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Major donations mean 'tremendous impact' for Catholic school students in western Pennsylvania

Stephen Kiers/Shutterstock

Greensburg, Pa., Jul 23, 2021 / 16:01 pm (CNA).

An anonymous donor and new partners will help continue millions of dollars in funding for a tuition aid program for the Diocese of Greensburg’s Catholic schools. The program is set to support hundreds of students in southwestern Pennsylvania over the next five years.

 

“These are true evangelization efforts. These monies help to ensure that more students will be knowledgeable in the faith,” Dr. Maureen Marsteller, Superintendent of Catholic Schools in the diocese, said July 21.

 

In 2020, the St. Pope John Paul II Tuition Opportunity Partnership gave nearly $2.5 million in tuition assistance to support more than 800 students. These resources offset tuition for 250 students new to the Catholic school system. This boosted Catholic school enrollment by more than 13%.

 

“These are major opportunities for our Catholic schools, each made possible by community-minded individuals who understand the impact that Catholic education can have in a person's life,” Bishop Larry Kulick of Greensburg said. “We are grateful for their commitment to our schools and families through these partnerships.”

 

The scholarship partnership was first announced in July 2020. It was launched with $2.5 million from an anonymous donor the diocese said is “committed to fortifying Catholic education in western Pennsylvania.”

 

To qualify for assistance for the scholarship program, students must show commitment to and enthusiasm for learning. The student or family must be registered members of a faith community, and the student must demonstrate service to that community. A student’s parent or guardian must also show some financial commitment to the cost of education.

 

Beneficiaries do not need to be Catholic. The amount of monetary aid for each student depends on factors such as financial need, other financial aid options, and the number of siblings who attend Catholic schools, according to the Valley News Dispatch.

 

The five-year extension to the program has the support of the previous anonymous donor as well as new named donors including Jay W. Cleveland, Jr., president and CEO of Cleveland Brothers. The Pennsylvania Educational Income Tax Credit program, with commitments from over 100 businesses and individuals, have helped provide tuition assistance forecasted at $20 million over the next five years.

 

“It is truly a great day for us here in the Diocese of Greensburg with this historic and monumental announcement,” Bishop Kulick said at a press conference at Aquinas Academy in Greensburg. The program is a “wonderful opportunity” to ensure that every student who wants a Catholic education will receive it, he said.

 

He said that Aquinas Academy saw a 10% increase in enrollment, aided by the donation.

 

Cathy Collett, principal at Aquinas Academy, said that adding $2.5 million to tuition aid programs “certainly makes a tremendous impact.”

 

There are 11 Catholic elementary schools and two junior-senior high schools in the diocese’s school system, which has more than 2,300 students, according to the diocese’s website. Forecasts suggest the tuition program could help enrollment grow by 80 students, another 10% increase.

 

The diocese also welcomed capital project donations for many school campuses that totaled more than $300,000 in manpower and resources from Lindy Paving, Golden Triangle Construction and Arch Masonry at many of the school campuses. The diocese’s statement voiced gratitude for attorney John Goetz and the law firm Jones Day, Pittsburgh for pro bono legal services regarding the donations.

 

There are about 128,000 Catholics out of a total population of some 640,000 people who live in the territory of the Greensburg diocese.

Lawsuit brings sex abuse allegations against New Hampshire bishop

Bishop Peter Libasci of Manchester. Credit: Jeff Dachowski.

Rockville Centre, N.Y., Jul 23, 2021 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

Bishop Peter Libasci has been accused in a lawsuit of committing sexual abuse while a priest in New York during the 1980s. 

The Bishop of Manchester is accused in a July 14 lawsuit of abusing a male youth on numerous occasions in 1983 and 1984. Bishop Libasci has not spoken out publicly on the allegations, but the Diocese of Manchester says the matter has been reported to civil authorities. 

The anonymous alleged victim, an altar boy who would have been in his early teens, was a student at Saints Cyril and Methodius School in Deer Park, New York, which has since merged with another school. The lawsuit also names the Sisters of St. Joseph, an order which ran the school, claiming they were negligent in allowing the alleged abuse to occur. 

The Manchester diocese told the Associated Press in a statement that it was aware of the lawsuit and that the matter had been reported to civil authorities, but that Libasci’s status as bishop has not, for the moment, changed. 

The diocese did not respond to CNA’s request for further comment. 

Bishop Libasci was a priest of the Diocese of Rockville Centre at the time of the alleged abuse, having been ordained in 1978. The Rockville Centre diocese is one of several in New York that have recently filed for bankruptcy amid a flood of lawsuits. 

In a 2002 agreement, in return for the the state of New Hampshire agreeing not to prosecute the diocese as an institution or any individuals for their past handling of sexual abuse allegations involving clergy, though county attorneys still can pursue individual prosecutions, the diocese agreed to new policies on sexual abuse and to periodic audits of those policies, the AP reported.

Before his 2011 appointment to lead the Manchester diocese, Bishop Libasci was an auxiliary bishop of Rockville Centre, having been consecrated in 2007. 

Sean Dolan, spokesman for the Rockville Centre diocese, told CNA that because the allegations involve a current diocesan bishop, the diocese has informed the Holy See of the accusation, in keeping with the norms of Vos estes lux mundi, Pope Francis’ 2019 document which governs procedures regarding accusations against bishops. 

