Oct 18 2019Pope Francis meets with a group of indigenous people participating in the Synod for the Pan-Amazon Region and confirms the need to inculturate the Gospel.
Oct 17 2019Synod participants continue their discussions in small working groups on Thursday morning, and a panel of experts share their experiences during a briefing at the Holy See Press Office.
Oct 17 2019The Bishops of the United States express appreciation for a new report that details the dangers posed by assisted suicide, especially for people with disabilities, and call its legalization unjust.
Oct 17 2019Bishop Lionel Gendron, P.S.S., says both the Church and the world need a change of heart.
Oct 17 2019The National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) of Pakistan’s Catholic bishops, has released a statement calling for the urgent implementation of the Action Plan for Human Rights.
Oct 18 2019
Belfast, Northern Ireland, Oct 18, 2019 / 12:23 am (CNA).- Pro-life groups in Northern Ireland are hopeful that there is sufficient support in the legislature to block an expansion of legal abortion from going into effect next week.
According to the Belfast Telegraph, the pro-life group Both Lives Matter says 30 members of the legislative assembly have pledged to ask the Speaker to recall the Assembly, which the Speaker will be obligated to do under Northern Ireland law.
In order to block the new abortion measures from taking place, however, an Executive would need to be formed, which is unlikely before the Monday deadline, the Belfast Telegraph reports.
The British parliament voted in July to add same-sex marriage and a loosening of abortion restrictions as amendments to the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill, which is designed to keep the region running amid a protracted deadlock in the Northern Ireland Assembly.
If Northern Ireland Assembly is not reconvened by Oct. 21, the expansion of abortion rights and the legalization of same-sex marriage will take effect. Secretary Julian Smith would be mandated to put the laws into effect by March 31, 2020.
The Northern Ireland Assembly has been suspended for the past two years due to a dispute between the two major governing parties. The DUP, the largest party, is opposed to changing the law. Sinn Féin, another prominent party in Northern Ireland, backs a liberalization of the abortion law.
The DUP has said it is ready to return to the Assembly “immediately without pre-conditions,” according to local media reports.
Talks over the matter are being held Thursday and Friday.
“The British and Irish Governments both share the view that there remains an opportunity in the coming days to reach an accommodation,” Northern Ireland minister Robin Walker said Wednesday, according to the Guardian.
“One only has to look at the passionate and sincere demonstrations in recent weeks on both sides of this issue to appreciate that this remains a highly sensitive matter in Northern Ireland,” he said, adding that in the government’s view, it is preferable to have the matter decided by the Northern Ireland assembly.
Labour MP Stella Creasy criticized Walker for his statement, arguing that the UK government was only in favor of a quick resolution that handed power back to the Northern Ireland assembly because UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson saw a need to secure DUP support for his Brexit negotiation plan.
The DUP has said that it does not support Johnson’s plan, arguing that its provisions on customs and value-added tax rates are not in Northern Ireland’s best interest.
Leaders of the Catholic Church, the Church of Ireland, Methodist Church in Ireland, Presbyterian Church in Ireland, and the Irish Council of Churches, have called on their congregations to pray and lobby against the abortion changes, saying, “There is no evidence that these [legal] changes reflect the will of the people affected by them, as they were not consulted. They go far beyond the ‘hard cases’ some have been talking about.”
Last year, the Republic of Ireland held a referendum in which voters repealed the country’s pro-life protections, which had recognized the life of both mothers and their babies. Irish legislators then enacted legislation allowing legal abortion in what had long been a Catholic and pro-life stronghold.
Elective abortion is legal in the rest of the United Kingdom up to 24 weeks, while currently it is legally permitted in Northern Ireland only if the mother's life is at risk or if there is risk of permanent, serious damage to her mental or physical health.
Northern Irish women have been able to procure free National Health Service abortions in England, Scotland, and Wales since November 2017.
The UK government’s plans to decriminalize abortion in Northern Ireland has garnered opposition from hundreds of health professionals in the region, who the BBC reports have written to Secretary Smith expressing opposition and calling for reassurance that as “conscientious objectors,” they will not have to perform or assist abortions.
Oct 17 2019
Austin, Texas, Oct 17, 2019 / 05:06 pm (CNA).- When Pamela Whitehead takes a call for LoveLine, a new pregnancy helpline, she listens.
“Too often we think we know what a woman needs and we don't really listen to what she says to us,” Whitehead told CNA, “and I think if we listen long enough, we really hear her need.”
In one recent call to the helpline, Whitehead said she listened to a woman who, at first, thought her biggest need was rent money.
