News

Planned Parenthood announces highest election spending in its history
Washington D.C., Jan 19, 2020 / 04:55 pm (CNA).- Planned Parenthood announced this week that it plans to spend $45 million to support pro-abortion candidates at the presidential, congressional, and state levels in the 2020 election. The campaign, entitled “We Decide 2020,” marks the largest election spending in Planned Parenthood’s history. Jenny Lawson, executive director of Planned Parenthood Votes, told CBS News that “The stakes have never been higher.” She pointed to the upcoming Supreme Court case involving a Louisiana law requiring abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital as “an indicator of [the Trump Administration’s] intention and they've never been so bold.” The case marks the first major abortion decision that the Supreme Court will hand down since U.S. President Donald Trump’s two court appointments. Abortion advocates fear it could reverse the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that mandated legal abortion nationwide. However, Lawson added that the Democratic hopefuls vying for an opportunity to challenge Trump also “have the boldest reproductive rights policies we've ever seen.” This commitment to abortion policies among the Democratic candidates includes widespread opposition to the Hyde Amendment, an annual budget amendment since 1976 that prohibits federal tax dollars from paying for abortions, except in cases of rape, incest, or when it is deemed necessary to save the life of the mother. The Hyde Amendment has enjoyed longstanding bipartisan support, and attempts to repeal it over the years have failed. Pro-life advocates estimate that more than 2 million unborn lives have been saved as a result of the policy. Few of the Democratic candidates support restrictions on late-term abortions, and the majority have pledged to enshrine Roe v. Wade in federal law, appoint only pro-abortion judges, and advocate for abortion pills to be available without a prescription. The Planned Parenthood Votes campaign will target Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, through digital, television, radio and mail ads, CBS News reports. Planned Parenthood Votes is financially, structurally, and operationally independent from the group’s clinics, according to CBS News. Still, the role that abortion plays in the non-profit’s overall work has been a subject of controversy. Last July, Planned Parenthood’s president, Dr. Leana Wen, was forced out after disagreements with board leaders over whether the organization should focus on health care or abortion advocacy. Wen, who had been at the helm for eight months, said her goal had been to focus on health care for underserved women, while board leaders saw political advocacy in support of abortion as the organization’s priority. Wen was replaced by Alexis McGill Johnson, acting president of Planned Parenthood, who told CBS News last year that the organization is “not political by nature” but has been politicized and forced into focusing on political advocacy. Meanwhile, the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List and its partner Women Speak Out PAC have announced a $52 million budget for the 2020 election cycle. In addition to phone calls and digital and mail-based ads, the campaign plans to make 4 million visits to voters before the election, focusing on Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin. Mallory Quigley, a spokeswoman for the groups, said the campaign will focus on educating traditional Democratic voters about the “extreme pro-abortion policies” supported by Democratic presidential and Senate candidates. “Polls confirm what our on-the-ground experience and message testing show to be true: Democrats’ abortion radicalism is a liability for them at the ballot box,” she said. “Our focused, battle-tested voter outreach method will ensure we reach the voters who can provide President Trump and pro-life Senate candidates the winning margin on Election Day.”
DiMarzio welcomes investigation, points to personal record fighting abuse
New York City, N.Y., Jan 19, 2020 / 10:00 am (CNA).- Brooklyn’s Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio has issued a statement welcoming an investigation into an accusation of sexual abuse made against him last year. In a statement released to CNA on Sunday Jan. 19, the Diocese of Brooklyn said that Bishop DiMarzio had done nothing wrong and had no intention of stepping aside during the Vatican-ordered enquiry into the allegation, which dates back to the 1970s and DiMarzio’s time as a priest in the Archdiocese of Newark. “Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio has categorically denied the allegation against him,” the statement said. “He will vigorously defend himself against this false claim and is confident the truth will prevail.” On Jan. 18, the Archdiocese of New York confirmed that Cardinal Timothy Dolan had been asked by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to conduct an investigation into the allegations of 56-year-old Mark Matzek. Matzek alleges that DiMarzio and another priest, now deceased, repeatedly abused him when he was an altar server at St. Nicholas Catholic Church in the Diocese of Newark in the 1970s. Although lawyer Mitchell Garabedian sent a letter to the Archdiocese of Newark in November saying he was preparing a lawsuit on behalf of Matzek seeking $20 million, a spokesperson for the Brooklyn diocese told CNA on Sunday that no suit had yet been filed. The investigation is being conducted under the norms of Vos estis lux mundi, the motu proprio issued by Pope Francis in May, 2019, which provided new mechanisms for handling accusations against bishops. “As the Church investigation is a Vos estis lux mundi probe, it does not require that Bishop DiMarzio step aside during the preliminary investigation,” the statement from the Brooklyn diocese noted. “As such, his status has not changed. The Diocese of Brooklyn also noted that in the two months since the accusation was made public, DiMarzio had received constant messages of support from Catholics in and out of the diocese. “There has been a tremendous outpouring of support for Bishop DiMarzio, from here in the Diocese of Brooklyn and from the people he has served throughout his 50-year ministry, including parishioners from his time as parochial vicar at St. Nicholas Church in Jersey City,” the statement said. The Diocese of Brooklyn also underscored DiMarzio’s reputation as a “recognized as a leader” in combatting sexual abuse in the Church. “Even before the mandates of the 2002 Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, Bishop DiMarzio created protocols when he was the bishop in the Diocese of Camden from 1999-2003 to ensure that children were protected and that victims received the care they need,” a spokesperson for the bishop said. The statement also noted that DiMarzio’s policies for the Diocese of Brooklyn, issued in 2003, went beyond the requirements of the Dallas Charter agreed by the U.S. bishops, and included an independent hotline for reporting abuse through which complaints are automatically sent to the district attorney. “His record in fighting sexual abuse is further evident in Pope Francis’ recent selection of him to conduct an investigation into the Diocese of Buffalo,” a spokesperson for the bishop said, referring to the Apostolic Visitation of that diocese conducted by DiMarzio in October and November last year. DiMarzio is the second U.S. bishop to be investigated under the norms of Vos estis since its promulgation by Pope Francis in May last year. In September 2019, the Vatican ordered St. Paul-Minneapolis Archbishop Bernard Hebda to conduct an investigation using the new laws into Crookston Bishop Michael Hoeppner, who is alleged to have knowing kept an abusive priest in ministry. Hebda sent his report to Rome in early November. While the Archdiocese of New York has not released a timeline for the investigation into DiMarzio, the Diocese of Brooklyn said that the bishop “looks forward to the investigation of the allegation made against him and having his good name cleared and restored.”