If a Vos estis investigation into Bishop Libasci is initiated, it will likely be undertaken by Sean Cardinal O’Malley of Boston, Libasci’s metropolitan archbishop, with a 90-day timetable for Cardinal O’Malley to complete any investigation. 

A spokesman for the Boston archdiocese told the NH Reporter that no Vos estis investigation has yet begun, and referred further questions to the Vatican. 

“Following its standard protocol, the Diocese of Rockville Centre also reported the matter to the Suffolk County District Attorney,” Dolan told CNA in a statement.

“The Diocese of Rockville Centre remains committed to the ongoing work of creating a safe environment in the Church.”

The Rockville Centre diocese filed for bankruptcy in October 2020. Several other New York dioceses including Rochester, Syracuse, and Buffalo have also declared bankruptcy. 

The passage of the Child Victims Act in New York in 2019 allowed for sex abuse lawsuits to be filed in past cases in which victims had not yet taken action, long after the statute of limitations had expired. The CVA originally created a one-year window for these lawsuits to be filed; the window closes next month, and hundreds of lawsuits have since been filed.

Cardinal Kasper assails Traditional Latin Mass community for divisiveness

Cardinal Walter Kasper. / CNA/Bohumil Petrik.

Denver Newsroom, Jul 23, 2021 / 13:30 pm (CNA).

German prelate Cardinal Walter Kasper argued that the Traditional Latin Mass was a source of division and scandal within parishes in an interview about Traditionis Custodes with the National Catholic Register on Thursday, July 22, 2021. 

The cardinal stated that those who prefer the Traditional Latin Mass “reject the Second Vatican Council more or less in its entirety” and characterized Benedict XVI’s Summorum Pontificum as a failed attempt at furthering unity.

"It’s my experience that the overwhelming majority of the faithful are firmly against it (the Traditional Latin Mass). I know many people are scandalized when they come to St. Peter’s in Rome early in the morning and see that on many altars priests celebrating the 'old Mass' without any altar boy and no participation of the faithful. They turn to the empty basilica and say: 'Dominus vobiscum','“Orate fratres' etc.," he added.

While Cardinal Kasper did recognize that other threats to unity exist within the Church--notably the German synodal way--he stayed away from characterizing them with the same degree of danger as adhering to the Traditional Latin Mass. 

“As far as I know, none of the bishops wants any schismatic act and there is a slowly growing number in the bishops’ conference who are resistant,” said the Cardinal about the German synodal way. 

The full text of the interview can be found here

Pope Francis' Traditional Latin Mass restrictions: Has your diocese responded yet?

Cardinal Raymond Burke gives the final blessing during the Summorum Pontificum Pilgrimage Mass in Rome on Oct. 25, 2014. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Denver Newsroom, Jul 23, 2021 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

Catholic clergy and lay people around the world continue to react passionately to newly imposed restrictions on the use of the Traditional Latin Mass, one week after Pope Francis released his controversial apostolic letter Traditionis Custodes.

In his motu proprio issued July 16, the pope recognized the “exclusive competence” of bishops to authorize or refuse the Latin Mass in their respective dioceses, and he directed bishops to ensure that groups dedicated to the “extraordinary form” do not deny the validity of Vatican II and its liturgical reforms. The pope also declared that Traditional Latin Masses can no longer be offered at “parochial churches,” and he ordered that readings must be in the vernacular.

Expressly aimed at unifying the Church, the document has sparked a week of fractious commentary.

Several prominent Church leaders, as well as numerous conservative commentators such as author George Weigel, have been pointed in their criticism of the surprise announcement. In a July 21 essay published in First Things, Weigel called the motu proprio "theologically incoherent, pastorally divisive, unnecessary, cruel—and a sorry example of the liberal bullying that has become all too familiar in Rome recently."

Meanwhile, Fr. Thomas Reese, in a July 20 column for Religion News Service, said the document was part of Pope Francis’ effort to “separate the pious faithful with traditional devotion to the old liturgy from the ideologues who reject the reforms of the [Second Vatican] council.”

To date the official response to the document from U.S. bishops has been muted, with 152 dioceses having said nothing publicly yet about their plans to implement the pope’s new rules.

Most of the few dozen bishops who have issued statements have chosen temporarily to allow the Traditional Latin Mass to continue in their dioceses while they review the document, while others have restricted Latin Masses in certain parish churches. Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield in Illinois issued a canonical dispensation from the document for two parish churches, allowing the Traditional Latin Mass to continue at those locations.

Below is a state-by-state list of episcopal statements on the state of the Traditional Latin Mass in their respective dioceses, as of July 23: 

Alabama 

Archdiocese of Mobile: N/A

Diocese of Birmingham: N/A

Alaska

Archdiocese of Anchorage-Juneau: N/A

Diocese of Fairbanks: N/A

Arizona

Diocese of Phoenix: N/A

Diocese of Tucson: N/A

Arkansas 

Diocese of Little Rock: Celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass has ceased at “regular parish churches.” Two parishes administered by the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter will not be affected.

California

Archdiocese of Los Angeles: N/A
Archdiocese of San Francisco: Priests already celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass may continue to do so.

Diocese of Oakland: Priests already celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass may continue to do so.

