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Study finds mounting global restrictions on religion

Washington D.C., Jun 22, 2018 / 12:06 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Government restrictions on religion continued to rise across the globe in 2016, according to a recently released Pew study, which linked the stifling of religion to nationalist parties and organizations.

“This marks the second year in a row of increases in the overall level of restrictions imposed either by governments or by private actors (groups and individuals) in the 198 countries examined in the study,” said the Pew report.

The research found that 42 percent of countries experienced high or very high levels of overall religious restriction, which included hostile acts by government or private individuals or groups. This number is up from 40 percent in 2015, and 29 percent in 2007.

“This marks the biggest number of countries to fall in this top category since Pew Research Center began analyzing restrictions on religion in 2007,” Pew said.

“The share of countries with ‘high’ or ‘very high’ levels of government restrictions…rose from 25 percent in 2015 to 28 percent in 2016,” the study found. “Meanwhile, the share of countries with ‘high’ or ‘very high’ levels of social hostilities involving religion…remained stable in 2016 at 27 percent.”

The Middle-East and North Africa experienced the highest median level of government restrictions on religion, while Europe and the Americas were the only areas to experience an increase in median levels of social religious hostility.

Additionally, the research pointed to nationalist groups’ role in the rise of religious restrictions, particularly through targeting specific ethnic and religious minorities.

“In many countries, restrictions on religion resulted from actions taken by government officials, social groups or individuals espousing nationalist positions,” the Pew study noted.

Around 11 percent of countries saw government actors who “at times used nationalist, and often anti-immigrant or anti-minority, rhetoric to target religious groups in their countries in 2016,” – a 5 percent increase from the previous year.

European countries experienced this attitude most strongly, with around 33 percent having nationalist parties making statements against religious minorities, while 12 percent of Asia-Pacific countries shared a similar experience.

“Typically, these nationalist groups or individuals were seeking to curtail immigration of religious and ethnic minorities, or were calling for efforts to suppress or even eliminate a particular religious group, in the name of defending a dominant ethnic or religious group they described as threatened or under attack.”

Additionally, there was a 5 percent increase in countries where organized groups aimed to overtake public life at the expense of a religion.

The most popular targets for religious restrictions were Muslims, Christians and Jews.

“Looking at religious groups, harassment of members of the world’s two largest groups – Christians and Muslims – by government and social groups continued to be widespread around the world, with both experiencing sharp increases in the number of countries in which they were harassed in 2016,” the study said.

This research, which included 198 countries making up 99.5 percent of the world, comes from Pew’s ninth annual study of global restrictions on religion, which analyzes the “extent to which governments and societies around the world impinge on religious beliefs and practices.”

These levels were measured by government laws and policies, acts of individual or group hostility against religion, including armed conflict and terrorism. Harassment of religious groups was gathered by data relating to physical or verbal assaults, arrests, detentions, desecration of holy sites, and discrimination against religious groups via employment, education and housing.

The 2016 year was the most recent year in which data was available.

 

On papal flight, Francis says intercommunion policy should be decided by diocesan bishops

Vatican City, Jun 21, 2018 / 05:22 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis said Thursday that the German bishops’ debate on the reception of the Eucharist by the non-Catholic spouses of Catholics, also referred to as intercommunion, should be decided by diocesan bishops, rather than bishops’ conferences.
 
Speaking aboard the papal flight from Geneva to Rome June 21, the pope told journalists that the Code of Canon Law leaves decisions about the criteria for intercommunion to diocesan bishops, in order that their decisions will apply only to their individual dioceses, rather than to the Church across an entire country.

The pope said that although the German bishops attempted to establish guidelines through their episcopal conference, “the Code does not foresee that. It foresees the bishop of the diocese, but not the conference, because a thing approved by an episcopal conference immediately becomes universal.”

“The particular Church, the Code permits it, the local Church [episcopal conference] cannot because it would be universal,” Francis elaborated.

“The conference can study and give direction and opinions to help the bishops to manage the particular cases,” the pope added.

Canon 844 of the Code of Canon Law generally allows for episcopal conferences to establish norms regarding the circumstances in which non-Catholic Christians may be admitted to the Eucharist.

In the danger of death, or “if in the judgment of the diocesan bishop or conference of bishops, some other grave necessity urges it,” Catholic ministers may licitly administer penance, Eucharist, and anointing of the sick to Protestants “who cannot approach a minister of their own community and who seek such on their own accord, provided that they manifest Catholic faith in respect to these sacraments and are properly disposed,” the canon says.
 
The same canon notes that “the diocesan bishop or conference of bishops is not to issue general norms except after consultation at least with the local competent authority of the interested non-Catholic Church or community.”

The pope’s remarks were in response to a question about a letter he approved, sent from Cardinal-elect Luis Ladaria to the German bishops in May, asking them to study the topic more before publishing guidelines.
 
The pope added that communion for Protestant spouses of Catholics “in special cases” is not a “novelty,” mentioning again the Code of Canon Law.

The Vatican press office could not be reached for clarification by deadline.

During the press conference, Pope Francis also addressed his feelings on the outcome of the day trip to Switzerland, which he undertook for the 70th anniversary of the World Council of Churches, saying the day’s activities of prayer, speeches, meetings, and Mass had all made him happy.
 
“The right word of the day is ‘encounter,’ and when a person encounters another and feels appreciation for the meeting, this always touches the heart, no? They were positive meetings, good even,” he said.
 
Francis also addressed the topics of immigration and refugees, the responsibility of religions to promote peace, and ecumenism.
 
About immigration, he noted that mass-migration is a problem around the world, and that a country should welcome as many refugees as it can integrate and give work to, in light of the virtue of prudence.
 
The pope also lamented the conditions which many refugees may face if they return to their country of origin, including the increased risk of being trafficked.
 
Speaking particularly of the United States, the pope reiterated his comments in a recent interview with Reuters, that he backs the statements of the U.S. bishops on the issue.
 