The young woman from Arizona had three children with her boyfriend and had just found out she was pregnant with their fourth. Facing extreme pressure from her boyfriend and family to abort, the woman was sure she would be kicked out of her house for refusing the abortion, and said she needed rent money to prevent her from being homeless.
“So I simply asked her the question, do you want to have an abortion? And she said no,” Whitehead said.
Whitehead said she reassured the woman that no one could force her to have an abortion. She suggested to the woman on the phone that she should first try humanizing the baby to her family - telling her mom how much she would love another grandbaby, and telling her boyfriend how much better their lives would be for having another child.
“And you know what she did? She went back and she stood up for herself and she spoke to her family and they actually...turned around and she ended up not having an abortion,” Whitehead said.
“So while what she thought she needed was some material resources, what she actually needed was empowerment and confidence, and that's what we were able to provide for her.”
That story is just one of many hopeful stories that have come from the newly-released LoveLine, Whitehead said, which is a pro-life helpline, founded by former abortion clinic worker Abby Johnson, who is now a pro-life advocate. The helpline connects pregnant or post-abortive women in need to the proper resources. Sometimes that means public assistance or private donations or simply a community of like-minded pro-life people. Often, it is some combination of all three.
LoveLine is a new project under the larger umbrella organization of ProLove Ministries, which houses multiple pro-life projects founded by Johnson. The organization was a spin-off of And Then There Were None, a support organization for abortion clinic workers who are leaving the abortion industry.
Through LoveLine, women in need can text, chat or call the helpline and talk to someone about what they’re going through and the resources that they need. The project hopes to respond to a “gap in services.”
“There's a population of women who are in need who aren't being served,” Whitehead explained.
Usually, she said, it’s because the resources that women in crisis pregnancies need are either unavailable, hidden, or delayed. Public assistance is often delivered on a first-come first-served basis, Whitehead noted, and by the time a woman connects to those services, there can be a long line ahead of her before she actually gets the help that she needs.
“For instance, if all of a sudden (a woman’s) partner leaves her, whether it's her spouse or her boyfriend, and she's accustomed to having a two-income household...that puts her in a major situation,” Whitehead said.
“While her pregnancy wasn't a so-called crisis, all of a sudden the pregnancy becomes a precipitating factor for her because it's just one more thing. And so she's looking at her situation and she's considering all of her options, and one of those oftentimes is abortion because it's like, well, he's left me, now what?”
LoveLine wants to be there to fill in those gaps, Whitehead said. Some other examples of assistance that the group has provided so far to women in need include baby registries, diapers and food assistance, referrals to pro-life doctors, rent assistance through private donations, and referrals to vetted, untapped public assistance.
Any public assistance or service that LoveLine refers to is first vetted by staff or volunteers to make sure that it can actually provide what the woman needs in a timely manner.
“If we are going to send her to an organization or to an individual or to a social service resource, I'm going to call that resource in advance...and make sure this woman's going to hear ‘yes.’ Because it's overwhelming when the pressures of life are on top of you and you're trying to just make it through and you've got 10 decisions you've got to deal with,” Whitehead said.
“We want to give her a yes,” she added. “So whatever that takes, we want her to say yes and feel empowered, so that means we have to vet resources.”
“So we connect, we care, we make a commitment and we offer community.”
The community aspect of LoveLine’s promise often comes in the form of volunteers spread throughout the country who offer to help with various needs of the project, Whitehead said. When baby registries are set up for women in need, for example, everything is sent to a volunteer’s house, where the goods are unpacked, sorted and personally delivered, so that the woman is not overwhelmed with receiving dozens of packages at her house. They have also helped connect women with pro-life moms’ groups in their own areas. Whitehead said she was personally delivering a highchair and some maternity clothes to a woman in her area this week.
For Whitehead, working in the pro-life movement is personal. In 2001, she had an abortion that perforated her uterus and sent her to the emergency room. For years afterward, she though the trauma she was experiencing was “what she deserved,” she said.
At the time, Whitehead had been addicted to drugs and alcohol and was living in poverty. She said the advice she received at the time ignored her needs, and was instead focused on concerns that she would not be able to care for the child.
“They all considered the child and thought, ‘There's no way you can bring this child into the world because you can't take care of it, and I'm not willing to help you,’ basically. No one tried to help me with the drug addiction or help me with the alcoholism or help me with my poverty,” Whitehead noted.
“So when I see these situations, I see the woman. Not that we don't care about the unborn, of course we do, and that's the goal. But if we don't see the woman, if we don't see her and her dignity and her worth and her value, then we're missing. We're missing it,” she said. The tagline for LoveLine is “When you love first, life follows.”
