The guard was stabbed multiple times by the attacker, according to Rossi and Jacquelyn Hayes, director of communications for the shrine.

The assailant then fled the scene.

“I had seen them just minutes before, when I came in to work—I see them every day. Every day,” Buonanno told CNA of his regular interactions with the security guards.

“We wished each other a good day, and who would ever think, I didn’t even get back into my—I didn’t get into my office to take my coat off when this occurred.”
 
After the attacks, Rossi prayed with the victims before they were transported to the hospital, Hayes said. Buonanno joined him.
 
The startling violence at “Mary’s Shrine,” descending like a lightning bolt on a place of peace, shook the community.
 
“I can tell you I’ve been here for 13 years, and nothing like this has ever happened,” Hayes said.
 
Paul Rybczyk, a graduate of neighboring Catholic University of America, arrived at the basilica later in the morning after the stabbing. He told CNA he has been attending Mass at the Shrine for 50 years.

“It’s something that’s really close to me,” he said. Tuesday’s attacks were “terrible.”

“Both security staff members are extremely dedicated to us. They are quite personable to our staff and guests alike, and this incident had been quite upsetting for everyone here at the National Shrine,” Rossi said.

“This Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is a place of prayer, peace, worship, and pilgrimage.”

Late on Tuesday morning, the Shrine’s staff gathered to pray.
 
“He [Rossi] not only prayed for our security guards who were victims, but he also prayed for the perpetrator,” Hayes said. “That is who we are here at the Basilica.”

Morning events at the Shrine were curtailed because of the crime scene, but noon Mass occurred as usual, albeit in the Blessed Sacrament chapel on the upper level, not in the crypt church as originally scheduled. Dozens were in attendance as Monsignor Buonanno celebrated Mass.

“We had a number of people who came up to me personally today and who expressed their grief, but their gratitude for the Basilica being here, and they indicated that they were in solidarity and prayer with us,” Hayes said.

Buonanno preached in his homily what he later repeated to CNA—that the Shrine is a “holy place that we know is Mary’s house.”

“We are very close here at the shrine. It’s more than just staff. There truly is a sense of family, and when something like this happens, all of us—the whole staff—reacted, so upset,” he told CNA.

After the stabbing, the attacker fled the basilica in a Lincoln Navigator and later barricaded himself in a house in the nearby neighborhood of Brightwood, during an ensuing standoff with police.

A suspect was apprehended by police after the standoff ended, and had lacerations to the stomach area from before his capture. He was familiar with at least one of the two victims, Hayes said in a written statement on Tuesday morning.

The suspect lived at the house with family members, said Jeffery Carroll, assistant chief of police with the D.C. Metropolitan Police’s homeland security bureau, in a press conference on Tuesday morning.

The stabbing was believed to be a “domestic” attack and not a targeting of the shrine itself, D.C. Metropolitan Police said on Tuesday.

“We believe there is some sort of a domestic relationship between the female victim and the suspect here,” Carroll said.

Monsignor Rossi went to the hospital to visit the two victims and speak with their doctors, but would not disclose their condition out of privacy concerns. Hayes said that she understood the victims are “stable.”

The shrine’s security personnel are not armed, Monsignor Rossi said, although “we are in the process of looking at that policy.” The shrine was already reviewing its security operation before the time of the attack, he said.

“We do have D.C. Police with us for special events, and on the weekends, and we are looking at our entire security operations even as we speak—before this even happened. This is unfortunate timing,” Rossi said.

Hayes later said that the shrine is currently “on a heightened security alert,” and although it has 50 security guards, “in today’s day and age, we are looking at enhancing our current security protocols.”

“A member of our family has been struck. So that’s difficult, but we are in solidarity,” she said.

In January of 2019, a group of demonstrators at a rally led by Nathan Phillips attempted to enter the Shrine to disrupt a Saturday evening Mass on the weekend of the March for Life, but the group was halted by security personnel.