Pope Francis: To know Christ better, contemplate his 'holy face'
Vatican City, Jan 19, 2020 / 06:26 am (CNA).- Meditating on the Gospel and on Christ’s holy face is a good way to know Jesus better, especially as the Lamb of God who sacrificed himself for the sins of the world, Pope Francis said Sunday. Reflecting on John the Baptist’s testimony in the Gospel of John is an invitation “to start afresh on our journey of faith: to start afresh from Jesus Christ, the Lamb full of mercy that the Father has given for us,” he said Jan. 19. “We learn from the Baptist not to presume that we already know Jesus, that we already know everything about him,” he continued. “It is not so. Let’s stop on the Gospel, perhaps even contemplating an icon of Christ, a ‘holy face.’ The Holy Face of Manoppello, held in a church in an Italian village, is believed to be an image of the face of Christ, perhaps from the Veil of Veronica. Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, celebrated Mass at the Shrine of the Holy Face in Manoppello Jan. 19. At the conclusion of the Mass, the cardinal led a procession with the image. The Mass and procession were to mark the feast of “Omnis Terra,” which recalls Pope Innocent III’s procession with the Holy Face in 1208, when the image was held at the Vatican. The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, the protectors of the Holy Face of Manoppello, were also present at the Mass and procession with Cardinal Koch. At his Angelus address, Pope Francis said we contemplate Christ with the eyes but even more so with the heart. We “let ourselves be instructed by the Holy Spirit, who tells us inside: It is He! He is the Son of God made lamb, immolated for love,” he said. “He alone suffered, atoned for sin, the sin of each of us, the sin of the world, and also my sins, all. He carried them all on himself and took them away from us, so that we could finally be free, no longer slaves to evil,” Francis stated. “Yes, we are still poor sinners, but not slaves, no, not slaves: children, children of God!” The pope explained that the Gospel for the Second Sunday of Ordinary Time is a continuation of the feasts of Epiphany and the Baptism of the Lord. It continues to speak about Jesus, who after his baptism was “consecrated by the Holy Spirit,” he said. He urged Catholics to “be surprised again by God’s choice to be on our side, to be in solidarity with us sinners, and to save the world from evil by taking charge of it totally.” After the Angelus prayer, Pope Francis reminded Catholics that 2020 has been designated the “Year of the Nurse and the Midwife” by the World Health Organization. “Nurses are the most numerous health workers, and midwives are perhaps the most noble of the professions,” he said. “Let us pray for all of them, so that they can do their best at the valuable work.” The pope also expressed his desire that a high-level summit in Berlin on the crisis in Libya “will be the start of a path towards the cessation of violence and a negotiated solution that will lead to peace and the much desired stability of the country.”
Thought For The Day – January 19th
Thought for the day for January 19th – World Religion Day
Cardinal Dolan conducting ‘Vos estis’ investigation into Brooklyn bishop
DiMarzio is the second US bishop to be investigated under the new norms
Jan. 19 Second Sunday of Ordinary Time, Sunday
With the feast of the Baptism of the Lord we have entered into the liturgical time that we call "ordinary." On this second Sunday, the Gospel presents to us the scene of the meeting between Jesus and John the Baptist at the Jordan River. The narrator is the eye witness, John the Evangelist, who, before he was a disciple of Jesus was a disciple of the Baptist, together with his brother James, with Simon and Andrew, all are from Galilee, all are fisherman. So, John the Baptist sees Jesus, who steps forward from the crowd and, inspired from above, sees in Jesus the one sent by God. For this reason he points him out with theses words: "Behold the lamb of God, he who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29).