Answering a question on the topic of so-called “pacifist Churches,” which hold that a Christian cannot use or condone violence, Francis refuted the idea that there are “religions of peace,” as if that implied the existence of “religions of war.”
 
He said that religious fundamentalism exists, with people who “seek wars,” which it is important to stay alert to, but that during this time, when there is a “crisis of human rights,” all churches should work together to bring about a spirit of peace in the world.

The press conference concluded with Pope Francis presenting a slice of cake to Cardinal-elect Angelo Becciu, currently Substitute of the Holy See Secretariat of State.

Francis, offering the slice of Sardinian cake, noted that it was Becciu's last trip with the pope, because he will soon "change color, but not for embarrassment," referencing the archbishop's recent appointment as a cardinal.

 

Farm bill with SNAP restrictions passes narrowly in House

Washington D.C., Jun 21, 2018 / 04:59 pm (CNA).- On Thursday evening, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the 2018 farm bill, H.R. 2, which included controversial changes to food assistance programs that Catholic leaders had voiced concern over.

The Farm Bill is the main agricultural and food policy guide for the country. It provides funding for a number of programs and regulations in the food and agriculture industries.

The party-line vote was 213-211. No Democrats voted for the bill, and 20 Republicans voted against it. The same bill failed in May, when 30 Republicans voted against the legislation.

The most controversial element of the bill was a provision to change the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, previously called food stamps.

The farm bill would tighten restrictions on eligibility for SNAP. It would require people between the ages of 18 and 59 who receive SNAP to either have a job or participate in a job training program for 20 hours per week. Adults with disabilities or young dependents are exempted from this requirement.

Penalties for not complying with work requirements increase under the bill, from one month ineligibility to one year for a first violation, and from three months to three years for a second violation.

When the farm bill was being discussed in April, representatives from the U.S. bishops conference, Catholic Relief Services, Catholic Charities USA, Catholic Rural Life, and the National Council of the U.S. Society of St. Vincent de Paul wrote a letter to leaders of the Congressional Agriculture Committee.

“Efforts to improve state workforce training programs by providing case-management, streamlining workforce programs, providing increased training slots and setting minimum standards are welcomed,” they said.

"However, the new workforce training program appears to lack sufficient investment to meet the additional demand for meaningful job training and skill building that will be generated by the new requirements,” they said in the April letter. The letter noted that the majority of SNAP recipients currently work.

“Moreover, rural communities may find compliance especially challenging given that job training programs are often located far away, and there is insufficient access to transportation,” the letter said.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said the passage of the farm bill was a step “moving toward a poverty-fighting system,” where Americans will be able to move out of a cycle of poverty.

“This is a big deal,” said Ryan in a statement published on his website.

Ryan referred to the SNAP reforms as “critical,” saying they will “close the skills gap, better equip our workforce, and encourage people to move from welfare to work.”

“These reforms will return agency to people, rather than keeping it in government, empowering individuals to reach their full potential and make the most of their lives.”

President Donald Trump, posting on Twitter, said that he was “so happy to see work requirements included” in the version of the bill that passed the House of Representatives.

“Big win for the farmers,” said Trump.

The bill now moves on to the Senate, where a bipartisan compromise bill is expected to be debated next week.

Full text of Pope Francis' in-flight press conference from Geneva

Vatican City, Jun 21, 2018 / 04:29 pm (CNA).- In a June 21 conversation with journalists on the way back from a trip to Geneva, Pope Francis touched on an array of topics, including ecumenism, intercommunion, peace and just war, and refugees.


Please read below for CNA's full transcript of the Pope's inflight press conference:


Greg Burke:

Thank you, Your Holiness... we wait a second, here we go... perfect! Thank you in the meantime. To journey, to pray, to work together... we have walked, we have prayed also, at various times, and now we touch on work a little, even to eat after, so that it is seen that to journey together brings fruit.

Today the welcoming- we have seen, after many speeches that it is the mutual respect and it is something more, it is also friendship. However, there is still so much work to do and so many challenges and this interests us normally, the challenges... so, to you journalists... but, if you want to say something first [Holy Father]?

Pope Francis:

Thank you for your work, the day was a little heavy, at least for me... but I am content, I am content [ed. note: or ‘happy’] because the various things that we have done -- that is, the prayers to begin, then the speech during lunch it was the most beautiful, then the academic meeting, and then the Mass, they are things that have made me happy... The tiring but beautiful things! Thank you so much! Now I am available to you.  

Greg Burke:

Good. We begin with the Swiss. (Arnaud Bedat of L’Illustre magazine)

Bedat:

Holy Father, you have been in Geneva, but also in Switzerland. What are the images and what are the strong, important moments that had an impact on you during this day?

Pope Francis:

Repeat for me.

Bedat:

(repeated)

Pope Francis:

I believe that it is a common word: encounter. It was a day of varied encounters. The right word of the day is ‘encounter,’ and when a person encounters another and feels appreciation for the meeting, this always touches the heart, no? They were positive meetings, good even, beginning with the dialogue with the president at the beginning; it was not a speech of courtesy, as usual... [it was] a deep speech on the profound world debates and [spoken by him] with an intelligence... that I remain astonished, beginning from that.

Then the meetings that you all saw, and that which you did not see is the meeting at lunch, that was very profound [or deep] in the way it touched on many debates, mabe the debate we spent the most time on is "the youth." Because even all of the churches are concerned, in the good sense, for the youth and the pre-synod that occurred in Rome from March 19 and then attracted enough attention, because there were youth of all [different] beliefs, even agnostics and of all the countries. Think, 315 youth there and 15,000 connected [ed note: via Facebook] that they entered and exited and this perhaps awakened a special interest.

But the word that came to me maybe the whole trip is that it was a voyage of ‘encounter.’ Maybe... I don't know... an experience of encounter... no rudeness, nothing entirely formal. A human encounter. And this... between Protestants, Catholics and all [people] it says a lot, eh!


