Catholic News Agency
Wilbur Springs, Calif., Oct 15, 2019 / 04:30 am (CNA).- Archbishop Dominic Jala of Shillong, India and Fr. Mathew Vellankal died in a car crash Oct. 10 during a visit to the Diocese of Oakland.
The visiting archbishop and two local priests’ Toyota Prius was hit by a tractor-trailer truck on a California highway in Wilbur Springs at 2:20pm on Oct. 10, according to California Highway Patrol.
Fr. Joseph Parekkatt, pastor of St. Anne Parish, survived the crash with injuries and is in stable condition at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital. Fr. Vellankal, pastor of St. Bonaventure in Concord, and Archbishop Jala, both died at the scene of the accident.
“Father Vellankal’s joyous spirit and faith will be deeply missed,” Bishop Michael C. Barber of Oakland said in the diocese announcement Oct. 12. “May his soul and the soul of Archbishop Jala rest in the peace of Christ.”
Jala, 68, served as the archbishop of Shillong, India for the past 19 years and was apostolic administrator of Nongstoin, India since 2016.
The Indian archbishop was visiting the U.S. to attend the meeting of the International Commission for English Liturgy, according to the Archdiocese of Shillong. He had previously visited Rome Sept. 17-28 for the ad limina visit at the Vatican.
Born in Meghalaya in northeastern India in 1951, Jala went on to be ordained a priest in the Salesians of Don Bosco in 1977. He authored the book, “Liturgy and Mission” in 1987, and served as head of the Liturgy Commission of the north East India Regional Bishops’ Council.
The Shillong Archdiocese elected Fr. John Madur, former chancellor of Shillong, to serve as the diocesan administrator.
Fr. Vellankal, 58, was a Salesian priest born from Kerala, India, who had served as a parish priest in the Diocese of Oakland since 2001. He wrote a book in 2005, “From Humor to Inspiration: Jokes, Reflections and Quotes to Enliven Your Day.”
Funeral arrangements for Archbishop Jala and Fr. Vellankal are pending. Catholics in Shillong are praying each day at 5:30pm at the Cathedral of Mary Help of Christians as they await the return of their late archbishop’s mortal remains.
St. Augustine, Fla., Oct 15, 2019 / 03:01 am (CNA).- Bishop Felipe Estévez of St. Augustine announced Friday that the Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche has been elevated as a National Shrine by the US bishops' conference.
The shrine is located at the Nombre de Dios mission in St. Augustine, founded in 1587. According to the Diocese of St. Augustine, it is America's oldest Marian shrine.
It is dedicated to the nursing Mother of God, and is a site of pilgrimage particularly for those hoping to become pregnant or to have a safe delivery.
Bishop Estévez made the announcement at an Oct. 11 Mass for the feast of Our Lady of La Leche.
“Mary recognizes the living God who closes the door to the mighty of this world and raises up the little ones, the poor in spirit, who are blessed by God,” he said. “She praises God in his great mercy towards those who obey him and open their hearts to him.”
“When we look at the image of Our Lady of La Leche, in pure beauty, we see the whole mystery of Incarnation,” he reflected. “If Mary has a message for us today, I find it in the only words that appear in the Gospel of St. John, attributed to her: 'Do what He tells you.'”
Some 200 people attended the Mass, including benefactors, members of the Confraternity of Our Lady of La Leche, and Knights and Dames of Malta.
The first Mass at the site of the Nombre de Dios mission was said in 1565, and the mission itself was founded 22 years later by Franciscans. A chapel dedicated to Our Lady of La Leche was established on the grounds of the mission in 1609.
The statue of Our Lady of La Leche will be crowned Oct. 11, 2020, as part of the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the erection of the Diocese of St. Augustine.
Sacramento, Calif., Oct 15, 2019 / 12:02 am (CNA).- California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law on Sunday a measure 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.
Andy Rivas, executive director of the California Catholic Conference of Bishops, responded in an Oct. 14 statement, saying, “Ultimately, our hope is that all victim-survivors of childhood sexual abuse in all institutional settings will be able to have their pain and suffering addressed and resolved and so our prayers are that AB 218 will be a step forward in that direction.”
“The Catholic Church has confronted this issue of child sexual abuse for more than two decades now,” Rivas said. “It is a legacy of shame for all of us in the Church, and we are aware that nothing can undo the violence done to victim-survivors or restore the innocence and trust that was taken from them.”
He noted the reforms made by the Church to protect children and that new reports of abuse in the Church in California are rare. He also pointed to efforts by dioceses in the state to devote hundreds of millions of dollars to therapy and pastoral care to abuse victims.
“The Church cooperated with then-Governor Gray Davis and the legislature during the opening of the statute of limitations in 2003. The Church paid more than $1.2 billion to settle claims filed by hundreds of victim-survivors,” he said.
Rivas noted that earlier this year, six of California’s 12 Catholic dioceses established an independently managed compensation program, which would provide compensatory payment to those alleging to be victims of priestly sexual abuse, regardless of what that abuse is alleged to have happened.
The programs covers Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Diego, Orange, and Fresno. These six dioceses represent 80% of California’s Catholics, according to an announcement about the compensation program.
Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), who authored the California bill, said in a statement, “The idea that someone who is assaulted as a child can actually run out of time to report that abuse is outrageous.”
“More and more, we’re hearing about people who were victims years ago but were not ready to come forward to tell their story until now,” she said. “We shouldn’t be telling victims their time is up when in reality we need them to come forward to protect the community from future abuse.”
However, critics argue that the law goes too far, opening the door to cases with little evidence and allowing damages to be tripled if cover-up of abuse was involved.
Rivas also noted with disappointment that the law does not cover sexual abuse victims of state employees.
According to the Associated Press, school districts in the state showed heavy opposition to the legislation, arguing that reliable evidence and witnesses are more difficult to collect 40 years after an alleged act of abuse.
Troy Flint, spokesman for the California School Boards Association, said the bill “has a very real chance of bankrupting or impoverishing many districts,” the AP reported.
“We don't want to minimize or trivialize the trauma that's associated with inappropriate sexual conduct in schools,” Flint said, but added that the financial impact on school districts in the state could “inhibit our ability to properly serve today's students and students in years to come.”
The Boy Scouts of America - which has faced millions of dollars in damages to child abuse victims, said it is considering “all available options,” including declaring bankruptcy, the AP reported.
In a statement the organization said it cares “deeply about all victims of child abuse and sincerely apologize(s) to anyone who was harmed during their time in Scouting.” It noted the procedures put in place to avoid individual youth and adult interactions and ensure respect for privacy.
According to the Associated Press, Michael Pfau, an attorney based in Seattle, says his firm has approximately 100 abuse victims who are ready to file suits against California schools, Catholic dioceses, foster homes, the Boy Scouts when the extended window opens.
California is among several states to consider expanding the statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse.
Earlier this year, New York widened the statute of limitations for both criminal and civil claims, and opened a one-year window for abuse survivors to files suits against their abuser or the institution where the abuse occurred.
More than 400 lawsuits were filed in the state on the first day of the expanded window, including claims against members of the Catholic clergy, the Boy Scouts, and the state’s public schools.
The governor of New Jersey signed a similar law in May. North Carolina, Maryland, and Pennsylvania have also considered similar legislation in the last year.
Cincinnati, Ohio, Oct 14, 2019 / 06:52 pm (CNA).- A federal appeals court on Friday upheld a block on an Ohio law banning abortions on the grounds of a diagnosis of Down syndrome. Former Governor John Kasich signed the law nearly two years ago, but it has not yet been able to come into effect.
The court’s decision comes amid Down Syndrome Awareness Month, which advocacy organizations observe in October.
The law outlawed abortions in cases where there was a positive test result or prenatal diagnosis indicating Down syndrome, the Associated Press reports. Physicians convicted of performing an abortion under such circumstances could be charged with a fourth-degree felony, stripped of their medical license and held liable for legal damages. The pregnant women would not be held liable.
The office of Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost has said the state will seek a review by the full 6th Circuit, as Friday’s decision was handed down 2-1 by a U.S. Court of Appeals panel.
Federal Judge Timothy Black first blocked the law from taking effect in March 2018. It was set to go into effect the 23rd of that month.
Supporters of the law have questioned Black’s impartiality. He had served as president of Cincinnati’s Planned Parenthood in 1988 and as its director from 1986-1989. He recused himself from a case involving Planned Parenthood in 2014.