For the pro-life movement, Whitehead said, LoveLine offers people a chance to do something concrete for the women and babies in need.
“So many people love to give to tangible, practical needs. They love to buy a box of diapers and know that it's going to this person, you know? And that means so much to people,” Whitehead said.
Typically, she explained, the word gets about the womens’ needs on social media, either through Abby Johnson’s Facebook page or through ProLove Ministries’ Facebook page.
“What we've seen is every time we put out a need, the pro-life movement just moves on it. I mean, within hours a whole registry is filled. They just can't wait. The love is just exploding,” she said.
The LoveLine website offers a phone number that women in need can call or text, or an online chat. Volunteers can also offer their assistance in their area via the LoveLine website under the “Get Involved” tab.
Oct 17 2019
St. Louis, Mo., Oct 17, 2019 / 04:50 pm (CNA).- Last year, Thomas Bruce was accused of assaulting three women and killing one of them at the Catholic Supply of St. Louis retail store Nov. 19 in Ballwin, Mo., a suburb of St. Louis.
Now, authorities are wondering if Bruce may be connected to a 1985 murder in Tennessee, Fox 2 Now St. Louis reported. One complicating factor: another man was already tried and executed for that murder.
Suzanne Collins was a 19-year-old Marine Lance Corporal in an avionics training school when she was murdered in Tennessee in 1985. According to authorities, Sedley Alley confessed to the crime but eventually retracted his confession, claiming he had been coerced into it. Alley was executed in 2006.
Bruce’s possible connection to the 1985 murder was revealed in court last week by Barry Scheck with the Innocence Project, Fox reported. The Innocence Project is an organization that works to clear innocent people of wrongful convictions.
According to Fox, Scheck told the court that there was untested DNA from Collins’ clothing that could help to clarify whether Bruce was involved in her murder. Bruce reportedly attended the same school as Collins at the time of the murder.
“It is clear that if we don’t get a DNA test in this case, it is wrong,” Scheck said in court. “It is fundamentally unfair. He was entitled to that test.” He added that the people of St. Louis deserve answers about Bruce.
According to Fox 2, the Tennessee Attorney General’s Office opposes the DNA test on the grounds of not letting litigation for the 1985 case drag on forever, and on the grounds that Sedley is already dead.
A judge is set to rule Nov. 18 whether there will be additional DNA testing allowed on Collins’ clothing in order to investigate the possible connection to Bruce.
Bruce had no known convictions in November 2018, when he sexually assaulted, shot, and killed 53-year-old Jamie Schmidt and sexually assaulted two other women.
Schmidt was a customer in the Catholic Supply store at the time of the attack and was transported to a hospital where she later died of her injuries. She was survived by her husband and three children.
Authorities at the time said Bruce did not appear to know Schmidt and that the attack seemed to be at random.
Fox 2 reported that after the 2018 incident, their reporters uncovered two other incidents involving Bruce for which he had not yet been charged.
In one incident, a 77 year-old woman recognized a photo of Bruce on T.V. and reported that in September 2018, just two months prior to the Catholic Supply store attack, Bruce had sexually assaulted her. Bruce was subsequently charged with kidnapping, sexual abuse, and assault for the incident.
The next month in October 2018, a man reported that Bruce’s road rage had caused a deliberate accident on US Highway 61, according to Fox. A dashcam video retrieved by Fox 2 in St. Louis reportedly revealed Bruce yelling and cussing at a police officer responding to the scene.
Bruce’s trial is scheduled for next October. Authorities told Fox in St. Louis that they are still investigating whether Bruce is connected to any other criminal activity.
Oct 17 2019
Vatican City, Oct 17, 2019 / 02:22 pm (CNA).- The Congregation for the Oriental Churches has rejected the appeal of Sister Lucy Kalapura, who was dismissed from religious life in August for several acts of disobedience, including a protest of the handling of another nun's accusation that a bishop serially raped her.
The congregation's Sept. 26 decree denying recourse to the nun of the Franciscan Clarist Congregation was conveyed in an Oct. 11 letter from the apostolic nunciature in India.
Sr. Lucy has the right to further appeal to the Apostolic Signatura.
However, she told the BBC that “I don't see any point in doing that since they have made up their mind. I will now go to court on behalf of all the people who are being suppressed and facing illegal behaviour from authorities of the congregation.”
She maintained: “I am not going to leave the convent. The lifestyle I lead is as per the rules and regulations.”
Sr. Lucy was sent a letter Aug. 5 from the superior general of the FCC, Sr. Ann Joseph, notifying her she had been dismissed from the community, which decision had been confirmed by the Congregation for the Oriental Churches.