Diocese of Sacramento: N/A

Diocese of Fresno: N/A

Diocese of San Bernardino: N/A

Diocese of San Diego: N/A

Diocese of San Jose: N/A

Diocese of Santa Rosa: N/A

Diocese of Stockton: N/A

Diocese of Orange: N/A

Diocese of Monterey: N/A

Colorado

Archdiocese of Denver: Priests already celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass may continue to do so. 

Diocese of Colorado Springs: N/A

Diocese of Pueblo: N/A

Connecticut

Archdiocese of Hartford: N/A

Diocese of Bridgeport: Priests wishing to celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass - including in private - must write Bishop Frank Caggiano for permission to continue. Bishop Caggiano has promised to grant temporary faculties for at least private Masses.

Diocese of Norwich: N/A

Delaware

Diocese of Wilmington: N/A

Florida

Archdiocese of Miami: N/A

Diocese of Orlando: N/A

Diocese of Palm Beach: N/A

Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee: N/A

Diocese of St. Augustine: N/A

Diocese of St. Petersburg: N/A

Diocese of Venice: N/A

Georgia

Archdiocese of Atlanta: N/A

Diocese of Savannah: N/A

Hawaii

Diocese of Honolulu: N/A 

Idaho

Diocese of Boise: N/A

Illinois

Archdiocese of Chicago: N/A

Diocese of Belleville: N/A

Diocese of Joliet: N/A

Diocese of Peoria: N/A

Diocese of Rockford: N/A

Diocese of Springfield: Bishop Thomas Paprocki issued a canonical dispensation from Art. 3, § 2 of Traditionis custodes for two parishes in the diocese, allowing celebration of the Latin Mass according to the 1962 Missal to continue at those churches.

Indiana

Archdiocese of Indianapolis: N/A

Diocese of Evansville: N/A

Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend: N/A

Diocese of Gary: N/A

Diocese of Lafayette: N/A

Iowa

Archdiocese of Dubuque: Archbishop Michael Jackels said that at Immaculate Conception parish in Cedar Rapids, where the Extraordinary Form is offered, “efforts will be made, guided by the new norm, to provide for those folks.”

Diocese of Davenport: N/A

Diocese of Des Moines: St. Anthony parish in Des Moines reported that a regularly scheduled Sunday Latin Mass will continue, with permission from Bishop William Joensen.

Diocese of Sioux City: N/A

Kansas

Archdiocese of Kansas City: N/A

Diocese of Dodge City: N/A

Diocese of Salina: N/A 

Diocese of Wichita: N/A

Kentucky

Archdiocese of Louisville: N/A

Diocese of Covington: N/A

Diocese of Lexington: N/A

Diocese of Owensboro: N/A

Louisiana

Archdiocese of New Orleans: Priests already celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass may continue to do so. 

Diocese of Alexandria: N/A

Diocese of Baton Rouge: N/A 

Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux: N/A

Diocese of Lafayette: N/A

Diocese of Shreveport: N/A

Diocese of Lake Charles: Priests already celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass may continue to do so. 

Maine

Diocese of Portland: N/A

Maryland

Archdiocese of Baltimore: Priests already celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass may continue to do so. 

Massachusetts

Archdiocese of Boston: Priests already celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass may continue to do so.  

Diocese of Fall River: N/A

Diocese of Springfield: N/A

Diocese of Worcester: Bishop Robert Joseph McManus said that “in the weeks ahead,” he would meet with priests celebrating the Extraordinary Form with his “permission,” to discuss implementation of Traditionis custodes.

Michigan

Archdiocese of Detroit: Priests already celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass may continue to do so.  

Diocese of Gaylord: N/A

Diocese of Grand Rapids: Priests already celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass may continue to do so. 

Diocese of Kalamazoo: Priests already celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass may continue to do so. 

Diocese of Lansing: N/A

Diocese of Marquette: N/A

Diocese of Saginaw: N/A

Minnesota

Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis: Priests already celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass may continue to do so, conditional on writing to the bishop for permission.

Diocese of Bismarck: N/A

Diocese of Crookston: N/A

Diocese of Duluth: Celebration of the Traditional Mass may continue at St. Benedict’s parish in Duluth; authorization for other parishes offering the Traditional Mass will be examined on a case-by-case basis.

Diocese of New Ulm: N/A

Diocese of Saint Cloud: N/A

Diocese of Winona-Rochester: N/A

Mississippi

Diocese of Biloxi: N/A

Diocese of Jackson: N/A

Missouri

Archdiocese of St. Louis: N/A

Diocese of Jefferson City: N/A

Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph: N/A

Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau: N/A

Montana

Diocese of Great Falls-Billings: N/A

Diocese of Helena: N/A

Nebraska

Archdiocese of Omaha: N/A

Diocese of Grand Island: N/A

Diocese of Lincoln: Priests already celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass may continue to do so.  

Nevada

Diocese of Las Vegas: N/A

Diocese of Reno: N/A

New Hampshire

Diocese of Manchester: N/A

New Jersey

Archdiocese of Newark: N/A

Diocese of Camden: N/A

Diocese of Metuchen: N/A

Diocese of Paterson: N/A

Diocese of Trenton: Bishop David O’Connell authorized use of Mass according to the 1962 Missal at five parishes, with a sixth permitted to offer the Traditional Latin Mass on First Fridays of every other month.

