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Catholic bishops: US still 'painfully' far from Martin Luther King’s dream

Washington D.C., Jan 20, 2020 / 03:37 am (CNA).- The example of Martin Luther King, Jr., is still sorely needed in the United States, given continued injustices, racism and discrimination against minorities, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said in a message for MLK Day.

“As our nation prepares to commemorate the life and witness of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., we are grateful for his courageous stand in solidarity with all who suffer injustice and his witness of love and nonviolence in the struggle for social change,” Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said Jan. 16.

“But we are once again painfully aware that we are still far off from his dream for America, the ‘beloved community’ for which he gave his life.”

King is remembered as an African-American Baptist minister and the most visible leader of the civil rights movement, for which he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. He was the founding president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He was assassinated in 1968 at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, at age 39.

The United States has celebrated a federal holiday in his memory since 1983. This year the holiday falls on Jan. 20.

Archbishop Gomez, writing on behalf of the U.S. bishops, warned of continuing “disturbing outbreaks of racism and prejudice” against minority groups in the U.S. today.

“Racism is a sin that denies the truth about God and his creation, and it is a scandal that disfigures the beauty of America’s founding vision,” he said.

“Too many hearts and minds are clouded by racist presumptions of privilege and too many injustices in our society are still rooted in racism and discrimination,” the archbishop continued.

“Too many young African American men are still being killed in our streets or spending their best years behind bars. Many minority neighborhoods in this country are still what they were in Rev. King’s time, what he called ‘lonely islands of poverty.’ Let us recommit ourselves to ensuring opportunity reaches every community,” he said.

The archbishop spoke in the wake of deadly racially motivated violence.

A mass shooting at an El Paso WalMart, not far from the U.S. border with Mexico, killed 22 people and injured 24 others in August 2019. Authorities believe the gunman authored an anti-immigrant, anti-Hispanic manifesto that depicted immigrants as invaders. The gunman apparently took inspiration from a deadly attack on a New Zealand mosque.

In October 2018 a shooter killed 11 people at a synagogue in Philadelphia. In April 2019, a shooting at a synagogue in Poway, California left one dead and several wounded, including the congregation’s rabbi.

“There has been a rise of anti-Semitic attacks and also ugly displays of white nationalism, nativism, and violence targeting Hispanics and other immigrants. Such bigotry is not worthy of a great nation,” Gomez said. “As Catholics and as Americans, we must reject every form of racism and anti-Semitism.”

He cited the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ 2018 pastoral letter on racism, “Open Wide Your Hearts.”

“What is needed, and what we are calling for, is a genuine conversion of heart, a conversion that will compel change and the reform of our institutions and society,” the letter said.
 

 

Planned Parenthood announces highest election spending in its history

Washington D.C., Jan 19, 2020 / 04:55 pm (CNA).- Planned Parenthood announced this week that it plans to spend $45 million to support pro-abortion candidates at the presidential, congressional, and state levels in the 2020 election.

The campaign, entitled “We Decide 2020,” marks the largest election spending in Planned Parenthood’s history.

Jenny Lawson, executive director of Planned Parenthood Votes, told CBS News that “The stakes have never been higher.”

She pointed to the upcoming Supreme Court case involving a Louisiana law requiring abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital as “an indicator of [the Trump Administration’s] intention and they've never been so bold.”

The case marks the first major abortion decision that the Supreme Court will hand down since U.S. President Donald Trump’s two court appointments. Abortion advocates fear it could reverse the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that mandated legal abortion nationwide.

However, Lawson added that the Democratic hopefuls vying for an opportunity to challenge Trump also “have the boldest reproductive rights policies we've ever seen.”

This commitment to abortion policies among the Democratic candidates includes widespread opposition to the Hyde Amendment, an annual budget amendment since 1976 that prohibits federal tax dollars from paying for abortions, except in cases of rape, incest, or when it is deemed necessary to save the life of the mother. The Hyde Amendment has enjoyed longstanding bipartisan support, and attempts to repeal it over the years have failed. Pro-life advocates estimate that more than 2 million unborn lives have been saved as a result of the policy.