Greg Burke:

Thanks, Holiness. Now the German group. Roland Juchem of the German Catholic CIC Agency is here.

Roland Juchem:
 
Thanks, Holy Father. You speak often of concrete steps toward ecumenism. Today, for example, you again referred to that, saying “Let’s see what is possible to do concretely rather than getting discouraged for what isn’t.”

The German bishops recently have decided to take a step and so we ask ourselves why Archbishop Ladaria wrote a letter that seems like an “emergency brake.” After the meeting May 3, it was affirmed that the German bishops would have had to find a possibly unanimous solution. What will be the next steps? Will an intervention from the Vatican be necessary to clarify or will the German bishops have to find an agreement?

Pope Francis:

Well. This is not a novelty because in the Code of Canon Law, what the German bishops were talking about is foreseen: communion in special cases. And, they were looking at the problem of mixed marriages, no? If it is possible or it isn’t possible. And the Code says that the bishop of the particular Church - this word is important, “particular,” if it is of a diocese - must read that. It’s in his hands. This is in the Code. The German bishops, because they had seen that it wasn’t clear... also some priests did things who weren’t in agreement with the bishop, have wished to study this theme and have made this study that I don’t want to exaggerate, but it was a study of more than a year, and more… it’s more than a year… well done… and the study was restrictive.

What the bishops wanted is to say clearly what is in the Code. And, I read it and said: this is a restrictive document, no? It wasn’t open to everyone. It’s a well thought-out thing, with ecclesial spirit. And they wished to do it for the local Church, not the particular. The thing slid along up until there for the German [bishops’] conference. And there, there is a problem, because the Code does not foresee that. It foresees the bishop of the diocese, but not the conference, because a thing approved by an episcopal conference immediately becomes universal.

And this was the difficulty of the discussion: not so much the content, but this. And they sent the document. Then, there were two or three meetings of dialogue or of clarification and Archbishop Ladaria sent that letter, but with my permission. He didn’t do it alone! I told him: ‘Yes, it’s better to make a step ahead and say that the document isn’t yet mature and that the thing needed to be studied more.’ Then, there was another meeting and at the end they will study the thing.
I think that this will be an orientative document so that each of the diocesan bishops can manage what canon law already permits.

It wasn’t a brake … it is reading the thing so that it goes along the right path. When I made a visit to the Lutheran Church of Rome, a question of the kind was posed, and I replied according to the spirit of the Code of Canon Law. It is the spirit that they are seeking now. Maybe it wasn’t the right information in the right moment, a little bit of confusion, but this is the thing: the particular Church, the Code permits it, the local Church [episcopal conference] cannot because it would be universal.

(journalist inaudible)
 
But the conference can study and give orientative opinions to help the bishops to manage the particular cases. Thanks.

Greg Burke:

Now from the Spanish group there is Eva Fernandez of COPE agency and Spanish radio

Pope Francis:

They are good, these [journalists] of COPE

Eva Fernandez:

Thank you, Holy Father! We have seen that even the secretary general of the Ecumenical Council of Churches spoke of help to refugees. Just recently we have seen the incident of the Aquarius ship, also the separation of families in the United States. Do you think that some leaders instrumentalize/use the tragedy of refugees. Do they use them...?

Pope Francis:

I have spoken a lot on refugees, the criteria are those that I have said: to welcome, to accompany, to place, to integrate. This is the criteria for all refugees. Then I have said that every country should do this with the virtue of the rule of prudence, because a country should welcome as many refugees as it can and as many as it can integrate, educate, assimilate, give work to. This I would say is the straightforward/easy, serene plan for refugees. Here we are living [with] a wave of refugees that flee from wars and from hunger. The war and hunger of many countries in Africa, wars and persecution in the Middle East. Italy and Greece were very generous in welcoming [refugees], and for the Middle East, Turkey [was also], in respect to Syria, it has received many... Lebanon many... Lebanon has as many Syrians as Lebanese... and then Jordan... other countries, also Spain has received [them? some?].

There is a problem of trafficking migrants, and also there is the problem when in some cases they return, because they should return if this -- I do not know/understand well the terms in agreement -- if they are in the Libyan water, they should return... and there, I have seen the photographs of the detention centers controlled by the traffickers. Traffickers immediately separate the women from the men... women and babies go... God knows where! This is what the traffickers do! There is even a case that I know of where the traffickers were close to a ship that had accepted barges and... [they were saying] "give us the women and the babies and take the males."

These traffickers and the detention centers of the traffickers eh, that have returned, they are terrible... terrible! In the detention camps of the Second World War they saw these things! And also the mutilizations in the torture of [forced?] labor and then they threw them to be in the comunes of the men. For this the leaders are concerned that they [the people] do not return and fall into the hands of these people [the traffickers]. It is a world-wide concern! I know that the leaders speak on this and they want to find an agreement, even to modify the Dublin agreement and all of this.  

In Spain you have had the case of this ship that is docked in Valencia, but all of this is a mess... the problem of the wars is difficult to resolve. The problem of the persecution also of Christians in the Middle East, also in Nigeria... but the problem of hunger they can resolve, and many European leaders are thinking of an emergency plan to invest in these countries, to invest intelligently, to give work and education in these two things in the countries from which those people come... because -- [I’ll say] one thing, not to offend, but it is the truth -- in the collective subconscious, is a bad motto: Africa is exploited. And Africa is to be preyed on... this is in the subconscious... ‘eh, they are Africans.’ Always ‘land of slaves.’

And this should change with this plan of investment, and to increase education, because the African people have many cultural riches, many, and they have a great intelligence. The children are very intelligent and they, with a good education, can go beyond... this will be the road halfway to the goal, but in the moment leaders should make an agreement between themselves to go forward with these emergency fixes... this here in Europe! We go in America: in America there is a great migration problem.  