Sr. Lucy has led a life against the principles of religious life, the community says, by disobeying a transfer order, publishing poems after having been denied permission to do so, buying a vehicle, withholding her salary from the congregation, and participating in a protest against Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jullundur, who has been charged with several instances of raping a nun of a different congregation.
The letter from Sr. Ann Joseph said that Sr. Lucy “did not show the needed remorse and you failed to give a satisfactory explanation for your lifestyle in violation of the proper law of the FCC.”
Sr. Lucy had been sent a letter of warning Jan. 1, asking that she appear before Sr. Ann by Jan. 9 to explain her disobediences, or face expulsion from the congregation.
In January Sr. Lucy said that the congregation was trying to silence her, and denied any wrongdoing.
She was sent a second letter of warning in February, and India Times reported that she “failed to respond to a notice issued against her in March”.
The congregation's General Council, held May 11, voted unanimously to dismiss Sr. Lucy, and asked for confirmation from the Congregation for the Oriental Churches.
In the January letter of warning sent to Sr. Lucy, the superior general wrote that she joined a protest regarding Bishop Mulakkal “without the permission of your superior. You have published articles in some non-Christian newspapers and weeklies … gave interviews to 'Samayam' without seeking permission from the provincial superior. Through Facebook, channel discussions and the articles, you belittled the Catholic leadership by making false accusations against it and tried to bring down the sacraments. You tried to defame FCC also. Your performance through social media as a religious sister was culpable, arising grave scandal.”
The letter also said Sr. Lucy failed to obey a transfer order given her in 2015 by her provincial superior, and that she published a book of poems despite being denied permission to do so, and used 50,000 Indian rupees ($700) from the congregation's account “without proper permission” to do so.
Sr. Kalapura is also accused of buying a car for about $5,670 and learning to drive without permission, and failing to entrust her salary from December 2017.
Sr. Ann Joseph called these acts “a grave infringement of the vow of poverty.”
The superior general added that Sr. Kalapura has been corrected and warned several times by her provincial over her “improper behaviour and violations of religious discipline.”
“Instead of correcting yourself, you are simply denying the allegations against you stating that you have to live your own beliefs, ideologies and conviction. You are repeatedly violating the vows of obedience and poverty. The evangelization and social work you do should be according to the FCC values, principles and rules. The present mode of your life is a grave violation of the profession you have made,” Sr. Ann Joseph wrote.
Another nun of the FCC, Sister Lissy Vadakkel, was transferred earlier this year from Muvattupuzha to Vijawada.
Sister Alphonas Abraham, superior of the FCC's Nirmala Province, said in February that Sr. Lissy's transfer was unrelated to her acting as a witness in the case against Bishop Mulakkal.
In April, Bishop Mulakkal was charged with rape.
Oct 17 2019
Washington D.C., Oct 17, 2019 / 12:41 pm (CNA).- A man claiming to be a former child victim of Theodore McCarrick has written an open essay in response to a recent interview given by the former cardinal. Writing under the name Nathan Doe, the man says that McCarrick sexually abused a series of minors during his years as a cleric.
Media reports have detailed a string of allegations made against McCarrick since the announcement of a Vatican investigation in June 2018. Those reports have referred to McCarrick’s alleged victims as including eight former seminarians and three minors.
“The ‘third’ accuser they were referring to in those news articles was me,” Doe said.
The man says he chose to maintain his anonymity because he does not wish to expose other innocent people to “pain and suffering” by making his name public.
Media coverage of allegations against the former cardinal has focused on apparent crimes against seminarians in the dioceses he led as a bishop, first in New Jersey and later in Washington, D.C.
In some reports, McCarrick's sexual misconduct has been called an “open secret” among those close to him.
“I am not even sure I know what ‘open secret’ means,” Doe wrote in an essay published online on Oct. 17. “What I do know is that no one ever talked about McCarrick and the boys.”
“I am referring to McCarrick’s targets and victims before he was given power and control over all of those seminaries. I am referring to the first act in McCarrick’s sexual abuse career that no one ever talked about before the Summer of 2018. I am referring to young Catholic boys - almost always between the ages of 12 and 16.”
A source with knowledge of the Vatican investigation into McCarrick told CNA that the former cardinal is alleged to have regularly invited high school boys to accompany him on trips between 1971-1977, when he served as secretary to Cardinal Terrence Cooke, then-Archbishop of New York.
As previously reported by CNA, during that same period, McCarrick already had a well-established reputation among seminarians as a predator, with one former student at a New York seminary telling CNA last year that “the dean of our theology school was a classmate at CUA with McCarrick, and he knew about the rumors.”