New Mexico

Archdiocese of Santa Fe: N/A

Diocese of Gallup: N/A

Diocese of Las Cruces: N/A

New York

Archdiocese of New York: N/A

Diocese of Albany: Bishop Edward Scharfenberger welcomed “input” from members of the diocese on implementation of Traditionis custodes.

Diocese of Brooklyn: N/A

Diocese of Buffalo: N/A

Diocese of Ogdensburg: N/A

Diocese of Rochester: N/A

Diocese of Rockville Centre: N/A

Diocese of Syracuse: N/A

North Carolina 

Diocese of Charlotte: N/A

Diocese of Raleigh: N/A

North Dakota 

Diocese of Bismarck: N/A

Diocese of Fargo: N/A

Ohio

Archdiocese of Cincinnati: Old St. Mary’s church and Sacred Heart church in Cincinnati, as well as Holy Family church in Dayton and to-be-determined location in the north of the archdiocese, have been designated as sites for celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass. For other celebrations of Mass according to the 1962 Missal, priests must obtain permission and offer non-scheduled and non-publicized Mass at a “sacred” or “decent” place.

Diocese of Cleveland:  Priests already celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass may continue to do so.

Diocese of Columbus: N/A

Diocese of Steubenville: N/A

Diocese of Toledo: Bishop Daniel Thomas granted a canonical dispensation from Art. 3, § 2 of the motu proprio for St. Joseph parish in Toledo, allowing the celebration of Mass according to the 1962 Missal to continue there. Other priests already celebrating the Latin Mass should request permission from him, including the location, reason for celebrating, and proposed frequency of Masses.

Diocese of Youngstown: N/A

Oklahoma 

Archdiocese of Oklahoma City:  Priests already celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass may continue to do so.  

Diocese of Tulsa: N/A

Oregon

Archdiocese of Portland: N/A

Diocese of Baker: N/A

Pennsylvania

Archdiocese of Philadelphia: Priests already celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass may continue to do so.  

Diocese of Allentown: N/A

Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown: N/A

Diocese of Erie: N/A

Diocese of Greensburg: N/A

Diocese of Harrisburg: N/A 

Diocese of Pittsburgh: Priests already celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass - currently offered at one parish in the diocese - may continue to do so. 

Diocese of Scranton: Traditional Latin Masses at St. Michael the Archangel parish in Scranton, administered by the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP), may continue. Diocesan priests who have offered Mass according to the 1962 Missal must request permission to continue doing so.

Rhode Island

Diocese of Providence: Priests already celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass may continue to do so. 

South Carolina

Diocese of Charleston: N/A

South Dakota

Diocese of Sioux Falls: N/A

Diocese of Rapid City: N/A

Tennessee

Diocese of Knoxville: Bishop Richard Stika granted a temporary canonical dispensation from Art. 3, § 2 of Traditionis custodes for parishes already offering the Traditional Latin Mass. 

Diocese of Memphis: N/A

Diocese of Nashville: N/A

Texas

Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston: Cardinal Daniel DiNardo stated, “For the time being, the celebration of Holy Mass according to the Roman Missal of 1962 may continue within the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.”

Archdiocese of San Antonio: N/A

Diocese of Amarillo: N/A

Diocese of Austin: N/A

Diocese of Beaumont: N/A

Diocese of Brownsville: Priests already celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass may continue to do so. 

Diocese of Corpus Christi: N/A

Diocese of Dallas: N/A

Diocese of El Paso: N/A

Diocese of Fort Worth: N/A

Diocese of Laredo: N/A

Diocese of Lubbock: N/A 

Diocese of San Angelo: N/A

Diocese of Tyler: N/A

Diocese of Victoria: N/A

Utah

Diocese of Salt Lake City: N/A

Vermont

Diocese of Burlington: N/A

Virginia

Diocese of Arlington:  Priests already celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass may continue to do so. 

Diocese of Richmond: N/A

Virgin Islands

Diocese of St. Thomas: N/A

Washington

Archdiocese of Seattle: N/A

Diocese of Spokane: N/A

Diocese of Yakima: N/A

Washington D.C. 

Archdiocese of Washington: Priests already celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass may continue to do so. 

Archdiocese of the Military Services: Priests already celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass may continue to do so. 

West Virginia

Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston: Priests already celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass may continue to do so. 

Wisconsin

Archdiocese of Milwaukee: Priests already celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass may continue to do so. 

Diocese of Green Bay: N/A

Diocese of La Crosse: N/A

Diocese of Madison: Bishop Donald Hying said that priests wishing to offer the Traditional Latin Mass could “presume” his authorization now.

Diocese of Superior: N/A

Wyoming

Diocese of Cheyenne: N/A

CNA would like to keep this list updated. If you have new information, please contact us at [email protected]

Mississippi AG asks Supreme Court to overturn abortion rulings 

Steven Frame/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Jul 23, 2021 / 11:00 am (CNA).

Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch on Thursday asked the Supreme Court to overturn two of its landmark rulings on abortion, arguing those decisions “shackle states to a view of the facts that is decades out of date.”

The high court recently agreed to hear the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, involving Mississippi’s ban on most elective abortions after 15 weeks. Activists on both sides of the abortion debate have argued that the case might prompt the court to re-examine its 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion nationwide, as well as its 1992 decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey that built upon the Roe ruling.