Former Governor John Kasich first signed the law in December 2017, and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on behalf of Planned Parenthood the subsequent February against the Ohio Department of Health, county prosecutors, and members of the state medical board.
Current Ohio Governor Mike Dewine has not yet commented publicly on the law’s most recent blockage, but on Monday tweeted his support for Down Syndrome Awareness Month. As attorney general, DeWine had set the state’s appeal against the judge’s decision into motion.
South Bend, Ind., Oct 14, 2019 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- Education is “ground zero” in the fight for religious freedom, the U.S. Attorney General told an audience at the Notre Dame Law School on Friday.
While speaking on the threats posed to freedom of religion in the U.S. by aggressive secularism, Attorney General William Barr told law students that nowhere is the threat to religious freedom so great as in education.
Education, he said, should lead students to the truth and teach them to “love the truth” and to develop the “discipline to live by it.” However, he added, “the times are hostile to this.”
Barr addressed law students at Notre Dame on religious freedom Oct. 11, while a crowd of protesters had gathered outside the law school reportedly blowing whistles and holding signs that included asking the Trump administration to end the practice of separations of immigrant families at the border.
The protest of blowing whistles was in reference to a whistleblower complaint that President Donald Trump, on an official phone call with the Ukrainian president, had offered Barr’s services to help investigate the son of opposing presidential candidate Joe Biden and his business dealings in the Ukraine.
A Catholic, Barr was previously the U.S. attorney general from 1991 to 1993 under President George H.W. Bush. He was confirmed as the 85th attorney general of the U.S. on February 14, after former attorney general Jeff Sessions resigned in November of 2018 at the request of President Trump.
He recently drew criticism for his decision to resume federal executions of some prisoners on death row, after Pope Francis had declared the death penalty “inadmissible” in 2018 and the U.S. bishops had long pushed for its abolition.
In his Friday remarks, Barr warned of a rise in secularism that is intent upon the “organized destruction” of the Judeo-Christian ethic, which he said the U.S. was founded upon.
This secular effort, he said, marshals the resources of academia and the entertainment and communications industries to promote a vision of life and morality that is fundamentally at odds with Christianity; it uses social ostracization, lawsuits, and other threats to push compliance, and even functions as a religion of sorts, he said.
Education, Barr said, is “ground zero” in this fight where secularism seeks to impose itself on the populace even in violation of religious freedom.
Public school curricula are being pushed by states and local boards of education that are “incompatible with Judeo-Christian principles,” he said, with no opt-outs being offered to parents with religious objections. Barr referenced the states of Illinois, California, New Jersey and Colorado which require by law that public schools teach “LGBT history.”
The right of parents to transmit faith to their children is paramount, he said, and “for the government to interfere in that process is a monstrous invasion of religious liberty.”
For instance, the New Jersey law was passed without any opt-out for parents when the policy takes effect in middle and high schools in 2020-2021.
The Orange County Department of Education in California issued a memo in 2018 stating that parents who objected to comprehensive sexual education could not withdraw their children from instruction on gender, gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation.
These cases are part of an effort of the “state requiring local public schools to insert themselves into contentious social debates without regard to the religious views of their students or parents,” Barr said. “Those families are implicitly told that they should conform or leave.”
In other cases, religious schools are being singled out and marginalized simply because of their religious status when they are being considered for public benefits, he said.
Long-standing laws such as Blaine Amendment statutes—once passed in many states as anti-Catholic measures—are now being used to “starve religious schools of generally available funds” such as tax credits to help underprivileged students attend the school of their choice, Barr said, pointing to a Montana case, currently before the Supreme Court in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue.
In Indiana, a lawsuit brought by a former teacher at Cathedral Catholic High School is challenging the authority of the Archbishop of Indianapolis to determine the Catholic identity of a school in his archdiocese, Barr said, saying that the situation painted “ a disturbing picture.”
Barr encouraged Catholics to “do all we can to promote and support authentic Catholic education at all levels,” while promising that the Department of Justice would “fight” for religious freedom, “the most cherished of all American liberties.”
In 2018, a religious liberty task force was created at the Department of Justice to implement a 2017 religious liberty executive order. Barr said that the task force involves the Solicitor General, the Office of Legal Counsel and others to meet regularly and discuss cases where the Establishment Clause is misapplied or abused by states against people of faith, or where the free exercise of religion is being violated.
In his remarks on Friday, Barr blamed the “erosion” of traditional morality for the subsequent rise in secularism that now threatens religious freedom, and represents a break with the founding values which underpin the American constitutional order.
The Constitution, he said, was created for people who could govern themselves and practice “moral discipline,” but in the last several decades there has been a decline in the common understanding and adaptation of Judeo-Christian principles and adherence to the natural law.
“The campaign to destroy the traditional moral order,” he said, “I believe has brought with it immense suffering and misery,” Barr said, while noting that the rise of secularism had come with an attack on organized religion brought with “force, fervor, and comprehensiveness.”
Sacramento, Calif., Oct 14, 2019 / 11:48 am (CNA).- California governor Gavin Newsom signed into law Friday a measure requiring public universities to provide free access to medical abortions for students.
The law will take effect in 2023, and applies to the 34 campuses of the University of California and California State University.
Sen. Connie Levya (D-Chino), the law's author, said Oct. 11 that “abortion is a protected right, and it is important that everyone—including college students—have access to that right, if they so choose. I thank the Governor and my legislative colleagues for upholding the right to choose and affirming the right of college students to access medication abortion on campuses here in California.”
The law will also create a fund to provide a $200,000 grant to each public university student health center to pay for the cost of offering abortion pills, with money coming from nonstate sources such as private sector entities and local and federal government agencies.
The law will only take effect if $10.29 million in private funds are made available by Jan 1, 2020, which funding has already been secured according to an Aug. 12 analysis of the bill by the State Assembly's appropriations committee.
It also requires abortion counseling services to students, but it is “specifically written in such a way to exclude pro-life counseling,” the California Catholic Conference said in a statement on their website.
Former Governor Jerry Brown, a public supporter of abortion, vetoed a similar bill last September, saying it was was “not necessary,” as abortion services are already “widely available” off campus.
The California Catholic Conference was opposed to the law as it passed through the legislature, and last month the group urged Newsom to veto “this unprecedented and unnecessary legislation because it purposely narrows a young woman’s choices and puts the state’s prestigious academic institutions in a position of actually promoting, facilitating and potentially funding only abortions.”
Currently, a majority of campus health centers offer gynecological services and contraceptives, but they will refer students seeking an abortion to an off-campus abortion clinic.
The California Catholic Conference said the bill overemphasizes abortion as an option for college pregnancies. While the bill invites health centers to include abortion counseling services, the conference said it is “specifically written in such a way to exclude pro-life counseling.”
“This bill will promote only abortion-inducing drugs on college campuses,” said Andrew Rivas, executive director of the conference. “No government-funded institution, medical or counseling center, should ever provide only one set of services. If this bill is truly about providing choices for female students, the state should then also require and fund life-affirming services on campus.”
“Offering state-funded abortions as the only alternative to pregnancy undermines the ability of a state academic institution to promote the value of diversity and the empowerment of women,” he added.
Medical abortions involve the taking of two pills - the first, mifepristone, blocks progesterone, which is essential for maintaining the health of the fetus. The second pill, misoprostol, is taken 24 hours after mifepristone and works to induce contractions in order to expel the fetus.
Washington D.C., Oct 14, 2019 / 10:30 am (CNA).- It is important to consider what we are willing to die for, Archbishop Charles Chaput reminded students and faculty in a speech at the University of Notre Dame on Friday.
“It’s a good thing, a vital thing, to consider what we’re willing to die for,” Chaput said in a lecture given to the Constitutional Studies Program at the university on Oct. 11.
“To even ask that question is an act of rebellion against a loveless age. And to answer it with conviction is to become a revolutionary; the kind of loving revolutionary who will survive and resist—and someday redeem a late modern West that can no longer imagine anything worth dying for, and thus, in the long run, anything worth living for.”
Chaput said he was moved to consider the question as he prepares for retirement; he turned 75 last month, and in line with canon law submitted his resignation to Pope Francis.
“When you get to be my age, a topic like ‘things worth dying for’ has some special urgency,” Chaput said, noting that he expected this to be his last speech delivered as a sitting archbishop. He told his audience that to consider that life, death, and meaning are all bound together in love.
Parents, the archbishop said, were the first example of natural love. Offering the example of the parents who shielded their child with their own bodies during the El Paso shooting in August, Chaput said that all parenthood requires a sacrifice of love, and that motherhood itself is an act of mortal risk.
