Browsing News Entries

Violence, Displacement on the Rise in Sahel Region of Africa

By Catholic News Agency | WASHINGTON — Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is warning of increasing violence and displacement in the Sahel, the vast area of western and north-central Africa stretching...

Pope Francis: Through Sin and Scandal, God’s Church Remains, Sustained by the Holy Spirit

By Hannah Brockhaus/CNA | VATICAN CITY — Because of sinfulness, human projects will always fail, but the Church remains steadfast, even in times of scandal, because she is sustained by the Holy...

Oklahoma judge denies effort to halt ban on D&E abortions

Oklahoma City, Okla., Sep 18, 2019 / 12:39 am (CNA).- The Oklahoma County District Court has denied a motion to pause a law banning a common abortion procedure during the second trimester.

According to the Associated Press, Judge Cindy Truong declined to issue a temporary injunction that would have stopped the bill from going into effect while the case progresses.

Officials have agreed to wait until the Oklahoma Supreme Court considers an emergency motion before enforcing the ban.

The law bars dilation-and-evacuation abortions, which remove an unborn baby from the womb with clamps, scissors, or similar medical tools. It is the most common abortion procedure during the second trimester.

The legislation specifies that use of the procedure intending to save an unborn child’s life, or to remove the body of a miscarried unborn child, is not considered an abortion under the law.

The law had been challenged by the Center for Reproductive Rights in 2015, shortly after then-Gov. Mary Fallin (R) signed the bill into law. On July 12, 2019, Judge Truong upheld the ban.

Autumn Katz, a staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights, said the group would continue to fight against the ban as the case advances to the state Supreme Court.

“Oklahoma’s law is part of this orchestrated national strategy that we’ve seen where states are passing hundreds of restrictions on abortion ... [including] these kinds of D&E bans and many other restrictions on abortion that are completely politically motivated and designed to push abortion out of reach for women,” Katz told HuffPost.

The law is one of several pro-life measures in recent years to have passed in Oklahoma and brought to court. In May, the Oklahoma Supreme Court struck down a law restricting the use of abortion medication.

H.B. 2684 required all abortion clinics to follow the protocol established by the FDA in 2000 instead of a 2016 update, which endorsed an off-label use of abortion medication three weeks later into pregnancy.

Pro-life leaders argued that the updated protocol would place more women at risk for complications. The Oklahoma Supreme Court disagreed, stating that the restriction placed  “a substantial obstacle in the path of women’s choice.”

Greg Treat (R-Oklahoma City), President Pro Tempore of the Senate, decried the decision. He said the law was a legitimate effort to protect women’s health and safety.

“This measure was intended to protect the health and safety of women who sought a medication abortion by requiring the abortionist to follow the instructions on the pill bottle,” he said, according to The Oklahoman.

St. Joseph of Cupertino

On September 18, the Church celebrates the life of St. Joseph of Cupertino, a mystic who was perhaps most famous for his ability to fly.  His father, a poor carpenter, died before his birth and his mother, who was unable to pay the debts, lost her home and gave birth to Joseph in a stable at Cupertino, Italy on June 17, 1603.Joseph began having mystical visions when he was seven, and was often so lost to the world around him that the other children made fun of him giving him the nickname, "open-mouthed" for his gaping manner.He had an irascible temper and read very poorly, giving others the impression that he was dumb and good for nothing. Aside from that, he was so continually drawn into ecstasy that it was impossible for him to be attentive to the tasks at hand. Thus, when he secured a job, he lost it very quickly.He finally managed to obtain a post taking care of a stable in a Franciscan convent near Cupertino. Upon realizing his holiness and aptitude for penance, humility, and obedience, it was decided that he could begin studying for the priesthood.Joseph was a very poor student, however during his final examination, the examiner happened to ask him a question on the one topic he knew well.  He passed and was admitted into the priesthoodIt was also soon recognized that though he knew little by way of worldly knowledge and had little capacity to learn, Joseph was infused with a divine knowledge that made him capable of solving some of the most intricate theological quandaries.For the last 35 years of his life as a priest he was unable to celebrate Mass in public because he would often, without being able to help it, be lifted up into the air when he went into an ecstatic state, which happened at nearly every Mass.  It took only the slightest reference of anything having to do with God in order for this state to be induced in him.Despite being moved from one friary to another, because of the disruption he caused by his ecstasies and the persecutions he endured from some of his brothers who were envious of his gifts, he remained profoundly inundated by the joy of abandoning himself to Divine Providence.He died on September 18, 1663 and was canonized in 1767 by Pope Clement XIII.  He is the patron of air travelers and students preparing for exams.