 

Franciscan University forms partnership with Iraqi Catholic university

Tue, 12/10/2019 - 5:05pm

Steubenville, Ohio, Dec 10, 2019 / 03:05 pm (CNA).- A Catholic university in the U.S. has partnered with an Iraqi Catholic college to promote opportunities for scholarship, collaboration, and understanding between the two countries.

Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio and the Catholic University of Erbil (CUE) in Iraq signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Dec. 6.

“The agreement forges ties between the two schools and cities that include cultural exchanges, such as the visit this past September by Iraqi high school students to Steubenville,” Tom Sofio, a Franciscan University spokesman, told CNA.

“The agreement also allows for the development of language courses in Arabic and Aramaic to be offered to Franciscan University students, the pursuit of scholarship funding for Iraqi students to study at Franciscan University … and Skype sessions between students at Franciscan University and The Catholic University of Erbil,” Sofio added.

The document was signed by Father Dave Pivonka, president of Franciscan, and Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, who founded the Iraq university in 2015.

Under the agreement, students from Iraq can receive scholarships to take Franciscan University courses in person or online, and, in turn, Franciscan University students will have opportunities to visit Erbil, study there, and better experience the culture of the Kurdistan region in Iraq.

Erbil’s Catholic university, only four years old, has 147 students and offers 10 programs, including pharmacy technology, accounting, law, and international relations, the Herald-Star reported.

The partnership will also explore avenues of catechetical assistance for the Diocese of Erbil, which could involve the collaboration of Franciscan University’s Catechetical Institute, Conference Office, and Wild Goose, a ministry led by the Franciscan Friars of the Third Order Regular and founded by Pivonka. 

The partnership has been supported by Aid to the Church in Need USA. The organization also recently funded two of CUE’s computer labs, which especially benefit students in civil engineering or architecture programs.

Warda founded the CUE in 2015 to promote higher education and to help Christians displaced by the Islamic State. 

Some 125,000 Christians live in Iraq. The Christian population of the country has declined dramatically in recent years, as Christians fled the persecution of the Islamic State or were killed. The northern Kurdistan region in Iraq has about 4,300 Chaldean Christians, the Herald-Star reported, and several thousand more have fled to Iraqi Kurdistan since 2014.

Pivonka expressed hope that the partnership will be an opportunity for U.S. Catholic students to interact with Christians in other countries who have faced terrible persecution.

“Largely the Christians in Iraq have been forgotten. But they have much to offer us,” Pivonka told the Herald-Star this week.

“We talk about inconveniences in our faith. But in Iraq there are people who are dying for it. All of the (Iraqi) youth here have family members who have been killed. It’s just part of their faith.”

 

Peoria bishop announces novena for Venerable Sheen's sainthood cause

Tue, 12/10/2019 - 4:38pm

Peoria, Ill., Dec 10, 2019 / 02:38 pm (CNA).- Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria is inviting the faithful to pray a novena beginning Dec. 12 to "petition God unceasingly" that Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s sainthood cause may move forward.

Sheen, a beloved American evangelist and television personality who died in 1979, was set to be beatified Dec. 21 in Peoria, but the Holy See announced Dec. 2 that the beatification was to be postponed.

“I know how deeply saddened we all are about the postponement of the beatification of Fulton Sheen,” said Bishop Jenky said in a video message Dec. 9.

“But in these turbulent times when our faith is being tested...we need to remain faithful to prayer like Archbishop Sheen.”

The novena will begin Dec. 12 and include daily meditations on reflections from Sheen, Jenky announced.

In the days after the Diocese of Peoria announced the postponement, Catholics around the world reportedly led a grassroots effort to have “a million” Masses celebrated for Sheen to pray for his beatification to move forward.

Lo Anne Mayer, a Catholic in New Jersey who in 2017 helped to organize an effort calling on Catholic churches around the world to celebrate a special Mass on Sheen’s May 8 birthday, put the word out to Catholics to celebrate a special Mass for Sheen Dec. 9.

Dec. 9 marked the 40th anniversary of Sheen’s death at the age of 84. Catholic media outlets, including EWTN, helped to spread the word.

Sheen was born in Illinois in 1895, and was 24 when he was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Peoria.