The priest told CNA that so well-known was McCarrick’s reputation, the priest said, that when McCarrick would accompany Cooke to visit the seminary there was a standing joke that they had to "hide the handsome ones" before he arrived.
Similar accusations were reported by former students at Seton Hall University, home to the Archdiocese of Newark’s seminary. An independent report, commissioned in response to reports on the seminary's culture, concluded that as Archbishop of Newark, McCarrick created a “culture of fear and intimidation” at Seton Hall's seminary and “used his position of power as then-Archbishop of Newark to sexually harass seminarians.”
In his essay, published on Thursday, Doe said that in addition to these seminary-related allegations, McCarrick abused a group of at least seven boys under the age of 16 when he was a priest of the Archdiocese of New York. Members of that reportedly provided evidence to Church authorities during the canonical penal administrative process which resulted in McCarrick’s laicization earlier this year.
“Collectively, we were able to provide law enforcement with names, dates, times, locations, who was present, supporting evidence, and related documentation covering hundreds of Church-related or fundraising-related overnight trips between the years 1970 and 1990 that, as fate would have it, all resulted in McCarrick sharing a bed with a young Catholic boy.”
Doe says he recognized his own experience, and those of other minors abused by McCarrick, in the account of James Grien, initially published anonymously in the New York Times last year.
“To varying degrees, Grein’s story was our story. I don’t know James Grein, have never spoken to him, and I never even knew he existed until that moment, but there were too many details in that interview that only a person in our exclusive club would know.”
The report comes just weeks before the U.S. bishops will meet for their third assembly since the McCarrick scandal broke in June 2018. In November 2018, the bishops defeated 83-137 a resolution that would have urged the Vatican to release a comprehensive dossier on McCarrick.
In October 2018, Pope Francis ordered an internal Vatican investigation into the career of the disgraced McCarrick. Results of that investigation have not been released. While many have criticized the delay in making public a report on McCarrick, Doe said he is undeterred by the apparent delay.
“I have no insights at all into who is writing that report and how all of that will work. What I can tell you is that if they had completed and issued their report before today, I would be sitting here telling you that they closed the book too soon,” he wrote.
Calling McCarrick a “walking jurisdictional nightmare,” Doe said it is important not to “underestimate the sheer volume of information that began coming in last year, the number of different channels that information came in through, and all of the various investigative processes and law enforcement agencies that have been involved with the examination of the information.”
“I am personally inclined to grant all of the investigators all the time they need to do whatever work is necessary to get this done right once and for all,” he said.
Sources in Rome and Washington have confirmed to CNA that large quantities of documents and a detailed report on archdiocesan records have already been compiled and forwarded to Rome, but the Archdiocese of Washington has repeatedly declined to comment on those records.
In June 2019, Newark Cardinal Joseph Tobin told CNA he was prevented by a state attorney general’s investigation from releasing the files and reports compiled by his diocese on McCarrick, who was Newark’s archbishop from 1986 to 2000. Tobin is believed to have also forwarded a report to the Vatican detailing McC’s time in Newark.
Doe wrote that although he saw the coverage of McCarrick’s disgrace, and even though he participated in the canonical process that resulted in the former cardinal’s laicization in February, he “never” thought about making a public statement.
“That all changed when I read McCarrick’s recent interview with Slate magazine where he attempted to discredit the victims of his sexual abuse while creating further division and confusion within our Church.”
In that interview, McCarrick said he is “not as bad as they paint.”
“I do not believe that I did the things that they accused me of,” McCarrick said, while going on to suggest that his accusers “were encouraged” to come up with allegations by “enemies” of the former cardinal, pointedly referring to former Vatican diplomat Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano as “a representative of the far right” for coming forward with a series of allegations about McCarrick and apparent Vatican knowledge about his behavior.
Some senior Church officials have told CNA that McCarrick was under consideration for an influential Vatican post in 1999; concerns about the former cardinal’s lifestyle are rumored to have played a role in scuttling that plan. McCarrick was nevertheless appointed Washington’s archbishop in 2000, where he continued to serve until his retirement in 2006.
Doe said that he was only concerned with the integrity of McCarrick’s victims, whom he said McCarrick had further abused by suggesting they were politically motivated.
“I don’t have an axe to grind with anyone other than Theodore McCarrick. For me, this is not an attack on our Church. This is not about Conservative vs Liberal. This is not about Straight vs Gay. This is not about Benedict vs. Francis. In my view, those arguments are a distraction.”
“For me, this is about our humanity. This is about the criminal, sexual abuse of minors,” Doe said.