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Massachusetts bishops say action is urgently needed on climate change

Boston, Mass., Sep 17, 2019 / 12:25 pm (CNA).- The bishops of Massachusetts warned in a new pastoral letter that climate change has reached a crisis level and requires decisive action. They encouraged Catholics to embrace the message of stewardship in Pope Francis 2015 encyclical, Laudato si’.

“In our home state of Massachusetts, we are blessed with inspiring natural beauty from the seashore on the east coast to the majestic mountain vistas in the west - with rolling hills, vibrant communities and rich farmlands throughout the state,” the bishops said.

They encouraged the faithful to reflect on this created beauty as a gift from God.

“To protect and sustain this gift we must act now within our faith institutions and throughout the state to take substantial, meaningful steps to protect our environmental [sic] and provide relief from the impact of toxic pollution and climate change to protect the health and safety of all citizens, particularly the most vulnerable in our society,” they said.

Cardinal Seán O’Malley of Boston, Bishop Robert McManus of Worcester, Bishop Edgar da Cunha of Fall River, and Bishop Mitchell Rozanski of Springfield released a pastoral letter this week. They cited reports indicating that climate change has reached a point of unprecedented urgency.

This past July was the hottest month ever recorded, according to the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration, which found that worsening wildfires, hurricanes and heat waves could continue affecting the United States, leading to a more than $400 billion impact on the U.S. economy each year, if climate change is not addressed.

The bishops also noted that world food security is at risk, due to changes in climate, according the United Nations, which estimates that there may be as little as 12 years to significantly cut global emissions in order to limit the rising temperature of the earth and prevent more catastrophic consequences.

The Massachusetts bishops pointed to Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato si’: On Care for Our Common Home as a model to follow in working to fight climate change.

In that encyclical, Pope Francis warns of increasing global temperatures and rising sea levels, saying, “Humanity is called to recognize the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming or at least the human causes which produce or aggravate it.”

With an eye to the Catholic principle of subsidiarity, the Massachusetts bishops called on individuals, schools, parishes and businesses to examine what they can do to be better stewards of the created world around them.

“Every person’s actions will depend on their life circumstance and their commitment to protect our natural resources,” they said.

“Families should discuss their concerns about the environment and how their lifestyle and consumption is contributing to the climate changes and other environmental degradation. Parishes should integrate Catholic social teaching on the environment in their liturgy and in their religious education program,” they continued.

“Action is needed at all levels of government to encourage replacement of fossil fuels with renewable sources of energy while ensuring that the most vulnerable in society are protected from harm during this transition.”

The bishops echoed Pope Francis’ call for an “integral ecology,” saying that such an ecology “respects the dignity of each person, identifies a moral obligation to protect the environment, and promotes social justice by supporting responsible economic development with respect for all people and the earth.”

Vatican City prosecutor asks that Italian priest be charged with sexual abuse during seminary

Vatican City, Sep 17, 2019 / 11:55 am (CNA).- The Vatican announced Tuesday that the Vatican City State’s Promoter of Justice has requested the indictment two Italian priests -- Fr. Gabriele Martinelli on charges of sexual abuse and Fr. Enrico Radice for “aiding and abetting.”

In 2012, Martinelli was accused of having, over a period of five years, sexually molested his roommate at the Vatican’s St. Pius X minor seminary, in which, in addition to seminarians, also live boys who altar serve for papal liturgical celebrations in St. Peter’s Basilica.

That allegation was reported by the Associated Press in 2018, and by Italian journalists in 2017. The initial handling of the case by the Vatican was severely criticized -- Kamil Jarzembowski, the former student who had made the allegation, was dismissed from the seminary while the alleged abuser, Martinelli, was ordained a priest in 2017.

Charges are also being brought against Fr. Enrico Radice, who was rector of the minor seminary at the time of the alleged abuse, for alleged “aiding and abetting.”

According to the Vatican statement, an investigation into the accusations was begun in November 2017, following media reports, but, according to the statement, the Vatican City State’s operative law at the time prevented a trial from taking place without a complaint from the alleged victim within one year of the alleged abuse.

The statement says the charges may now be brought forward because on June 29, Pope Francis made a special provision that would allow the case to proceed.

Martinelli, 26, is a priest in the Diocese of Como, in northern Italy and a member of the “Opera don Folci,” a religious association centered on the formation of priests. He is still listed on the diocesan website, but a parish is not indicated.

Italian media reported in early August that the prosecutor’s office in Rome is also close to indicting Martinelli on charges of abuse with the aggravating circumstance of abuse of power.

In comments published in early July, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano criticized the Vatican's handling of two cases of alleged sexual abuse, including the case of Martinelli.