He was appointed auxiliary bishop of New York in 1951, and he remained there until his appointment as Bishop of Rochester in 1966. He retired in 1969 and moved back to New York City until his death in 1979.

The Peoria diocese initially attributed the Vatican’s decision to postpone Sheen’s beatification to “a few members of the Bishop’s Conference who have asked for further consideration.”

CNA reported Dec. 4 that it was Bishop Salvatore Matano of Rochester who asked the apostolic nuncio to the United States to delay the beatification, citing concerns about an ongoing state attorney general’s investigation into the dioceses of New York state.

New York’s attorney general began an investigation in September 2018 into whether any of the state’s eight Latin rite dioceses had covered up acts or allegations of clerical sexual abuse. Sheen was Bishop of Rochester from 1966 to 1969.

The Rochester diocese said Dec. 5 that it expressed concern about the advancement of Sheen’s cause “without a further review of his role in priests’ assignments.”

“The Diocese of Rochester did its due diligence in this matter and believed that, while not casting suspicion, it was prudent that Archbishop Sheen’s cause receive further study and deliberation, while also acknowledging the competency of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to render its decision. The Holy See ultimately decided to postpone the beatification,” the diocese said.

Monsignor James Kruse, a former Peoria vicar general, told CNA that Bishop Matano expressed his concerns in a Nov. 19 letter, after the beatification was announced, saying that he could not support the scheduled beatification and requesting that it be delayed.

According to Kruse, a copy of this letter was also sent to Bishop Jenky, Cardinal Angelo Becchiu, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, and Cardinals Timothy Dolan of New York and Blase Cupich of Chicago.

Both Kruse and the Peoria diocese insist that Sheen’s life has been thoroughly examined and with regard to Sheen’s handling of the cases of two former priests accused of abuse, he “did nothing wrong.”

“Under the veneer of the Rochester diocese’s call for caution, more than an overwhelming majority of people would conclude that it is an unexplainable act of sabotage — a sabotage that simply hurts the faithful,” Monsignor James Kruse, an official in the Diocese of Peoria involved in advancing Sheen’s cause, wrote in a Dec. 7 op-ed.

Raleigh pro-life pregnancy center to move next door to abortion clinic

Tue, 12/10/2019 - 3:43pm

Raleigh, N.C., Dec 10, 2019 / 01:43 pm (CNA).- A pregnancy resource center in Raleigh, North Carolina will be allowed to move into a house next door to an abortion clinic following a settlement in a federal lawsuit, three years after the city council denied the center’s rezoning request.

Hand of Hope Pregnancy Resource Center had been located about a half-mile from A Preferred Women’s Health Center, an abortion clinic, for several years, and wanted to move into a house next door to the abortion facility to save money and to be closer to the women seeking out the abortion clinic.

In July 2016 the city council denied the center’s rezoning request, classifying it as a medical facility because of its use of ultrasounds, and saying a medical facility is a poor land-use fit in that area. The city’s Board of Adjustment also ruled against the center, local newspaper The News & Observer reports.

The pregnancy center has rejected the label of medical facility, arguing that its ultrasounds are “non-diagnostic.” The center sued in federal court, with its attorneys arguing that it should be categorized instead as a civic organization since it is religiously affiliated.

According to the News & Observer, which obtained a copy of the Sept. 27 settlement terms, the city of Raleigh will pay Hand of Hope $25,000 after the lawsuit is dismissed. The pregnancy center agreed to not allow protesters on its site, “provided public prayer does not constitute protesting,” the terms state.

Though the agreement will allow Hand of Hope to continue providing free ultrasounds, the terms also require that less than one-fourth of the house’s square footage be used for medical activities. In addition, Hand of Hope will be able to provide a “predetermined set of medical services” for only one in four people visiting the office, The News & Observer reports.

The center will have to follow state law in administering its ultrasounds and other medical procedures, explain its religious origins on its website, and include the phrase “Hand of Hope” on any sign at its new location, according to The News & Observer.