Few of the Democratic candidates support restrictions on late-term abortions, and the majority have pledged to enshrine Roe v. Wade in federal law, appoint only pro-abortion judges, and advocate for abortion pills to be available without a prescription.

The Planned Parenthood Votes campaign will target Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, through digital, television, radio and mail ads, CBS News reports.

Planned Parenthood Votes is financially, structurally, and operationally independent from the group’s clinics, according to CBS News.

Still, the role that abortion plays in the non-profit’s overall work has been a subject of controversy. Last July, Planned Parenthood’s president, Dr. Leana Wen, was forced out after disagreements with board leaders over whether the organization should focus on health care or abortion advocacy.

Wen, who had been at the helm for eight months, said her goal had been to focus on health care for underserved women, while board leaders saw political advocacy in support of abortion as the organization’s priority.

Wen was replaced by Alexis McGill Johnson, acting president of Planned Parenthood, who told CBS News last year that the organization is “not political by nature” but has been politicized and forced into focusing on political advocacy.

Meanwhile, the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List and its partner Women Speak Out PAC have announced a $52 million budget for the 2020 election cycle.

In addition to phone calls and digital and mail-based ads, the campaign plans to make 4 million visits to voters before the election, focusing on Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin.

Mallory Quigley, a spokeswoman for the groups, said the campaign will focus on educating traditional Democratic voters about the “extreme pro-abortion policies” supported by Democratic presidential and Senate candidates.

“Polls confirm what our on-the-ground experience and message testing show to be true: Democrats’ abortion radicalism is a liability for them at the ballot box,” she said. “Our focused, battle-tested voter outreach method will ensure we reach the voters who can provide President Trump and pro-life Senate candidates the winning margin on Election Day.”
 

 

DiMarzio welcomes investigation, points to personal record fighting abuse

New York City, N.Y., Jan 19, 2020 / 10:00 am (CNA).- Brooklyn’s Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio has issued a statement welcoming an investigation into an accusation of sexual abuse made against him last year.

In a statement released to CNA on Sunday Jan. 19, the Diocese of Brooklyn said that Bishop DiMarzio had done nothing wrong and had no intention of stepping aside during the Vatican-ordered enquiry into the allegation, which dates back to the 1970s and DiMarzio’s time as a priest in the Archdiocese of Newark.

“Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio has categorically denied the allegation against him,” the statement said. “He will vigorously defend himself against this false claim and is confident the truth will prevail.”

On Jan. 18, the Archdiocese of New York confirmed that Cardinal Timothy Dolan had been asked by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to conduct an investigation into the allegations of 56-year-old Mark Matzek.

Matzek alleges that DiMarzio and another priest, now deceased, repeatedly abused him when he was an altar server at St. Nicholas Catholic Church in the Diocese of Newark in the 1970s.

Although lawyer Mitchell Garabedian sent a letter to the Archdiocese of Newark in November saying he was preparing a lawsuit on behalf of Matzek seeking $20 million, a spokesperson for the Brooklyn diocese told CNA on Sunday that no suit had yet been filed.

The investigation is being conducted under the norms of Vos estis lux mundi, the motu proprio issued by Pope Francis in May, 2019, which provided new mechanisms for handling accusations against bishops.

“As the Church investigation is a Vos estis lux mundi probe, it does not require that Bishop DiMarzio step aside during the preliminary investigation,” the statement from the Brooklyn diocese noted. “As such, his status has not changed.

The Diocese of Brooklyn also noted that in the two months since the accusation was made public, DiMarzio had received constant messages of support from Catholics in and out of the diocese.

“There has been a tremendous outpouring of support for Bishop DiMarzio, from here in the Diocese of Brooklyn and from the people he has served throughout his 50-year ministry, including parishioners from his time as parochial vicar at St. Nicholas Church in Jersey City,” the statement said.

The Diocese of Brooklyn also underscored DiMarzio’s reputation as a “recognized as a leader” in combatting sexual abuse in the Church.

“Even before the mandates of the 2002 Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, Bishop DiMarzio created protocols when he was the bishop in the Diocese of Camden from 1999-2003 to ensure that children were protected and that victims received the care they need,” a spokesperson for the bishop said.