The high court is expected to hear the Dobbs case in the fall. In a brief filed with the Supreme Court on Thursday, Fitch said that the Roe and Casey rulings created more questions than answers, and that the issue of abortion should be returned to lawmakers rather than to the courts. 

Fitch said that rather than settling debate over the issue of abortion, the Roe and Casey decisions established “a special-rules regime for abortion jurisprudence that has left these cases out of step with other Court decisions and neutral principles of law applied by the Court.” 

“As a result, state legislatures, and the people they represent, have lacked clarity in passing laws to protect legitimate public interests, and artificial guideposts have stunted important public debate on how we, as a society, care for the dignity of women and their children,” Fitch said. 

“It is time for the Court to set this right and return this political debate to the political branches of government,” she wrote. 

Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, praised Mississippi’s brief in a statement, arguing that “updating America’s abortion jurisprudence is necessary and long overdue.” 

“The law at issue before the Supreme Court concerns moderate limits on the abortion of a child who has developed past 15 weeks, with a fully formed nose and lips, eyelids and eyebrows – when her humanity is beyond debate,” Mancini said. “Limiting gruesome late term abortions is compassionate and popular; and the norm in countries that have allowed their laws to catch up with the science.” 

Mancini argued that most nations restrict elective abortions at an earlier point in a pregnancy than the United States does. 

“Sadly, right now, the United States is one of only seven countries – including North Korea and China - that allow elective abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy," she said.   

In a statement, NARAL Pro-Choice America Acting President Adrienne Kimmell said Mississippi “is explicitly seeking to end the constitutional right to abortion and subvert the will of the overwhelming majority of Americans who support Roe and the legal right to abortion.” 

“This has always been the anti-choice movement’s agenda behind closed doors—now they’re operating in plain sight,” Kimmell said.

Fitch, in her brief, said that Mississippi is “simply asking the Court to affirm the right of the people to protect their legitimate interests and to provide clarity on how they may do so.”

She further argued that major societal changes since 1973 have made the Roe decision worth examining. 

“A lot has changed in five decades,” Fitch said. “In 1973, there was little support for women who wanted a full family life and a successful career. Maternity leave was rare. Paternity leave was unheard of. The gold standard for professional success was a 9-to-5 with a corner office. The flexibility of the gig economy was a fairy tale. In these last fifty years, women have carved their own way to achieving a better balance for success in their professional and personal lives.” 

“By returning the matter of abortion policy to state legislatures, we allow a stunted debate on how we support women to flourish,” Fitch continued. “It is time for the Court to let go of its hold on this important debate.”

Despite criticism from Wisconsin AG, Milwaukee archdiocese stresses cooperation with new abuse cases

The Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Milwaukee. Credit: Sulfur via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Milwaukee, Wis., Jul 22, 2021 / 19:01 pm (CNA).

The Milwaukee archdiocese said that to its knowledge the Wisconsin attorney general’s inquiry into sexual abuse, which some critics say is singling out the Catholic Church, has so far not resulted in any allegations against current archdiocesan priests.

“We continue to cooperate with any new allegations against a living priest, and have not received any word from the attorney general that any have been received,” Sandra Peterson, communication director with the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, told CNA July 22.

The Milwaukee archdiocese has previously said that judges, civil authorities, and an outside firm have already reviewed their documents multiple times and a bankruptcy judge has declared no concern for public safety after reviewing abuse claims. Some of the archdiocesan records are under seal due to previous bankruptcy court proceedings or because of abuse victims’ decisions to submit their claims under seal. Compliance with the attorney general’s request to produce records could mean another major expenditure of six figures on lawyers’ fees and staff hours for the Milwaukee archdiocese alone.

For his part, Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul continues to criticize Catholic non-participation in his inquiry, which he announced in April.

“You know the Milwaukee Archdiocese put out a letter that they were, by and large, declining to cooperate with the review,” Kaul said at a July 20 press conference. “I think that's unfortunate. I think this is a real opportunity for the diocese and religious orders that have taken steps to demonstrate what they've done and how that process has moved forward.”

Kaul portrayed his investigation as “an independent review” of reports of clergy abuse that aimed “to ensure that survivors of clergy and faith leader abuse have access to needed victim services, to help prevent future cases of sexual assault, and to get accountability to the extent possible.”

The state justice department has added that while it “is starting with the Catholic Church in this initiative, victims are encouraged to report sexual abuse committed in any religious organization.”

In a June 1 email to Catholics in the archdiocese, Archbishop Jerome Listecki of Milwaukee said the archdiocese would cooperate with any “proper” state investigation, including providing records related to any living priest accused of abuse. Archbishop Listecki has voiced doubt that the attorney general has the legal authority for the inquiry and said the archdiocese has “legitimate concerns that his inquiry is directly targeting only the Catholic Church.”

Kaul, speaking at a July 20 press conference, said anyone who has previously reported abuse they experienced or information about a potential abuse to a Catholic diocese or to local law enforcement should report it to his office. The Wisconsin Department of Justice said in a statement that people shouldn’t assume a previous report will be received by its office, blaming a lack of cooperation from Wisconsin’s five Roman Catholic dioceses.

Since Kaul opened the inquiry, the Department of Justice said it has received “over 100 reports of abuse by clergy and faith leaders, or related to how a religious organization has responded to abuse,” Wisconsin Public Radio reports.

