Wednesday of the First Week in Lent

5 days 6 hours ago
Reading 1 Jon 3:1-10 The word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time:
"Set out for the great city of Nineveh,
and announce to it the message that I will tell you."
So Jonah made ready and went to Nineveh,
according to the LORD's bidding.
Now Nineveh was an enormously large city;
it took three days to go through it.
Jonah began his journey through the city,
and had gone but a single day's walk announcing,
"Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed,"
when the people of Nineveh believed God;
they proclaimed a fast
and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth.

When the news reached the king of Nineveh,
he rose from his throne, laid aside his robe,
covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in the ashes.
Then he had this proclaimed throughout Nineveh,
by decree of the king and his nobles:
"Neither man nor beast, neither cattle nor sheep,
shall taste anything;
they shall not eat, nor shall they drink water.
Man and beast shall be covered with sackcloth and call loudly to God;
every man shall turn from his evil way
and from the violence he has in hand.
Who knows, God may relent and forgive, and withhold his blazing wrath,
so that we shall not perish."
When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way,
he repented of the evil that he had threatened to do to them;
he did not carry it out. Responsorial Psalm Ps 51:3-4, 12-13, 18-19 R. (19b) A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness;
in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense.
Thoroughly wash me from my guilt
and of my sin cleanse me.
R. A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
A clean heart create for me, O God,
and a steadfast spirit renew within me.
Cast me not out from your presence,
and your Holy Spirit take not from me.
R. A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
For you are not pleased with sacrifices;
should I offer a burnt offering, you would not accept it.
My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit;
a heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
R. A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
Verse Before the Gospel Jl 2:12-13 Even now, says the LORD,
return to me with your whole heart
for I am gracious and merciful.
Gospel Lk 11:29-32 While still more people gathered in the crowd, Jesus said to them,
"This generation is an evil generation;
it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it,
except the sign of Jonah.
Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites,
so will the Son of Man be to this generation.
At the judgment
the queen of the south will rise with the men of this generation
and she will condemn them,
because she came from the ends of the earth
to hear the wisdom of Solomon,
and there is something greater than Solomon here.
At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation
and condemn it,
because at the preaching of Jonah they repented,
and there is something greater than Jonah here."
- - -
Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Saskatchewan government fights to fund non-Catholic students at Catholic schools

5 days 6 hours ago

Regina, Canada, Mar 13, 2019 / 02:48 am (CNA).- The government of Saskatchewan in Canada is arguing that it should be allowed to pay for non-Catholic students to attend Catholic school, appealing a 2017 court decision that could force up to 10,000 students out of Catholic schools because they are not Catholic.

Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Donald Layh first handed down the ruling in April 2017, saying that any provincial government funding for “non-minority faiths” would violate Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the state’s duty of religious neutrality, and equality rights.

Saskatchewan is arguing that its current model, whereby students of all faiths at Catholic schools are given funding, is religiously neutral, and that demanding religious proof to determine funding would not be religiously neutral, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reports.

Saskatchewan is one of three Canadian provinces that partially fund Catholic school systems with taxpayer money. If it stands, the ruling could affect 26 other faith-based schools besides the Catholic schools, including a school for Muslim students.

This particular debate over school funding began in 2003, when the public school closed in the Saskatchewan village of Theodore. The public school district planned to bus 42 students to the public school in a neighboring village, but a group of Catholics petitioned the Minister of Education to form a new Catholic school division. The division then bought the old public school building and renamed it St. Theodore Roman Catholic School, CBC reports.

A local public school division filed a legal complaint against the Catholic school division and the provincial government in 2005. The complaint charged that the funding was unconstitutional and wrongly put the Catholic school in the role of a public school. Funding of non-Catholic students at the Catholic school constituted discrimination against public schools, the complaint said.

The lawsuit alleged that the community created the Catholic school division not to serve Catholic students, but to prevent students from being bused to another town to go to school, according to the Canadian site Global News.

Saskatchewan was given until June 2018 to follow the judge’s ruling, but instead they appealed and continued to pay for non-Catholic students to attend the Catholic school, Global News reports.

The government has said that if they lose again, they plan to counteract the ruling using a notwithstanding clause, which can temporarily override certain portions of the Canadian charter for five years, according to Global News. A panel of five judges in the court of appeals will have six to eighteen months to issue a ruling.

Both sides are expected to argue their case before the Court of Appeals this week.


Cardinal Pell sentenced to six years imprisonment for sexual abuse

5 days 15 hours ago

Melbourne, Australia, Mar 12, 2019 / 06:18 pm (CNA).- Cardinal George Pell was sentenced Wednesday to six years imprisonment, after being convicted in December of sexual abuse of two choirboys in 1996. He will be eligible for parole after serving three years and eight months of his sentence.

Chief Judge Peter Kidd handed down the sentence March 13 from the Victoria County Court. Kidd's remarks of more than 70 minutes were broadcast live. Several times Kidd characterized Pell's behavior as "brazen", and he called him "extraordinarily arrogant."

Kidd said that "you had a degree of confidence that the victims would not complain," and that "you clearly felt that you did not need" to threaten them to keep them from making a complaint.

The prefect emeritus of the Secretariat for the Economy has maintained his innocence, and will apply to appeal his conviction in June.

Pell, 77, had been incarcerated at the Melbourne Assessment Prison while he awaited the results of the sentencing hearing.

The cardinal was convicted on five counts of sex abuse based on charges he sexually assaulted two choirboys while serving as Archbishop of Melbourne.

It was the cardinal's second trial, as a jury in an earlier trial had failed to reach a unanimous verdict. The first jury were deadlocked 10-2 in Pell's favor, multiple sources close to the case told CNA.

His appeal will be made on three points: the jury's reliance on the evidence of a single victim, an irregularity that kept Pell from entering his not guilty plea in front of the jury, and the defense not being allowed to show a visual representation supporting his claim of innocence.

The appeal document says that “the verdicts are unreasonable and cannot be supported, having regard to the evidence, because on the whole of the evidence, including unchallenged exculpatory evidence from more than 20 Crown witnesses, it was not open to the jury to be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt on the word of the complainant alone.”

Another Australian prelate, Archbishop Philip Wilson, was convicted in May of failing to report allegations of child sexual abuse disclosed to him in the 1970s. But in December a district judge overturned that conviction, saying there was reasonable doubt a crime had been committed. Before his conviction was overturned, Wilson served about five months of a 12-month home detention sentence.