The statement also noted that DiMarzio’s policies for the Diocese of Brooklyn, issued in 2003, went beyond the requirements of the Dallas Charter agreed by the U.S. bishops, and included an independent hotline for reporting abuse through which complaints are automatically sent to the district attorney.

“His record in fighting sexual abuse is further evident in Pope Francis’ recent selection of him to conduct an investigation into the Diocese of Buffalo,” a spokesperson for the bishop said, referring to the Apostolic Visitation of that diocese conducted by DiMarzio in October and November last year.

DiMarzio is the second U.S. bishop to be investigated under the norms of Vos estis since its promulgation by Pope Francis in May last year.

In September 2019, the Vatican ordered St. Paul-Minneapolis Archbishop Bernard Hebda to conduct an investigation using the new laws into Crookston Bishop Michael Hoeppner, who is alleged to have knowing kept an abusive priest in ministry. Hebda sent his report to Rome in early November.

While the Archdiocese of New York has not released a timeline for the investigation into DiMarzio, the Diocese of Brooklyn said that the bishop “looks forward to the investigation of the allegation made against him and having his good name cleared and restored.”

Cardinal Dolan conducting 'Vos estis' investigation into Brooklyn's Bishop DiMarzio

New York City, N.Y., Jan 18, 2020 / 09:05 pm (CNA).- Cardinal Timothy Dolan is conducting an investigation into Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, following an allegation of sexual abuse.

The investigation is being conducted under the provisions of Vos estis lux mundi, the Church law issued by Pope Francis last year on dealing with accusations against bishops.

In a statement released Jan. 18, Joseph Zwilling, director of communications in the Archdiocese of New York, confirmed the investigation.

“As directed by Vos estis, Cardinal Dolan earlier notified the Holy See of the allegation that was raised concerning Bishop DiMarzio from his time as a priest in the Archdiocese of Newark. On January 7, 2020, the Cardinal received instruction from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that he is to begin an investigation.”

On Nov. 13, 2019, DiMarzio publicly announced that he was the subject of an allegation of sexually abusing a minor, dating back to his time as a priest in the 1970s in Jersey City.

According to the Associated Press, 56-year-old Mark Matzek says DiMarzio and another priest, who is now deceased, repeatedly abused him when he was an altar server at St. Nicholas Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of Newark. DiMarzio was a priest there at the time.

Boston attorney Mitchell Garabedian sent a letter to the Archdiocese of Newark in November, notifying them that he was preparing a lawsuit on behalf of Matzek. The suit is reportedly seeking $20 million.

DiMarzio has strongly denied the allegations, calling sexual abuse a “despicable crime” and highlighting his own work to eradicate it from his own Diocese of Brooklyn. In November, the bishop said that he would vigorously defend himself.

“In my nearly 50-year ministry as a priest, I have never engaged in unlawful or inappropriate behavior and I categorically deny this allegation,” DiMarzio said.

The allegation was made shortly after DiMarzio himself concluded his own investigation into another bishop on behalf of the Vatican.

On instructions of the Congregation for Bishops, in October and November last year, DiMarzio conducted an apostolic visitation of the Diocese of Buffalo, which faced months of scandal surrounding Bishop Richard Malone, who was accused of mishandling sex abuse claims against a priest in his diocese.

Although that visitation was not conducted under the rules of Vos estis, Malone’s resignation was accepted by Pope Francis in December last year.

DiMarzio is the second U.S. bishop to be investigated under the norms of Vos estis since its promulgation by Pope Francis in May 2019.

In September 2019, the Vatican ordered St. Paul-Minneapolis Archbishop Bernard Hebda to conduct an investigation using the new laws into Crookston Bishop Michael Hoeppner, who is alleged to have knowingly kept an abusive priest in ministry, and pressured an alleged abuse victim to withdraw an allegation against a priest. Hebda sent his report to Rome in early November.

A spokesman for Cardinal Dolan said that the cardinal will be using experts to assist him in his task, but did not give a timeline for the enquiry into DiMarzio.

“As is our practice, the cardinal will rely on outside professional forensic investigators to assist him in this matter,” he said.

“The archdiocese will have no further comment on the matter while the investigation is undertaken.”