(journalist inaudible)

In Latin America too there is an internal migration problem... in my homeland there is a migration problem from North to South and even these people leave the countryside because there is no work and the go to the big cities and where there are these megacities [or huge cities], the slums and all these things, but it is also an external migration to other countries that have work... and speaking concretely of the United States, I back that which the bishops of the country say. I side with them. Thank you.


Greg Burke:
 
Thanks, Holiness. Now is the English group: Deborah Castellano Lubov of the Zenit Agency.


Deborah Castellano Lubov (Zenit):

 Thanks, Holiness! Holiness, in your address today to the ecumenical encounter you made reference to the enormous strength of the Gospel. We know some of the Churches, now the World Council of Churches, the so-called “pacifist Churches” who believe that a Christian cannot use violence. We remember that two years ago in the Vatican there was as conference organized. Do you think that it would be the case for the Catholic Church to unite to these so-called “Churches of peace” and set aside the doctrine of just war? Thanks.

Pope Francis:
A clarification, why do you say that there are “pacifist Churches?”

Deborah Castellano Lubov:

They are considered as pacifist because they have this way of reasoning that if a person (intuits) a violence, at that point they can no longer be considered Christians.

Pope Francis:

Thanks. I understand. Because you put your finger right in the wound, eh? I think that… today at lunch a pastor said that maybe the first human right is the right to hope and I liked that. And this has to do a bit with this and we spoke about the crisis of human rights today. I think that I have to begin from this to arrive to your question.  The crisis of human rights is clearly seen. They speak a bit about human rights but so many groups or some countries take a distance, and “yes, human rights,” but there isn’t the strength, the enthusiasm, the conviction. I don’t say 70 years ago but 20 years ago. And this is grave because we have to see the causes, but what are the causes for which we have arrived to this that today human rights are relative. Also the right to peace is relative. It is a crisis of human rights. This I think that we must think it through to the end, or with certainty.

Then, Churches of peace. I think that all the Churches that have this spirit of peace must reunite and work together as we said in the speeches today, myself and the other people that spoke. And at lunch, unity for peace was spoken of. Peace is an exigency because there is risk of a war that we … some have said this: this third world war, if it is done, we know with which arms it will be done… but if there were a fourth, it would be done with sticks because humanity will be destroyed. The commitment for peace is serious, but when you think of the money that is spent on weapons… for this, the religions of peace… is the mandate of God. Peace, fraternity, human unity. All of the conflicts, don’t resolve them like Cain, resolve them with negotiations, with dialogue, with mediations… for example, we’re in a crisis of mediations. The mediation as a juridical figure (very rich) today is in pure crisis. Hope is in crisis, crisis of human rights, crisis of mediations, crisis of peace.

But then if you say that there are religions of peace, I ask myself, where are the religions of war? It’s tough to understand this. It’s tough. But, some groups, I would say in almost all of the small religious groups, I will say a bit simply fundamentalists, seek wars… Also we Catholics have some. They always seek destruction, no? And this is very important to have our eyes on it.  I don’t know if I replied. Thanks.

They say that the population is asking for lunch, eh, dinner, that there is just enough time to arrive with a full stomach. It’s just to tell you… a word that I want to say clearly that today was an ecumenical day, really ecumenical! And at lunch we said a beautiful word, a beautiful thing, that I leave with you so that you think on it and reflect, you make a nice consideration of this. In the ecumenical movement we have to take from the dictionary a word: “proselytism.” Clear? You cannot have ecumenism with proselytism. You have to choose. Either you have an ecumenical spirit or you are a proselytizer.

Thanks! I would continue speaking because I like it… but now let’s make the Substitute [of the Secretariat of State] come because it is the last trip he’ll make with us, because now he’s going to change color, but not for embarrassment! We want to say goodbye to him. It’s a Sardinian cake to celebrate!


Cardinal-elect Angelo Becciu (Sardinian-born Substitute of the Holy See Secretariat of State):

 Thanks! It is a double surprise of calling me and thanking me in front of you! And then there’s a Sardinian cake. Well, then, we’ll try it with pleasure! I truly thank the Holy Father for this occasion, but for everything, because he has allowed me this magnificent experience of traveling so much with him. At the beginning, he scared me saying, ‘No, I’ve made few trips.’ Do you remember? And then after one, he added another and then another and we said to ourselves, ‘good thing he said there would be few and they’ve been many.’ A magnificent experience of seeing the Holy Father spread the Word of God courageously. My service has been only this: to help him in this. Alright? Thanks to all of you and to those who have helped us! Thanks.

Pope Francis:

Buon appetito, have a good dinner and thanks so much! And pray for me, please. Thanks.
 

 

The Catholic Church's long history of resettling refugees in the US

Washington D.C., Jun 21, 2018 / 04:26 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Catholic Church has resettled nearly one-third of all refugees received by the United States since 1980 through a public-private partnership with a high rate of successful integration of refugees into society, according to a report released in June 2018.

The Center for Migration Studies report examines data on 1.1 million of the refugees resettled in the U.S. from 1987 to 2016. These refugees came from more than 30 countries, including Ukraine, Iraq, Vietnam, Somalia, Bosnia and Burma.

“What we've found is that they are integrating, contributing, and accomplishing a lot in the United States after starting from basically nothing. Not surprisingly, we found that refugees with the longest residence have integrated the most fully in the country, and we provide statistics on how that progresses over time,” said Donald Kerwin, the primary author of the report, at a World Refugee Day event at the U.S. Capitol building.

Frances McBrayer has seen this successful integration firsthand in her experience as senior director of refugee services of Catholic Charities Atlanta.

“More than 90 percent of the refugees that we have resettled through Catholic Charities Atlanta were self-sufficient in 2017 within 6 months of arrival,” said McBrayer at the June 20 event.

“That means they are working, paying their own bills, and they are not receiving government cash assistance,” she continued.

This rapid success can be partially attributed to the committed volunteer efforts of local communities, according to McBrayer, who said that Catholic Charities Atlanta had 874 volunteers working with refugees last year.

Parish volunteers are matched with incoming refugee families, whom they accompany in everything from English practice and job applications to American grocery shopping.