But, he warned, “as religious belief recedes, and communities of faith decline, the individualism at the heart of the American experiment becomes more selfish, more belligerent, and more corrosive. It breaks down family bonds. It tempts parents to treat their children as accomplishments, or as ornaments, or—even worse—as burdens.”
“It also weakens the ties between grown children and their parents, who as they age can often become dependent. It’s a useful experiment for some of you who are here today as students to consider what you’d really be willing to give up for the sake of caring long-term for a mother or father.”
Citing the works of Tolkien, Chaput also pointed out that we are becoming effective strangers to the true understanding of friendship.
“Friendship is generally a milder form of love than family, and the notion of dying for a friend might seem remote. But someone rather famous once said that ‘Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.’”
History, Chaput said, is built on and by the examples of soldiers who died for their friends, or put themselves in harm’s way to shield others.
“All true friendship requires a readiness to die” the archbishop said, “if not literally, then in the sense of dying to ourselves; dying to our impatience and our reluctance to make sacrifices for others.”
“Pope Francis often talks about accompaniment as a key to Christian discipleship. The willingness to be with our friends when they’re not easily lovable, to accompany them in their neediness or to share in their suffering—this is the test of true friendship.”
The archbishop went on to discuss the love of honor, something often now held to be an anachronism, but which is really the love of personal integrity in the service of higher truths. Drawing a line from classical examples of honor in the Iliad, through to the life and work of St. Paul, to the fight to maintain personal dignity under the Soviet regime in the works of Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Chaput said love of honor provides the essential inspiration for personal, sometimes total sacrifice for the true and the good.
“As St. Paul warns us, the principalities and powers of this world always seek to control our lives. Evil is real, even when it’s masked in pleasant forms and excellent marketing. Therefore, it’s always important to honor our deepest convictions. And doing so can be costly.”
“We’re living in a moment of vigilant, even vindictive, political correctness on matters ranging from sex to the meaning of our national history,” said Chaput. “And our politics often seems gripped with amnesia about the price in human suffering extracted by the bitter social experiments of the last century—always in the name of progress and equality.”
Love and honor and sacrifice in the face of attack, Chaput said, needs to be tempered with prudence, and are not a rationale for self-destruction. Drawing on the examples of the early saints, Chaput said that the martyrs, like Polycarp, did not seek confrontation or death, and avoided both when they could, but without compromise.
“Silence and avoiding situations that force us to state our convictions can sometimes be the prudent course of action,” Chaput said. “The key word in that sentence is ‘sometimes.’ Cowardice is very good at hiding behind a number of virtues. Too often we censor or contort ourselves to fit into what we perceive as approved behavior or thought. We muffle our Christian beliefs to avoid being the targets of contempt. Over time, a legitimate exercise of prudence can very easily become a degrading habit; a habit that soils the soul.”
“Jesus urges us to love our neighbor as ourselves. The self-love proper for a Christian includes the love of personal honor, the kind that comes from living with integrity in a world that would have us betray our convictions.”
Chaput closed by warning that believers can expect “a rough road in the years ahead” in the coming years.
“There can be no concordat between the Christian understanding of human dignity and sexuality, and the contempt directed at our beliefs by important elements of our culture,” he said.
“This is very likely my last talk as a serving archbishop. But the Church, her mission, and the Christian story go on. And the greatest blessing I can wish, for each of you, is that you take up your part in the tale with all the energy and passion in your heart. Because it’s a life worth living.”
Vatican City, Oct 13, 2019 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- The canonization of St. John Henry Newman Sunday drew “Newman converts” to Rome from throughout the English-speaking world, all of whom followed Newman’s writings across the Tiber River and into the Catholic Church.
Elayne Allen, 24, is one such “Newman convert.” She came into the Catholic Church in December 2017. Allen decided to become a Catholic after a friend loaned her a copy of Newman’s “An Essay on the Development of Doctrine.”
Allen traveled to Europe for the first time so that she could be present at Newman’s canonization Oct. 13.
“It was ... deeply personal and gratifying to see someone who’s impacted my thinking and prayer life so much become a saint. The grace God has given me through this saint made me think of the beautifully intricate and various ways God chooses to reveal himself to us,” Allen told CNA after the canonization Mass.
Newman was canonized by Pope Francis along with Mariam Thresia, Marguerite Bays, Giuseppina Vannini, and Dulce Lopes, during a Mass in St. Peter’s Square, with an estimated 50,000 people in attendance.
“The Church’s universal mission kept returning to my mind. I thought it a splendid image of the Church’s catholicity that Mother Vannini, who grew up as an Italian orphan, and John Henry Newman, widely considered among the Church’s greatest theologians since Thomas Aquinas, honored side by side,” she said.
Allen, who had been had been raised attending non-denominational evangelical churches, was introduced to the writings of Newman as a student at Baylor University during a class on 18th and 19th century literature.
“I had never even heard of Newman … the existence of a formidable Catholic intellectual tradition was completely alien to me,” she said.
“I quickly found Newman to be a demanding but electrifying writer. He is known for sentences that occupy an entire page, piling one qualifying or descriptive clause after another. His lucid, crisp but recondite prose utterly absorbed me.”
Allen credits Baylor’s Great Texts program for providing her with an introduction to Catholicism and Church history. By the time she reached graduation, she was reading early Church history on her own with an eye on both Orthodoxy and Catholicism.
“My reading pointed to Rome or Constantinople. It seemed evident that the Church is an institutional body protected the Holy Spirit to safeguard doctrine, but I wasn't certain which communion was most consistent with Scripture and early ecumenical councils,” she said.
That is when a friend gave her a copy of “An Essay on the Development of Doctrine.”
Allen said she was “elated by the...simplicity and vigor” in “Newman’s groundbreaking explanation of the way ideas crystallize over time through contact with various circumstances, contexts, and even errors.”
“He says the ‘deposit of faith,’ the earliest revelations of Christianity, imply a variety of interconnected doctrines that require time and contact with living reality to be realized. Newman crucially argues that, while the power of human reason can detect and discern these developments, Christ promises the Holy Spirit as the ultimate protector against error,” she explained.
“I soon became convinced that the Catholic Church, even with all its excesses and eccentricities, is the only communion where doctrine actually develops and knew that I wanted to become Catholic,” Allen said.
She was received into the Catholic Church on Dec. 6, 2017. She continues to ask regularly for Newman’s intercessions and has “not been able to stop reading his work.”
“I read ‘The Grammar of Assent’ earlier this year, a challenging but rewarding book. His ‘Apologia Pro Vita Sua’ revealed to me his spiritual sensitivity and the turmoil he faced before and after his conversion,” she said.
As a recent convert, Allen says she has also enjoyed discovering the beauty of the Church in Rome for the first time this weekend.
“It’s positively overwhelming and enchanting to be here. It’s made me realize the ways in which God chooses to use human artifice and genius to demonstrate His glory. Breathtaking artwork and written works crafted by men and women to glorify Him are ever-displayed throughout Rome,” she said. “It has been a treasure to behold!”
Chicago, Ill., Oct 12, 2019 / 04:01 am (CNA).- Melissa Villalobos spoke to CNA Newsroom for the Cardinal Newman episode, which can be found here. This article is an adaptation of that conversation.
When Melissa Villalobos first heard about Cardinal John Henry Newman, she had no idea the pivotal role he would play in her life, nor the pivotal role she would play in his cause for sainthood. The Catholic wife and mother from Chicago stumbled into a show about Newman on EWTN “just by accident” in 2000, while she was getting ready for work and ironing her clothes. She was struck by what the show had to say about him.
“These priests and scholars were talking about him and his life and what a holy man he was, and what a tremendous influence he had on the church and on other people in his life,” Villalobos told CNA.
“I was really taken by it and I thought, ‘This man is so amazing,’” she said. But it wasn’t until a year later, when her husband brought home two holy cards of Cardinal Newman, that Villalobos’ devotion to him really began.
She displayed one of the cards in the living room, the other in her bedroom, and “I would pass by his image every day, and I would look into his eyes and I would pray to him and I would just talk to him as a mother,” she said. “And I felt like his expression was matching my emotions at the time. If I felt sad for some reason he looked sympathetic, if I felt joy, he looked pleased, and I just felt like we were really living life together,” Villalobos recalled. She invoked Cardinal Newman often, and considered him one of her closes spiritual friends. Eventually she started looking up his writings online, and described the experience like “finding gold in the backyard.”