Tonya Baker Nelson, executive director of the center, said the center’s attorneys provided hundreds of hours of their time for free, but the center still has significantly reduced legal expenses to cover.

“We are eagerly anticipating the earliest possible date for us to occupy our property that we have owned since December 2015 beside one of the busiest privately owned abortion clinics in the Southeast!” Baker wrote in an announcement on Facebook Nov. 27.

She said the new facility has a timeline of a “few months” to be open for business, and they plan to offer free ultrasounds, abortion pill reversal procedures, education classes, mentoring, and Bible studies.

Two guards injured in attack at Washington Basilica

Tue, 12/10/2019 - 11:35am

Washington D.C., Dec 10, 2019 / 09:35 am (CNA).- Police have ended a standoff with a suspect after an attack at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception left two people injured.

Two security guards at the shrine are reportedly “conscious and breathing” after one was stabbed and another was struck by a vehicle shortly after 9 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 10. 

According to the Metropolitan Police Department, a 911 call was recieved at 9:14 a.m. after a female security guard was struck by a car in the parking lot east of the basilica. The suspect’s SUV also hit several other cars that were parked in the lot. The suspect then chased a male security guard before stabbing him inside the shrine itself. 

The suspect then fled the scene in a Lincoln Navigator, which was later found in Northwest DC. Metropolitan police said that the suspect then barricaded himself inside his home before emerging and being taken into police custody. He was taken to a hospital where he will be treated for minor injuries, including lacerations. Police confirmed that charges will be filed.

An update from Assistant Chief of Police Jeffery Carroll stated that police were able to establish communication with the suspect, who then gave himself up. Carroll said that it is believed that the suspect had some sort of domestic relationship with the female security guard.

“There’s no information there’s any actual connection to the Shrine, other than the individuals worked at that location,” said Carroll. “The motivation that we have, preliminarily, is that it appears to be domestic in nature.” 

Carroll also provided a more details on the attack, saying that the female security guard is believed to have been struck “at least” twice by the suspect’s vehicle, and was “pinned” between his car and another car for a period of time. The male security guard was stabbed “several times” inside the basilica after the female guard was hit by the car. 

Both of the victims are “stable at a local hospital,” said Carroll.

No further information about the suspect was released. It is not clear if he had any criminal history or if he was ever employed at the Shrine.

Jacquelyn Hayes, director of communications for the National Shrine, told CNA that “the suspect was known” to both security guards, and that no other information was being released at this time. 

No visitors or pilgrims to the shrine have been reported as injured. 

This story is developing and is being updated.

Pro-life group: Curtailed study on abortion pill reversal is misleading

Tue, 12/10/2019 - 5:31am

Sacramento, Calif., Dec 10, 2019 / 03:31 am (CNA).- A small case study on the safety of the abortion pill reversal procedure that was cut short due to safety concerns does not accurately represent the safety and efficacy of the procedure to the public, a pro-life group has said.

“Pro-abortion researchers would rather continue to mislead women about the real risks of the abortion pill regimen Mifeprex than protect them from the risks of this dangerous drug,” Dr. Tara Sander Lee, senior fellow and director of life sciences for the Charlotte Lozier Institute, said in a statement.

Earlier this year, a group of researchers from the University of California at Davis attempted to study whether administering high doses of the hormone progesterone can successfully override the effects of the progesterone-blocking drug, mifepristone, the first of two pills taken in a medically induced abortion. The second drug, misoprostol, is taken up to two days later and induces labor.

This abortion pill reversal procedure is administered to women who have taken the first pill, mifepristone, but have changed their minds and do not want to continue with the abortion. Creators of the protocol say it has saved hundreds of babies whose mothers changed their minds about aborting.

According to an NPR report, while the researchers at UC Davis were hoping that 40 women would enroll in the study, only 12 did. Of those 12, three women were transported to the hospital for serious vaginal bleeding - one of those women had been given progesterone, the others had received a placebo.

Of the remaining participants, six of the women had a fetal heartbeat detectable on their subsequent ultrasounds, evidence of a continued pregnancy - four of them in the progesterone group, and two in the placebo group. Two women left the study and had surgical abortions.