In partnership with its affiliates, the U.S. bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services resettles approximately 30 percent of refugees arriving in the U.S. each year through a network of more than 100 diocesan offices.

“In the United States, we offer a model public-private partnership,” said Ashley Feasley, director of migration policy for the U.S. bishops, at a congressional briefing co-hosted by Catholic Charities USA, Catholic Relief Services, and the U.S. bishops conference.

The U.S. also has one of the safest refugee programs in the world, Feasley said, as each refugee is required to go through extensive vetting, including a series of very rigorous interviews by the Department of Homeland Security.

“They will have their information checked by the FBI. They will have their information checked by the NSA. They will have much of their biographical information verified as well as going through a security check and a health check. All of this will occur before a refugee is ever finally selected to be admitted to the United States.”

Feasley explained how the U.S. refugee resettlement program as we know it today emerged out of the ad hoc charitable actions of faith-based groups in response to the Vietnam War. As a result, Congress passed the Refugee Act in 1980, which laid out a definition of who counts as a refugee and how resettlement would work.

The American Catholic involvement with refugee resettlement dates back even earlier, as documented in an archive exhibit at The Catholic University of America on the American Catholic Church’s refugee aid from the late 1930s to early 1950s.

Despite this history, the U.S. is on pace this year to resettle the lowest number of refugees in the history of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, according to the 2018 CMS report.

There are currently some 25.4 million refugees worldwide who have fled their countries to escape conflict or persecution, according to statistics released by the UN refugee agency on June 19. This constitutes the largest increase in refugees in a single year that the UN has ever documented.

Church in Mexico releases security protocols to prevent crime

Mexico City, Mexico, Jun 21, 2018 / 04:14 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- As increased levels of violence in Mexico continue, the Mexican Bishops Conference has published a protocol guide to help prevent crimes against priests, religious and faithful in the country.

The protocols are not intended to hinder “the pastoral activity of bishops, nuns and lay people, but to [help them] do it in the safest possible way,” said Bishop Alfonso Miranda Guardiola, secretary general of the Mexican Bishops’ Conference.

The bishop spoke at a June 19 press conference unveiling the document, “Basic Church Security Protocols: Personnel and Religious Sites.”

The document offers safety processes in different situations, such as pastoral visits and Masses in outlying areas. It includes an inventory form for church-related equipment and items of value.

Advice includes details about how to handle travel, making a withdrawal from an ATM, and what to do if you are kidnapped, robbed, threatened, or extorted.

When traveling to an unfamiliar area, the document recommends doing a trial run to learn the way, and researching the safest times to go out.

Security measures are also proposed for churches, houses of religious communities and other sites.

Violence in Mexico, mainly organized crime, has intensified in recent years. It is estimated that 2017 was the most violent year in recent decades, with more than 25,000 homicides.

According to the Catholic Multimedia Center, 24 priests have been killed in the last six years, including four so far in 2018.

Bishop Miranda said that “the security protocols respond to what has happened in the last two, three years, where there have been more and more murders, not just of priests but also journalists, police officers, soldiers and also candidates…for public office.”

“If this protocol serves to prevents one more death, it will have been a success,” he said.

Fr. Rogelio Narváez Martinez, the executive secretary of the Bishops' Committee on Social Ministry and director of Mexican Caritas, said that it is not only the deaths of priests and religious that worry the Church.

“What is concerning to us is the death of any Mexican, the death of any person, of someone who's at the mall, or going to the church, who's in a plaza, going in a car, or going with his family.”

“Every death is a wound upon our nation,” he said.

Archbishop Carlos Garfias Merlos of Morelia, who heads up the bishops' Working Group on Justice, Peace and Reconciliation, said that while the protocols are designed to respond to violence, they can also be helpful in other emergency situations, such as natural disasters.

“We know there are some places in Mexico every year that due to natural phenomena such as hurricanes, earthquakes, tremors we find ourselves in emergency situations,” he said

Bishop Miranda said that there are no plans for “police or soldiers in the churches.”

He also clarified that “the protocols are proposals” and “not a law we're putting on the Church.”

“These are measures suggested to the priests, bishops, etc. And also according to the capacity of every parish. Where it can be done, it is recommended that alarm systems be put in place. Where it's not possible, at least there should be minimum security measures.”

In a June 19 statement, Fr. Omar Sotelo, director of the Catholic Multimedia Center, emphasized that the document published by the bishops “responds to the needs of what's happening in our country.”

“It's a security plan, a protocol which one way or another helps prevention,” he said.

For Fr. Sotelo, the violence in Mexico “has become widespread, more sophisticated and has touched important sectors of society.”

The director of the Catholic Multimedia Center said the document also “calls to the attention of the authorities that they have not done their work effectively.”

According to Fr. Sotelo, “some authorities, not all of them, have been corrupted or have been overrun by” organized crime.

He noted that addressing the underlying issue of organized crime is “very complicated.”

“It's hard to change the mentality of thousands of people who unfortunately have become dehumanized and have resorted to organized crime to make their way in life.  To transform this kind of a situation it going to take a lot of work.”

However, recalling the Gospel admonition to love one’s enemies, he said that “we have to make a way to reach these people's hearts.”

“Reaching out to these people is a process, an important element that we mustn't neglect,” he said.

 

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA. 

 

Update: Pope: Individual bishops must decide about Communion in mixed marriages

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT FROM GENEVA (CNS) -- The question of allowing Protestants married to Catholics to receive Communion at Mass in special cases has to be decided by each individual bishop and cannot be decided by a bishops' conference, Pope Francis told reporters after a one-day ecumenical journey to Geneva.

During an inflight news conference June 21, the pope was asked about his recent decision requesting the Catholic bishops' conference of Germany not publish nationwide guidelines for allowing Communion for such couples.

He said the guidelines went beyond what is foreseen by the Code of Canon law "and there is the problem." The code does not provide for nationwide policies, he said, but "provides for the bishop of the diocese (to make a decision on each case), not the bishops' conference."