“He was every bit as holy and loving as I had suspected he was by looking at his face. He had such a tremendous affection for ordinary people, which I discovered by reading his letters, and I felt like I could be one of those ordinary people in his life.”
Born in 1801 in London, John Henry Newman was originally an Anglican priest before his conversion to Catholicism in 1845 at the age of 44. He would soon become a renowned Catholic priest, theologian, poet, homilist, and, in 1879, a cardinal. His works are considered among the most important contributions to the thought of the Church in recent centuries.
His conversion to Catholicism was controversial in the birthplace of Anglicanism, and he lost many friends as a result, including his own sister, who refused to speak to him again. Newman was also a devoted educator and founded the Oratory of St. Philip Neri in England in two locations. He died in Birmingham in 1890 at the age of 89. The Vatican announced his Oct. 13 canonization date in July. The more Villalobos learned about Newman, the closer she felt to him, and she would eventually come to rely on his intercession in a major way. In 2013, more than a decade after first hearing about Newman on EWTN, Villalobos was pregnant with her fifth child and was experiencing serious complications. In her first trimester, Villalobos started bleeding continuously, and she learned she had a condition called subchorionic hematoma, a blood clot between the placenta and the uterine wall that causes the placenta to be “partially ripped and detached from the uterine wall.” “It was a life-threatening problem because I could hemorrhage to death,” Villalobos recalled.
The prognosis was grim. There was no cure to be found in medicine or surgery. Villalobos was ordered to be on strict bed rest to give her baby the best possible chance. She did the best she could, but Villalobos was still caring for her other four young children in the meantime. On the morning of May 15, less than a week after being diagnosed with the condition, Villalobos woke up in a pool of her own blood.
With her husband away on a work trip, Villalobos debated when she should call 9-1-1. She decided to give her kids some breakfast first, and then she locked herself in the bathroom to figure out what to do. But by then, Villalobos had lost so much blood that she collapsed on the floor.
“Unfortunately though, somehow I did not have my cellphone with me,” she recalled. “I couldn’t believe it.”
She considered shouting for one of her kids to bring her phone, but worried that the shouting would cause more bleeding or a miscarriage. Desperate, she called out to her old friend, Cardinal Newman. “I said, ‘Please Cardinal Newman, make the bleeding stop.’ And just then, immediately it stopped. And I stood up and I smelled roses that filled the bathroom air.”
The smell of roses is often considered the “scent of holiness”, with many stories of saints leaving a rosy scent in places where they have intervened in prayer. “And I said, ‘Oh Cardinal Newman, did you just make the bleeding stop? Thank you!’ And then there was this second burst of roses. And I knew I was cured, and I knew Gemma my daughter was ok,” Villalobos said. Villalobos had an ultrasound scheduled for that afternoon, and the doctor found what Villalobos attributes to Cardinal Newman’s intercession: the bleeding had completely stopped.
“The doctor saw that there was no more bleeding and he was amazed, and he said, ‘the baby looks perfect.’”
It was vastly different than Villalobos’ previous experience in the pregnancy.
“The doctors (had) said you will probably miscarry if you’re lucky, the placenta could barely hold up to the third trimester, and she’ll be born but she’ll be really small and she’ll have medical problems,” Villalobos recalled. “Thanks be to Cardinal Newman and to God that I was cured and Gemma was born completely healthy.”
Villalobos said she waited until after Gemma was born to report the miracle to Fr. Ignatius Harrison, the postulator for Newman’s cause for canonization. After receiving her letter, Fr. Harrison came to Chicago to meet with Villalobos, her husband, Gemma, and the doctors. He examined medical records and conducted interviews, and told Villalobos to keep the potential miracle a secret until it could be investigated by the Vatican. She got brief updates about twice a year, she said, but for the most part, she did not really know how the cause was advancing, she just prayed with her family that Newman would soon be canonized.
“There was really no one to ask to say, ‘Well how does this usually work?’ You know sometimes if you’re going through something in your life you say ‘Oh, well how did it work for you?’ But there was no one to ask to say ‘Well, when you were miraculously cured, how long did it take to hear from the postulator?’” she said.
Then in February 2019, Villalobos received the news that Pope Francis signed the degree recognizing the miracle.
“I’m surprised at how many people tell me that they’re happy to know that God still performs miracles,” Villalobos said, “I’m glad they know that. I feel like I’ve known that, and I want other people to know that God has never abandoned us. I know it’s hard to believe in miracles because we don’t always get what we want, but we know that God the Father in his love always gives us what’s best for us.” Villalobos, Gemma, and the rest of the family traveled to Rome to be there for Newman’s canonization, which will take place this Sunday.
“I just love him dearly and I hope that anybody who needs help, whether you’re a mother, or a student...or a convert, he can really touch the lives of so many people. I just hope they’ll reach out to him and see a friend in him. He’s so loving and amazing.”
Kate Veik contributed to this report.
San Diego, Calif., Oct 11, 2019 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- The owners and two employees of two related pornography websites were charged in federal court with sex trafficking on Thursday, Oct. 10.
Michael James Pratt, 36, Matthew Isaac Wolfe, 37, and Ruben Andre Garcia, 31, are all charged with “Sex Trafficing by Force, Fraud and Coercion,” which carries a minimum of 15 years in prison and maximum penalty of life in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Pratt, Wolfe, Garcia, and a woman named Valorie Moser, 37, are additionally charged with “Conspiracy to Commit Sex Trafficking by Force, Fraud and Coercion,” which also has a maximum penalty of life in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Pratt and Wolfe are the owners of two pornographic websites, GirlsDoPorn and GirlsDoToys. Garcia is described in the release as an “adult film performer and producer,” and Moser is an administrative assistant.
According to the release from the Department of Justice U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California, Garcia was arrested on Wednesday, Wolfe was placed into custody by immigration officials and transferred into federal custody on Tuesday, and Moser will be arranged on Friday. Pratt is described as a “fugitive” who is at large. On Wednesday, the FBI raided the websites’ office in San Diego.
The four are accused of placing ads for “modeling jobs” that would pay $5,000. In fact, the jobs were for pornographic films. The complaint alleges that Pratt, Wolfe, Garcia, and Moser told the women they could remain anonymous and that their videos would not be shared online. The charges allege that this was not true, and that the videos were made exclusively for the internet.
Financial records show that the two websites earned more than $17 million for Pratt and Wolfe.
The complaint alleges that instead of a modeling job, women were “pressured” into signing documents they were not given the chance to read thoroughly, and were threatened with legal action or “outing” if they did not “perform” in a video. Others alleged victims say they were not allowed to leave the location of the shoot until a video was complete, and that their families and friends saw their videos online, which resulted in harassment and estrangement from their families.
The complaint also says that at least one performer was raped during a shoot, and others were sexually assaulted. The complaint states that performers would be forced to perform things they did not want to, or else they would not receive payment for their work or be allowed to leave.
The FBI in San Diego is requesting that any additional victims come forward and share their experiences.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes pornography as a “grave offense.”
It “offends against chastity because it perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each other” and does “grave injury to the dignity of its participants,” the Church teaches.
“Civil authorities should prevent the production and distribution of pornographic materials,” the Catechism says.
Washington D.C., Oct 11, 2019 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- When the Senate returns for business on Oct. 15, it will have little more than a month to pass legislation funding the government—and pro-lifers are concerned that attempts to circumvent protections against taxpayer funding of abortion could be successful.
Shortly before the Senate left for the October recess, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) successfully included an amendment in a funding bill for the State Department, Foreign Operations, and related agencies, that increased U.S. international family planning assistance and reinstated funding of the UN’s Population Fund (UNFPA).
Some pro-lifers are concerned that this is problematic because the appropriations could end up increasing funding of groups that promote abortions abroad.
The bill including Shaheen’s amendment was approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee and, like other bills funding various parts of the government, will have to be approved by the full Senate. After that, any differences between it and the House funding bill would have to be resolved in negotiations between members from both chambers; the final product would then have to pass both chambers to reach the President’s desk.
However, for pro-life advocates, the approval of Shaheen’s amendment by the full Senate Appropriations Committee set a troubling precedent because it established a “ground floor” in fights over abortion funding in the budget negotiations.
Shaheen had previously tried to offer an amendment directly repealing the Mexico City Policy but, she claimed, she was denied the opportunity to do so by Senate Republicans.
The Mexico City Policy bars U.S. family planning funds from going to foreign non-governmental organizations that promote or perform abortions as a method of family planning. The Trump administration expanded upon this policy, applying the funding prohibition to an estimated $8.8 billion in U.S. global health assistance.