Miami archbishop promotes refugee resettlement

Miami, Fla., Jan 18, 2020 / 06:01 am (CNA).- The Archbishop of Miami has emphasized the importance of welcoming refugees, and decried the decision of Texas Governor Greg Abbott not to participate in the federal refugee resettlement program.

“Often mentored by church volunteers and given resettlement support, refugees and their family quickly integrate into American society, finding work and making a positive contribution to their adopted country,” said Archbishop Thomas Wenski in a Jan. 16 letter to the editor of the Miami Herald.

“Resettlement agencies are preparing to submit proposals to the Office of Refugee Resettlement on Jan. 21 to continue this ministry of ‘welcoming the stranger.’ Catholic Charities look forward to local governments continuing welcoming refugees in those communities where we already serve.”

The archbishop noted that Catholic Charities in Florida sponsored unaccompanied Cuban minors in the 1960s, resettled refugees from Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia in the 1970s, and has participated in the US Refugee Program since it began in 1980.

He stressed the security of the vetting policies already conducted by the United States' government. He said refugees have to meet established criteria such as fleeing religious persecution or political violence.

“Refugees are thoroughly vetted by agencies including the National Counterterrorism Center, FBI, and the Departments of Homeland Security, Defense, and State,” he said.

A September 2019 executive order by President Trump requires written consent from states and local entities before they resettle refugees within their boundaries.

Archbishop Wenski expressed disappointment in Abbott for discontinuing Texas' participation in the refugee resettlement program.

“Forty two governors have gone on record supporting refugee services - 19 are Republican. Only the governor of Texas decided to discontinue resettlement - apparently without much public support.”

“Florida, and refugees, would lose if we were to follow Texas’ example,” he added.

Last week, the 16 bishops in Texas described Abbott’s move as “deeply discouraging and disheartening.” They asked the governor to reconsider his decision, noting that refugees contribute a great deal to society.

“While the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops respects the governor, this decision is simply misguided. It denies people who are fleeing persecution, including religious persecution, from being able to bring their gifts and talents to our state and contribute to the general common good of all Texans,” the bishops said in a Jan. 10 statement.

“As Catholics, an essential aspect of our faith is to welcome the stranger and care for the alien. We use this occasion to commit ourselves even more ardently to work with all people of good will, including our federal, state and local governments, to help refugees integrate and become productive members of our communities.”

Catholic family looks to honor late daughter with a dance

South Bend, Ind., Jan 18, 2020 / 04:00 am (CNA).- Raffaella Stroik loved beauty.

A devout Catholic and a talented professional ballerina, Raffaella felt she experienced the beatific vision when she was performing for others. She hoped her art could be transformative in their lives.

But Raffaella’s short life ended in tragedy. On Nov. 14, 2018, her body was found in a lake some 140 miles from St. Louis, where she was a member of the city’s ballet. She was 23 years old.

Authorities ruled that there seemed to have been neither foul play nor self-harm.

"...the only thing that seems to have happened, could have happened, is some kind of an accident," Duncan Stroik, Raffaella’s father, told WNDU News in South Bend, Indiana in November. "We don't know what could have happened."

In order to honor and continue their daughter’s legacy, Duncan and his family have decided to create a traditional ballet in honor of Rafaella, loosely based on her life and incorporating the elements of beauty and art that their daughter loved about ballet.

“We were trying to figure out how to remember her and how to memorialize her,” Stroik told CNA. “And I'm an architect, so I think buildings, monuments, tombstones, all kinds of things. And my wife actually had a dream that we would remember her through dance.”

“The goal was to continue her work, which was as a ballerina, in a way that we could, which is to create a new ballet,” he said.

Creating a new ballet is no easy feat, particularly a traditional ballet, which includes more in the way of sets and costumes and artistry than the minimalistic style of most contemporary ballets.

For help, the family set up an online fundraiser in order to raise the necessary money to hire professionals who could write the music and the choreography and help design the sets and costumes of the ballet.

“There's a lot of cooks in the kitchen,” Stroik said. “There's a lot of artists that are part of this. And I've been calling myself the impresario, the producer in movie terms, who's organizing all of it, but then trying to hire the best people that would share our vision for this ballet.”