"This was the difficulty of the debate. Not the content," he said.

Cardinal-designate Luis Ladaria, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, had written the bishops that "the Holy Father has reached the conclusion that the document has not matured enough to be published."

Pope Francis expanded on that by saying it will have to be studied more. He said he believed what could be done is an "illustrative" type of document "so that each diocesan bishop could oversee what the Code of Canon Law permits. There was no stepping on the brakes," he said.

The bishops' conference can study the issue and offer guidelines that help each bishop handle each individual case, he said.

When asked about countries' recent reluctance to take in refugees, the pope underlined the basics every nation should provide, "welcoming, accompaniment, (help with) settling in, integrate."

He added that each government must act with "prudence" and understand how many people it can educate and integrate and help.

In response to another question, the pope said human rights are in a serious state of crisis today, having become relative or unimportant in the eyes of some parts of the world.

Today there is a "crisis of hope, a crisis of human rights, a crisis of mediation, a crisis of peace," he said.

Pope Francis said he and leaders of the World Council of Churches discussed this crisis during a private lunch, and one Protestant pastor commented that "perhaps the first human right is the right to have hope."

The lack of belief in and enthusiasm for basic human rights is a serious concern, he said, and "we have to look for the causes for how we got here -- that human rights today are relative, even the right to peace is relative. It is a crisis of human rights."

Conflicts in the world should not be resolved the way Cain tried, with violence, he said, referring to the biblical story of Cain and Abel. "Resolve them with negotiations, with dialogue, with mediation."

Recounting remarks he had heard, he said: "If a Third World War is waged, we know what weapons will be used. But if there were to be a fourth, it will be waged with sticks, because humanity will have been destroyed."

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Follow Glatz on Twitter: @CarolGlatz.

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Update: Abuse allegation against Cardinal McCarrick found credible

IMAGE: CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz

By Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, said June 20 he will no longer exercise any public ministry "in obedience" to the Vatican after an allegation he abused a teenager 47 years ago was found credible.

Bishop James F. Checchio of Metuchen, New Jersey, where Cardinal McCarrick served as its first bishop, said in a statement the same day that he had been advised that "Cardinal McCarrick himself has disputed this allegation and is appealing this matter through the canonical process."

"While shocked by the report, and while maintaining my innocence," Cardinal McCarrick said in his statement, "I considered it essential that the charges be reported to the police, thoroughly investigated by an independent agency and given to the Review Board of the Archdiocese of New York. I fully cooperated in the process."

Cardinal McCarrick said that "some months ago" he was informed of the allegation by New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan.

"My sadness was deepened when I was informed that the allegations had been determined credible and substantiated," Cardinal McCarrick said.

Cardinal Dolan, in a June 20 statement, said it was "the first such report of a violation" against Cardinal McCarrick "of which the archdiocese was aware."

In separate statements, Bishop Checchio and Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, New Jersey -- where Cardinal McCarrick served in-between his appointments to Metuchen and Washington -- said this was their first notice that Cardinal McCarrick had been accused of sexual abuse of a minor.

"In the past, there have been allegations that he engaged in sexual behavior with adults," Cardinal Tobin said. "This archdiocese and the Diocese of Metuchen received three allegations of sexual misconduct with adults decades ago; two of these allegations resulted in settlements."

Several news accounts quoted the lawyer for the accuser, a New York-area businessman now in his early 60s, who said his client was a 16-year-old altar boy being fitted for a cassock to wear during Mass when then-Msgr. McCarrick fondled him. Patrick Noaker, the lawyer, said a similar incident happened a year later.

Noaker told reporters that his client met in April with the New York Archdiocesan Review Board, which verified his claims. Going to the board was his client's only recourse, Noaker said, because of criminal and civil statutes of limitations on an almost 50-year-old incident.

Cardinal McCarrick, who turns 88 July 7, was ordained a priest of the New York Archdiocese May 31, 1958. He was ordained auxiliary bishop of New York May 24, 1977, six years after the incident of abuse is believed to have occurred.

He was appointed the first bishop of Metuchen in 1981 and was named archbishop of Newark in 1986. He was installed as archbishop of Washington in 2001. He was made a cardinal Feb. 21, 2001, and retired as head of the Washington Archdiocese May 16, 2006.

Cardinal Dolan said the alleged abuse occurred during the time Cardinal McCarrick served as an archdiocesan priest in New York.

He added the allegation was turned over to law enforcement officials, and was then thoroughly investigated by an independent forensic agency, as per the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People" first approved by the U.S. bishops in 2002.

"The Holy See was alerted as well, and encouraged us to continue the process," he added. "Again according to our public protocol, the results of the investigation were then given to the Archdiocesan Review Board, a seasoned group of professionals including jurists, law enforcement experts, parents, psychologists, a priest, and a religious sister."

The Archdiocese of New York "renews its apology to all victims abused by priests," Cardinal Dolan said. "We also thank the victim for courage in coming forward and participating in our independent reconciliation and compensation program, as we hope this can bring a sense of resolution and fairness."

The Archdiocese of Washington said in a June 20 statement that "the Holy See ... has exclusive authority in the oversight of a cardinal" and referred the matter to the New York Archdiocese.

It added the instruction for Cardinal McCarrick to refrain from exercising public ministry came "at the direction of our Holy Father, Pope Francis," and was delivered by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state.

Cardinal Tobin said he recognized the "range of emotions" felt by Newark-area Catholics upon hearing the news. "I am thinking particularly of those who have experienced the trauma of sexual abuse by clergy -- whose lives have been impacted tragically by abuse," he added. "To those survivors, their families and loved ones, I offer my sincere apologies and my commitment of prayer and action to support you in your healing."

At the same time, "no doubt many of you developed strong relationships with him and appreciate the impact of his service," Cardinal Tobin said. "Those feelings are likely hard to reconcile with the news of a credible and substantiated claim of abuse of a minor."