Austin bishop saddened by city's intention financially to support abortion

Austin, Texas, Sep 17, 2019 / 05:01 pm (CNA).- Last week the Austin City Council voted to provide funding for costs associated with abortion, a move that was protested by the city's bishop when it was proposed in August.

The city council voted Sept. 10 to provide $150,000 for transportation, lodging, or childcare for Austin residents seeking to procure abortion.

“I am saddened by the recent news that members of the Austin City Council are working on a proposal to increase financial support for access to abortion in the community,” Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin had said Aug. 21.

“I, along with the Catholic Church, continue to affirm the intrinsic value of human life and the dignity of every person in a way that transforms culture,” he stated.

He added that the funds “would be better used to provide emotional, material and spiritual support for pregnant women and families in need.”

“Please join me in continuing to work with our government leaders, praying that all life will be protected from conception to natural death,” Bishop Vasquez said.

Texas had passed a law earlier in the year banning local governments from financially supporting abortion providers. The state law was in reaction to Austin's decision to lease a building to Planned Parenthood for $1 a year.

Sen. Donna Campbell, who authored the Texas law, said she was unsurprised Austin would “use taxpayer dollars to pay for transportation and lodging to those seeking an abortion.”

Austin's decision has been challenged in a lawsuit by former councilman Don Zimmerman, who charges the policy violates a state law criminalizing the furnishing of “means for procuring an abortion knowing the purpose intended,” the Texas Tribune reported.

Texas has adopted several laws regulating abortion in recent years.

A study published in March found that the number of abortions procured in Texas decreased 18 percent after the application of a 2013 law regulating abortion clinics. Though the total number of abortions fell, the number of abortions procured during the second trimester increased.

Pro-life policies and border funding fuel Congressional budget deadlock

Washington D.C., Sep 17, 2019 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- With the end-of-the-month deadline for Congress to pass legislation to fund the federal government fast approaching, lawmakers remain at odds over a series of issues, including key pro-life policies, making the need for a short-term extension agreement likely.

Such a funding extension—a Continuing Resolution (CR)—would be “the best thing for pro-lifers right now,” Tom McClusky, president of March for Life Action, told CNA last week.

McClusky’s analysis came after Senate Democrats tried twice last week to insert pro-abortion measures into appropriations bills, resulting in two of the 12 bills meant to fund federal agencies being pulled from consideration.

The two amendments would have rolled back pro-life administration policies, the Title X “Protect Life Rule” and the expanded Mexico City Policy. Both are protections against taxpayer funding of abortions at home and abroad.

One of the policies, the “Protect Life Rule” which went into effect in August, clarified that any recipients of Title X family planning funding could not refer for women for abortions or collocate in the same facility with abortion clinics.

The administration’s expanded version of the Mexico City Policy applies restrictions to federal funding of abortions abroad to over $8.8 billion of U.S. foreign assistance, barring funding of foreign non-governmental organizations that perform or promote abortions.

Two Republicans on the Senate Appropriations Committee—Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)—were expected to vote for the amendments. In response, the legislation was pulled from consideration before it could reach a scheduled markup hearing last Thursday.

Senators from both parties are also at odds over other issues in the appropriations process, including border wall funding.

On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) cited the budget agreement struck between President Trump and Congressional leaders in July, and said Democrats were walking back their agreement not to insert “poison pill” amendments into appropriations bills.

McConnell added that he was moving to advance a package of House-passed appropriations bills in the Senate before resorting to a CR.

“They include several of the domestic funding bills along with the legislation to fund the Department of Defense. There should be no reason for Democrats to vote against this first procedural step,” he said.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Tuesday criticized Senate Republicans for “acting in a totally partisan way” by seeking to allocate an additional $12 billion in funding of the U.S.-Mexico border wall, in part by taking funding from medical research, opioid treatment and funding for military families.

“This is a stunt if I’ve ever seen one. Putting this bill—$12 billion more for the wall, no buy-in from Democrats—for a vote. It will lose. We know it will lose,” Schumer said on the Senate Floor on Tuesday.

As the Senate considers the 12 appropriations bills which must be passed before the end of the 2019 fiscal year, the House is now working on a CR in case the bills do not suceed, the text of which was yet to be released by Tuesday afternoon. House leaders indicated that a vote on a CR was likely before the end of the week.