Pell's conviction has met with varied reactions. While many figures in Australian media have lauded Pell’s conviction, some Australians have called it into question, prompting considerable debate across the country.

Greg Craven, vice-chancellor of the Australian Catholic University, suggested that the justice process was tainted by media and police forces that had worked “to blacken the name” of Pell “before he went to trial.”

“This is not a story about whether a jury got it right or wrong, or about whether justice is seen to prevail,” Craven said in a Feb. 27 opinion piece in The Australian. “It’s a story about whether a jury was ever given a fair chance to make a decision, and whether our justice system can be heard above a media mob.”

Pell was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Ballarat in 1966. He was consecrated a bishop in 1987, and appointed auxiliary bishop of Melbourne, becoming ordinary of the see in 1996. Pell was then Archbishop of Sydney from 2001 to 2014, when he was made prefect of the newly-created Secretariat for the Economy. He served on Pope Francis' Council of Cardinals from 2013 to 2018. Pell ceased to be prefect of the economy secretariat Feb. 24.

Baton Rouge Catholic Charities expands international adoption services

5 days 17 hours ago

Baton Rouge, La., Mar 12, 2019 / 04:21 pm (CNA).- Catholic Charities of Baton Rouge has expanded their international adoption services into the northwestern part of Louisiana.

Paula Davis, the clinical director of maternity, adoption, and behavioral health services for Catholic Charities of Baton Rouge, told CNA that the agency saw a need for adoption services north of Baton Rouge and expanded to fill that need.

“I think one of the values [of being a Catholic-based adoption service] is that we are mission-based, so we’re providing services, whether its domestic or international, based on the needs of the child, but also with respect for life,” Davis said.

She also said that they are looking for families not only for infants, but for “all children who are in need of a loving, stable home.”

Davis stated that Catholic Charities of Baton Rouge staff have extensive experience in international adoptions and are Hague accredited, which she described as a “seal of approval that we are providing competent, ethical, transparent international adoption services.” They are also the only Hague accredited adoption agency in the state, a requirement for most international adoptions.

Catholic Charities’ expanded services will provide the cities of Lafayette, Lake Charles, Alexandria, and Shreveport with home studies, training, and post-placement supervision.

It will also hold free informational seminars once a quarter for families to learn about different adoption processes and to find which process is best for them.

“The children who are available for adoption internationally are older and they typically have special needs, so it’s important that families understand the needs of the children and the challenges they’ll face. And that the agency that they’ll work with is experienced with international adoptions,” Davis explained.

Out of the Baton Rouge office Catholic Charities also provides services in domestic adoption, maternity, search and reunion, and post-adoption counseling, which Davis said they hope someday to be able to offer throughout Louisiana.

Catholic Charities of Baton Rouge has facilitated domestic adoptions since 1964, and international adoptions since the 1990s.

Catholic Charities of New Orleans is also present in the state and handles international adoptions for the New Orleans area.

Noting that international adoptions in the U.S. have dropped dramatically since the mid-2000s, and the application of the requirement for Hague accreditation by agencies, she said Catholic Charities of Baton Rouge typically handles five to seven international placements per year.

“Our staff is experienced in international adoption and in supporting families of children from hard places,” Davis said.

“It’s important to understand that our mission is finding families for children, not children for families; and that the child’s needs take precedence.”

Archbishop Kurtz voices support for Scholarship Tax Credit bill

5 days 18 hours ago

Louisville, Ky., Mar 12, 2019 / 03:05 pm (CNA).- Creating a Scholarship Tax Credit program in Kentucky would align with Catholic teaching by assisting families in need and empowering parents to make decisions about their children’s education, said Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville.

“The reality is that educational choice already exists in Kentucky, but sadly, not for Kentucky’s most vulnerable students,” the archbishop said.

“Scholarship Tax Credit legislation would allow more families to exercise this right and provide Kentucky children with equal opportunities.”

Kurtz wrote a March 11 opinion piece in the Courier Journal, responding to an earlier opinion piece by Rep. Jim Wayne (D), who said the tax credit proposal, House Bill 205, was incompatible with Catholic social teaching.

Under House Bill 205, Kentucky residents would be able to receive tax breaks by donating to the scholarship programs of private schools, including religious schools. The money would then go toward tuition assistance for students at those schools. With $25 million available in tax credits, residents would receive tax breaks equal to the amount they donated, up to $1 million.

Sponsored by Rep. John Carney (R), the bill was introduced on Feb. 5. On Monday, Carney said the legislation faced an uphill battle, acknowledging it would likely not receive the votes it needs to pass, according to Lexington Herald Leader.

Rep. Wayne argued that Catholic schools are often unequipped to accept children with special needs and that “only the public school system can include all children.”

“A hallmark of Catholic social teaching is the responsibility to assess every public policy through this lens: How will the policy affect the poor? If the poor are hurt, the policy is immoral,” he said, writing in the Courier Journal.

Wayne said he disagrees with taking money away from the state’s public school system. He also argued that the bill would violate the principle of separation of church and state.

Archbishop Kurtz disagreed that the policy will harm the poor and is therefore incompatible with Catholic teaching. Because it is mandated in Kentucky that more than half of the aid will support students with high financial needs, he said, the money will go to “families whose incomes are below the reduced-lunch threshold, students with special needs and students within Kentucky’s foster care system.”

“Once that mandate is met, scholarships are allowed to go to students whose family income is no higher than 200 percent above the reduced-lunch threshold. In keeping with the Catholic tradition of helping those who need it most, participants will receive aid proportionate to their level of need,” he said.

Kurtz said that while he respects public schools, some students best thrive in other education systems and it should be up to the parents to decide where to send them. Citing Pope Francis in Amoris Laetitia, he said education is the “primary right” of the parents.

“The government’s role is to support the parents in the exercise of this right, not to replace them,” he said.

Kurtz said the program has been successful in other states. He pointed to Florida, which has the biggest Scholarship Tax Credit program in the United States, covering more than 100,000 students each year.

“When the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) results were released, Florida’s public schools made more progress than those in any other state,” he said.

“Florida students with special needs and from across racial and economic lines succeeded in showing improvement on these tests. And, it is not only the public schools that have experienced success.”

The archbishop emphasized that he is not seeking to “impose a religious education on every family,” but said that the Catholic faith supports “helping those in greatest need.”

Colorado baker asks for true tolerance, and an end to the spotlight

5 days 19 hours ago

Denver, Colo., Mar 12, 2019 / 02:20 pm (CNA).- A Colorado baker who became the focus of legal battles over religious freedom and same-sex marriage hopes his time in the spotlight is over after a Supreme Court victory last year and a resolution to a subsequent case.