The researchers stopped the study in July due to the lack of participants and safety concerns.

“Encouraging women to not complete the regimen should be considered experimental,” Dr. Mitchell Creinin, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at UC Davis and the lead researcher on the study, told NPR. “We have some evidence that it could cause very significant bleeding.”

“It's not that medical abortion is dangerous,” he added. “It's not completing the regimen, and encouraging women, leading them to believe that not finishing the regimen is safe. That's really dangerous.”

Creinin, who has a long history of performing abortions, also told NPR that because the study was smaller than expected and cut short, it cannot answer the question it was intended to answer.

“Does progesterone work? We don't know,” he said. “We have no evidence that it works.”

Lee, however, said in her statement that the UC Davis study does not prove the dangers of the progesterone protocol, but rather the dangers of mifepristone, as two of the three women who experienced bleeding had not even been given progesterone.

“Long before this study was published, it was a known fact that Mifeprex (brand name of mifepristone) can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections, excessive bleeding, and incomplete termination requiring follow-up surgery. This study does nothing but further prove these serious, life-threatening risks when taking the abortion pill,” Lee said.

“The study was ended early because of severe hemorrhage in 25% (3 out of 12) of women, requiring emergency ambulatory care, because they took the abortion pill. Even the authors highlight that this is a rate much higher (42% higher) than previously reported. In fact, the bleeding was so bad for one woman, described as ‘significant brisk bleeding,’ that she needed a blood transfusion. She also developed hypotension and tachycardia.”

The progesterone protocol for an abortion pill reversal is available at several pro-life clinics throughout the United States. While the procedure has not been approved by the FDA, many pro-life medical professionals consider it safe, as progesterone is a hormone that naturally occurs in and helps sustain pregnancy, and is used to treat some pregnancies at high risk of miscarriage.

Teresa Kenney, a women's health nurse practitioner with the Sancta Familia (Holy Family) Medical Apostolate in Omaha, Nebraska, previously told CNA that because progesterone is safe for pregnant women and their unborn babies, and the benefit of reversing a medical abortion is so great, the procedure “makes complete sense” from a scientific standpoint.

“If I give a medicine that decreases or blocks progesterone to stop a pregnancy, then it makes perfect logical medical sense to give progesterone to help reverse that,” Kenney told CNA in September.

She added that the benefits are “overwhelmingly positive,” as the procedure in a sense saves two lives - that of the unborn child, and that of the mother who regretted her decision to have an abortion.

“Just because there hasn't been a randomized controlled double-blind study on abortion pill reversal doesn't mean that it doesn't make sense to implement it in medicine, because there is already scientific support for progesterone in early pregnancy in the prevention and miscarriage,” she said.

“Do we need more research? Absolutely. But to withhold treatment when, again, we know that it does no harm...we know that it medically makes sense, it scientifically makes sense, and the benefits are overwhelmingly positive, why wouldn't we do it?”

Dede Chism, a nurse practitioner and co-founder and executive director of Bella Natural Women’s Care in Englewood, Colorado, told CNA in 2018 that a recent case study had shown that the progesterone protocol was significantly more effective in helping women keep their pregnancies after taking mifepristone than if nothing was done.

That study, published in Issues in Law and Medicine, a peer-reviewed medical journal, examined 261 successful abortion pill reversals, and showed that the reversal success rates were 68% with a high-dose oral progesterone protocol and 64% with an injected progesterone protocol.

Both procedures significantly improved the 25% fetal survival rate if no treatment is offered and a woman simply declines the second pill of a medical abortion. The case study also showed that progesterone treatments caused no increased risk of birth defects or preterm births.

That study was authored by Dr. Mary Davenport and Dr. George Delgado, who have been studying the abortion pill reversal procedures since 2009. Delgado also sits on the board of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Medical abortions make up a significant portion - roughly 30-40% - of total abortions in the United States. At least seven states, including Nebraska, Utah, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Arizona, Idaho and South Dakota, have laws mandating that women undergoing medical abortions or who are questioning their decision in the process be informed in some way of the option for a medical abortion reversal.