Shaheen’s amendment that was successfully approved by the committee would increase international family planning and reproductive health funding to $665 million. If the Mexico City Policy were to be repealed in the future—as it has been by the last two Democratic presidents—this increased funding would go to organizations that promote abortions abroad.
Certain domestic organizations promoting abortions already receive foreign aid, and could stand to receive even more funding if Shaheen’s amendment is enacted into law in spite of the Mexico City Policy.
The group Pathfinder International, for instance, receives U.S. assistance and says on its website that it works “to ensure access to comprehensive abortion care for all women.” The group Population Council says it teaches safe abortions, and claims that “[w]here abortion is not legal, we document the public health and cost burden of unsafe abortion.”
Other abortion-supporting groups that could receive more U.S. assistance include Engender Health and PATH.
Shaheen’s amendment also reinstated funding of the UNFPA. The Trump administration has redirected funding away from the UNFPA for three straight years because of the fund’s partnership with the Chinese government, which has instituted a coercive two-child policy and has enforced it through forced abortions and sterilizations.
Currently, the $32 million in funding of the UNFPA under Shaheen’s amendment could not be used in China, cannot be “comingled” with other UNFPA funds, and would be blocked if UNFPA funds abortions.
In addition, it would be subject to the Kemp-Kasten amendment prohibiting funding of organizations that perform or participate in forced abortions and sterilizations; the administration has invoked this amendment as an authority when announcing that UNFPA funding is being redirected.
Nevertheless, the reinstatement of UNFPA funding would seek to undercut the administration’s policy and could at least be a statement of support for the organization despite its partnership with the Chinese government on family planning.
Shaheen’s amendment comes after several attempts in the Senate to insert “poison pill” amendments into appropriations bills to undo pro-life policies, despite an early bi-partisan agreement not to do so during the appropriations process.
The chamber had to pass a dozen appropriations bills by Sept. 30 to fund various government agencies for the 2020 fiscal year, but disagreements on border wall funding and pro-abortion amendments derailed the process.
Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) tried to repeal the Title X Protect Life Rule in a proposed amendment for a bill funding the Departments of Labor, HHS, Education, and related agencies. The Protect Life Rule forbade Title X family planning grants from going to entities that were co-located with abortion clinics, or that referred for abortions.
Instead of passing the appropriations bills, Congress instead passed a continuing resolution that would temporarily fund the government through November 21, setting up the new deadline for perhaps another showdown over abortion funding.
Also included in Shaheen’s amendment was a mechanism to enforce an Obama-era nondiscrimination rule, that USAID contractors cannot discriminate against beneficiaries on the basis of “gender identity, sexual orientation, and pregnancy.”
The 2016 USAID rule was interpreted as a prohibition on discrimination against individuals identifying as LGBTI, but the inclusion of “pregnancy” has led some pro-lifers to believe it could also be interpreted to prohibit “discrimination” against women seeking abortions.
For instance, Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act prohibited discrimination on basis of sex, which HHS interpreted to include discrimination by health care providers against the “termination of pregnancy.”
Shaheen’s amendment would also mean that USAID has to create a mechanism to investigate claims of discrimination. As a press release by Shaheen’s office explained, “The investigation would ensure biases by the administration regarding reproductive health do not interfere or alter the delivery of services on the ground.”
Republicans in the committee inserted a mandate that such investigations be conducted by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and not from within the State Department.
Washington D.C., Oct 11, 2019 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- A Democratic candidate for president has said religious institutions should be stripped of their tax-exempt status if they oppose same-sex marriage.
On Thursday night, during and Equality Townhall hosted and broadcast on CNN, Robert Francis O’Rourke, a former congressman, was asked by CNN anchor Don Lemon if he thought that "religious institutions like colleges, churches, charities, should they lose their tax exempt status if they oppose same sex marriage?"
O’Rourke answered “yes,” and after applause and cheers from the crowd, added, “there can be no reward, no benefit, no tax break, for anyone or any institution, any organization in America that denies the full human rights and the full civil rights of every single one of us. And so, as president, we’re going to make that a priority, and we are going to stop those who are infringing upon the human rights of our fellow Americans.”
Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), another presidential candidate, was asked earlier in the night if he would strip the tax-exempt status of churches who were opposed to same-sex marriage. Booker said that such a move would entail a “long legal battle,” but signaled his sympathy with the idea.
“I’m saying I believe fundamentally that discrimination is discrimination,” he said. “And if you are using your position to try to discriminate others, there must be consequences to that. And I will make sure to hold them accountable using the DOJ or whatever investigatory [body].”
Both O’Rourke and Booker are averaging less than 2% in polls of democratic voters.
Of the five largest Christian denominations in the United States--the Catholic Church, the Southern Baptist Convention, the United Methodist Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and the Church of God in Christ--none condone or perform same-sex marriages and all consider same-sex activity to be sinful.
Same-sex activity is banned in most mainstream forms of Islam, and most Orthodox Jewish rabbis will not conduct same-sex marriages.
Tax-exempt status for religious institutions is protected by Supreme Court precedent.
In the 1970 case Walz v. Tax Commission of the City of New York, the court found that exempting religious institutions from taxes did not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
On the contrary, the Court decided that taxing churches could increase government entanglement with religion, as a church may be unable to pay its tax bill and be shut down. In order to avoid this from happening, the court instead the court found in favor of continuing to exempt religious institutions from taxation.
Tax exemptions for organizations opposed to same-sex marriage have been an open question since the oral arguments of Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 case that resultred in same-sex marriage being legalized throughout the country.
During arguments, Justice Samuel Alito asked Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr., who was arguing on behalf of same-sex couples, if colleges or churches would face the same fate as Bob Jones University. In the 1983 case Bob Jones University v. United States, the Supreme Court found that the IRS was right to deny a tax exemption to the school on the grounds that it engaged in racial discrimination by banning inter-racial dating (Bob Jones University dropped its anti-interracial dating policy in 2000, and regained federal tax-exempt status in 2017).
At the time of oral arguments in Hodges, Verrilli admitted that he did not have an answer to Alito’s question “without knowing more specifics,” and said that “it’s certainly going to be an issue.”
Luke Goodrich, vice president and senior counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, told CNA that he did not believe O’Rourke’s suggestion was constitutionally sound.
"Stripping the tax-exempt status of religious groups simply because they hold beliefs that the government dislikes is blatantly unconstitutional,” said Goodrich.
“It's also foolish because those groups provide billions of dollars in essential social services to their communities. Churches and ministries should be allowed to hold centuries-old beliefs without fear of government retribution."
Transgender issues were also discussed on Thursday night, and transgender activists interrupted the townhall several times throughout the event. A nine-year-old girl who identifies as a transgender boy questioned frontrunner Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) about what she would do to protect transgender children in schools. Warren said she would dismiss the current Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who she characterized as one of the worst people to hold the position.
"I want to make sure that the person I think is the right secretary of education meets you and and hears your story, and then I want you to tell me if you think that's the right person and then we'll make the deal," Warren said to the child.
Washington D.C., Oct 11, 2019 / 10:00 am (CNA).- In a rapidly-gentrifying Washington, D.C., neighborhood, a historic parish is putting the New Evangelization into practice by reaching out to a specific crowd—baseball fans.
The parish of St. Vincent de Paul features a “Nats Mass,” a noon Sunday Mass for fans of the local baseball team, the Washington Nationals, who are traveling to the nearby stadium for a Sunday afternoon game.
“Let’s go to where they are,” said Fr. Andrew Gonzalo, pastor of St. Vincent in Southeast Washington, D.C., when explaining the concept of a “Nats Mass” and evangelization.
St. Vincent de Paul parish, canonically established in 1903, sits on a busy street corner with a view of the U.S. Capitol Building to the north, just one block away from the baseball stadium. For Nationals fans traveling to a baseball game along South Capitol Street, they will likely walk or drive past the over-100 year-old parish.
St. Vincent’s is situated in between D.C.’s Navy Yard and Southwest Waterfront neighborhoods, a rapidly gentrifying area that now features new high-rise apartment buildings and townhouses, restaurants and bars, a waterfront park, and a new soccer stadium. The demographics of the parish have changed, and with it, the plan for evangelization.
“It’s a unique pastoral challenge, in the parish,” Fr. Gonzalo told CNA. The demographics of the neighborhood were once mostly African-American, but the area is now more racially and economically diversified, he said.