“I hope this is the end of my legal battles, and that I can return to my quiet life as a cake artist,” said Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colo., a Denver suburb. “I love creating my cake art for all people. What I can’t do is create custom cakes that express messages or celebrate events in conflict with my religious beliefs.”

In a March 8 Denver Post opinion essay titled “Can I just be a cake artist again?”, Phillips said this “should be OK because a truly tolerant society tolerates different convictions. The First Amendment protects the peaceful exercise of my beliefs, and it protects my choice of what not to say and what not to celebrate. It protects you as well.”

Philips said he opened Masterpiece Cakeshop in 1993 and focused his talents on artistic cakes. He developed his talents through “countless art classes and years of practice.” He believes his cakeshop has become an “art gallery of cakes.”

In 2012, he said, he became the target of state officials who were “unabashedly hostile to my faith.”

That year, Phillips declined a same-sex couple’s request to make a wedding cake for their union on the grounds that doing so would violate his religious beliefs, although he did offer to create a different cake. Colorado law did not recognize same-sex unions as marriages at the time.

The couple filed a lawsuit against Phillips and in 2013, a Colorado judge sided with the plaintiffs. He ordered Phillips to receive anti-discrimination training and to serve same-sex weddings or stop serving weddings altogether. He chose to stop serving weddings.

The Colorado Civil Rights Commission then ruled that by declining to make the cake, the baker had violated the state’s anti-discrimination law categorizing sexual orientation as a protected class.

In the commission’s unanimous 2014 vote against the baker, then-Commissioner Diane Rice said: “Freedom of religion and religion has been used to justify all kinds of discrimination throughout history, whether it be slavery, whether it be the holocaust, whether it be—I mean, we ... can list hundreds of situations where freedom of religion has been used to justify discrimination. And to me it is one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric that people can use—…to use their religion to hurt others.”

In Phillips’ view, Rice “blasted my (and your) constitutionally guaranteed religious freedom as a ‘despicable piece of rhetoric’.”

“She and her colleagues forced me out of the wedding industry, costing me 40 percent of my business. In their eyes, it seemed, my religious beliefs were incompatible with participation in a tolerant society,” he said in the Denver Post. “In other words, my beliefs were intolerable.”

Rice’s words were later cited in arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court. Justice Anthony Kennedy commented that tolerance is “essential in a free society” and said Colorado officials had been “neither tolerant nor respectful of Mr. Phillips’s religious beliefs.”

In June 2018, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Phillips with a 7-2 decision in the case, known as Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. It said the officials had shown “clear and impermissible hostility” towards Phillips’ religious beliefs and had acted inconsistently in other cases where bakers had refused to create cakes with messages to which they objected.

After that decision, Phillips thought he was “vindicated,” saying, “I hoped that I could return to being just a cake artist.”

But another case was pending.

In June 2017 lawyer Autumn Scardina ordered a cake to celebrate the anniversary of a “gender transition,” pink on the inside and blue on the outside, and Phillips declined on the grounds of his religious beliefs.

He was again put before the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which issued a formal complaint against the cakeshop in October 2018 on the grounds he had discriminated on the basis of gender identity.

Phillips said he decided to “push back” because “no one should be driven out of business because of their religious beliefs.” Represented by attorneys at the Alliance Defending Freedom legal group, he filed a legal challenge against the commissioners, the Colorado Civil Rights Division, and other state officials.

“Those legal proceedings revealed an even deeper hostility toward my faith than previously known,” he said. One state commissioner had called him a “hater” on Twitter, while two others had publicly endorsed Rice’s “anti-religious” statements.

In January, U.S. District Court Senior Judge Wiley Daniel had said the lawsuit could proceed, given there is evidence of unequal treatment of Phillips “sufficient to establish they are pursuing the discrimination charges against Phillips in bad faith” motivated by his religion. Phillips “adequately alleged his speech is being chilled by the credible threat of prosecution.”

The judge allowed departing Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper to be dropped from the suit because he was leaving leaving office. Gov. Jared Polis was not added to the suit.

State officials later agreed to drop the case.

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser said March 5 that both parties agreed “it was not in anyone’s best interest to move forward with these cases.”

“The larger constitutional issues might well be decided down the road, but these cases will not be the vehicle for resolving them,” he said, adding “equal justice for all will continue to be a core value that we will uphold as we enforce our state’s and nation’s civil rights laws.”

In his essay, Phillips said he hoped that the United States can “learn to tolerate and respect our differing beliefs” and that “governments stop harassing people whose faith they dislike.”

“If that happens, then maybe, just maybe, I can go back to being just a cake artist.”

The Supreme Court case came amid increased advocacy from influential LGBT groups and others against broad religious freedom protections.

The case was a focus of the Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund, a San Francisco-based private family foundation with half a billion dollars in assets, which gave at least $500,000 to LGBT-supportive groups on advocacy and public relations campaigns related to Masterpiece Cakeshop in 2017 and 2018. The fund is one of several large funders which have committed nearly $10 million in various anti-religious freedom grants, according to CNA reports.

The Supreme Court’s 2018 ruling on Masterpiece Cakeshop was one of several recent cases involving the collision between legal recognition of same-sex marriage and the freedoms of speech and religion. Florists, photographers, and other wedding industry professionals have been involved in lawsuits about whether they can be required to create works of art for same-sex weddings to which they hold religious objections.  

The rise of same-sex marriage and strict anti-discrimination laws and regulations have helped to close Catholic adoption agencies and others that decline to place children with same-sex couples.

Catholic soldier posthumously awarded Medal of Honor

5 days 19 hours ago

Washington D.C., Mar 12, 2019 / 01:38 pm (CNA).- President Donald Trump will award the Medal of Honor to Staff Sergeant Travis W. Atkins, who was killed on June 1, 2007, after tackling a suicide bomber in Al Yusufiyah, Iraq.


The White House announced March 12 that the Medal of Honor would be posthumously awarded to Atkins, a Catholic, on March 27, 2019. Atkins’ son, Trevor Oliver, and other members of his family, will be present at the White House for the ceremony.


“Staff Sergeant Atkins’ heroic actions, at the cost of his life, saved the lives of three of his teammates,” said a statement from the White House.