A North Dakota judge in September granted a temporary injunction against a proposed law in the state that would have required doctors to tell their patients that a medically-induced abortion could be reversed if the patient acted quickly.

 

In scandalized Buffalo diocese, bishop seeks victims’ voices  

Mon, 12/09/2019 - 10:19pm

Buffalo, N.Y., Dec 9, 2019 / 08:19 pm (CNA).- Efforts to recover from clergy sex abuse scandals in Buffalo require listing to victims and others affected by the diocese’s handling of abuse, the apostolic administrator of the Buffalo diocese Bishop Edward Scharfenberger has said.

“I know there’s a lot of pain. I know that pain sometimes presents itself first as anger,” Bishop Scharfenberger said in opening remarks at a Dec. 7 symposium at Canisius College in Buffalo.

“We can’t deny the fact that there is a lot of anger and frustration. Maybe in our personal lives but also in those who expect much of us as leaders to be able to help them find a way out of the darkness that they have experienced,” he continued.

“The darkness of fear is absolutely chilling,” he said. “Remember, Jesus tells us that fear is useless. It’s faith that counts. The more we trust in him, that he’s with us…. He accompanies us wherever we go.”

“We can do this together,” he said, adding that Jesus Christ is the “ultimate healer.”

“People are not giving up,” he said. “And there are reasons for hope too, because God is with us, and we’re going to get through this.

Scharfenberger became apostolic administrator of the diocese December 4, following Pope Francis’ acceptance of the early resignation of 73-year-old Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo, who has faced a year of controversy over his handling of sexual abuse by clergy.

In November 2018, a former Buffalo chancery employee leaked confidential diocesan documents related to the handling of claims of clerical sexual abuse. The documents were widely reported to suggest Malone had covered-up some claims of sexual abuse, an allegation the bishop denied.

Six months later, in April 2019, Malone apologized for his handling of some cases in the diocese, and said he would work to restore trust. The bishop particularly apologized for his 2015 support of Fr. Art Smith, a priest who had faced repeated allegations of abuse and misconduct with minors.

That was the background for the Dec. 7 symposium, held by the Movement to Restore Trust. The group’s organizing committee is comprised mostly of business and non-profit Catholic leaders.

“The biggest thing that we need is that trust,” Michael Whalen, a survivor of clergy sex abuse who advocates on behalf of victims, said at the symposium, the NBC affiliate WGRZ reports.

Whalen made suggestions for the bishop administering the diocese.

“How do we go about getting that trust back? I think by him making big changes in the diocese, getting rid of the old garb, people who've been there decades, who knew about the abuse, and didn't do anything about it,” he said.

The bishop praised Whalen’s comments, Scharfenberger said to reporters, according to audio published by the Buffalo AM radio station WBEN.

“His heart is so full of a desire to help, and to help us heal,” Scharfenberger said. “I thanked him, because I believe that our victim-survivors are an essential part of our mission.  They’re our family. Their experience and the experience of every one of us is very, very valuable.”

“We have to be able to feel that we have a safe space, that we can come together and talk about that and learn from one another, and hear our stories and share our pain, and our vision,” said the bishop.

For Scharfenberger, who will serve as both Bishop of Albany and apostolic administrator pending further decisions by the Vatican, the restoration of trust is ultimately a matter of proving oneself trustworthy and hoping that this is recognized. Though he thought the good faith displayed at the symposium was “heartwarming,” he compared it to a honeymoon period. Upcoming decisions might not be popular.

“I just want everybody to know that whatever I do, I will do with a spirit of justice and charity and openness and listening,” he said. “I don’t want to make any decision that does not take into account and does not show respect for all of those that these decisions affect.”

Whalen, the survivor of sexual abuse, has advocated for the release of the diocese’s confidential files.

The bishop pledged transparency but also said clarity was needed in the release of records which might not give the full context or accurate knowledge.

“I want to be transparent. I want everybody to know what they have a right to know but I want to do it in a way that is clearly understood,” he said.