Cardinal Dolan conducting 'Vos estis' investigation into Brooklyn's Bishop DiMarzio
New York City, N.Y., Jan 18, 2020 / 09:05 pm (CNA).- Cardinal Timothy Dolan is conducting an investigation into Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, following an allegation of sexual abuse. The investigation is being conducted under the provisions of Vos estis lux mundi, the Church law issued by Pope Francis last year on dealing with accusations against bishops. In a statement released Jan. 18, Joseph Zwilling, director of communications in the Archdiocese of New York, confirmed the investigation. “As directed by Vos estis, Cardinal Dolan earlier notified the Holy See of the allegation that was raised concerning Bishop DiMarzio from his time as a priest in the Archdiocese of Newark. On January 7, 2020, the Cardinal received instruction from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that he is to begin an investigation.” On Nov. 13, 2019, DiMarzio publicly announced that he was the subject of an allegation of sexually abusing a minor, dating back to his time as a priest in the 1970s in Jersey City. According to the Associated Press, 56-year-old Mark Matzek says DiMarzio and another priest, who is now deceased, repeatedly abused him when he was an altar server at St. Nicholas Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of Newark. DiMarzio was a priest there at the time. Boston attorney Mitchell Garabedian sent a letter to the Archdiocese of Newark in November, notifying them that he was preparing a lawsuit on behalf of Matzek. The suit is reportedly seeking $20 million. DiMarzio has strongly denied the allegations, calling sexual abuse a “despicable crime” and highlighting his own work to eradicate it from his own Diocese of Brooklyn. In November, the bishop said that he would vigorously defend himself. “In my nearly 50-year ministry as a priest, I have never engaged in unlawful or inappropriate behavior and I categorically deny this allegation,” DiMarzio said. The allegation was made shortly after DiMarzio himself concluded his own investigation into another bishop on behalf of the Vatican. On instructions of the Congregation for Bishops, in October and November last year, DiMarzio conducted an apostolic visitation of the Diocese of Buffalo, which faced months of scandal surrounding Bishop Richard Malone, who was accused of mishandling sex abuse claims against a priest in his diocese. Although that visitation was not conducted under the rules of Vos estis, Malone’s resignation was accepted by Pope Francis in December last year. DiMarzio is the second U.S. bishop to be investigated under the norms of Vos estis since its promulgation by Pope Francis in May 2019. In September 2019, the Vatican ordered St. Paul-Minneapolis Archbishop Bernard Hebda to conduct an investigation using the new laws into Crookston Bishop Michael Hoeppner, who is alleged to have knowingly kept an abusive priest in ministry, and pressured an alleged abuse victim to withdraw an allegation against a priest. Hebda sent his report to Rome in early November. A spokesman for Cardinal Dolan said that the cardinal will be using experts to assist him in his task, but did not give a timeline for the enquiry into DiMarzio. “As is our practice, the cardinal will rely on outside professional forensic investigators to assist him in this matter,” he said. “The archdiocese will have no further comment on the matter while the investigation is undertaken.”
Minn. young adults accompany, pray for bishops on ad limina visit to Rome
Vatican City, Jan 18, 2020 / 04:35 pm (CNA).- Young adults from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis are accompanying their bishops on their ad limina visit to Rome this week, joining them at “the threshold of the apostles.” The 25 young Catholics are in Rome Jan. 10-18, visiting the city as Archbishop Bernard Hebda and Auxiliary Bishop Andrew Cozzens make their “ad limina apostolorum” visit to the pope and Vatican with the other bishops of Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota. “It’s really been incredible, it’s been fun to pray for [the bishops] as they meet with the Holy Father, to hear about their experiences,” Maddie Schulte, 23, told CNA. On Jan. 15, the young adults - ranging in age from 21 to 34 - had their own opportunity to greet Pope Francis after his weekly general audience. Enzo Randazzo, who organized the pilgrimage, works in the archdiocese’s evangelization office. He said St. Paul and Minneapolis have been blessed with a vibrant young adult community and seen a lot of fruit come from that ministry. “We are here representing the people [Archbishop Hebda] shepherds back home,” Randazzo, 30, said. During an ad limina, which typically takes place every five years, diocesan bishops prepare a report on the state of their diocese, which is presented to Pope Francis and to various offices inside the Vatican. The bishops also celebrate Mass at the tombs of the apostles St. Peter and St. Paul, and at the other two major papal basilicas. The young people have been present at each of these Masses. “We really appreciate the fact that they are accompanying the bishops,” Archbishop Hebda told CNA. “They’ve really dedicated themselves to praying for Pope Francis and praying for us in the course of this ad limina. Just to have them at these ad limina liturgies is beautiful.” “They’re young people with such hope, such joy, it’s a real pleasure to be with them,” he said. Hebda and Cozzens have also joined the pilgrim group for dinners and on a daytrip to Assisi. Twenty-two-year-old Mitchell Kohler said the bishops have taken the time to sit with them and listen to what they have to say. “They’ve been very present throughout the pilgrimage. While they’ve had their own work to do, they’ve been having dinner with us, spending time with us, making sure to connect with us and show that as young adults from the archdiocese we are very valued,” he noted. Schulte said the “succession of Peter” has come to life for her during this trip. Fr. Tim Wratkowski, a newly ordained priest of the archdiocese and former student at the Pontifical North American College, has been present as chaplain. Also taking part is Will Herrmann, 30, a convert who joined the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil in 2019. He said that as a young adult, he sometimes feels lonely in his faith, so he has appreciated the bishops’ efforts to be present during the pilgrimage, as well as the chance to build community with other young adults passionate about their faith. “This community aspect has been wonderful,” he said. “I hope that I can really serve [the bishops] when we get back to the archdiocese, whether that’s directly through anything they ask of me or indirectly through my parish and the work I do locally there.” From a Lutheran background originally, Herrmann said coming to Rome and encountering the saints has felt “like meeting the family, meeting all the relatives.”   “Some I’ve heard of; some I’ve never met… Just really feeling like I belong the more I’m here.”