Vigano claimed the case was “immediately covered up by the then-bishop of Como, Diego Coletti, together with Cardinal Angelo Comastri, Vicar General of Pope Francis for Vatican City.  In addition, Cardinal Coccopalmerio, then president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, who was consulted by Don Stabellini, strongly admonished him to stop the investigation.”

The former nuncio did not mention that the Church had since launched a new canonical investigation into the allegations. That investigation was triggered when the alleged victim came forward to make a complaint himself, according to a July 2018 AP report.

 

Ed. note: This story has been updated to clarify that the promoter of justice has requested the indictment of the two priests.

 

Archbishop Gomez to present conclusions of V Encuentro to Pope Francis

Vatican City, Sep 17, 2019 / 11:19 am (CNA).- A delegation from the U.S., including Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, will present the conclusions and proceedings of the National V Encuentro of Hispanic and Latino Ministry to Pope Francis Wednesday.

The Encuentro was a September 2018 meeting of around 3,000 Hispanic and Latino Catholics on issues such as the accompaniment of immigrants, access to higher education, lay leadership formation, community outreach, and evangelization.

The four-day meeting was a culmination of four years of consultation and workshops at the parish, diocesan, and regional levels of the Church in the U.S. The theme was “Missionary Disciples: Witnesses of the love of God”.

Archbishop Gomez told CNA that the Encuentro helped “Latinos to understand that they really belong in the United States and they are bringing their gifts to our society.”

“I think it was beautiful to see their participation and the reality that we need them to be leaders in our community,” he said. “They are totally committed to the life, society in the United States and making a contribution to every single aspect of life in the United States and especially the values of the Gospel.”

He added that the Latino community bring with them a commitment to Christian values that are at the foundation of their own countries.

Gomez also urged U.S. Catholics to pray more for the government to reach a solution on comprehensive immigration reform.

The archbishop comes with a delegation of 12 people, including Bishops Nelson Pérez of Cleveland and Arturo Cepeda, an auxiliary bishop of Detroit, who will meet Pope Francis after the Sept. 18 General Audience.

The group has also had meetings with Vatican offices and dicasteries during their visit Sept. 13-18.

Pope Francis sent a video message at the start of the Encuentro last year, and Gomez said, “the first thing” he would like to do is thank the pope “for the assistance he sent and also for his support during this time.”

Gomez, who is vice president of the U.S. bishops’ conference and a Mexico native, said the group will present to Francis a document summarizing what different people experienced at the meeting and practical ways to follow-up the process.

“The Encuentro has been a beautiful process, that’s what we want to share with [Pope Francis] and everybody else,” Gomez said.

“It’s been a beautiful exercise of how to especially get the Latino community involved in the life of the Church. So that’s what we want to share with him.”

Bishop Perez is chairman of the USCCB Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church. He told CNA that some of the fruit of Encuentro has been the “emerging leadership, in so many ways, of the next generation of leaders and pastoral lay leaders in the church in the United States.”

On the parish level, he said, 3,000 parishes and 350,000 Catholics participated in the Encuentro process over the last several years.

He said the emergence of new leadership, especially young adults, was immediately apparent. “That was really promising and very hopeful.”

Junuee Castro, the director of youth and young adult ministry in the Diocese of Salt Lake City, seconded this. She told CNA the diocesan Encuentro meetings were very meaningful for her and that “young people have raised their hands and said yes, I am willing to go forward, I am willing to commit; I definitely want to see them in leadership roles.”

Bishop Perez also noted that 250 U.S. parishes started Spanish pastoral outreach and began holding Spanish Masses as a result of the V Encuentro. He added that they have also seen several dioceses establish and staff offices with new lay leaders.

“The V Encuentro is really in so many ways the implementation of the joy of the Gospel. So the whole process, the spirit, the mysticism of the spirituality revolves all around the joy of the Gospel,” Perez said.

He pointed to Pope Francis’ description, in Evangelii gaudium, of the Church “as a community of missionary disciples that takes initiative, that accompanies, that is engaged, that is fruitful, that is joyful.”

“This is the spirit of the V Encuentro,” he said.

Noting that deportations have taken place in his diocese, Perez said one of the blessings of the V Encuentro was that “it comes at a time of that uncertainty and fear and became, in so many ways, a soothing balm where people would come together and support each other, accompany each other and strengthen each other in a very tumultuous time.”

The delegation meeting with Pope Francis includes lay USCCB staff, members of the National V Encuentro Team, and other delegates with experience in diocesan and parish ministry.

Castro said, “what the Church can do is what the Encuentro process has done for us. They have paused and listened to us.”

“They have listened to us, which is key to anything we want to do as a Church; the mode of listening and accompaniment definitely. Being accompanied and being mentored by those who have been in ministerial roles we need their advice and we are willing to walk with them and them with us.”