Stroik said they went with a traditional ballet because that was Raffaella’s favorite style, and they believed it would be the best way to create a more timeless ballet that could endure through the ages. Raffaella was inspired by the romantic, fairy-tale style and themes of traditional ballets and believed it could do more to portray beauty than the style of contemporary ballet.

“Raffaella's passion was to bring beauty to the world in many ways,” Stroik added. “Her prime strength was in dance and she really was trying in her own way to do things that were glorifying to God through traditional ballet and the beauty of the human body and what it can do.”

Stroik and his wife are writing the story of the ballet, which will loosely follow their daughter’s life - friends and family of Raffaella will be able to recognize the similarities, he said.

The story takes place in Italy, one of Raffaella’s favorite places to visit and the language that she studied. The story will take place in the 18th century so that it can incorporate some of the elements of traditional ballets - kings and queens, princes and princesses, peasants and village life.

The character of Rafaella will be a princess who grows up wanting to be an artist like her parents, meets interesting people in her life, and interacts with both a good prince and a deceptive prince who vie for her attention.

“(She’s) really searching for the true prince, and she sees him from time to time in her life. And then the other prince who comes along sweeps her off her feet and is very attractive, and she's totally compelled by him but he turns out to be a deceptive prince,” Stroik said.

Stroik noted that the theme of superficial beauty and its deceptive power is a common one in other traditional ballets.

The ballet's ending, of course, cannot be given away.

“My hope is it's the kind of story with the kind of good and evil love, joy, hatred, fighting, peacemaking that will speak to people for generations. That's my goal,” Stroik said.

The desire for a ballet that transcends generations is an idea that comes from his Catholic faith, Stroik added.

“We want to do something that's timeless, that's universal. And I think that relates to our Catholic faith. We're not doing something just for today...but we also want it to - if it's really good - hopefully, it will speak to future generations as well. So we'll see, but that's our goal,” he said. 

Rafaella’s Catholic faith was always central to her life and her art, Stroik said, and he noticed it in how she interacted with others as well as in her passion for her art.

“It caused her to try to always put other people first, which we saw a lot in her life. It caused her to forgive...and she tried, as best she could, to live the Beatitudes,” he said.

“She told us that when she danced and danced really well, she felt like she was experiencing the beatific vision. She really felt that it was a very religious, spiritual experience, especially performing,” he said. “She was experiencing a taste of heaven.”

The Stroiks have raised $115,000 of their $250,000 goal, and Duncan said he has been surprised and touched by the way this project has touched the hearts of people who knew Raffaella and those who did not.

“One of the things that's really surprised me in a good way is how many notes I've gotten from people - people that I know, but also people that I don't know - telling me they love the idea. They said, ‘What a beautiful tribute to your daughter.’ And, again, people that I don't even know will write me notes and say, ‘This is fantastic that you're doing this.’”

Stroik said he hopes the ballet will be ready to premiere in spring or summer of 2022. He said they are still exploring options as to where it will debut, but they are hoping to recruit dancers from Rafaella’s life - from her time at the St. Louis ballet, her college ballet at Indiana University, and her high school ballet - who are professional dancers and friends of Rafaella to perform in it.

“I'm hoping that some of them will return to be part of this production,” he said.

Stroik added that he hopes people who come to see the “Raffaella” ballet will walk away with a new appreciation for the beauty of the art form and with a sense of hope.

“We want to do this ballet in order to bring a whole new audience to ballet, for a broader audience,” he said. “And because ballet can be very beautiful, very powerful, and it can speak to all the issues that concern our lives and give us...in this case, it's a tragedy, but the way we've written the story is it's also full of hope, because Raffaella was a girl with a lot of hope and a lot of faith.”

 

Buffalo administrator: Catholic Charities donations will not go to abuse settlements

Buffalo, N.Y., Jan 17, 2020 / 07:19 pm (CNA).- The apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Buffalo said this week that despite the possibility the diocese could file for bankruptcy protection to settle over 200 lawsuits related to sexual abuse, donations made to Catholic Charities this year will be used to help the needy rather than to pay for lawsuits.

“All of the money that we are collecting is going toward immediate goals. We’re not talking about years down the line. We’re talking about right now. They are immediate and must be met, so we continue the campaign to meet those goals...The last thing we want to do is in any way to curtail the services because the needs are real,” Bishop Edward Scharfenberger of Albany said Tuesday as reported by the Buffalo News.