While debate among legislators continued, a Continuing Resolution would at keep funding at the “status quo” level without the threat of new pro-abortion amendments in the meantime, McClusky told CNA last week.

A scenario that would be concerning, he added, would be the passage of a CR combined with an omnibus bill which would provide new funding for certain government agencies for the 2020 fiscal year in the “omnibus” section—while providing a short-term funding extensions for other government agencies in the CR section.

McClusky said that, because such a bill would be a much larger and more comprehensive piece of legislation than a simple CR, it would be harder for members to keep track of amendments as they were added—including controversial amendments to repeals of pro-life policies.

McClusky told CNA that the Congressional appropriations proves was in clear need of reform. “This is their day job,” he said.

Robert Bellarmine, the saint who defended the Church with charity

Rome, Italy, Sep 17, 2019 / 03:18 pm (CNA).- St. Robert Bellarmine, whose feast is celebrated Sept. 17 on the General Roman Calendar, was a Jesuit and a cardinal who used his incredible intellect to defend Catholic teaching, largely through responses to the Church’s opponents in the aftermath of the Protestant Reformation.

In all his writings, St. Bellarmine “maintained a charitable disputation that kept the focus on the theological issues,” according to Fr. Mitch Pacwa, S.J.

After the reformation, “for the most part, the Catholics and the Protestants responded to each other with vitriol,” he said. “They threatened each other, ridicule was typical of the debate.”

“And in that context, St. Robert Bellarmine never used ridicule or anger or opprobrium or reviling or any such thing. He always treated his opponents with great respect and charity. He was convinced that charity with the opponents of the Church would win them over much more readily.”

This is one of the things that made him a saint, Pacwa stated.

Fr. Mark Lewis, a professor of Church history and academic vice rector at the Pontifical Gregorian University, told CNA Bellarmine lived simply, in accord with his vow of poverty.

Several religious congregations founded in the 16th century, including the Society of Jesus, were trying to present a model of a reformed priest, “one who took his vows seriously, that lived simply, followed poverty, that was willing to go on apostolic missions,” he said.

Because Jesuits, as a general rule, do not take the honor of cardinal, in his early life Bellarmine avoided being named a cardinal or bishop, Lewis said. “But when he was named one, he insisted that he would be a model of a reformed prelate.”

Bellarmine was named a cardinal in 1599, at a time when bishops were also often political lords, or the ruler of a city or town, but he supported the poor through the sale of his possessions.

The cardinal and his friend, Venerable Cesare Baronius, “wanted to show that if you are going to be a bishop, or you are going to be a cardinal, it’s at the service of the Church,” Lewis said.

“As a Jesuit, he had a vow of poverty as well as obedience. He wasn’t allowed to own anything. He was trained in ascetism, so he wasn’t looking for luxuries in this world,” Pacwa said, noting that once, when people in Rome were suffering from plague and famine, Bellarmine sold the tapestries off the walls of his apartment for money to give to the poor. “He said the walls won’t get colder, the poor will.”

Bellarmine, who was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1931, is well known for having written a catechism of the faith and for his Disputationes de Controversiis Christianae Fidei adversus huius temporis hereticos, a book which responded to the various issues dealt with by Protestant “reformers.”

He responded to their arguments using scripture, the Church Fathers, and tradition, Pacwa explained. “This made him an orderly thinker willing to take on the issues of his day.”

Lewis explained that what Bellarmine did, then called controversial theology, would now probably be called “dogmatic theology.” Though it probably was not seen as a dialogue in Bellarmine’s own time, Lewis argued, it was: “He was developing responses to the Protestant theology of the time.”

Before being made cardinal, Bellarmine was a scholar and teacher, as well as rector of the Roman College. One of his students was St. Aloysius Gonzaga, next to whom, in the Church of St. Ignatius in Rome, Bellarmine asked to be buried.

Another friend of Bellarmine was the storied astronomer Galileo Galilei. But Bellarmine “was the kind of man who could be a friend and not necessarily agree with you,” Pacwa stated.

Galileo had put forward his unproven theory of heliocentricity, which the Church saw as contradicting scripture, Pacwa explained. Bellarmine gave Galileo a warning, because Galileo was asserting the theory as absolute truth without citing specific scientific proof to support the claim.

According to Pacwa, “this warning was given to Galileo, not as condemnation, and Galileo accepted it. Later there were rumors that Galileo had been forced to recant. And both Bellarmine and Galileo wrote that that wasn’t true, just that he had to be quiet about claiming that.”