Atkins, a native of Montana, was a member of the 10th Mountain Division out of Ft. Drum, NY. He was killed during his second tour of duty in Iraq, aged 31. He had enlisted in the army in November of 2000, and first deployed to Iraq in 2003. He was honorably discharged as a sergeant, and re-enlisted in 2005. He was deployed again in 2006. Exactly a month before he was killed, he was promoted to Staff Sergeant.


On the day he died, Atkins engaged in hand-to-hand combat with an insurgent. When he realized that the insurgent was trying to detonate an explosive vest strapped to his body, Atkins tackled the man and shielded other soldiers from the explosion.


At his funeral Mass at Bozeman’s Resurrection Parish, Fr. Val Zdilla praised Atkins for the heroism displayed in his lact actions on earth.


“Human lives were saved by his heroic action that can never be forgotten or denied,” said Zdilla. He described Atkins as someone who truly lived out his calling in life by serving in the military.


“We now remember Travis and how his life made a difference,” he said. “He was this nation’s son.”


In addition to the Medal of Honor, Atkins was also awarded a Purple Heart, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Combat Infantryman's Badge, and Air Assault Badge.


The Medal of Honor is the highest military honor in the United States, and is reserved for those who have demonstrated “conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of their own lives above and beyond the call of duty.” Atkins will be the fifth person to be awarded the Medal of Honor for actions during the Iraq War.

Brooklyn diocese condemns SNL R. Kelly sex abuse jokes

5 days 21 hours ago

Brooklyn, N.Y., Mar 12, 2019 / 12:30 pm (CNA).- The Diocese of Brooklyn has demanded an apology from the NBC network, calling jokes comparing Catholics to supporters of a disgraced singer charged with child sexual abuse “disgraceful and offensive.”

The jokes were broadcast by the late-night comedy show Saturday Night Live on March 9. Cast member Pete Davidson suggested that the only difference between practicing Catholicism and supporting disgraced R&B singer R. Kelly is that Kelly’s music is “significantly better.”

The Brooklyn diocese released a statement condemning the routine on Monday.

“The Diocese of Brooklyn is demanding an immediate public apology from Saturday Night Live and NBC,” the statement from the diocese said.

“Apparently, the only acceptable bias these days is against the Catholic Church,” said the statement.

The diocese criticized the use of the sex abuse crisis as a laugh line, “at the expense of the victims who have suffered irreparably,” and insisted that widespread reforms had been instituted to prevent sexual abuse.

“The faithful of our Church are disgusted by the harassment by those in news and entertainment, and this sketch offends millions. The mockery of this difficult time in the Church’s history serves no purpose.”

During the Weekend Update segment of the show, Davidson said “If you support the Catholic Church, isn’t that the same thing as being an R. Kelly fan?”

Kelly, a former songwriter for Michael Jackson, was indicted in February on 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse. He was the subject of a recent documentary series Surviving R. Kelly, in which several women accused him of sexual abuse against both adults and minors.

The SNL audience had a mixed reaction in response to the joke, while Davidson added that the only difference between the Catholic Church and R. Kelly is that “one’s music is significantly better.”

“The other day, my Mom is like ‘I’m going to Mass’ and I’m like OK, I’m going to go listen to the Ignition remix,” said Davidson, referring to Kelly’s hit single from 2002. Davidson also called Kelly a “monster” who should be jailed.

Davidson was raised Catholic and graduated from a Catholic high school in Brooklyn before briefly attending St. Francis College.

Kelly has a long history of accusations of sexual misconduct. In 1994, Kelly, who was 27 years old, illegally married his protege Aaliyah, who was only 15 years old at the time. Kelly used a fake birth certificate that claimed the singer was 18. The marriage was annulled in 1995, and Kelly was not charged for the illegal relationship. In 2008, he was acquitted on 14 counts of child pornography that stemmed from a video discovered in 2002.

In January 2019, Kelly was dropped from his record label. He maintains his innocence, and said recently in an interview that he is “fighting for his life” against the charges.

The Diocese of Brooklyn said in its statement that “it is likely that no other institution has done more than the Catholic Church to combat and prevent sexual abuse.”

“The insensitivity of the writers, producers, and the cast of SNL around this painful subject is alarming.”

For US religious freedom ambassador, concerns remain on Vatican-China deal

6 days 5 hours ago

Hong Kong, China, Mar 12, 2019 / 03:39 am (CNA).- The Vatican’s deal with China on the appointment of bishops has not changed the government’s abuse of Catholics and sets a bad precedent for government interference with other religions, including Tibetan Buddhism, said the U.S. ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom.

“Since this provisional deal was announced last year, the Chinese government’s abuse of members of Catholic communities has continued. We see no signs that will change in the near future,” Ambassador Sam Brownback said in March 8 remarks to the Foreign Correspondents Club in Hong Kong, China.

His speech was part of a two-day forum on religious freedom, jointly sponsored by Taiwan and the U.S., Agence France Presse reports.

Authorities in Henan province have banned anyone under 18 from going into church to attend Mass, he said. Throughout China in the last year, government officials have forcibly closed hundreds of unregistered churches, both Protestant house churches and “underground” Catholic communities, Brownback said. He added that officials in Zhejiang province are destroying crosses and churches and pressuring Christians to renounce their faith.

Dozens of Catholic bishop positions are unfilled at present.

In September the Catholic Church reached a provisional agreement with the Chinese government regarding bishop appointments that reportedly allows the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association to choose a slate of nominees for bishop.

“Therefore, the power to select the leaders of the Catholic Church in China rests partially with the Chinese Communist Party, which likely results in only individuals whom the Party deems loyal to its interests being put forth to the Vatican,” Brownback said.

“Members of the Catholic community, such as Hong Kong’s Cardinal Joseph Zen, who members of the audience here know, courageously and vehemently opposed this deal,” said the ambassador.

Cardinal Fernando Filoni, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, has rejected any depiction of the deal as a “unilateral sacrifice” that demands nothing of leaders long associated with China’s official Catholic organization.

“It is not about establishing who wins or who loses, who is right or wrong,” he told the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, voicing hope that he would not hear of local situations where Chinese officials exploit the agreement to go beyond its terms.

Brownback said the Chinese government “continues to violate the sacred right to religious freedom that is in its Constitution and also enshrined in the UN Declaration of Human rights.” He cited the United States’ designation of China as a “Country of Particular Concern” since 1999 due to its engagement in or tolerance of “particularly severe violations of religious freedom.”

His speech drew a response from the Chinese Foreign Ministry, which called it a “malicious attack and slander on China’s religious policies,” Agence France Presse reports. The ministry added: “we ask the U.S. to respect the facts, stop the arrogance and prejudice and cease using religious issues to interfere in China’s internal affairs.”