“The reports have concerned clergy and faith leaders of multiple religious organizations as well as some reports of abuse not related to any religious organization. Some reports include claims against multiple abusers,” the Department of Justice has said.

Kaul said many reports to his office concern incidents that cannot be prosecuted due to the statute of limitations. The Department of Justice will refer cases to local district attorneys if they are eligible for investigation or prosecution. He declined to say how many cases have been referred.

Other leaders in the Milwaukee archdiocese have criticized the effort.

“Our assertion is the Church is being unfairly singled out by this investigation,” Jerry Topczewski, chief of staff to Archbishop Jerome Listecki of Milwaukee, told CNA June 9. “We have accepted our past history and worked so vigilantly to correct how things are handled, but it’s the Church that is continually targeted.”

Of the some 578 claimants who filed claims against the archdiocese, 99% involved allegations of abuse before the year 1990. In June, Topczewski said, there had been only one substantiated allegation of sexual abuse of a minor by a Milwaukee archdiocese priest since 2000.

“This reinforces the historical nature of these crimes and indicates that education and prevention efforts are effective,” he said.

Peterson told CNA the archdiocese and the Catholic Church in the U.S. have worked to improve its sexual abuse prevention and response programs.

“It’s important to note that no organization in the U.S. has done more than the Catholic Church to become the model of how to address and prevent sexual abuse,” she said. “The Archdiocese of Milwaukee is the largest provider of Safe Environment sexual abuse prevention training in Wisconsin with more than 100,000 people trained.”

“This is part of the stringent preventative measures we’ve put in place which include criminal background checks and an independent reporting mechanism,” she said. “We’ve also provided ongoing outreach to abuse survivors, paid for counselling, and worked with survivors to improve the Church’s response to those who were harmed.”

In April, Kaul had announced the launch of an investigation into sexual abuse in the state’s Catholic dioceses and at least three religious orders. State officials have portrayed the inquiry as an effort to verify public lists of priests credibly accused of abuse.

Four of the state’s five dioceses, as well as the Jesuits and the Norbertines, have already disclosed the names of priests credibly accused of sex abuse. The Diocese of Superior is gathering its own list and intends to publish it by the end of the year.

In total, 177 Catholic priests have been identified as credibly accused of abusing minors in the state, though some incidents took place as long ago as the 1950s. Some of the accused priests themselves died decades ago.

Ninth Circuit favors Washington church in case against state abortion coverage mandate

Natalia Bratslavsky/Shutterstock

Denver Newsroom, Jul 22, 2021 / 17:03 pm (CNA).

A Washington church won its case against a state abortion coverage mandate on Thursday, in a ruling by a federal appeals court.

Cedar Park Church in Bothell, Washington had filed a complaint in March 2019 regarding a state law that required employers – including churches – to cover abortions if their health plans also included maternity coverage. While state law allowed religious groups not to pay for abortion coverage, it required it to be available to enrollees; the church argued that it could not find a health plan without abortion coverage included.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday ruled that the church had “sufficient” cause to claim an injury in the case, and that injury was “fairly traceable to SB 6219,” the state abortion coverage mandate.

“No church should be forced to cover abortions, and certainly not a church like Cedar Park that dedicates its ministry to protecting and celebrating life,” said Elissa Graves, legal counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) which represented Cedar Park Church in the case.

“We are pleased the 9th Circuit rightly recognized the harm that Washington state has inflicted on Cedar Park Church in subjecting it to this unprecedented mandate,” Graves stated.

The state law SB 6219, signed into law in 2018, required health plans to cover all FDA-approved contraceptive drugs and devices; in addition, health plans covering maternity services also had to include “substantially equivalent coverage” of abortions.

While state law allows religious groups not to purchase abortion coverage, it has to be available for all enrollees. 

The church in 2019 had sued over the abortion coverage mandate, stating its "deeply held religious belief that abortion is the ending of a human life, and is a grave sin.” It opposed providing coverage for abortions or abortifacients in employee health plans. 

The church said that following enactment of the 2018 mandate, its health insurer Kaiser Permanente included surgical abortion coverage in the church’s health plan. Kaiser supposedly indicated that it would remove the coverage if a court ruled in favor of the church’s religious exemption to the mandate.

Cedar Park Church said it could not find another employee health plan without abortion coverage, following Kaiser’s changes made to its plan. In its lawsuit, it alleged violations of its free exercise of religion and the establishment clause of the First Amendment, as well as violations of the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause.

Washington state argued that the church was not required to pay for the abortion coverage, and thus had not suffered an injury sufficient for standing in court.

In August 2019, a federal district court granted the state’s motion to dismiss the case, and denied the church’s motion for a preliminary injunction from the law.

On Thursday, the Ninth Circuit that the district court erred in dismissing the case, and sent the case back to the lower court.

“Washington state has no legal authority to force places of worship to fund abortions and violate their constitutional rights, as well as their religious beliefs,” said John Bursch, ADF senior counsel and vice president of appellate advocacy, on Thursday.

“Today’s decision is a big step forward in preventing the government from targeting churches and we look forward to continue challenging this law at the district court,” he said.

The state’s Catholic bishops opposed the abortion coverage mandate when it passed the legislature in March 2018.

In a March 5, 2018 letter to Gov. Jay Inslee (D) asking him to veto the bill, the bishops said it violated human dignity and infringed on conscience rights.