Miami archbishop promotes refugee resettlement
Miami, Fla., Jan 18, 2020 / 06:01 am (CNA).- The Archbishop of Miami has emphasized the importance of welcoming refugees, and decried the decision of Texas Governor Greg Abbott not to participate in the federal refugee resettlement program. “Often mentored by church volunteers and given resettlement support, refugees and their family quickly integrate into American society, finding work and making a positive contribution to their adopted country,” said Archbishop Thomas Wenski in a Jan. 16 letter to the editor of the Miami Herald. “Resettlement agencies are preparing to submit proposals to the Office of Refugee Resettlement on Jan. 21 to continue this ministry of ‘welcoming the stranger.’ Catholic Charities look forward to local governments continuing welcoming refugees in those communities where we already serve.” The archbishop noted that Catholic Charities in Florida sponsored unaccompanied Cuban minors in the 1960s, resettled refugees from Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia in the 1970s, and has participated in the US Refugee Program since it began in 1980. He stressed the security of the vetting policies already conducted by the United States' government. He said refugees have to meet established criteria such as fleeing religious persecution or political violence. “Refugees are thoroughly vetted by agencies including the National Counterterrorism Center, FBI, and the Departments of Homeland Security, Defense, and State,” he said. A September 2019 executive order by President Trump requires written consent from states and local entities before they resettle refugees within their boundaries. Archbishop Wenski expressed disappointment in Abbott for discontinuing Texas' participation in the refugee resettlement program. “Forty two governors have gone on record supporting refugee services - 19 are Republican. Only the governor of Texas decided to discontinue resettlement - apparently without much public support.” “Florida, and refugees, would lose if we were to follow Texas’ example,” he added. Last week, the 16 bishops in Texas described Abbott’s move as “deeply discouraging and disheartening.” They asked the governor to reconsider his decision, noting that refugees contribute a great deal to society. “While the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops respects the governor, this decision is simply misguided. It denies people who are fleeing persecution, including religious persecution, from being able to bring their gifts and talents to our state and contribute to the general common good of all Texans,” the bishops said in a Jan. 10 statement. “As Catholics, an essential aspect of our faith is to welcome the stranger and care for the alien. We use this occasion to commit ourselves even more ardently to work with all people of good will, including our federal, state and local governments, to help refugees integrate and become productive members of our communities.”
‘No misunderstanding’: Cardinal Sarah meets pope emeritus
Sarah said he was ‘very happy, full of peace’ after meeting Benedict XVI this week
Catholic family looks to honor late daughter with a dance
South Bend, Ind., Jan 18, 2020 / 04:00 am (CNA).- Raffaella Stroik loved beauty. A devout Catholic and a talented professional ballerina, Raffaella felt she experienced the beatific vision when she was performing for others. She hoped her art could be transformative in their lives. But Raffaella’s short life ended in tragedy. On Nov. 14, 2018, her body was found in a lake some 140 miles from St. Louis, where she was a member of the city’s ballet. She was 23 years old. Authorities ruled that there seemed to have been neither foul play nor self-harm. "...the only thing that seems to have happened, could have happened, is some kind of an accident," Duncan Stroik, Raffaella’s father, told WNDU News in South Bend, Indiana in November. "We don't know what could have happened." In order to honor and continue their daughter’s legacy, Duncan and his family have decided to create a traditional ballet in honor of Rafaella, loosely based on her life and incorporating the elements of beauty and art that their daughter loved about ballet. “We were trying to figure out how to remember her and how to memorialize her,” Stroik told CNA. “And I'm an architect, so I think buildings, monuments, tombstones, all kinds of things. And my wife actually had a dream that we would remember her through dance.” “The goal was to continue her work, which was as a ballerina, in a way that we could, which is to create a new ballet,” he said. Creating a new ballet is no easy feat, particularly a traditional ballet, which includes more in the way of sets and costumes and artistry than the minimalistic style of most contemporary ballets. For help, the family set up an online fundraiser in order to raise the necessary money to hire professionals who could write the music and the choreography and help design the sets and costumes of the ballet. “There's a lot of cooks in the kitchen,” Stroik said. “There's a lot of artists that are part of this. And I've been calling myself the impresario, the producer in movie terms, who's organizing all of it, but then trying to hire the best people that would share our vision for this ballet.” Stroik said they went with a traditional ballet because that was Raffaella’s favorite style, and they believed it would be the best way to create a more timeless ballet that could endure through the ages. Raffaella was inspired by the romantic, fairy-tale style and themes of traditional ballets and believed it could do more to portray beauty than the style of contemporary ballet. “Raffaella's passion was to bring beauty to the world in many ways,” Stroik added. “Her prime strength was in dance and she really was trying in her own way to do things that were glorifying to God through traditional ballet and the beauty of the human body and what it can do.” Stroik and his wife are writing the story of the ballet, which will loosely follow their daughter’s life - friends and family of Raffaella will be able to recognize the similarities, he said. The story takes place in Italy, one of Raffaella’s favorite places to visit and the language that she studied. The story will take place in the 18th century so that it can incorporate some of the elements of traditional ballets - kings and queens, princes and princesses, peasants and village life. The character of Rafaella will be a princess who grows up wanting to be an artist like her parents, meets interesting people in her life, and interacts with both a good prince and a deceptive prince who vie for her attention. “(She’s) really searching for the true prince, and she sees him from time to time in her life. And then the other prince who comes along sweeps her off her feet and is very attractive, and she's totally compelled by him but he turns out to be a deceptive prince,” Stroik said. Stroik noted that the theme of superficial beauty and its deceptive power is a common one in other traditional ballets. The ballet's ending, of course, cannot be given away. “My hope is it's the kind of story with the kind of good and evil love, joy, hatred, fighting, peacemaking that will speak to people for generations. That's my goal,” Stroik said. The desire for a ballet that transcends generations is an idea that comes from his Catholic faith, Stroik added. “We want to do something that's timeless, that's universal. And I think that relates to our Catholic faith. We're not doing something just for today...but we also want it to - if it's really good - hopefully, it will speak to future generations as well. So we'll see, but that's our goal,” he said.  