Nearby Nationals Park, finished in time for the 2008 baseball season, hosted a papal Mass of Pope Benedict XVI on April 17, 2008, during his apostolic visit to the U.S. and the UN headquarters.
With the parish adjacent to the stadium, then-pastor Fr. Andrew Royals added a noon Mass to the St. Vincent Sunday schedule in 2014, whenever the Nationals had a scheduled Sunday afternoon game. Attendance at the “Nats Mass” shot up from five people to more than 120 by the following season, he told EWTN News Nightly in 2015.
“For me it was kind of a no-brainer,” Fr. Royals told EWTN News Nightly in 2015. “We’ve been serving the community for over 100 years, and now our community includes a baseball stadium.”
Five years in, the “Nats Mass” is advertised with a large white banner hanging from the side of the church announcing the Mass time. The Mass draws fans from all over the D.C. metropolitan area—and has helped transform some Catholics into regular Sunday mass-goers.
Fr. Gonzalo said some have told him that they had not been to Mass for some time, but saw the banner and decided to attend.
“They came, and they are now regulars,” he said, and some have frequented the noon Mass even when no game is scheduled; the noon Mass time is now a part of the year-round Sunday schedule.
The local O’Boyle Knights of Columbus council cooks hot dogs in the parking lot for attendees to socialize between Mass and the first pitch.
It’s an “opportunity also for evangelization,” Fr. Gonzalo said. “I embraced it right away,” he said of the Mass, because “baseball is a kind of national pastime for us here.”
“Baseball gathers people together,” he said, “and the Church should also do something like that.”
Fr. Gonzalo spoke to CNA on Wednesday, ahead of a pivotal win-or-go-home playoff game for the Nationals in Los Angeles
“I am praying that they will win,” he said.
Perhaps in part because of the prayers, the Nationals rallied from being three runs down for a stunning 7-3 victory on the road to advance to the National League Championship Series.
Although no home playoff game is scheduled for this Sunday at Nationals Park, a noon Mass will be celebrated at St. Vincent’s with confessions scheduled for half an hour beforehand.
Denver, Colo., Oct 10, 2019 / 10:00 pm (CNA).- The Catholic Benefits Association said last week that sexual abuse norms introduced by Pope Francis in May will likely require U.S. dioceses to amend their own internal policies regarding the definition and reporting of sexual abuse and misconduct.
In an Oct. 3 webinar, L. Martin Nussbaum, general counsel for the Catholic Benefits Association, told diocesan leaders and administrators that Vos estis lux mundi, the motu proprio on sexual abuse and misconduct issued by Pope Francis May 7, takes important steps to provide a safer environment in the Church, which require implementation by dioceses.
Vos estis, Nussbaum said, expands diocesan duties regarding vulnerable persons and abuse of authority, protects Church whistleblowers, increases the role of laity in receiving reports and in conducting investigations, improves transparency regarding discipline of bishops, heightens the ecclesial role of metropolitans, and expands offers of assistance to the families of abuse victims.
“Families are injured, often, when a family member is abused...especially if it’s a minor,” Nussbaum told Church leaders.
“The outreach should also be to families,” he said, noting that Vos estis explicitly recognized that reality, and called dioceses to respond to it.
Nussbaum also explained that diocesan sexual abuse policies should take into account the Church’s expanded delineation of canonically criminal sexual behavior, which Vos estis broadened to include any kind of coercive sexual harrasment or abuse of office, and a broadened understanding of the canonical concept of “vulnerable persons.”
Diocesan policies should focus on the sexual abuse, harassment, coercion, etc, of both adults and minors, Nussbaum said, in recognition of the Church’s expanded delineation of canonical crimies involving sexual abuse or harassment of adults. Revisions to diocesan policies must also include Vos estis’ call to report allegations of misconduct by bishops to the metropolitan archbishop of the diocese.
The Catholic Benefits Association, which advocates for the religious liberty of dioceses and other Catholic institutions, makes resources related to Vos estis available to its member dioceses.
Washington D.C., Oct 10, 2019 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- The death penalty is outdated and promotes a culture of violence, three bishops said during a livestream conversation on Oct. 10, marked as World Day Against the Death Penalty.
Archbishops Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City and Wilton Gregory of Washington were joined by Bishop Frank DeWane of Venice (FL) for the roundtable discussion facilitated by Catholic News Service. DeWane is the current chairman of the USCCB’s domestic justice committee, and will be succeeded by Coakley in a few weeks’ time.
“There’s no question that we are living in an age where violence has captured the hearts and minds of a lot of people,” said Gregory, offering that social media in particular has put “despicable” human carnage on display.
On Wednesday, the day before the livestream, an anti-Semitic attack on a synagogue in Germany resulted in the murder of two people. The attack was broadcast over the streaming site Twitch.
“What the Church wants us to understand is that taking a life, even the life of one who may have been guilty of a horrendous crime, is itself a continuation of violence,” said the Washington archbishop.
“It makes us violent to do violence against another human being” regardless of the circumstances, Gregory said.
October is also Respect Life Month, during which the Church makes special efforts to promote its teachings on the sanctity of life, something Coakley said is “foundational” to the Church’s teachings on human dignity and which, he emphasized, is not granted by a government, but endowed by the creator.
The Church’s positions are “very consistent in affirming human life and human dignity at every stage,” he said.
DeWane concurred with Coakley, saying that throughout the entirety of a person’s life, “we have to see that life is sacred.”
Catholics, said DeWane, have a moral obligation to “say something” when life is not being respected, especially in instances that involve people who cannot speak for themselves.
Coakley pointed out that there is another side of the death penalty debate that is often forgotten: the victims of violent crime and their surviving friends and relatives. While it is important to champion the rights of accused, and even convicted criminals, Coakley stressed, it is important of acknowledge that some survivors--as well as those in the community--want to see the death penalty carried out in as a form of justice. Their desire for justice, Coakley said, cannot be ignored, even while accepting that the death penalty is not the answer.
“I think in our conversations about the death penalty, even though we’re speaking out in favor of abolition of the death penalty, we have to affirm and acknowledge--not just give lip service--to the suffering of victims as well,” said Coakley, noting that his archdiocese is home to the deadliest act of domestic terrorism in this country’s history.
As a result of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, Coakley said that many within his archdiocese remain supportive of capital punishment.
Speaking to CNA after the discussion, Coakley developed his point.
“Revenge is not the same as justice,” said Coakley. “And as even William Shakespeare said, ‘mercy seasons justice,’ I think just as many people who maybe see the perpetrator of a violent crime executed, would acknowledge that it did not bring them the release and the relief and the peace that they expected that it might.”
During the roundtable, DeWane also questioned the common assertion that executions bring any sense of relief to the families of victims. Instead, he said, the act of taking a life in an execution hurts society as a whole, while observing that there is little evidence that the death penalty serves as a deterrent against crimes.
Gregory also highlighted the many cases in which a person is released from death row having been exonerated by either new evidence or modern DNA testing.
“With the death penalty, there are no re-tries. It concludes and ends a life that may have been wrongly [convicted],” Gregory said. The Washington archbishop went on to point out the significant racial disparity in the application of the death penalty in the United States.
At the same time, Gregory said that favoring the abolition of the death penalty does not mean any lessening of the requirement to keep society safe. The choice, he said was not between killing or releasing the most violent offenders. Instead, “our society has the capacity to take violent personalities and put them away so they don’t harm others,” he said.
“The Gospel calls us to mercy. Mercy is never cruel,” said Gregory.
“I think our Church has to be a voice that is faithful to the call of the Gospel, which calls us to love our enemy and pray for those who persecute us,” Coakley told CNA after the livestream.
“I think that’s incumbent upon us -- because we have to affirm the dignity of human life, that every person has been created in the image and likeness of God--even for the person who was guilty of heinous crimes. They don't forfeit their human dignity as a result of their criminal activity.”
The World Day Against the Death Penalty was first observed in 2003. This year, the theme is “Children, Unseen Victims,” which is focused on increasing awareness of the children whose parents were executed or have been sentenced to death.
Buffalo, N.Y., Oct 10, 2019 / 01:20 pm (CNA).- Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn has begun his apostolic visitation of the scandal-hit Diocese of Buffalo.
A statement released by the Diocese of Brooklyn Thursday said that DiMarzio had traveled to the diocese of Bishop Richard Malone and interviewed more than 30 people earlier this week.
“The Bishop takes his role as Visitator seriously and is determined to continue the fact-finding mission he has been directed to carry out by the Holy See,” said the Diocese of Brooklyn in the Oct. 10 statement.