The possible financial bankruptcy of the diocese was a topic at the symposium. University at Buffalo Law School Vice Dean Todd Brown said if the diocese filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy it would not liquidate, but rather reorganize.

The Movement to Restore Trust’s organizing committee members include John Hurley, the lay president of Canisius College, a Jesuit school in Buffalo.

Hurley said bankruptcy would represent “the fairest option” because court cases would be done all together. He said “everyone will be treated equitably and all at the same time, and it won't be who has the better lawyer, or who can get the first trial.”

In comments to reporters, Scharfenberger said there are many different sides to the arguments for and against bankruptcy. He stressed the need to make the right decision and the need to help people to know why he made that decision.

“It has to be done with deliberation,” he said.

“Ultimately this is a spiritual crisis… People did unholy bad things, evil things, and the only way to eradicate evil is by returning to holiness and to return to God, and to live according to the way our faith teaches us to live,” the bishop continued.

“It’s in God’s time when that happens. God has been trying to restore trust with the human race since the Fall of Adam and Eve,” he said. “We keep turning away. And God keeps coming back.”

What do practicing Catholics think about the 2020 election?

Mon, 12/09/2019 - 6:20pm

Washington D.C., Dec 9, 2019 / 04:20 pm (CNA).- Catholics who say they accept all Church teachings are more likely than other Americans to say they are planning to vote for Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election, according to a new nationwide poll.

The poll, conducted Nov. 15-21 by RealClear Opinion Research in partnership with EWTN News, surveyed 2,055 registered voters; 1,223 of them self-identified as Catholic.

In addition to asking about political viewpoints and priorities, researchers asked respondents about their faith tradition. The poll asked self-identified Catholics whether their faith plays a role in their life, and if they accept all, most, or some of Church teaching.

While it is easy to segregate the responses of self-identified Catholics from other voters, it is more difficult to determine which Catholics might be described as “faithful,” “observant,” or “orthodox.”



Almost 4 in 10 Catholics said they attend Mass at least once a week, and a similar number attend Mass a few times a year. About one-quarter of Catholics attend Mass once a year or less. Seventeen percent of Catholics said they accept all the Church’s teachings, but only 64% of those Catholics said they attend Mass at least weekly. At the same time, many Catholics who said they attend Mass weekly also said they do not accept all doctrinal teachings of the Church.



To understand one segment of the “Catholic vote,” CNA took a close look at answers from Catholics who told researchers they accept the teachings of the Church and try to live their lives according to them.

Fifty-eight percent of Catholics who say they accept all Church teaching also said they are “sure to vote” for Donald Trump in 2020, compared to 34% of all Catholics and 32% of respondents overall who gave the same answer.

Among Catholic voters who accept all of Church teaching, Trump enjoyed a significant lead in a hypothetical matchup against leading Democratic candidates. These voters favored Trump over Joe Biden by 18 percentage points, over Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders by 25 percentage points, and over Pete Buttigieg by 26 percentage points.

Issues of major concern to Catholics who say they accept all Catholic doctrine are religious freedom and immigration.

Sixty percent of all survey respondents say religious freedom is either “a major concern” or “a concern, but not at the top of my mind” in considering presidential candidates for the upcoming general election.

Among Catholics who accept all Church’s teaching, that number is 77%.

Asked about immigration, two-thirds of Catholics who accept all of Church teaching said the issue is “a major concern,” compared to just over half of all respondents who answered similarly. Respondents were not asked to indicate specifics about their policy positions on immigration.

On other issues, Catholics who accept all of Church teaching were less likely to voice concern than other respondents.

The survey found that 35% of Catholics accepting all Church teaching listed the environment as “a major concern,” while 44% of all respondents said the same. Fifty-six percent of Catholics in that category listed climate change as either “a major concern” or “a concern, but not at the top of my mind,” compared to 65% of all respondents.

Catholics who accept all of Church teaching were slightly more likely than other respondents to be seriously concerned about national security, foreign policy, taxes, and China trade policy, while they were slightly less likely to list health care as a major concern.