“We remain concerned about the precedent this deal sets for the Chinese Communist Party’s perceived authority in interfering in the selection of other religious leaders, such as preeminent Tibetan Buddhist lamas like His Holiness the Dalai Lama,” said Brownback.

The Chinese government’s interference in the succession of Tibetan spiritual leaders includes its 1995 abduction of the 11th Panchen Lama, then six years old, and his parents. It is unknown whether he is still alive.

“We call upon the Chinese government to release immediately the Tibetan-recognized Panchen Lama or share the truth about his fate with the world,” said Brownback. “We do not accept the Chinese government’s often repeated explanation that he is studying and does not want to be disturbed.”

“The international community must make clear now that we believe that members of the Tibetan communities, like members of all faith communities, should be able to select, educate, and venerate their religious leaders without government interference,” he said.

Brownback cited aggressive interference in Tibetan Buddhist practices and Tibetan culture. Government restrictions on monks and lay people hinder pilgrimages. Authorities appoint communists to head monasteries and ban children from religious activities. Thousands of Buddhist monks and nuns have been evicted, and their monasteries demolished. Monks and nuns are forced to take political reeducation in state ideology and to denounce the Dalai Lama.

The government bans the picture of the Dalai Lama and his teachings, and it arrests those who openly revere him, said the ambassador, who added that this record indicates China’s government will likely interfere with the selection of the next Dalai Lama.

China’s government has also increased the repression of other Christians, including the detention of hundreds of members of the largest Protestant home church, Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu in Sichuan Province. Twelve people are still detained and their whereabouts are unknown.

On Good Friday 2018, officials began to enforce a ban on online sales of the Bible.

Brownback criticized efforts to control “countless” religious groups, often along ethnic lines, through “religious affairs regulations.” These, in addition to “the destruction of houses of worship, the unlawful imprisonment of religious leaders, and actions to ruthlessly silence any forms of constructive dissent,” show the Chinese government’s disregard for human dignity, the ambassador charged.

China’s treatment of Uighur Muslims in the far western Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region also drew criticism from Brownback, who said Chinese authorities have arbitrarily detained Muslim minorities in internment camps for practices like having a beard, wearing a veil, attending religious services, observing Ramadan, or praying. Travel is restricted, and parents are not allowed to give their children common Muslim names.

More than one million ethnic Muslims have been detained, according to U.N. figures.

The ambassador rejected Chinese government claims that the camps are vocational training centers, charging that they are “internment camps created to wipe out the cultural and religious identity of minority communities.” Internment is often based on cultural or religious identity. Detention is indefinite, and internees are subjected to “physical and psychological torture, intense political indoctrination, and forced labor,” he charged.

He also mentioned Falun Gong, saying its practitioners are detained in the thousands, with some tortured. At least 69 practitioners died in custody or due to injuries sustained in custody in 2018, the group estimated. The group has faced government action for over 20 years. Some practitioners appear to be missing.

Brownback cited allegations that the Chinese government forcibly harvests organs from people imprisoned due to their faith or religious practice, including in the case of Falun Gong practitioners and Uighur Muslims.

The U.S. backs “religious freedom for all,” Brownback told his audience, and is pursuing “a simple but important dream: that one day all peoples around the world will be able to worship freely and believe what they want, just like you can in Hong Kong.”

The Vatican-China agreement, signed Sept. 22, 2018, is still confidential in nature. But as one effect of the agreement, the Holy See recognized seven illicitly consecrated Chinese bishops and entrusted them with the leadership of Chinese dioceses.

At the moment all of China’s bishops have recognition of both the government and the Holy See. Since the deal, no new bishops have yet been appointed to China.


Tuesday of the First Week of Lent

6 days 6 hours ago
Reading 1 Is 55:10-11 Thus says the LORD:
Just as from the heavens
the rain and snow come down
And do not return there
till they have watered the earth,
making it fertile and fruitful,
Giving seed to the one who sows
and bread to the one who eats,
So shall my word be
that goes forth from my mouth;
It shall not return to me void,
but shall do my will,
achieving the end for which I sent it.
Responsorial Psalm PS 34:4-5, 6-7, 16-17, 18-19 R. (18b)  From all their distress God rescues the just.
Glorify the LORD with me,
let us together extol his name.
I sought the LORD, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
R. From all their distress God rescues the just.
Look to him that you may be radiant with joy,
and your faces may not blush with shame.
When the poor one called out, the LORD heard,
and from all his distress he saved him.
R. From all their distress God rescues the just.
The LORD has eyes for the just,
and ears for their cry.
The LORD confronts the evildoers,
to destroy remembrance of them from the earth.
R. From all their distress God rescues the just.
When the just cry out, the LORD hears them,
and from all their distress he rescues them.
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted;
and those who are crushed in spirit he saves.
R. From all their distress God rescues the just.
Verse Before the Gospel Mt 4:4b One does not live on bread alone,
but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.
Gospel Mt 6:7-15 Jesus said to his disciples:
"In praying, do not babble like the pagans,
who think that they will be heard because of their many words.
Do not be like them.
Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

"This is how you are to pray:

Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name,
thy Kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

"If you forgive men their transgressions,
your heavenly Father will forgive you.
But if you do not forgive men,
neither will your Father forgive your transgressions."

- - -
Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Heartbeat abortion bans move forward in Tennessee, Georgia

6 days 9 hours ago

Atlanta, Ga., Mar 12, 2019 / 12:09 am (CNA).- Lawmakers in Georgia and Tennessee have advanced bills that would ban most abortions when a fetal heartbeat is detected, usually around six weeks of pregnancy. Should they become law, both are expected to face legal challenges, as courts have historically ruled similar laws unconstitutional.

House Bill 481 passed the Georgia House by a vote of 93-73 last Thursday and now moves to the Senate, according to WSB-TV Atlanta. Governor Brian Kemp released a video message supporting the bill shortly after its passage.

The bill includes exceptions for pregnancies that are the result of rape or incest— which would be demonstrated by a police report filed by the woman— as well as when a pregnancy is deemed to threaten the life of the mother or to be “medically futile.”

The Georgia Health and Human Services Committee tabled a second piece of legislation that would have created a “trigger law” to ban abortion if Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that found a Constitutional right to abortion, is overturned by the Supreme Court.

Georgia House Democrats turned their back on Republican Rep. Ed Setzler as he introduced the heartbeat bill in the house chamber. Several Democrats had already walked out in protest of the bill.