“Both lay faithful and clergy, members of the Diocesan staff, and others have been invited to be a part of this process so that Bishop DiMarzio can gather information from several perspectives as part of this fact-finding mission of the Buffalo Diocese.”
DiMarzio was appointed to inspect the Buffalo diocese by Cardinal Marc Ouellet, head of the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops, last week. In an announcement released Oct. 3, the apostolic nunciature to the United States released a statement underscoring that the process was “non-judicial and non-administrative,” meaning that no formal charges are currently being considered against the scandal-plagued Bishop Richard Malone of Buffalo.
The statement also made clear that the apostolic visitation was not being conducted or authorized under the provisions of Vos estis lux mundi, the policy document on sexual abuse and diocesan administration issued May 7 by Pope Francis, which came into effect June 1. That document provided new norms and mechanisms relating to misconduct by bishops who failed to act or attempted to cover up instances of sexual abuse.
Although the investigation is not being conducted under the terms of Vos estis, Bishop Malone has repeatedly found himself at the center of media attention.
In November 2018, a former employee leaked confidential diocesan documents related to the handling of claims of clerical sexual abuse.
In August, a RICO lawsuit was filed against the diocese and the bishop, alleging that the response of the diocese was comparable to an organized crime syndicate.
Recordings of private conversations released in early September appeared to show that Malone believed sexual harassment accusations made against a diocesan priest months before the bishop removed the priest from ministry.
The contents of recordings of conversations between Malone and Fr. Ryszard Biernat, his secretary and diocesan vice chancellor, were reported in early September by WKBW in Buffalo.
In the conversations, Malone seems to acknowledge the legitimacy of accusations of harassment and a violation of the seal of confession made against a diocesan priest, Fr. Jeffrey Nowak, by a seminarian, months before the diocese removed Nowak from active ministry.
In an Aug. 2 conversation, Malone can reportedly be heard saying, “We are in a true crisis situation. True crisis. And everyone in the office is convinced this could be the end for me as bishop.”
The bishop is also heard to say that if the media reported on the Nowak situation, “it could force me to resign.”
Thursday’s statement from the Diocese of Brooklyn said that Bishop DiMarzio has “pledged to do his best to learn the facts and gain a thorough understanding of the situation in Buffalo,” and that when he has concluded his work he will submit a report to the Congregation for Bishops.
At the time his appointment was announced, DiMarzio underscored his determination to get to the “truth so that justice might be served and god’s mercy experienced” in Buffalo, and invoked Pope Francis’ devotion to “Our Lady Untier of Knots.”
Malone, 73, has led the Buffalo diocese since 2012. He was ordained a priest of Boston in 1972, and became an auxiliary bishop in that diocese in 2000, two years before a national sexual abuse scandal emerged in the United States, centered on the Archdiocese of Boston and the leadership of Cardinal Bernard Law. Malone was Maine’s bishop from 2004 until 2012.
Los Angeles, Calif., Oct 10, 2019 / 01:01 pm (CNA).- The Archdiocese of Los Angeles is hosting a day in the park to not only celebrate foster families throughout the archdiocese but to get to know these "heroes,” who are often unknown among the Catholic community.
“To be a foster parent is really to be a hero, honestly,” said Kathleen Domingo, the archdiocese's senior director of the Office of Life, Justice, and Peace.
“We know for sure that there are thousands of Catholic families in our parishes and in our schools who are fostering; we just don’t always know who they are. Part of the reason that we are doing this event is to help them come out of the woodwork a little bit so we can get to know them and find out better ways to support them.”
The event is titled “Catholics Love Foster” and is part of the archdiocese’s march for life organization, OneLife LA. It will take place Oct. 13., beginning a Mass said by Archbishop Jose Gomez.
Afterward, attendees will walk to LA State Historic Park, where there will be music, food, and games. There will also be 20 organizations with giveaways for kids and resources for foster parents.
According to Domingo, the event will be catered for free by a few local vendors, who will prepare enough food for 1,000 people.
Domingo said lots of Catholics in the archdiocese are foster parents, but these families are perhaps unknown to the parish community or their pastor. She said that since the archdiocese revamped its foster care efforts two years ago, parishioners have loved the idea but do not know who these families are or how to support them.
“A number of different parishes we have been working with told us that they are happy to have foster agencies come and speak and that they are happy to make these introductions… [However], they really felt like they wanted to do more for the families,” she said.
“They know that families are going through the process and they can tell sometimes when some families … come with kids they didn’t have before ... but they didn’t always know who they were or they didn’t always know if it would be okay if they [approached them].”
She said fostering needs extra support because it’s a 24/7 job with kids who face additional challenges. She said, very often, foster children come with almost nothing - sometimes only a garbage bag full of clothes - and experience instability, affecting mental health and school. She said the kids may have also faced abuses and court pressures.
“Because many of them have been through times of trauma in their young lives, they may come with some more needs where they may need some additional counseling or some therapy,” she said.
“What I hear from foster families is even just that extra help with tutoring and making sure that their kids have extra support in the classroom.”
She said the archdiocese will help connect foster families to a greater support system in the Church. She said numerous parishioners, who may not have foster kids themselves, have offered to provide physical aid like clothes, food, or daycare. She also stressed the spiritual support of a praying community.
“[Parishioners] loved doing this work to promote fostering, but, so often, they aren’t aware of who in the community is actually fostering and they would love to provide traditional support,” she said.
“[We want to] find out how can the parish can support you, how can we support your kids, how can we integrate them better and reach out in love to them.”
Daria Ongsing, a 53-year-old grandmother, and her husband Virgilio will be attending the event. This couple was approved to be foster parents in July, but they are not new to foster care.
Around five years ago, she and her husband took in the children of their daughter, who had been struggling with drug addiction and had her kids confiscated by Child Services. After two and a half years, her daughter was able to get her children back.
She told CNA that the experience awoke a desire within her to help other people through foster care. Then last February, the couple went on a pilgrimage to Cebu. Once they returned, they saw flyers on their back door for a foster care orientation at the parish.
“There were flyers in the back, for Foster ALL had come to our church to do like an orientation. I just felt in my heart again, look, God is calling us to this,” she said.
After the couple was approved, the Virgilios received four siblings into their home for a few days at the beginning of August. Later that month, the family took in Bryant, who turned five in September, and Bri-Asia, who will be turning seven in December. The two siblings are still at her house and have become a source of joy, she said.
Ongsing said the process has been a struggle at times. She expressed hope to meet more Catholics at the event who may be a source of support and that it inspires other parents to take on this ministry which has a great need.
She is currently working for Kaiser Permanente as a certified ophthalmic technician, but she plans to enter into early retirement within the next few years and take on fostering full-time.
“The [fostering] need is so great. It's crazy. So my plan is to retire young in the next year or two and certainly give it even more than I can do now,” she said.
“It's quite challenging, but it's very rewarding. I keep praying and asking God to just get us to do the best thing for these kids while they need us,” she further added. “I'm just trying to share a little bit of our blessings.”
Domingo told CNA that the Catholic Church in California has been shut out of the foster system because they will not place children with same-sex couples. She said the archdiocese’s Catholic Charity has not acted as a foster care agency for nearly 20 years.
“When Catholic Charities got out of the business of doing foster care, what happened is nobody picked it up, nobody in the Church was tasked with working on foster issues. What I’ve come to realize is that that is a similar story in most dioceses,” she said.
The Archdiocese of Los Angeles decided to ramp up its foster care efforts during the second OneLife event, after Nick Vuljicic, a motivational speaker born with no arms and no legs, encouraged the archdiocese to act “pro-life” to the unborn as well as those already born, like foster kids. Domingo said, at the time, LA County had an estimated 30,000 foster children.
Since then, Domingo has spoken to numerous parishes to booster fostering efforts. She said, although the archdiocese can no longer place kids into foster care, parishes in the area will host agencies to come talk to the laity.
Domingo said foster care is a “bridge-building topic” and supported by a variety of different people and groups. She also said good foster care is a solution to many issues in society.
“You can talk about fostering as a preventative for human trafficking, you can talk about it for keeping young adults off the streets, … you can talk about it in terms of helping birth parents, … who often get cleaned up and get prepared to accept their children back.”
“What we find is that when are talking about fostering and do these kinds of events, we are bringing people from different perspectives together to say we need to do something wonderful for these children and their families.”