Delegates and married couple Mario and Paola Martinez are co-directors of the marriage and family life ministry in the Diocese of San Bernardino. They said they serve a range of people in their work, and it has been critical for them to see way in which mothers and fathers seek help for themselves and their families.

“They have this desire for their families to be healthy, for their families to find this peace and they just want the best for their families. That’s what we see, that passion for family life among our Hispanic community. They have a love for their families and for their traditions and their cultures and you can just feel that in the communities that we serve,” Paola said.

Louisville's Archbishop Kurtz will return to Kentucky before cancer surgery

Denver, Colo., Sep 17, 2019 / 10:03 am (CNA).- Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, who announced in July a diagnosis of the most common form of bladder cancer, said Sept. 16 that his surgeon will allow him to return to his diocese around Oct. 20 for three weeks.

Kurtz, who served as president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops from 2013 to 2016, has been staying in North Carolina for the duration of his treatment at the Duke University Cancer Institute.

“This date will mark the completion of the chemotherapy and immunotherapy and will allow me to be strengthened for the radical surgery that will occur at the Duke Cancer Institute on November 11,” Kurtz wrote on his blog.

“After the surgery, I hope to be released by my surgeon at Thanksgiving.”

Kurtz stepped down from leading the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ religious liberty committee a few weeks after announcing his diagnosis. Bishop Robert McManus of Worcester, Massachusetts, has been appointed as his replacement and will serve as acting chair of the committee until the November 2019 General Assembly meeting.

Kurtz said he has been sad to miss the many visits he would typically take throughout the summer to the various parishes in the archdiocese. He asked for continued prayers.

“While urothelial carcinoma is somewhat common, the form I have and its location is not,” he continued.

“Because of the aggressive nature of the cancer, I will be required to have this radical surgery on November 11 and should find out by Thanksgiving what ongoing treatment or limitations will be present.”

Kurtz said in July that Archbishop Christoph Pierre, the apostolic nuncio to the United States, was aware of his illness and imminent absence from his archdiocese, and was “supportive of the plan I have developed.”

He said his vicar general, Father Martin Linebach, traveled to North Carolina recently to “continue to develop pastoral directions on the horizons before us,” and next week diocesan Chancellor Dr. Brian Reynolds, Chancellor, and Vicar for Priests Father Jeff Shooner will visit North Carolina for additional discussions about pastoral issues for the fall.

He said his stamina remains good but he must still avoid crowds because of the risk of infection.

According to the American Cancer Society, urothelial carcinoma is the most common form of bladder cancer. The five-year relative survival rates for all stages of bladder cancer is 77 percent.

 

Cardinal Pell submits appeal to Australian High Court

Melbourne, Australia, Sep 17, 2019 / 04:32 am (CNA).- Cardinal George Pell Tuesday submitted an application for leave to appeal his conviction to the Australian High Court, following the Aug. 21 decision by the Court of Appeal in Victoria to uphold his conviction for child sexual abuse.

The leave to appeal was filed in Melbourne by Pell's legal team Sept. 17, one day before the deadline of 28 days from the date of the Appeal Court decision.

Sources close to the cardinal told CNA Aug. 26 that Pell would be exercising his final appeal and that, while the majority of “special leave to appeal” cases were not granted by the High Court, his case would likely be accepted given the controversy triggered by the split decision of the Appeal Court judgement.

In seeking to take his case to the High Court in Canberra, Australia’s supreme court, Pell is exercising his last legal avenue to overturn a conviction which has divided opinion in the country and internationally.

Several Australian media outlets have reported that Pell will retain the same legal team which presented his case in Victoria, led by Brett Walker SC.

The cardinal was convicted Dec. 11, 2018, on five charges that he sexually abused two choristers after Sunday Mass while he was Archbishop of Melbourne in 1996 and 1997.

He was sentenced to six years in prison, of which he must serve at least three years and eight months before being eligible to apply for parole.

The cardinal, 78, who remains an archbishop and a member of the College of Cardinals, was returned to prison immediately after court adjourned, where he has remained. Pell has not been permitted to celebrate Mass in prison.

Pell’s appeal was presented on three grounds, two of which were procedural and dismissed by all three appeal judges.

The judges were divided on Pell’s primary ground of appeal, that the decision of the jury was “unreasonable.”

At particular issue was the question of whether the jury which convicted Pell had properly weighed all of the evidence presented in his defense, or reached the determination of guilt despite the demonstration of clear “reasonable doubt” that he committed the crimes with which he was charged.

Chief Justice Anne Ferguson and Court President Chris Maxwell formed the majority in favor of rejecting Pell’s appeal that the jury verdict was unreasonable on the evidence presented, finding that it was open to the jury to find beyond “reasonable doubt about the truth of the complainant's account.”