Catholic Charities of Buffalo announced Jan. 14 the launch of its 2020 appeal, with a goal of $10 million – $1 million less than last year’s goal. Programs and services provided by Catholic Charities benefited more than 160,000 people in 2019, the group reported.

Last year, Catholic Charities of Buffalo raised $9.5 million, $1.5 million short of their goal.

Buffalo's Bishop Richard Malone resigned in December 2019 after more than a year of calls for his resignation, amid accusations that he mishandled abuse cases in the diocese.

The recent enactment of the Child Victims Act in New York expanded the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse survivors to file lawsuits and a one-year filing window for suits related to historical cases.

To date, the Buffalo diocese has been hit with more than 225 lawsuits, the Buffalo News reports. In the days following his appointment as apostolic administrator, Scharfenberger indicated that he would not rule out bankruptcy as an option to settle the lawsuits.

The Diocese of Buffalo shut down its credit cards last September, and although some have interpreted the move as a step towards bankruptcy, officials said the decision was unrelated to the scandals and lawsuits affecting the diocese.

Scharfenberger said Tuesday that even if the diocese does file for bankruptcy, contributions to the 2020 Catholic Charities appeal would not be affected because a Chapter 11 reorganization would take years to complete, the Buffalo News reported.

In addition, Catholic Charities is separately incorporated from the Buffalo Diocese, which means its assets would not be in play in the case of the diocese declaring Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which would trigger an intense analysis of the diocese’s assets to determine what could be used to pay settlements, The Buffalo News reports.

In the past, about one-third of the funds raised during Catholic Charities’ appeal goes to Fund for the Faith, which is controlled by the diocese and is used for ministries such as diocese communications, seminary training, and campus ministry, the Buffalo News reports.

For the second year, donors to Catholic Charities will have the option to give to the Appeal as in previous years, which benefits Catholic Charities and the Fund for the Faith; give to Catholic Charities only; or give to the Fund for the Faith only.

In December, Catholic Charities announced Deacon Steve Schumer as the organization’s new President and CEO, effective Jan. 6, 2020.

“My understanding of the law is donor designated funds are donor designated. So, I tell people, in all honesty, yes, contribute your resources, and we’ll put them to work in the way you intend,” Schumer told the Buffalo News.

In November 2018, a former Buffalo chancery employee leaked confidential diocesan documents related to the handling of claims of clerical sexual abuse. The documents were widely reported to suggest Malone had covered-up some claims of sexual abuse, an allegation the bishop denied.

Six months later, in April 2019, Malone apologized for his handling of some cases in the diocese, and said he would work to restore trust. The bishop particularly apologized for his 2015 support of Fr. Art Smith, a priest who had faced repeated allegations of abuse and misconduct with minors.

In August 2019, a RICO lawsuit was filed against the diocese and the bishop, alleging that the response of the diocese was comparable to an organized crime syndicate.

Recordings of private conversations released in early September appeared to show that Malone believed sexual harassment accusations made against a diocesan priest months before the bishop removed the priest from ministry.

The contents of recordings of conversations between Malone and Fr. Ryszard Biernat, his secretary and diocesan vice chancellor, were reported in early September by WKBW in Buffalo.

In the conversations, Malone seemed to acknowledge the legitimacy of accusations of harassment and a violation of the seal of confession made against a diocesan priest, Fr. Jeffrey Nowak, by a seminarian, months before the diocese removed Nowak from active ministry.

In an Aug. 2 conversation, Malone can be heard saying, “We are in a true crisis situation. True crisis. And everyone in the office is convinced this could be the end for me as bishop.”

The bishop is also heard to say that if the media reported on the Nowak situation, “it could force me to resign.”

On Oct. 3, the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington, DC, announced that Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn had been asked to lead an apostolic visitation – and canonical inspection – of the Buffalo diocese on behalf of the Congregation for Bishops.

That review concluded at the end of October, with DiMarzio having made three trips to Buffalo, and interviewing more than 80 people before submitting his report to Rome.

Scharfenberger has said that he was not given a clear mandate by the Vatican when he was appointed as apostolic administrator of the Buffalo diocese in December, and that he has not yet seen DiMarzio’s report.