In Tennessee, House Bill 77 passed the legislature 65-21 the same day and continues to the Senate. Gov. Bill Lee has said he will sign the heartbeat bill into law if it makes it to his desk.

Tennessee’s Catholic bishops chose to oppose the state’s heartbeat bill over concerns that it would not stand up to judicial scrutiny. Tennessee Right to Life, the state’s leading pro-life group, also opposed the bill.

“While we wholeheartedly support the intention of the ‘Heartbeat Bill’ being considered by the Tennessee Legislature, we must also be prudent in how we combat the pro-abortion evil that dwells in our society,” the bishops wrote in a Feb. 26 open letter.

The bishops cited similar laws in other states that were signed into law but never went into effect because of legal challenges. In those cases, the laws were found to be unconstitutional, and the state was forced to pay significant sums of money to the lawyers representing the pro-abortion challengers to the laws.

Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion chain, has already said they will file suit against Tennessee if the heartbeat bill becomes law. The American Civil Liberties Union has also vowed to challenge heartbeat bills in court in several states.

As an alternative, the bishops voiced “urgent support” for the “Human Life Protection Act,” an bill which would, in the event that Roe were overturned, trigger an automatic ban on abortion in the state.

The Georgia and Tennessee heartbeat bills join a growing list of legislation recently passed in other states, some of which the courts have already thrown out.

In January, a district judge struck down Iowa’s heartbeat abortion law, which Gov. Kim Reynolds had signed last May. The law had not yet gone into effect because of a legal challenge from the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa, the abortion provider Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and the Iowa City-based Emma Goldman Clinic, which also performs abortions.

The Kentucky House is considering a heartbeat bill that the Senate passed last month. If the bill becomes law, an examination would be required before an abortion to determine whether the unborn baby’s heartbeat can be detected. If so, an abortion would be illegal, unless the mother’s health is determined to be in danger.

Ohio lawmakers reintroduced a heartbeat bill last month after former Gov. John Kasich vetoed a previous version in December. Ohio’s new governor, Mike DeWine, has reportedly expressed support for the measure.

Missouri lawmakers are currently considering a bill that includes a provision banning abortion if either a heartbeat or brain function can be detected.

The Arkansas legislature passed the first heartbeat-based abortion ban in 2013, and also voted to override a governor’s veto of the bill. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruled it was unconstitutional and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal.

Maryland, Minnesota, Florida, West Virginia, Mississippi, Illinois, and South Carolina are currently considering heartbeat legislation.

UNICEF: CAR is most dangerous country for children

6 days 11 hours ago

Bangui, Central African Republic, Mar 11, 2019 / 10:00 pm (CNA).- Despite last month’s peace agreement between the Central African Republic government and rebel factions, the country’s citizens, especially children, continue to face violence and famine.

"This is the most dangerous place in the world for children," Caryl Stern, the CEO of United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund in the U.S. (UNICEF USA), told NBC News.

Ongoing battles between Muslim and Christian rebels have taken thousands of lives and displaced millions of people since 2013. The Political Accord for Peace and Reconciliation, signed in Kourham, Sudan, in February, is the eighth agreement to have occured.

Because of the violence between rebel groups, the country of over four million people has a shortage of necessities. According to UNICEF, 1.5 million children are at risk for starvation, 950,000 children are without access to safe water, and, in 2019, 38,000 children under the age of five will suffer severe acute malnutrition.

The children are not only threatened by a lack of food and water; they also face the risk of being recruited as child soldiers against their will.

According to NBC News, rebel groups control about 75 percent of the country, while the government has authority over the capital and other small sections. The country is dangerous for humanitarian groups; 396 attacks on aid workers took place last year.

David Brownstein, the U.S. chargé d'affaires in the Central African Republic, has expressed concern that the unstable nature of the country will give ISIS the opportunity to take hold of the area and promote further violence.  

"ISIS takes advantage of vacuums. Literal vacuums, security vacuums, governance vacuums, perceived moral vacuums," Brownstein said, according to NBC News.

In February, a peace agreement was reached after a lengthy dialogue between the government and 14 major rebel groups. The African Union and United Nations mediated the discussion. Countries such as Chad, Angola, Congo, Gabon, Cameroon, France, Britain, the U.S. and Russia were also involved.

Vatican News reported that, under the agreement, the armed groups promised to refrain from the destruction or occupation of public places and sacred spaces. The deal also required that arm groups not harm civilians or humanitarian workers.

Bishop Juan José Aguirre Muños of Bangassou said the agreement was reached under false pretenses - a means for rebel groups to gain more control of the resource rich land, according to Vida Nueva.

"Although they already have control of 80% of the mines of diamonds, gold, cobalt, mercury ... and of transhumance, they want more,” he said.

“It is a screen to hide everything from above and continue conquering the country and stealing raw materials,” he added.


New law in NY used to revive $20 million suit against Brooklyn diocese

6 days 13 hours ago

New York City, N.Y., Mar 11, 2019 / 08:21 pm (CNA).- A new law in New York that extended the statute of limitations for the reporting of childhood sexual abuse has allowed a Florida man to reopen a $20 million suit against the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, for claims of sexual abuse of a minor against a former employee of the diocese.

James Carlino, 55, formerly of Queens, recently re-filed a suit in which he alleges that he suffered continual sexual abuse from his former basketball coach, Robert Oliva, previously employed by the Diocese of Brooklyn.

According to the New York Post, the suit alleges that the abuse occurred continuously between the years of 1974 and 1978, beginning when Carlino was 12 years old, and while Oliva was a “legendary” basketball coach at St. Teresa school in Queens. According to the suit, the abuse continued even after Oliva transferred to a new position at a different school.

Carlino, who now lives in Florida, had previously attempted to file the suit against the Diocese of Brooklyn in 2011, but it was dismissed due to the statute of limitations at the time, the Post added. However, the recently-passed Child Victims Act has extended the statute of limitations on civil cases involving childhood sexual abuse, allowing Carlino to re-file.

The act extended the age at which victims of child sexual abuse may bring civil charges against their abuser - extending it from from the age of 23 to the age of 55. Criminal prosecution cases can be brought forward until the accuser is the age of 28.

The act, signed by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in February, also created a one-year window for victims of any age to come forward.

Prior to Carlino’s first attempted suit, Oliva pled guilty to two counts of child rape and one count of disseminating pornography to a minor in a Boston court for a charge of sexual abuse against Carlino, who was 14 at the time of the charge of abuse. Oliva was sentenced to five years’ probation, the New York Post reported.