In an extensive dissent from the majority finding, Justice Mark Weinberg noted that the entirety of the evidence against Pell consisted of the testimony of a single accuser, whereas more than 20 witnesses were produced to testify against his narrative.

“Even the ‘reasonable possibility’ that what the witnesses who testified to these matters may have been true must inevitably have led to an acquittal,” Weinberg wrote, concluding that Pell had, in effect, been asked to establish the “impossibility” of his guilt and not merely reasonable doubt.

All three judges granted further leave to appeal on the ground of the unreasonableness of the jury’s conviction.

The decision by Pell to pursue the final legal avenue open to him means that a canonical process in Rome will be further delayed until the civil process concludes in Australia.

California Catholic Conference asks governor to veto college abortion bill

Sacramento, Calif., Sep 17, 2019 / 12:05 am (CNA).- California legislators passed a bill Friday that would require all state universities to offer medication abortions, despite the objections of pro-life leaders.

In a Sept. 16 statement, Andrew Rivas, executive director of the California Catholic Conference, encouraged California Governor Gavin Newsom to oppose the bill.

“We urge him to veto this unprecedented and unnecessary legislation because it purposely narrows a young woman’s choices and puts the state’s prestigious academic institutions in a position of actually promoting, facilitating and potentially funding only abortions,” he said.

The California State Assembly voted 55-19 in favor of the bill. It had passed through the Senate in May. Newsom has a month to decide whether to veto the bill or sign it into law.

Currently, a majority of campus health centers offer gynecological services and contraceptives, but they will refer students seeking an abortion to an off-campus abortion clinic. If the bill passes, all 34 public universities throughout California will be required to offer medical abortions for the first 10 weeks of a pregnancy.

The proposal would be funded by the College Student Health Center Sexual and Reproductive Health Preparation Fund, which would be established under the bill and administered through the Commission on the Status of Women and Girls.

The bill would require nearly $10.3 million in private money to be raised before Jan 1, 2020. According to the New York Times, supporters said the amount has already been raised. The money would be used to train staff and buy medical equipment. State law already requires abortion costs to be covered by insurers.

A spokesperson declined to comment on what Newsom intends to do, but during his campaign last year, he supported a similar bill vetoed by then-Gov. Jerry Brown, who said the bill was “not necessary” because abortion services were “widely available” off-campus.

Sen. Connie Leyva, sponsor of the bill, said the legislation comes at a time when other states are “rolling back women’s health care.” She said California is leading the charge in reproductive rights.

“SB 24 reaffirms the right of every college student to access abortion. By ensuring that abortion care is available on campus, college students will not have to choose between delaying important medical care or having to travel long distances or miss classes or work,” she said, according to The Sacramento Bee.

The California Catholic Conference said the bill overemphasizes abortion as an option for college pregnancies. While the bill invites health centers to include abortion counseling services, the conference said it is “specifically written in such a way to exclude pro-life counseling.”

“This bill will promote only abortion-inducing drugs on college campuses,” said Rivas. “No government-funded institution, medical or counseling center, should ever provide only one set of services. If this bill is truly about providing choices for female students, the state should then also require and fund life-affirming services on campus.”

“Offering state-funded abortions as the only alternative to pregnancy undermines the ability of a state academic institution to promote the value of diversity and the empowerment of women,” he added.

Rivas said college-age women deserve a safe and supportive environment when faced with a pregnancy. He said campus centers should offer services like pregnancy counseling, childcare, housing assistance, and adoption.

“The life and dignity of every person is due respect and protection at every stage and in every condition. The right to life is the first and most fundamental principle of human rights. As Catholics, we recognize the sacredness and primacy of human life and we oppose any legislation or attempt to deny the basic human right to life,” he said.

Other groups, including the Department of Finance and California’s major university systems, have also questioned the bill’s effectiveness and potential problems with its implementation.

According to The Sacramento Bee, the Department of Finance said the program will likely exceed the established fund and expressed doubt that the commission had enough experience to lead a program of this size.

The New York Times reported that the University of California and California State University systems have raised questions about financial logistics and liability. If the private implementation fund is exhausted, the costs would have to be covered by the universities, who might then have to increase student health fees.

California’s bishops have also condemned the bill. In July, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles and Bishop James Soto of Sacramento encouraged their parishioners to oppose the bill.

“If we are going to be the people God calls us to be, if we are going to restore and renew the Church and rebuild society, then we need a new dedication to living our Catholic identity and communicating that identity in everything we do, from our schools and religious education programs to the way we live our faith in society,” Gomez said in the Angelus, the archdiocesan publication.

“This is unprecedented intrusion on university campuses. It is unnecessary and only serves to further indoctrinate the young to the ideology of abortion,” said Soto in a pastoral letter. “We must continue our efforts to stop this deadly piece of legislation. The womb should not become a tomb for any child anywhere in our state. Women and children deserve better.”