Rafaella’s Catholic faith was always central to her life and her art, Stroik said, and he noticed it in how she interacted with others as well as in her passion for her art. “It caused her to try to always put other people first, which we saw a lot in her life. It caused her to forgive...and she tried, as best she could, to live the Beatitudes,” he said. “She told us that when she danced and danced really well, she felt like she was experiencing the beatific vision. She really felt that it was a very religious, spiritual experience, especially performing,” he said. “She was experiencing a taste of heaven.” The Stroiks have raised $115,000 of their $250,000 goal, and Duncan said he has been surprised and touched by the way this project has touched the hearts of people who knew Raffaella and those who did not. “One of the things that's really surprised me in a good way is how many notes I've gotten from people - people that I know, but also people that I don't know - telling me they love the idea. They said, ‘What a beautiful tribute to your daughter.’ And, again, people that I don't even know will write me notes and say, ‘This is fantastic that you're doing this.’” Stroik said he hopes the ballet will be ready to premiere in spring or summer of 2022. He said they are still exploring options as to where it will debut, but they are hoping to recruit dancers from Rafaella’s life - from her time at the St. Louis ballet, her college ballet at Indiana University, and her high school ballet - who are professional dancers and friends of Rafaella to perform in it. “I'm hoping that some of them will return to be part of this production,” he said. Stroik added that he hopes people who come to see the “Raffaella” ballet will walk away with a new appreciation for the beauty of the art form and with a sense of hope. “We want to do this ballet in order to bring a whole new audience to ballet, for a broader audience,” he said. “And because ballet can be very beautiful, very powerful, and it can speak to all the issues that concern our lives and give us...in this case, it's a tragedy, but the way we've written the story is it's also full of hope, because Raffaella was a girl with a lot of hope and a lot of faith.”
Thought For The Day – January 18th
Thought for the day for January 18th
Jan. 18 Saturday of the First Week of Ordinary Time, Weekday
According to the 1962 Missal of St. John XXIII the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, today is the feast of St. Peter's Chair at Rome and the commemoration of St. Prisca, virgin and martyr. The Feast of the Chair of St. Peter in the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite is celebrated on February 22.
Buffalo administrator: Catholic Charities donations will not go to abuse settlements
Buffalo, N.Y., Jan 17, 2020 / 07:19 pm (CNA).- The apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Buffalo said this week that despite the possibility the diocese could file for bankruptcy protection to settle over 200 lawsuits related to sexual abuse, donations made to Catholic Charities this year will be used to help the needy rather than to pay for lawsuits. “All of the money that we are collecting is going toward immediate goals. We’re not talking about years down the line. We’re talking about right now. They are immediate and must be met, so we continue the campaign to meet those goals...The last thing we want to do is in any way to curtail the services because the needs are real,” Bishop Edward Scharfenberger of Albany said Tuesday as reported by the Buffalo News. Catholic Charities of Buffalo announced Jan. 14 the launch of its 2020 appeal, with a goal of $10 million – $1 million less than last year’s goal. Programs and services provided by Catholic Charities benefited more than 160,000 people in 2019, the group reported. Last year, Catholic Charities of Buffalo raised $9.5 million, $1.5 million short of their goal. Buffalo's Bishop Richard Malone resigned in December 2019 after more than a year of calls for his resignation, amid accusations that he mishandled abuse cases in the diocese. The recent enactment of the Child Victims Act in New York expanded the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse survivors to file lawsuits and a one-year filing window for suits related to historical cases. To date, the Buffalo diocese has been hit with more than 225 lawsuits, the Buffalo News reports. In the days following his appointment as apostolic administrator, Scharfenberger indicated that he would not rule out bankruptcy as an option to settle the lawsuits. The Diocese of Buffalo shut down its credit cards last September, and although some have interpreted the move as a step towards bankruptcy, officials said the decision was unrelated to the scandals and lawsuits affecting the diocese. Scharfenberger said Tuesday that even if the diocese does file for bankruptcy, contributions to the 2020 Catholic Charities appeal would not be affected because a Chapter 11 reorganization would take years to complete, the Buffalo News reported. In addition, Catholic Charities is separately incorporated from the Buffalo Diocese, which means its assets would not be in play in the case of the diocese declaring Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which would trigger an intense analysis of the diocese’s assets to determine what could be used to pay settlements, The Buffalo News reports. In the past, about one-third of the funds raised during Catholic Charities’ appeal goes to Fund for the Faith, which is controlled by the diocese and is used for ministries such as diocese communications, seminary training, and campus ministry, the Buffalo News reports. For the second year, donors to Catholic Charities will have the option to give to the Appeal as in previous years, which benefits Catholic Charities and the Fund for the Faith; give to Catholic Charities only; or give to the Fund for the Faith only. In December, Catholic Charities announced Deacon Steve Schumer as the organization’s new President and CEO, effective Jan. 6, 2020. “My understanding of the law is donor designated funds are donor designated. So, I tell people, in all honesty, yes, contribute your resources, and we’ll put them to work in the way you intend,” Schumer told the Buffalo News. In November 2018, a former Buffalo chancery employee leaked confidential diocesan documents related to the handling of claims of clerical sexual abuse. The documents were widely reported to suggest Malone had covered-up some claims of sexual abuse, an allegation the bishop denied. Six months later, in April 2019, Malone apologized for his handling of some cases in the diocese, and said he would work to restore trust. The bishop particularly apologized for his 2015 support of Fr. Art Smith, a priest who had faced repeated allegations of abuse and misconduct with minors. In August 2019, 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 seemed 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 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.” On Oct. 3, the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington, DC, announced that Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn had been asked to lead an apostolic visitation – and canonical inspection – of the Buffalo diocese on behalf of the Congregation for Bishops. That review concluded at the end of October, with DiMarzio having made three trips to Buffalo, and interviewing more than 80 people before submitting his report to Rome. Scharfenberger has said that he was not given a clear mandate by the Vatican when he was appointed as apostolic administrator of the Buffalo diocese in December, and that he has not yet seen DiMarzio’s report. Scharfenberger has emphasized that his position as apostolic administrator is by definition temporary, and the decision of who will ultimately lead the diocese is entirely up to the Holy See.