“Even those who do not share our unconditional commitment to the dignity of every person from the moment of conception, have good reason to support our right to exercise our conscience in accord with the teachings of our faith,” the bishops said.

They warned the law would “place religious employers and others at legal risk simply for following their religious or moral beliefs and exercising the fundamental right of conscience constitutionally guaranteed to all Americans.” the bishops wrote.

California enacted an abortion coverage mandate in 2014, which applied to a group of Catholic consecrated women, the Missionary Guadalupanas of the Holy Spirit. The group filed a complaint with the Department of Health and Human Services, which ruled in 2020 that the state violated federal conscience law in the case.

The federal Weldon Amendment prohibits federal funding of state and local governments that discriminate against individuals or groups that refuse to perform, pay for, or cover abortions.

California’s former attorney general Xavier Becerra refused to comply with the HHS notice of violation in the case in 2020. Becerra is now the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Annual Courage conference focuses on St. Joseph as model of chastity

St. Joseph with the Infant Jesus, by Guido Reni, circa 1635 / Public domain

Denver Newsroom, Jul 22, 2021 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

The annual conference of the Catholic apostolate Courage International concluded last week, focusing on the example of St. Joseph.

"We all need Jesus," said Dr. Greg Bottaro, director of the CatholicPsych Institute, in his keynote speech on July 15, "and we all need Jesus' mom and dad."

Courage International, Inc. is a Catholic apostolate for those experiencing same-sex attraction who are trying to live chastely. The five goals of the apostolate are chastity, prayer and dedication, fellowship, support, and good example. It has more than 150 chapters in 18 countries, and received canonical status in the Catholic Church in 2016 

The 34th annual conference of Courage International was held at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, from July 15-18. Various talks focused on St. Joseph’s example as “model of courageous love,” during the Year of St. Joseph proclaimed by Pope Francis.

Father Philip Bochanski, executive director of Courage International focused his closing address on St. Joseph in line with the 2021 conference’s theme.

In a May interview with CNA, he explained that “Saint Joseph is a model, an encouragement, and an intercessor for our members who strive to make a sincere gift of themselves and bear much fruit as disciples.”

During his July 18 closing speech for the conference, Fr. Bochanski said, "We become who we are only when we give ourselves away."

"It's the gift of self that shows us who we really are," he told attendees.

The conference was made available for attendees both in-person and virtually via a Zoom livestream. According to Courage, 240 registered attendees participated in-person and 480 registered attendees participated virtually; attendees hailed from the United States and more than 20 countries total.

In-person attendees had the opportunity to assist at daily Mass, go to confession and Eucharistic adoration, and attend private meetings and socials.

"You are truly such an important work and witness for the entire Church," Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas told attendees in his homily at the conference opening Mass. "Thank you for the heroic courage that you show for being a part of this ministry."

Father Ricardo Pineda, CPM, of the Fathers of Mercy, spoke of St. Joseph as chaste spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary and foster father of Jesus on Friday, July 16.

“No Joseph, no Jesus!," he said. "Saint Joseph had a necessary role in the Incarnation of the Son of God.”

In his interview with CNA in May, Fr. Bochanski explained how St. Joseph’s chastity enabled him to make a total gift of himself to Mary and to God.

“When he [Joseph] became more fully aware of his vocation, the purpose and plan for which he had been created,” Bochanski said, “he was willing to sacrifice the intimate sexual expression of love in his married life, in order to live out all the other responsibilities of being a husband with greater dedication and self-sacrifice.”

Pelosi defends taxpayer-funded abortion while citing Catholic faith 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) / Michael Candelori/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Jul 22, 2021 / 12:01 pm (CNA).

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday defended efforts to permit federal funding of elective abortions, and cited her own Catholic faith while doing so.  

A draft spending bill that was recently approved by the House Appropriations Committee would allow for federal funding of elective abortions in Medicaid. It excludes the Hyde Amendment, federal policy since 1976 which prohibits funding of most abortions in Medicaid.

In remarks at her weekly press conference in the U.S. Capitol on Thursday, Pelosi said she supports a repeal of Hyde because it is “an issue of health, of many women in America, especially those in lower-income situations and in different states.” 

“And it is something that has been a priority for many of us for a long time,” Pelosi said.

She cited her faith, noting that as “a devout Catholic and mother of five in six years, I feel that God blessed my husband and me with our beautiful family, five children in six years almost to the day.” 

She added that she would not presume to make decisions for other women, regarding their families and abortion.

Pelosi said that “it’s not up to me to dictate that that’s what other people should do, and it [funding of abortion in Medicaid] is an issue of fairness and justice for poorer women in our country.”

President Joe Biden did not include the Hyde Amendment in his budget request to Congress for the 2022 fiscal year; leading Democrats have pushed for an end to the policy in recent years. The Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies appropriations bill recently advanced out of the House Appropriations Committee without the amendment language.

The Hyde Amendment, named for the late Rep. Henry Hyde of Illinois, was first enacted in 1976, three years after the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide. Exceptions were later added to the policy for cases involving rape, incest or a maternal mortality risk. 

Since the amendment is not permanent law, it must be attached to individual appropriations bills, or it will not take effect.

The U.S. bishops’ conference has called on lawmakers to preserve the Hyde Amendment, and is currently circulating a petition in support of the pro-life policy which currently has more than 130,000 signatures. 