South Bend, Ind., Oct 10, 2019 / 10:45 am (CNA).- More fetal remains were found in vehicles owned by the late Indiana abortionist Ulrich Klopfer on Wednesday, just weeks after the remains of more than 2,200 aborted babies were first discovered at his Illinois residence.
On Oct. 9, the Will County, Illinois, Sheriff’s Office discovered more fetal remains in vehicles owned by Klopfer, which were parked at an outdoor gated lot at a business property in Dolton, Illinois.
According to a release by the Indiana Attorney General’s office, investigators found eight cars belonging to Klopfer and discovered, in the trunk of one of the vehicles, five plastic bags and one box that contained fetal remains.
“The discovery of more fetal remains that Dr. Klopfer hoarded for his grotesque collection is just more reason we need to pass my Dignity for Aborted Children Act, which would ensure the remains of aborted children are given the proper burial and respect they deserve and horrible discoveries like this cannot be allowed to happen again,” Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) said in a statement provided to CNA.
Braun’s Dignity for Aborted Children Act has been cosponsored in the Senate by Sens. Todd Young (R-Ind.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), and Ted Cruz (R-Texas).
Klopfer had performed obstetrics, gynecological services, and surgical and medical abortions at clinics in Fort Wayne, Gary, and South Bend, Indiana. He was estimated to have aborted more than 30,000 children over a span of four decades.
His medical license was suspended by the state of Indiana in 2015 and indefinitely in 2016, after numerous complaints were issued against him. He admitted to performing abortions on two 13 year-old girls and did not report the cases to the state in a timely manner. His Fort Wayne clinic was reported by the state’s medical board to be “rundown,” and he charged adult patients extra for pain medication.
He also admitted to performing an abortion on a 10 year-old girl in Illinois, who had been raped by her uncle, while not reporting her case to the authorities.
On Sept. 3, Klopfer died, and on Sept. 12, local Will County, Illinois authorities were alerted by Klopfer’s family to the discovery of fetal remains at his Illinois residence. Authorities found medically-preserved fetal remains of 2,246 babies at his home, along with patient records.
The remains were reportedly stored in boxes dated 2000-2002, a period during which Klopfer owned and operated three abortion clinics in Indiana. Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend offered to have the fetal remains buried at a Catholic cemetery in his diocese.
Since then, Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill (R) has announced that he is working with Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul (D) to investigate the matter.
“We grieve for the little ones denied their very humanity and with the mothers forced to relive the trauma endured at Klopfer’s hands, wondering if their child is among his collection of bodies,” Sue Swayze Liebel, state policy director for the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List and an Indiana native, stated. “All of Klopfer’s victims deserved so much better.”
Attorney General Hill said that “the protocol we have already set up for dealing with these disturbing circumstances” will apply to the newly-discovered remains, and that the office will work to make sure “that these unborn children receive a respectful final disposition here in Indiana.”
In addition to their legislation in the Senate, Indiana Senators Young and Braun have petitioned the office of U.S. Attorney General William Barr for assistance in the current multi-state investigation into Klopfer, along with 65 Members in the House.
The White House has also called for a “full investigation” into the situation.
Philadelphia, Pa., Oct 10, 2019 / 03:10 am (CNA).- Hundreds of African Catholics gathered last Sunday for an annual Mass in Philadelphia, blending cultures, languages, and attire from across the African continent.
The sixth annual African Family Heritage Mass was hosted by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia Oct. 6. Mass and a celebratory banquet were held at St. Raymond of Penafort Church in northwest Philadelphia.
Sister Florence Enechukwu, a Missionary Sister of the Holy Rosary, founded the event in 2014. Father Christopher Walsh, the pastor at St. Raymond, was the main celebrant and homilist this year.
Fr. Walsh told CNA that the event gathered people representing 21 African countries.
“This is an opportunity for them to get together to worship...Different communities take different parts of the Mass and many different languages are used,” he said.
The scripture readings at the Mass were proclaimed in Swahili and English; the prayers of the faithful were read by representatives of Malawi, Tanzania, Eritrea, and Democratic Republic of the Congo, Catholic Philly reported.
Prior to the Mass, a Liberian choir sang “Let Us Come to Jesus My Friend.” During Mass, songs were sung by Kenyan, Francophone, and Nigerian Igbo choirs.
While some participants are part of vibrant communities in their hometowns, Walsh said, “there were also people there who drove down from areas further away in Pennsylvania who don't get to connect. They're from Africa, but they don't get a chance to connect with the larger African community.”
The priest noted that cultural practices are often tied closely to the dissemination of faith.
“The Church has always had an appreciation for culture, and in many cases, the African culture in which these folks grew up is the culture that passed on the faith to them,” he said. “Being able to celebrate in their own liturgical style with their own liturgical music, praying to God in their own language, is important.”
The event, which is hosted at a different parish every year, was held at St. Raymond’s this year because of the parish’s refugee ministry. The parish has sponsored 10 African refugees, hailing from Sierra Leone, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Tanzania.
Walsh told CNA that the parish works with several agencies to support the refugees. The parish is able to provide clothes and pay a portion of their rent for a few months, in addition to helping them find work and obtain documentation and diplomas.
Participants at the Mass came from Togo, Nigeria, Ghana, Benin, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Cameroon, Liberia, Congo, and the Ivory Coast, among other countries. They wore traditional African clothing from their respective countries.
Many attendees wore clothing featuring black and white images of their favorite saint atop their clothing. Emmanuel Okoro, coordinator for the Igbo Catholic Community at St. Cyprian Parish, said the event is joyfully anticipated by the African communities in the area.
“Many of us are wearing a patron saint,” Okoro told Catholic Philly. “I chose to wear the outfit with St. John Paul II. I have a special devotion to him. Many of those here are from throughout the Philadelphia Archdiocese and Camden. You will see that many of us are wearing different saints,” she told the Catholic Philly.
After Mass, a buffet was offered with a variety of traditional African dishes from different regions.
“It is part of the culture to make sure everyone comes together. Many of these groups worship together as a group,” said Samuel Abu, coordinator for the archdiocese’s Refugee Resettlement Program.
“Under Archbishop Charles Chaput we have the opportunity to pray together and gather to serve God,” he told Catholic Philly. “We have apostolates throughout the archdiocese. The African Catholic community is always increasing because now we have first, second and third generations of families. This Mass made it possible to bring them together.”
New York City, N.Y., Oct 10, 2019 / 12:35 am (CNA).- Violence against women remains a global concern for the Vatican, an official told members of the United Nations this week, stressing that society must “advance and defend all the rights derived from the inalienable human dignity of every woman and girl.”
Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Holy See's Permanent Observer to the UN, on Monday sent an address to the UN General Assembly’s third committee that highlighted the “unique and irreplaceable” role of women in the world.
“While significant progress has been made in increasing the participation of women in social, political, economic and cultural life, and in ending violence against women and girls, much remains to be achieved,” Auza said.
He cited a report from the UN Secretary-General and said migrant women in particular, including many female migrant workers, are at risk of labor exploitation, human trafficking, and also face broader social exclusion. He said this remains a deep concern of the Holy See.
“These women deserve to be welcomed, protected, and integrated within our communities with dignity. They also deserve full and equal recognition before the law, including through access to the justice system,” Auza said.
“These women courageously leave their land and communities, often in the most difficult circumstances, to provide for their family and to assure their children of a better future. It is necessary, therefore, to adopt specific measures to protect and assist women migrant workers and to recognize their precious contribution to society.”
Auza also mentioned the “heinous” practice of trafficking of newborn babies, as well as forced surrogacy. He called for “effective legislation and enforcement to prevent trafficking in persons and limit impunity as much as possible.”
“While there have been various advances in formulating adequate legal instruments to investigate, prosecute and punish traffickers, in unlocking the financial chains, understanding the connection to other forms of organized crime and corruption, and fostering cooperation at and across borders, concrete measures and effective sanctions remain often limited,” he said.
September 2020 marks the 25th anniversary of the UN’s Fourth World Conference on Women and the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, parts of which the Vatican spoke out strongly against, including efforts to expand abortion as a means of population control.
Auza quoted Pope St. John Paul II, who wrote in 1995 to the Secretary-General of the Fourth World Conference on Women.
“There will never be justice, including equality, development and peace, for women or for men, unless there is an unfailing determination to respect, protect, love and serve life— every human life, at every stage and in every situation,” Pope John Paul II wrote.
“The Holy See insists on equality in dignity between men and women and on equal respect at all stages of their lives...This remains an utmost priority and focus of the Holy See,” Auza added.