Bishops visiting Holy Land ask for application of international law
Jerusalem, Jan 17, 2020 / 06:01 pm (CNA).- Following a trip to the Holy Land, a group of bishops from the United States and Europe called on their countries’ governments to acknowledge the state of Palestine and to apply international law in Israel and the surrounding area in order to promote peace and justice. “We are inspired by their enduring resilience and faith in a worsening situation,” the bishops said of those who live in the Holy Land in a Jan. 16 statement. The bishops added that the Catholic bishops of the Holy Land have “lamented the international community’s failure to help realize justice and peace here in the place of Christ’s birth. Our governments must do more to meet their responsibilities for upholding international law and protecting human dignity. In some cases they have become actively complicit in the evils of conflict and occupation.” The bishops are part of the Holy Land Coordination group, which was founded by the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of England and Wales and is comprised of bishops from the U.S. and Europe. Besides their annual trip to the Holy Land, the group promotes awareness, action, and prayer for the region. During the Jan. 11-16 trip, the bishops visited Christians in Gaza, East Jerusalem, and Ramallah. After their recent visit, the bishops said it was “painfully clear” that living conditions for the people of the Holy Land are worsening, particularly “in the West Bank where our sisters and brothers are denied even basic rights including freedom of movement.” “In Gaza the political decisions of all sides have resulted in the creation of an open-air prison, human rights abuses and a profound humanitarian crisis. We were welcomed by families whose focus is now day-to-day survival and whose aspirations have been reduced to bare essentials such as electricity and clean water,” they said. The visiting bishops said that local bishops warn “that people are facing further 'evaporation of hope for a durable solution'.” They added: “We have witnessed this reality first-hand, particularly how construction of settlements and the separation wall is destroying any prospect of two states existing in peace.” The bishops encouraged their own countries’ governments to find political solutions to the conflicts in the Holy Land, including: “insisting upon the application of international law; following the Holy See’s lead in recognizing the State of Palestine, addressing the security concerns of Israel and the right of all to live in safety, rejecting political or economic support for settlements, and resolutely opposing acts of violence or abuses of human rights by any side.” The Vatican recognized the state of Palestine in May 2015. They also thanked the religious sisters, priests, and laypeople in the region who are providing services such as education and healthcare to the vulnerable populations, and encouraged the increasing number of Christians making pilgrimages to the Holy Land to engage with the local communities in the area on their trips. “In taking these steps the international community can meaningfully stand in solidarity with those Israelis and Palestinians who are refusing to give up their non-violent struggle for justice, peace and human rights,” the bishops added. “We pray for the peace of Jerusalem.” The delegation on the trip included Bishop Declan Lang of Clifton, chair of the Holy Land Coordination; Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the U.S. Military Archdiocese; bishops from throughout Europe; and an Anglican bishop.
2020 Pope Francis trip to Indonesia, East Timor, and Papua New Guinea possible
Vatican City, Jan 17, 2020 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- A visit from Pope Francis to Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and East Timor may happen in September, according to an Indonesian Muslim leader who met with the pope this week. Sheikh Yahya Cholil Staquf leads the 50 million member Nahdlatul Ulama movement, which calls for a reformed “humanitarian Islam” and has developed a theological framework for Islam that rejects the concepts of caliphate, Sharia law, and “kafir” (infidels). Staquf met with the pope this week, while in Rome for a meeting of the Abrahamic Faiths Initiative, which gathers Christians, Muslim and Jewish leaders to discuss the promotion of peace and fraternity. U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback attended the meetings. Pope Francis met with the group Jan. 15. After that meeting, Staquf told CNA that the pope said he plans to visit Indonesia, East Timor, and New Guinea in September. The Vatican has not yet confirmed such a trip. Indonesia is home to the largest population of Muslims in the world. The country’s 229 million Muslims make up more than 12% of the global Muslim population. Nearly all of Indonesia’s Muslims are Sunni. There are 24 million Christians living in Indonesia, 7 million of them are Catholic. Pope St. Paul VI visited the country in 1970, and Pope St. John Paul II traveled there in 1989. East Timor is a small country on the island of Timor. It gained independence from Indonesia in 1999, following decades of bloody conflict as the region vied for national sovereignty. The country’s second president, Jose Manuel Ramos-Horta, shared the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize with East Timorese Bishop Ximenes Bolo, for their efforts to reach a peaceful and just end to fighting in the country. Bishop Belo is now a missionary in Mozambique. More than 1 million people live in East Timor; more than 98% of them are Catholic. It is one of few majority Catholic countries in Southeast Asia. Pope St. John Paul II visited East Timor in 1989. Papua New Guinea is a country of nearly nine million people on the eastern half of the island of New Guinea. The other side of island consists of two Indonesian provinces. Papua New Guinea is a nation of considerable cultural diversity, comprised of small traditional communities of various groups, some of which remain uncontacted by Westerners.  Nearly all Papua New Guinea citizens are Christians, and 26 percent of the population is Catholic. Pope St. John Paul II went to Papua New Guinea in 1984. Pope Francis has long expressed interest in visiting Indonesia, and has also expressed interest in visiting Iraq in 2020.