"The abuse of anyone who is vulnerable is both shameful and horrific. The abuse of a minor by a priest -- as is being reported in this case from New York -- is an abomination and sickens and saddens us all," Bishop Checchio said.

"The work of building the kingdom of God in this diocese is much more than its bishops, and I thank you for all of your help here in the Diocese of Metuchen in supporting our common mission," he added.

Cardinals Dolan, Tobin and Wuerl and Bishop Checchio all asked for prayers for those involved, and recommitted themselves to support of clergy sexual abuse victims.

Cardinal McCarrick is not the first cardinal to have had his ministry restricted after allegations of sexual abuse of a minor. Austrian Cardinal Hans Hermann Groer, who died in 2003, was asked by St. John Paul II in 1998 to give up his public duties amid allegations of sexual abuse of minors.

The most senior church official to face criminal charges in connection with child sexual abuse is Australian Cardinal George Pell, head of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy. He took a leave of absence from his position in the summer of 2017 to face charges of sexual abuse of minors from the 1970s, when he was a priest, and the 1990s, when he was archbishop of Melbourne. 

Although Cardinal Pell has consistently denied the charges, in early May an Australian magistrate ordered him to stand trial, saying she believed there was enough evidence presented in connection with about half the original charges to warrant a full trial.

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

What’s next for Cardinal McCarrick? How the Church addresses sex abuse allegations

Washington D.C., Jun 21, 2018 / 02:17 pm (CNA).- The allegation that Cardinal Theodore McCarrick sexually abused a teenager is a bombshell for the Catholic Church in America.

McCarrick has stepped down from active priestly ministry at the direction of the Holy See, after an initial investigation judged the allegation to be “credible and substantiated.”

What does that mean, and what might be next for McCarrick?

Any allegation of sexual abuse by a member of the clergy is a serious tragedy, but an allegation against a prominent cardinal, even a retired one, can be devastating for lay Catholics and clergy.

The allegation against the cardinal is that in 1971, then-Monsignor McCarrick fondled the genitals of a 16-year-old boy in the sacristy of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, while measuring the boy for a cassock. McCarrick is alleged to have fondled the same boy in a sacristy restroom the next year, according to the New York Times.

As emeritus Archbishop of Washington, D.C., previously Bishop of Metuchen and Archbishop of Newark, McCarrick occupied a place of prominence in the US Church. It would be difficult to find any prominent East Coast cleric who has not been photographed next to a smiling McCarrick, who has been a visible presence in the Church even in his late 80s.  

Despite the public persona of an affable bishop, equally at home preaching before a packed cathedral or engaging a room full of donors, rumors have swirled around him privately for years.

Several American priests have spoken to CNA in recent days, noting the uncomfortable reputation McCarrick had for “snuggling,” and his insistent affection for seminarians. Priests in his orbit have recalled the nicknames used in some clerical circles, the oft-mentioned “Uncle Ted” and the uncomfortable moniker “Teddy Bear.”

Statements issued June 20 from the Archdiocese of Newark and the Diocese of Metuchen confirmed that McCarrick has faced previous allegations of sexual misconduct, albeit with adults, which ended in settlements. That fact seems to lean heavily against his defense in this case, despite his claim of innocence.

This dissonance between public persona and private reputation makes an especially difficult case for the Church to handle, in Rome and in the United States.

As Archbishop of Washington, Cardinal McCarrick was a leading participant in the development of 2002’s Dallas Charter, which established procedures for handling allegations of sexual abuse.

The reforms he helped to adopt have now become the measure by which he will be judged. In fact, the extent to which the full rigor of those norms is applied to his case could also become the measure against which their integrity is assessed.

Under canon law, it is the pope alone who has the right to judge cardinals (even retired ones) in matters of penal law. According to a June 20 statement from the Archdiocese of Washington, Pope Francis delegated Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York to conduct at least the initial stages of the investigation, which have now been concluded.

Whenever there is an allegation of clerical sexual abuse against a minor, canon law requires that the diocese concerned hold a “preliminary investigation.” That process is meant to establish if the accusation has “the semblance of truth,” or, in the language of the Charter, is “credible.”  

The standard of proof required at that phase of the process is very low- requiring only that the accusation not be found manifestly false or frivolous. But what that investigation discovers determines what happens next.

In the United States, following the Dallas Charter, an assessment of the investigation is usually conducted by a diocesan review board. Review boards are quasi-independent bodies made up of legal experts, clergy and independent advisors appointed by the bishop.

If the review board concludes the allegation has the semblance of truth, and the bishop agrees, the matter is ordinarily referred to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome. Since cases involving cardinals are reserved to the pope personally, the case of Cardinal McCarrick was likely forwarded directly to the pope, with some input from the CDF.

In cases involving priests or deacons, if the CDF finds the results of the preliminary investigation suggest further investigation, it has several options.

If the allegation seems well-substantiated, it can refer the matter back to the diocese, to be handled by a canonical trial, or by an expedited process ending in an extrajudicial decree. The CDF can also convene an extrajudicial process or a trial in Rome, handling the matter directly. This is the typical approach in cases which are not clear, or which, for some reason, are particularly contentious or high-profile.

Subsequent to that process, if the cleric is found guilty, the Church may impose the penalty of laicization, permanently removing the cleric from clerical life and ministry, or, taking into account factors including the cleric’s age and health, impose some other penalty. A cleric found to have committed the crime of sexual abuse can never be returned to ministry.

According to the Archdiocese of New York’s statement, following the preliminary investigation, the Archdiocesan Review Board found the allegation against Cardinal McCarrick to be both “credible” and “substantiated.” Taken at face value, this sounds very bad for Cardinal McCarrick’s case.

In fairness, it should be noted that the norms for diocesan review boards allow for significantly different processes and standards in different places, that the procedural and evidentiary norms required in a canonical trial are more stringent, and that the right of defense- an essential part of any legal process- is more robustly defined in a canonical trial.