The new lawsuit from Carlino alleges that “Oliva developed an inappropriate relationship with Carlino, inducing Carlino, as a very young child, to look up to Oliva, and to place absolute trust and confidence in Oliva. Oliva then abused that trust and confidence by sexually molesting Carlino.” It seeks damages for charges of assault, battery, negligence and emotional distress.

The suit comes just weeks after a Vatican summit on the global issue of the sex abuse crisis in the Church.

Chilean cardinal addresses case of sex abuse in Santiago cathedral

6 days 14 hours ago

Santiago, Chile, Mar 11, 2019 / 07:34 pm (CNA).- Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati Andrello of Santiago on Thursday denied knowing and giving  money to the complainant in a rape case in the cathedral which took place in 2015.

The Archbishop of Santiago gave an interview to Informe Especial which was broadcast March 7.

In the interview, he discussed a rape complaint against Fr. Rigoberto Tito Rivera Muñoz, who was found guilty in August 2018 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of the sexual abuse of adults.

Rivera sexually assaulted Daniel Rojas Alvarez, who was then about 40, in a room of the Santiago Metropolitan Cathedral in 2015.

Rojas claims he told Cardinal Ezzati of the attack during a confession, and that the archbishop asked him to pray for the abuser, gave him 30,000 pesos ($45), and asked that he not asked him not to share what happened.

In the Informe Especial interview, Ezzati said: “I hear confessions in the cathedral, especially during the time of Holy Week, but I am not aware of having heard his confession, because I don't know him and still less am I aware of giving him a hug and telling him that a priest would give him some money in my name, that's not it, this is all very unfortunate, but that's not the case, I understand that he may feel what he feels, and I have complete esteem and all my affection for him, because of what he has suffered,” he said.

Asked if he ever had contact with Rojas, the cardinal said “no.”

Regarding the processing of the case, Ezzati explained that the complaint was received by the Pastoral Office for Complaints: “It came to the archdiocese a few days later and immediately the archbishop ordered a preliminary investigation.”

“Within a few hours and a few days later that the investigator, Fr. Walker, conducted a preliminary investigation, which he gave to me, I received a phone call in which I was told  that the Holy See had asked the nunciature to review [Rivera's] situation because of a complaint that had come to them. I don't know what complaint, so consequently I immediately sent all the documentation where appropriate.”

Regarding the time elapsed between the filing of the complaint and calling in the victim (to testify), Cardinal Ezzati pointed out that “in 2016 the investigation was already done. What also happened is that they were never able to get Daniel's address. Except toward the end, Daniel gave (us) his e-mail, and he was able to be able contacted there.”

Asked about his responsibility in the abuse scandals within the Church, the cardinal said that “without a doubt one of the tasks that has fallen on me, and very painful, very shameful, very humiliating, is to take in hand the cases that are being reported and have been reported.”

“What I can tell you with a lot of transparency and with a lot of peace, we certainly could have made some mistakes, we're not infallible, I'm not infallible, but that in all the cases that have been reported to the Archdiocese of Santiago, for which since 2011 I have been responsible, all, all the cases have been investigated, and all cases are investigated, and what people reported before then, and they are in the process of being resolved.”

Concerning the accusations for alleged cover-up of abuse in which at least ten priests are implicated, Cardinal Ezzati said that “the justice system has to determine that. I am very much at peace and  I am willing, and as I have always said, I am at the disposal of the justice system if they want to investigate and they have the complete freedom to do so.”  

Asked about a bill which seeks to take away his Chilean citizenship, Ezzati (a native of Italy) said it “that pains me immensely, foremost because I was granted citizenship by indult and the decree sets out the reasons.”

He said that “the authorities are certainly free to take the path they want” and “personally I think it's unjust, but I am going to continue to work as archbishop as long as the Holy See asks me to do so.”

“After (they do that), as a priest with no complaints about what I was able to contribute at this time in the history of Chile, whether as an educator or as a pastor, I am going to continue working because what I am interested in is not titles, but was I am interested in is people,” he concluded.

The Archdiocese of Santiago stated last week that it received a complaint of possible abuse of minors by Rivera in August 2011, but that during enquiries into the case “it was not possible to contact the complainant.”

The Pastoral Office for Complaints then received a complaint against Rivera from an adult in March 2015, which permitted the start of a preliminary investigation and the implementation of the precautionary measure of removing the priest from all pastoral responsibilities.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, at the request of the Santiago archdiocese, “gave new instructions to continue the preliminary investigation and to start an administrative penal process” in September 2016.

The preliminary investigation was closed in November 2016, leading to the administrative penal process which concluded with the Decree of Condemnation of Aug. 16, 2018.

The priest was declared “guilty of crimes against the Sixth Commandment of the Decalogue continued  over time and involving scandal, with adults, as is specified in Canon 1395§1 of the Code of Canon Law,” the archdiocese said.

Rivera was suspended from public ministry for ten years, “only being able to celebrate the Eucharist privately and with the company of a person over 50 years of age.”

He was also prohibited from “meeting with or maintaining contact with young people” and was required not to move anywhere.

Once the ten years are completed, if the priest does not comply with the measures, he risks “being suspended for a greater period of time.”

The archdiocese also noted that these four penalties were “among others.”

It concluded, saying that “besides the canonical sentence which was implemented  in September 2018, an exhaustive review was begun to clarify all the information that was made known publicly.”

Cardinal Ezzati has faced accusations that he was involved in covering up the crimes of other abusive priests, including Fernando Karadima and Oscar Munoz Toledo.

Argentine bishop under investigation for sex abuse attending pope’s Lenten retreat

6 days 15 hours ago

Vatican City, Mar 11, 2019 / 06:00 pm (CNA).- Argentine Bishop Gustavo Oscar Zanchetta, under a Vatican investigation for sexual abuse of seminarians and other sexual misconduct, is attending Pope Francis’ annual Lenten spiritual exercises with other curia officials this week.

According to a report from Christopher Altieri of the Catholic Herald, Zanchetta confirmed by phone that he is attending the retreat, which began in the afternoon March 10 at a retreat house outside Rome.

The bishop is on a leave of absence from APSA while under investigation. The current Bishop of Orán is in the process of collecting testimonies regarding the allegations against Zanchetta, which will be sent to the Congregation for Bishops, and ultimately be judged by Pope Francis personally.