Supreme Court will hear Little Sisters of the Poor case, again
Washington D.C., Jan 17, 2020 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- The Little Sisters of the Poor will have their case heard before the Supreme Court yet again in their years-long fight against the federal contraceptive mandate. The Supreme Court announced on Friday that it would hear oral arguments in the case of the sisters against the State of Pennsylvania, which challenged the order’s exemption from the contraceptive mandate. “It is disappointing to think that as we enter a new decade we must still defend our ministry in court,” said Mother Loraine Marie Maguire of the Little Sisters of the Poor, in a statement on Friday.  “We are grateful the Supreme Court has decided to weigh in, and hopeful that the Justices will reinforce their previous decision and allow us to focus on our lifelong work of serving the elderly poor once and for all,” she said.  “We are hopeful that this trip to the Supreme Court will be their last,” said Montse Alvarado, vice president and executive director of Becket, which represents the sisters in court. The Little Sisters of the Poor is an order of religious founded in 1839 by St. Jeanne Jugan. Their mission is to care for the poor and the elderly in more than 30 countries. Their case, Little Sisters of the Poor v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, stems from a lawsuit by the State of Pennsylvania against the exemption granted to the Little Sisters of the Poor to the contraceptive mandate. The sisters originally sued the federal government over the mandate that employers provide contraceptives, sterilizations, and abortion-causing drugs in health plans. The religious exemption that the Obama administration originally granted was so narrow that the sisters, and many other religious non-profits were not eligible. When the administration issued an accommodation for the objecting non-profits, the sisters and other religious entities, including Catholic dioceses and charities, still challenged it in court. Under the revised procedure, the objecting parties would report their objection to the government, which in turn would notify the insurer or third-party administrator to provide the contraceptive coverage anyway. The sisters said they would still be cooperating with the provision of morally objectionable drugs and procedures. In 2016, the Supreme Court sent the case of the sisters and others back to the circuit courts, ordering the government and the objecting parties to come to an agreement respecting both the administration’s goal of contraceptive coverage and the sisters’ wishes to be exempt from participation in it. Then in October of 2017, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a new rule protecting religious entities that objected to the mandate. However, attorneys general for Pennsylvania and California challenged the rule in court, saying that the sisters and other objecting religious non-profits should not be exempt. The Supreme Court held oral arguments in March of 2018 to determine if the sisters could intervene in the states’ lawsuits, which in April the Court said they could. At the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, the sisters lost their case against Pennsylvania in July of 2019, and appealed to the Supreme Court in October. The Court on Friday agreed to hear their case. The sisters also lost their case against California’s lawsuit in the Ninth Circuit Court in October.
'No misunderstanding': Cardinal Sarah meets with pope emeritus
Vatican City, Jan 17, 2020 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- Cardinal Robert Sarah has met with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI to discuss the controversy following around their recently-published book "From the Depths of Our Hearts,” and insisted that there is no ill feeling between the two.  The book, presented as a co-authored work by the two, is subtitled “Priesthood, Celibacy, and the Crisis of the Catholic Church.” Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s contributions have been the subject of controversy since the book was announced on Sunday, and conflicting statements on the extent of the pope emeritus’s involvement in the project have been released over the last week. Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, issued a series of statements via Twitter on Friday, saying that his meeting with the former pope went well. “Because of the incessant, nauseating and deceptive controversies that have never stopped since the beginning of the week, concerning the book From the Depths of Our Hearts, I met Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI this evening,” said Sarah.  The tweets were published in French and signed “-RS.” “With Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, we have seen how there is no misunderstanding between us,” said Sarah. “I came out very happy, full of peace and courage from this beautiful interview.” Sarah encouraged people to read and reflect on the book, and thanked his editor and his publisher, “for the thoroughness, probity, seriousness, and professionalism which they have shown,” and added “excellent reading to all!”   The book contains a chapter credited to Benedict, a chapter credited to Sarah, and an introduction and conclusion, which have been attributed to the two men jointly.   On Jan. 14, Benedict’s private secretary, Archbishop Georg Ganswein, said the former pontiff was not informed he would be presented as co-author of the book and had not seen its cover, adding that Benedict has asked for his name and photo to be removed from the cover.   Ganswein affirmed that Benedict had written the chapter attributed to him, and gave permission for it to appear in a book, but said that Benedict had not actually co-authored the introduction and conclusion attributed to him. Ganswein also communicated the request that Benedict’s name be removed as co-author of the book and he instead be listed as a contributor. Despite the request from Ganswein, Ignatius Press--who will be publishing the English-languge edition in February--stated that they would not be altering the cover and both would be credited as co-authors.   The publisher told CNA that critics suggesting that the pope emeritus did not co-author the book, or authorize its publication, are wrong. “Are these people really implying that Cardinal Sarah is involved in a conspiracy to distort the truth?” Father Joseph Fessio, SJ, editor-in-chief of Ignatius Press, asked Jan. 13. “If Cardinal Sarah is telling [Ignatius Press] that the chapters from Pope Benedict are from Pope Benedict, we take his word for it,” Fessio said, adding that the publisher stands by its attribution of the book to both Sarah and Benedict. The publisher’s statement followed a Jan 14. release from Sarah, who said that he had in October proposed a jointly authored book to Benedict, and that after the two corresponded over the matter, he sent on Nov. 19 “a complete manuscript to the pope emeritus containing, as we had mutually decided, the cover, a common introduction and conclusion, the chapter of Benedict XVI, and my own chapter.”