On the issues of college affordability, income equality, and criminal justice, Catholics who accept all of Church teaching responded similarly to other respondents.

Gun control and late-term abortion were the two biggest issues considered “deal-breakers” by this voting demographic, with a little over half saying a candidate disagreeing with their views on these issues would automatically disqualify that candidate from receiving their support.

Forty-two percent in this demographic considered a candidate’s differing views on religious freedom to be a deal-breaker, and 47% said the same about immigration.

Just 25% of Catholics who accept all of Church teaching said they would automatically disqualify candidates who oppose their views on same-sex marriage, 11 percentage points lower than the overall response to the question.

Thirty-one percent of Catholics who accept all of Church teaching said a candidate opposing their views on the death penalty would be a deal-breaker for them, compared to just 16% of overall survey respondents.

The poll's entire data set can be downloaded here.

Survey: Americans dissatisfied with bishops’ response to sex abuse crisis

Mon, 12/09/2019 - 6:10pm

Washington D.C., Dec 9, 2019 / 04:10 pm (CNA).- Americans largely disapprove of the way the U.S. bishops have handled the sex abuse scandal in the U.S. Catholic Church, a new survey has found. A majority said their trust in the leadership of the Church has been damaged by the abuse crisis.
 
The poll was conducted by RealClear Opinion Research in partnership with EWTN News. It surveyed 2,055 registered voters from Nov. 15-21.

Among other questions, participants were asked about their impressions of how Church leaders have acted in response the clerical sex abuse crisis of the last 18 months.



Sexual abuse allegations against then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick in summer 2018 led to revelations of clerical sexual abuse throughout the United States, as well as some bishops engaging in cover-up and negligence in reporting suspected abuse.

Overall, 19% of survey respondents said they approve of the bishops’ handling of the abuse crisis, while 58% said they disapprove of how the bishops have responded. Another 23% percent said they were unsure.



Of those who identify as Catholic, 30% approve of the bishops’ handling of the crisis, while 55% disapprove. Among non-Catholics, 16% approve and 59% disapprove.

The disapproval rate was consistently more than 50% for Catholics, whether they attend Mass at least weekly, a few times a month, or rarely.

Catholics who say they accept all of the Church’s teachings were more likely to say the bishops are doing an acceptable job handling the crisis. Among this demographic, 52% approve of the bishops’ response to the abuse crisis, and 38% disapprove.

Survey respondents were more likely to voice approval of Pope Francis’ handling of the abuse crisis than that of the bishops, although he still faced significant levels of criticism.



Overall, 31% are satisfied with the pope’s response to the crisis, while 44% disapprove. Among Catholics, 44% approve and 41% disapprove.

Of those who say they accept all of Church teaching, 62% approve of the pope’s response, and just over one-quarter disapprove.

Close to two-thirds of survey respondents, both Catholic and non-Catholic, said the abuse crisis has damaged their trust in the leadership of the pope and bishops. Responses were similar for Catholics regardless of how frequently they attend Mass, as well as for non-Catholics.

The survey also looked at religious practices among Catholics.


 
Almost 4 in 10 Catholics said they attend Mass at least once a week, and a similar number attend Mass a few times a year. About one-quarter of Catholics attend Mass once a year or less.
 
Just under half of Catholics said they believe in the Real Presence of the Eucharist, with one-third saying they believe the Eucharist is just a symbol, and the remainder saying they are unsure.

 Those who attend Mass more frequently were more likely to believe in the True Presence, with 70% of respondents who attend Mass at least weekly saying they believe the Eucharist is really the Body and Blood of Christ.
 
Six percent of Catholics who responded to the survey said they go to confession at least once a month. Another 17% percent said they go a few times a year, while 35% receive the sacrament once a year or less, and another 41% percent said they never go to confession.


 
Of those who said they identify as Catholic, 79% said they pray at least weekly, with just over half saying they pray every day.
 
The prayer frequency of Catholics was greater than that of general survey respondents, of whom 64% said they pray at least weekly, and 45% said they pray daily.

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