When Galileo was later condemned, it was after Bellarmine’s death.

St. Robert Bellarmine was “indefatigable in his labor,” Pacwa asserted. “And he worked until he died,” on Sept. 17, 1621. Bellarmine was canonized by Pius XI in 1930.

“Knowing a lot does not make one a saint. Not everybody has the intellectual capacity that Robert Bellarmine did. But the way he used his magnificent intellectual capacity is what made him a saint,” Pacwa claims. “He committed his intellect to the service of God and the Church.”
 


EWTN’s Alexey Gotovsky contributed to this story

Cincinnati archbishop 'anticipating' Vatican investigation into handling of abuse case

Cincinnati, Ohio, Sep 17, 2019 / 02:37 pm (CNA).- Archbishop Dennis Schnurr of Cincinnati has submitted a report to Rome, following criticism of the archdiocese’s handling of allegations of sexual abuse against a local priest.

Archdiocesan officials told CNA Sept. 17 that a complete file on the case of Fr. Geoff Drew has been sent to the apostolic nuncio in Washington, DC, for transmission to the relevant curial departments, expected to include the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

A spokesperson for the archdiocese told CNA that a “full report” was sent to Rome via the nuncio on Aug. 30, and that Archbishop Schnurr “anticipates that the Vatican may order a full investigation” into the handling of the case.

“Archbishop Schnurr takes any accusations of sexual abuse very seriously, as well as any possible lapse in internal procedures for handling allegations,” the spokesperson told CNA.

Fr. Geoff Drew was arrested August 19 on a nine-count indictment for sexual abuse. The charges date back 30 years to before Drew’s time in ministry, when he was a music minister at a local parish. The accusations concern abuse said to have taken place over two years, when the reported victim was 10 and 11 years old. Drew pled not guilty during an Aug. 21 arraignment hearing. If convicted, the priest could face life in prison.

At the time of his arrest, Drew had already been removed from ministry following a several of allegations of misconduct with teenage boys which came to light in July and August.

Despite a series of complaints raised over a period of years, Drew had been able to remain in ministry and allowed to transfer from the parish of St. Maximilian Kolbe in Liberty Township, OH, to the parish of St. Ignatius, which is attached to the largest Catholic school in the archdiocese.

The handling of Drew’s case by archdiocesan officials, and his ability to transfer to another parish, has drawn heavy criticism from the priest’s former parishioners, who have asked how it was possible that a series of complaints was made to Church authorities and forwarded to local law enforcement, but resulted in no action against Drew.

In August, CNA reported that Cincinnati auxiliary Bishop Joseph Binzer had failed to inform Schnurr and the archdiocesan priest personnel board about past allegations against Drew dating back to 2013 and 2015.

As head of priest personnel, Binzer was in charge of the process that considers requests and proposals for priest reassignments, in conjunction with the priest personnel board. Neither the board nor the archbishop were made aware of the multiple complaints against Drew, and a 2018 transfer between parishes was approved for the priest.

After CNA presented its investigation to the archdiocese, a spokesperson said that Binzer would be removed from his position as head of priest personnel, effective immediately, while the archdiocese began its own internal investigation.

On Aug. 6 Binzer resigned from the USCCB’s committee on child and youth protection, which advises the bishops’ conference on all matters related to safe environment policy and child protection. Binzer had been serving as the regional representative for the dioceses of Ohio and Michigan.

The failure of bishops to act on allegations of sexual misconduct and abuse has been the focus of successive scandals in the Church in the past year. In addition to accounts that accusations against former Archbishop Theodore McCarrick were ignored by Church authorities over a period of years, the release of the Pennsylvania grand jury report revived criticism of past occasions where bishops ignored complaints against predator clergy.

The allegations that Binzer internally withheld the allegations against Drew came just weeks after the USCCB met in Baltimore to adopt measures aimed at building processes to address episcopal misconduct or neglect, and the ongoing crisis of credibility widely perceived to overshadow ongoing work to eliminate sexual abuse from the Church.

These measures included a set of directives applying in the U.S. the new universal norms for investigating allegations against bishops promulgated by Pope Francis in Vos estis lux mundi and which came into force on June 1.

A spokesperson for the archdiocese could not confirm whether Archbishop Schnurr had included a request for an investigation into Binzer’s conduct under the provisions of Vos estis, in the report submitted at the end of August, or whether Binzer will be the subject of the “anticipated” Vatican investigation.

“Archbishop Schnurr sent the full report to Rome on the whole case and he is waiting for the Vatican’s response,” the spokesperson told CNA.