Scharfenberger has emphasized that his position as apostolic administrator is by definition temporary, and the decision of who will ultimately lead the diocese is entirely up to the Holy See.

Supreme Court will hear Little Sisters of the Poor case, again

Washington D.C., Jan 17, 2020 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- The Little Sisters of the Poor will have their case heard before the Supreme Court yet again in their years-long fight against the federal contraceptive mandate.

The Supreme Court announced on Friday that it would hear oral arguments in the case of the sisters against the State of Pennsylvania, which challenged the order’s exemption from the contraceptive mandate.

“It is disappointing to think that as we enter a new decade we must still defend our ministry in court,” said Mother Loraine Marie Maguire of the Little Sisters of the Poor, in a statement on Friday. 

“We are grateful the Supreme Court has decided to weigh in, and hopeful that the Justices will reinforce their previous decision and allow us to focus on our lifelong work of serving the elderly poor once and for all,” she said. 

“We are hopeful that this trip to the Supreme Court will be their last,” said Montse Alvarado, vice president and executive director of Becket, which represents the sisters in court.

The Little Sisters of the Poor is an order of religious founded in 1839 by St. Jeanne Jugan. Their mission is to care for the poor and the elderly in more than 30 countries.

Their case, Little Sisters of the Poor v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, stems from a lawsuit by the State of Pennsylvania against the exemption granted to the Little Sisters of the Poor to the contraceptive mandate.

The sisters originally sued the federal government over the mandate that employers provide contraceptives, sterilizations, and abortion-causing drugs in health plans. The religious exemption that the Obama administration originally granted was so narrow that the sisters, and many other religious non-profits were not eligible.

When the administration issued an accommodation for the objecting non-profits, the sisters and other religious entities, including Catholic dioceses and charities, still challenged it in court.

Under the revised procedure, the objecting parties would report their objection to the government, which in turn would notify the insurer or third-party administrator to provide the contraceptive coverage anyway. The sisters said they would still be cooperating with the provision of morally objectionable drugs and procedures.

In 2016, the Supreme Court sent the case of the sisters and others back to the circuit courts, ordering the government and the objecting parties to come to an agreement respecting both the administration’s goal of contraceptive coverage and the sisters’ wishes to be exempt from participation in it.

Then in October of 2017, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a new rule protecting religious entities that objected to the mandate.

However, attorneys general for Pennsylvania and California challenged the rule in court, saying that the sisters and other objecting religious non-profits should not be exempt.

The Supreme Court held oral arguments in March of 2018 to determine if the sisters could intervene in the states’ lawsuits, which in April the Court said they could.

At the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, the sisters lost their case against Pennsylvania in July of 2019, and appealed to the Supreme Court in October. The Court on Friday agreed to hear their case.

The sisters also lost their case against California’s lawsuit in the Ninth Circuit Court in October.

Catholic parish will not host Episcopalian consecration

Richmond, Va., Jan 17, 2020 / 11:30 am (CNA).- The Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia will no longer hold a bishops's consecration at a Catholic parish in Williamsburg, after an internet petition objecting to the event drew national attention. 

“It is with great sadness that I have received a letter from Bishop-Elect Susan Haynes stating that, due to the controversy of the proposed use of St. Bede Catholic Church for her consecration of the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia, she has decided to find another location for the ceremony to take place,” Bishop Barry Knestout of the Catholic Richmond diocese said in a Jan. 17 statement.

St. Bede Catholic Church is located within the Diocese of Richmond. 

A statement from the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia said that the consecration will now take place at Williamsburg Community Chapel. The Williamsburg Community Chapel’s website states that it is home to an “interdenominational family of faith.” 

“The decision to change the location from St. Bede Catholic Church in Williamsburg arose out of concern and respect for the ministries and leadership of both the Catholic parish and the Catholic Diocese of Richmond,” said the unsigned statement from the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia, released Friday. 

“Learning that its intended use of the building was causing dismay and distress, the Episcopal Diocese withdrew from its contract with St. Bede.”

The statement from the Episcopalian diocese cited 1 Corinthians 8, which warned against “pursuing behavior that might cause problems for others within their community.” 