Chinese bishop and priests evicted over 'fire safety'
Beijing, China, Jan 17, 2020 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- Chinese officials have evicted members of the clergy, including a bishop, from their homes and are closing Catholic parishes in the Diocese of Fujian. While the officials cited “fire safety standards” as the reason for the evictions, all the clergy and churches affected have refused to join the Communist-controlled Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association. The CPCA, the state-run Catholic Church, entered into an agreement with the Vatican in 2018, regularizing the status of its bishops. While the terms of the agreement have not been released, it has widely been reported that it gives the Communist party effective veto power over future episcopal appointments.  The deal was intended to regularize the status of the so-called underground Church in China, which had always been in communion with Rome, despite decades of persecution by the Communist government. While the Vatican has said that underground clergy are not obliged to join the CPCA, government authorities have escalated policies and enforcement actions aimed at bringing all religious practice under Communist control. According to a Jan. 16 report by AsiaNews, Bishop Vincenzo Guo Xijin, auxiliary bishop of Fujian has been evicted from the curia and clergy house and is now homeless.  The priests who lived in the house were also evicted, reportedly due to “security reasons” and noncompliance with fire regulations. Chinese government officials reportedly cut electricity and water supply to the chancery building in an effort to encourage the clergy to leave the building. The building, which is 10 years old, was built in compliance with all relevant permits. Bishop Guo and his priests have refused to join the state-run Church, and thus have not been approved by the Chinese government.  Guo was the Vatican-recognized bishop of the underground Diocese of Mindong until the conclusion of the recent Vatican-China deal. Following that agreement, which gave communist officials the right to enforce “sinicization” on local Catholic practice, the Holy See recognized the communist-approved Bishop Zhan, who had previously been considered an excommunicated schismatic, as the diocesan bishop, and compelled Guo to accept the position of auxiliary bishop in his diocese. AsiaNews also reported Thursday that “at least five” parishes in the Diocese of Fuijan have been closed due to “fire safety standards” despite prior compliance with permits and regulations. One of these parishes has 10,000 communicants, and another has roughly 3,000.  The priest of these now-shuttered parishes, who have all refused to join the CPCA, are now homeless.  On January 13, the Chinese government closed a retirement home administered by the Little Sisters of Mercy and Charity. The home, which housed 30 people, has been open for 20 years and had operated without major issues. Now, some of the residents do not have anywhere to live, and others have gone to live with relatives.  In the city of Suanfeng, a parish that was closed for “fire safety” reasons was re-opened after a CPCA priest was appointed to the parish. There were no repairs made to the building to bring it up to any sort of code during the time it was closed, says AsiaNews. A little less than half of the “underground” priests--20 out of 57--from the Diocese of Fujian have declined to join the CPCA, despite urging from Bishop Zhan. The priests are reluctant to sign on with the CPCA as they do not wish to be affiliated with an entity of the Chinese Communist Party. In June, the Vatican issued “pastoral guidelines of the Holy See concerning the civil registration of clergy in China.” While recognizing the need to continue efforts to normalize relations between the Catholic community and government authorities, the document “respects the choice” of priests who refuse to register with the state. “For some time, requests have been received by the Holy See from Bishops in mainland China for a concrete indication of the approach to be adopted in relation to the obligation of presenting an application for civil registration,” the document says, noting that “many pastors remain deeply disturbed [at] the modality of such registration.” The Holy See also noted that the act of registration “requires, almost invariably, the signing of a document in which, notwithstanding the commitment assumed by the Chinese authorities to respect also Catholic doctrine, one must declare acceptance, among other things, of the principle of independence, autonomy and self-administration of the Church in China.” If, the Vatican said, “the text of the declaration required for the registration does not appear respectful of the Catholic faith,” priests should specify - in writing if possible, or else in front of witnesses – that the declaration is made only to the extent it is “faithful to the principles of Catholic doctrine.” “At the same time, the Holy See understands and respects the choice of those who, in conscience, decide that they are unable to register under the current conditions.” Guo has previously been arrested for refusing to participate in public events with Zhan. In February, Guo told the New York Times that “we must obey Rome's decision,” and that “our principle is that the Chinese Catholic Church must have a connection with the Vatican; the connection cannot be severed.”