What happens next will tell us much about how Rome views the credibility of the allegation against Cardinal McCarrick.

In the very rare instances in which archbishops (let alone cardinals) have been personally accused of sexual abuse, full canonical trials have been held at the Apostolic Tribunal of the CDF in Rome, essentially the highest judicial court the Church has. If Cardinal McCarrick’s case is handled by an extrajudicial process in New York, this would suggest overwhelming confidence by Rome in the credibility of the accusation.

It is important, as with any legal system, that the canonical process be allowed to run its course. It is also important that Cardinal McCarrick be given every proper chance and means to defend himself and assert his innocence as part of that process.

It is also possible that, at age 87, Cardinal McCarrick will not face a trial or an extrajudicial process.

In the meantime, the fact that the Archdiocese of Newark and the Diocese of Metuchen confirmed that there have been previous complaints and settlements because of McCarrick has already caused scandal.

An important question about his ecclesiastical career has also begun to be asked: how was McCarrick allowed to continue for so long in office, and then continue in public ministry after retirement, when Church authorities knew of these settlements?

McCarrick’s former dioceses have been swift to insist that they have never previously received any allegations of sexual abuse of minors. But, as now seems clear, they were aware of credible allegations of sexual misconduct against the cardinal. Some commentators have wondered if Church authorities presumed that so long as no children were involved, there was no obligation to curtail his ministry.

This is not a dry question of past failings by previous administrations: close personal associates of Cardinal McCarrick continue to hold leadership positions in American diocesan curias.

It might be asked whether individuals who could have known - indeed can be reasonably expected to have known - about McCarrick’s behavior, or at least the persistent rumors of it, remain in positions where they will be responsible for assessing and disciplining clergy following allegations of misconduct.

Questions will likely be raised about what these men knew, what they heard, what they did about it and when. Anything less will likely leave some Catholics wondering what else might lurk in the shadow of this scandal.

Hard questions may also soon asked of the other three cardinals in this story: Dolan, Tobin, and Wuerl. They are likely to be asked when they first learned of allegations against Cardinal McCarrick. Cardinals Tobin and Wuerl, especially, might be asked if it would serve the public interest to make clear when they discovered that their mutual predecessor (once removed, in Tobin’s case) had been the subject of sexual misconduct complaints serious enough to prompt legal settlements - and whether they raised questions about his continued public life and ministry during retirement.

While leaving all necessary space for the canonical process concerning the specific allegation involving a minor, the extent to which the cardinals are willing to engage publicly about what they know about the other complaints against Cardinal McCarrick, when they knew it, and what they did, or did not do, about it, could also bear heavily on the credibility of the American hierarchy.

For Pope Francis too, the McCarrick scandal is a serious test. Following allegations of sexual misconduct, the late Cardinal Keith O’Brien, formerly of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, died in disgrace and exile. While he was not formally stripped of his title, in March 2015, Francis accepted his resignation of the rights and privileges of a cardinal.

Having already suspended McCarrick from public ministry for the duration of the canonical process, the steps Pope Francis takes against him at the conclusion of the process - especially taking into account the previous accusations and settlements - will be closely analyzed.

Following on the heels of the much-criticized handling of the sexual abuse scandal in Chile, both the Holy See and the American bishops will be acutely aware that such a high-profile case needs to be handled very carefully. To stop the McCarrick scandal before it becomes a crisis, the margin for error is very slim.

World Health Organization no longers consider transgenderism a disorder

Geneva, Switzerland, Jun 21, 2018 / 01:47 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- On Monday, the World Health Organization reported it would no longer designate transgenderism as a mental health disorder in its updated classification of diseases.

“It was taken out from mental health disorders because we had [a] better understanding that this was not actually a mental health condition, and leaving it there was causing stigma,” said Dr. Lale Say, coordinator of WHO’s adolescents and at-risk populations team, according to the Huffington Post.

The WHO will now classify transgender identities as “gender incongruence,” in its updated section on sexual health conditions in the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems. This definition, according to psychologist Dr. Geoffrey Reed, is expresses “a discrepancy between a person’s experienced gender identity and their body.”

The American Psychiatric Association made a similar shift in 2012 when it revised its manual of mental disorders to remove transgenderism as a mental disorder. Instead, the association classified individuals who experience emotional stress related to gender identity as a person with “gender dysphoria.”

However, one Catholic psychologist said mental health experts are still learning about the intricacies of transgenderism.

“I think the mental health profession hasn’t really had time to really thoroughly catch up on it, besides those in the field who kind of just flow with the current of whatever is popular in the moment,” Dr. Gregory Bottaro, a psychologist with the group CatholicPsych, told CNA last year.

Bottaro added that the biggest concern with transgenderism is its effect on children and their fragile psychological development.

“With kids, it’s really important to recognize that their sexual development is so fragile, and the influence of what’s popular in the culture needs to be really, strongly filtered and studied and understood,” he said.

“The Catholic response is a return to true anthropology – male and female he made them – to understand that our biology and our psychology are not separate things, and so to encourage the development of a curriculum of human nature that is consistent with a true anthropology,” he said.

A sudy titled “Sexuality and Gender: Findings from the Biological, Psychological, and Social Sciences,”  found that non-heterosexual individuals face a higher risk of adverse health and mental health outcomes. The study estimated they have a 1.5 times higher risk of anxiety and substance abuse, and face double the risk of depression and suicide.

The report additionally found that adults who undergo sex reassignment surgeries are at further risk for mental health problems, making them 5 times more likely to attempt suicide and 19 times more likely to die by suicide, compared to a control group.

There also remains vague findings on the mental health repercussions of sex reassignment surgery for transgender individuals.

A 2016 letter authored by 47 members of Congress noted experts remain ‘inconclusive’ on “whether gender reassignment surgery improves health incomes for Medicare beneficiaries with gender dysphoria, and that some studies have ‘reported harms.’”

The transgender population was recently estimated to make up around 0.6 percent of the total population.