Episcopal Bishop-Elect Haynes wrote a letter to Knestout and Msgr. Joseph Lehman, pastor of St. Bede, announcing the decision to change the location and thanking them for their prior willingness to host the event. 

“I am writing to withdraw from our contract to use the lovely, holy space of St. Bede for my upcoming consecration as the 11th bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia,” said Haynes. “We have so appreciated and admired your grace and courage in extending this hospitality and abiding by your invitation even under fire from those within your own flocks.”

Knestout had defended the decision to grant permission to the Episcopal diocese to consecrate an Episcopalian bishop in the Catholic parish, citing various Vatican Council II documents on the importance of ecumenism and hospitality. Permission was first granted to host the event within the parish church in December 2018, well before Haynes was elected as bishop.

In the statement, Knestout said that his diocese “look(s) forward to continuing our ecumenical dialogue with the Episcopal community, and to working with Bishop-Elect Haynes in fortifying the long standing cordial relationship between our communities and our joint service to the poor.” 

Knestout said that he would be praying for Haynes and the Episcopalians of the Diocese of Southern Virginia, and encouraged the Catholics in his diocese to pray for them as well.

“Pray that the fruits of the Holy Spirit, along with humility, kindness, gentleness and joy, be expressed and strengthened in all our faith communities,” he said.

The Episcopal Dioceses of Southern Virginia, Southwestern Virginia do not have a cathedral, and the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, which covers the northern part of the commonwealth, has only a “cathedral shrine.” Past episcopal ordinations for the Diocese of Southern Virginia have occurred either in Episcopal parishes or in other, non-Catholic, locations.

'No international right to abortion' says HHS Secretary

Washington D.C., Jan 17, 2020 / 10:30 am (CNA).- There is no international right to abortion, the U.S. health secretary told officials from more than 30 countries on Thursday in Washington, D.C.

“I stated this fact at the United Nations this past September, and I'll repeat it here: there is no international human right to abortion. On the other hand, there is an international human right to life,” Alex Azar, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, stated in remarks first reported by the Washington Times.

Azar addressed representatives from more than 30 other countries at the Blair House in Washington, D.C. on Thursday. Other U.S. and international officials addressed the audience, including Kellyanne Conway, counselor to President Trump, Hungary’s Minister of State for Family and Youth Affairs Katalin Novák, and the Deputy Chief of Mission Minister-Counselor Fernando Pimentel of Brazil.

Novak noted Azar’s remarks on abortion, on Twitter, and also said that Azar was the guest of the Hungarian Embassy to the U.S. on Wednesday, where he thanked Hungary and Poland for their cooperation on life and family issues.

In September, Azar also said “there is no international right to an abortion” at a meeting on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).

Azar read a joint statement of the U.S. and 18 other countries before a high-level meeting on universal health coverage, where he said that “ambiguous terms,” including “sexual and reproductive health and rights,” should be opposed in UN documents as they can be interpreted to undermine the family and push for abortion.

On Thursday, Azar encouraged the countries present to collaborate with the U.S. in fighting against abortion at upcoming international meetings including the World Health Organization’s board meeting in Geneva, the meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women at the UN headquarters in New York, the World Health Assembly in Geneva, and the UN General Assembly in New York.

“Thank you for taking a courageous stand with us for the unborn. Thank you for standing up for the idea that every life has value. And thank you for making clear that national sovereignty is not a vague or old fashioned concept, but the most important duty for each of us as leaders in our respective governments,” Azar said.

The venue for Thursday’s gathering, the Blair House, has a history of diplomacy, Azar said, as it hosted discussions between President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in 1941, at the outset of World War II, to produce the Atlantic Charter.

“The Atlantic Charter highlighted the need for greater cooperation and collaboration, and emphasized that each nation has a sovereign right to self-determination,” Azar said. “These same principles came to undergird the work of the institutions that play a role in our modern world, including the United Nations and affiliated agencies like the World Health Organization.”

“These organizations were founded to protect human rights, defend the vulnerable, and give voices to all nations,” he said. “So it is fitting that we are gathered here, in this historic diplomatic setting, to take the next steps in our work to make these organizations live up to their founding ideals.