In January, Pelosi said pro-lifers who voted for former President Donald Trump because of the abortion issue gave her “great grief as a Catholic,” and also defended use of contraception. In response, her local ordinary - Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco - said that she “does not speak for the Catholic Church."

During a podcast with former senator and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, Pelosi said that pro-lifers who chose to vote for Trump “were willing to sell the whole democracy down the river for that one issue.”

In a subsequent statement, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, said that “No Catholic in good conscience can favor abortion.” 

“Our land is soaked with the blood of the innocent, and it must stop,” Cordileone said. 

Pelosi has long supported legal abortion. In June, she told a reporter that “I am a big supporter of Roe v. Wade. I am a mother of five children in six years. I think I have some standing on this issue, as to respecting a woman’s right to choose.”

In May, Pelosi said she was “pleased” with a Vatican letter to the U.S. bishops which addressed Communion for pro-abortion politicians. She claimed the Vatican instructed the bishops not to be “divisive” on the issue.

In response, Archbishop Cordileone said the Vatican actually promoted “dialogue” between bishops and pro-abortion politicians, “to help them understand the grave evil they are helping to perpetrate and accompany them to a change of heart.”

“I’m happy to know that Speaker Pelosi said she is pleased with the letter,” Archbishop Cordileone said. “Speaker Pelosi’s positive reaction” to the letter, he noted, “raises hope that progress can be made in this most serious matter.”

EWTN’s Catholic News Agency names Shannon Mullen as Editor-in-Chief

Shannon Mullen, Editor-in-Chief of Catholic News Agency. / EWTN News / CNA

Irondale, Ala., Jul 22, 2021 / 04:00 am (CNA).

Michael P. Warsaw, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of EWTN, has announced the appointment of Shannon Mullen as Editor-in-Chief of Catholic News Agency.

Shannon’s 33-year journalism career includes 10 years as an Investigative Reporter, Enterprise Editor, and Premium Content Coach with Gannett Co., where he was a member of a reporting team that was named a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize.

“We are very pleased to welcome Shannon to the EWTN News family,” said EWTN Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Michael P. Warsaw. “He brings considerable depth and experience as a reporter and editor over a long career. He has a long history of mentoring and coaching young journalists in their craft. These are skills that will serve him well as he takes up the post of Editor-in-Chief of CNA.”

With news bureaus across the United States, Europe, South America, and Africa, CNA is one of the largest and fastest-growing independent Catholic media outlets in the world. EWTN acquired CNA, and its Spanish-language sister agency ACI Prensa, in 2014.

As Editor-in-Chief, Mullen will manage CNA’s reporting for its news syndication service, and its extensive social media news audience. Mullen will also seek to foster greater collaboration between CNA’s news coverage, and the reporting of the National Catholic Register, EWTN News Nightly, In Depth, and other major news outlets within EWTN.

Alejandro Bermúdez, Executive Director of CNA and ACI Prensa, said: “Shannon is a well-formed, devout Catholic, father of four children and interested in several Church apostolates. With his many years of successful journalism, he brings that rare combination of affability, leadership and experience that will take CNA to a new level.”

Mullen said: “I’m honored by the faith that Michael, Alejandro and EWTN have placed in me to lead such a talented team of dedicated journalists. The focused, faithful coverage CNA provides every day is vital to Catholics around the world, especially now when the Church is facing such extraordinary challenges, most especially rising threats to religious freedom in so many places today.”

As Enterprise Editor and Premium Content Coach at the Gannett-owned Asbury Park Press, Mullen collaborated with reporters, photographers, videographers, and designers to develop compelling multimedia stories and premium content for the newspaper’s subscribers. He also coached reporters on writing long-form features and investigative projects. As an investigative reporter, Mullen penned more than 1,000 articles and hundreds of front-page stories, ranging from breaking news and human interest features to multi-part investigative series on a wide range of public policy issues.

“As a young newspaper reporter, I drew great inspiration from Pope John Paul II’s annual remarks on World Communications Day,” he said. “He emphasized that even those in the secular media could serve as apostles in the cause of human dignity, justice and the pursuit of truth. Looking back over my career, I recognize this theme running through my work which includes investigations into deplorable living conditions in federally subsidized rental housing, the exploitation of the elderly by legal guardians, and a heartbreaking teenage suicide cluster that terrorized a small community at the Jersey Shore.”

In addition to being a Pulitzer Prize finalist, Mullen’s numerous national journalism honors include a First Place Award from the National Press Club; Finalist for the Goldsmith Investigative Reporting Award; and a First Place Award from the Deadline Club for New York Metro Media.

Mullen holds a Master of Arts in Public Policy from Liberty University and a B.A. from Duke University, where he was Editor-in-Chief of the student newspaper.

Mullen is based in EWTN’s Washington, D.C., office.

In its 40th year, EWTN is the largest religious media network in the world. EWTN’s 11 TV channels are broadcast in multiple languages 24 hours a day, seven days a week to over 350 million television households in more than 145 countries and territories.

EWTN platforms also include radio services transmitted through SIRIUS/XM, iHeart Radio, and over 500 domestic and international AM & FM radio affiliates; a worldwide shortwave radio service; one of the largest Catholic websites in the U.S.; electronic and print news services, including Catholic News Agency, the National Catholic Register newspaper, and several global news wire services; as well as EWTN Publishing, its book publishing division.