Beware scammers, Cardinal Dolan warns, after online fraudster targets followers

New York City, N.Y., Sep 17, 2019 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- Cardinal Timothy Dolan of the Archdiocese of New York issued a statement Monday clarifying that he will not and has never used social media to privately solicit donations. The cardinal made the statement in response to an online scam operation being conducted using his name to solicit funds.

“I've heard from some of you you've received Facebook or Twitter messages from an account pretending to be me,” said the archbishop on Twitter Sept. 16. “Please know I will never reach out privately on social media to ask for donations.”

Dolan encouraged anyone who had been asked to donate money by an account purporting to be him on Twitter or Facebook to report it to the archdiocese. 

A spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York told CNA that they had received “several reports” that someone impersonating Cardinal Dolan was requesting money from people, “ostensibly for charitable purposes,” and that this was not the first time something like this has happened.

“Sadly, we’ve seen this scam being used in the past few months with other religious figures - pastors, priests, other clergy - being impersonated, and so wanted to remind people that Cardinal Dolan will never solicit donations in this way,” said Joseph Zwilling, the archdiocese’s director of communications.  

Zwilling added that, “While the internet and social media can be great tools of evangelization, they can also be used by unscrupulous individuals seeking to ‘rip-off’ trusting and generous people.” 

“It’s always a good idea to be cautious, and double or triple check, especially online, that the person is who he or she claims to be!” 

These types of scams are called “phishing,” and are relatively common. A “phisher” will pose as either a known, trusted person or as a website, and request money, passwords, or other protected information. Frequently, phishers will create spoof emails and addresses that look like genuine emails from an organization or person in order to harvest passwords and credit card information from an unsuspecting victim. 

A person can protect themselves from phishing by using security tools like two-factor authentication, and exercising constant vigilance before sending personal information or money electronically. Electronic security experts advise considering if any request is typical policy for an organization, and to take a step back before blindly giving away sensitive info. 

Other safety recommendations include checking the full email or account address to ensure the authenticity of the sender or, in the example of a public figure such as Cardinal Dolan, to see if the social media account is verified as authentic. 

Eritrean bishops say seizure of Catholic schools is 'hatred against the faith'

Asmara, Eritrea, Sep 17, 2019 / 01:45 pm (CNA).- Seven religious schools in Eritrea, four of them sponsored by the Catholic Church, have been seized by the country’s government this month. Catholic bishops in the country say the move was motivated by “hatred against the faith.”

“If this is not hatred against the faith and against religion what else can it be?” Eritrea’s bishops asked in a Sept. 4 letter addressed to the Minister of Public Education, Semere Re’esom.

The seven schools seized by the government include three run Protestant and Muslim groups, according to Comboni Catholic missionaries serving in the area. The schools have been nationalized, and will reportedly now be run by the country’s education ministry.

The Eritrean government has also seized Church-run health facilities.

"The actions that are being taken against our educational and health institutions are contrary to the rights and to the legitimate freedom of the Church,” the bishops wrote in their Sept. 4 letter.

The bishops also suggested that the government raise to them any objections to the way in which Catholic schools and hospitals are administered in Eritrea.

“If there are situations that need to be corrected or adjusted, not only is it good, but even the only viable way, in order for this to take place in a context of an open and constructive dialogue,” the bishops wrote.

Eritrea is a one-party state whose human rights record has frequently been deplored.

It is believed the seizures are retaliatory, after the Church in April called for reforms to reduce emigration.

The bishops had also called for national reconciliation.
Government seizure of Church property is not new, however.

A 1995 decree restricting social and welfare projects to the state has been used intermittently since then to seize or close ecclesial services.

In July 2018, an Eritrean Catholic priest helping immigrants and refugees in Italy told EWTN that authorities had recently shut down eight free Catholic-run medical clinics. He said authorities claimed the clinics were unnecessary because of the presence of state clinics.

Christian and Muslim schools have also been closed under the 1995 decree, according to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom's 2019 annual report.

Eritrea has been designated a Country of Particular Concern since 2004 for its religious freedom abuses by the US Department of State.

Many Eritreans, especially youth, emigrate, due to a military conscription, and a lack of opportunities, freedom, education, and health care.

A July 2018 peace agreement between Ethiopia and Eritrea, which ended a conflict over their mutual border, led to an open border which has allowed for easier emigration.

Catholics make up 4 percent of Eritrea’s population.

ACI Africa contributed to this report.