The pope’s annual Lenten spiritual exercises are taking place March 10-15 at the Casa del Divin Maestro in Ariccia, a town situated about 16 miles outside Rome on Lake Albano. The retreat is traditionally attended by the pope and senior members of the Roman Curia, particularly department heads.

This year’s retreat is being led by Benedictine abbot Bernardo Francesco Maria Gianni. He will give meditations on the theme of Christ’s gaze and gestures in the life of the world.

After resigning as bishop of Orán in August 2017, Zanchetta, was appointed by Pope Francis in December 2017 to a position created for him within the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA), which oversees the Vatican’s assets and real estate holdings.

The Vatican has twice insisted it knew nothing about abuse reports against Zanchetta until the fall of 2018, though media investigations suggest that Pope Francis knew about the allegations in 2015, two years before he gave Zanchetta a Vatican job.

Zanchetta was reported to the Vatican in 2015 and 2017 when he was discovered in lewd sexual photographs on his cellphone, and suspected of sexual abusing of seminarians.

Documents published Feb. 21 by The Tribune, a newspaper in the Salta region of Argentina, purport to show that the Vatican received a complaint about Zanchetta in 2015 and that Pope Francis had spoken to Zanchetta after the complaint was filed. The documents also claim that Zanchetta failed to register and report the sale of two church properties worth millions of dollars.

The documents seem to confirm earlier reporting by the Associated Press. Zanchetta also faces a judicial complaint of sexual abuse in Argentina that was recently made public.

Fr. Juan Jose Manzano, Zanchetta’s former vicar general in the diocese of Orán, told the Associated Press that the Vatican received complaints against Zanchetta in both 2015 and 2017, but that the 2015 complaint against Zanchetta was not issued as an official canonical complaint.

According to The Tribune’s report, one of the Zanchetta’s secretaries alerted authorities after accidentally finding sexually explicit images sent and received on Zanchetta’s cell phone. The complaint says that some of the images depict “young people” having sex in addition to lewd images of Zanchetta.

The report says three of Zanchetta’s vicars general and two monsignors made a formal internal complaint before the Argentinian nunciature in 2016, alleging inappropriate behavior with seminarians, such as encouraging them to drink alcohol and favoring the more “graceful” (attractive) among them.

Pope Francis summoned Zanchetta to Rome for five days in October 2015. The pope appeared to have accepted Zanchetta’s excuse that his cell phone had been hacked, and dismissed the allegations.

The 2017 internal accusation, which The Tribune says alleged more explicit abuse by Zanchetta of seminarians, resulted in Zanchetta’s exit from the diocese, though Zanchetta said he was resigning for health reasons. The Vatican did not open an investigation at that time.

Manzano said part of the reason the allegations against Zanchetta may have not been taken seriously by the Vatican was because of the bishop’s close relationship with Pope Francis, who appointed him bishop of Orán in 2013. Still, Manzano said he didn’t believe the Vatican meant to lie or hide anything about Zanchetta. He said he believed Francis and other Vatican officials had also been victims of the bishop’s “manipulation.”

Vatican Press Office spokesman Alessandro Gisotti in January “resolutely” repeated a Vatican statement that said no sexual abuse charges had yet emerged against the bishop at the time Pope Francis appointed Zanchetta to his position at APSA. Gisotti said the charges only emerged in the fall of 2018.

When asked at a Feb. 24 press conference about Zachetta’s case, Gisotti reiterated that an investigation is ongoing.


Order explains transfer of nun who spoke against rape-accused bishop in India

6 days 15 hours ago

Muvattupuzha, India, Mar 11, 2019 / 05:42 pm (CNA).- Last month a provincial superior of the Franciscan Clarist Congregation explained that the recent transfer of Sister Lissy Vadakkel was unrelated to her acting as a witness in the case against a bishop accused of serially raping another nun.

Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jullundur was accused in June 2018 by a nun of the Missionaries of Jesus of raping her during his May 2014 visit to her convent in Kuravilangad. In a complaint to police she alleged that the bishop sexually abused her more than a dozen times over two years.

Police in Kerala had charged Sister Alphonsa Abraham, superior of the FCC's Nirmala Province, based in Vijayawada, and three of her deputies, with the wrongful confinement of Sister Lissy, The News Minute reported Feb. 22.

Sr. Alphonsa stated that Sr. Lissy, 53, had been staying in a guest house in Muvattupuzha “for the last 14 years … in her personal capacity and not for any work associated with the Vijayawada Province.”

“During her stay there, she had established a relationship with the nuns of the Kuravilangad convent and gave a statement to the police against Bishop Franco Mulakkal clandestinely,” the provincial superior wrote. Kuravilangad is located about 20 miles south of Muvattupuzha.

Sr. Lissy was given a transfer order Jan. 25. She was transferred from Muvattupuzha to Vijayawada, some 700 miles away. Sr. Alphonsa said that Sr. Lissy did not arrive in Vijayawada until Feb. 9.

Sr. Alphonsa said she was unaware Sr. Lissy had made a statement to police about Bishop Mulakkal when she first issued the transfer.

Sr. Alphonsa said that after receiving the transfer, Sr. Lissy wanted to visit her sick mother in Kerala, and they went together. They met with the superior general of the FCC, with whom Sr. Lissy argued, and Sr. Alphonsa took her to the hospital where Sr. Lissy's mother was staying.

“Sister Lissy then reached the Muvattupuzha convent on February 17 evening, while her brothers came the next morning, threatening and asking us if we would transfer anybody who gave a statement against Bishop Franco,” Sr. Alphonsa said.

Sr. Lissy told police that at the Vijayawada convent, her mobile was taken away and she was kept in a room for a month. She also said she was kept from visiting her mother, she was tortured, and she was threatened with being institutionalized.

Sr. Lissy's brother told that his sister” escaped the Vijayawada convent and arrived in Kerala Feb. 16, while Sr. Alphonsa told the outlet that the nun's statement to police was “mere fabrication.”

Kerala police had gotten involved in Sr. Lissy's case after her brother reported her as missing, saying she “was untraceable for more than two months,” Matters India reported. The nun was at the Muvattupuzha convent when she was located by police.

Save Our Sisters Action Council, a group supporting nuns critical of Bishop Mulakkal, have claimed that Sr. Lissy's transfer to the convent in Andhra Pradesh is “part of a larger agenda to eliminate witnesses in the case” against the bishop, The News Minute reported.

Another member of the FCC has been warned over acts of disobedience, including a protest of the handling of the accusation against Bishop Mulakkal.

Sr. Ann Joseph, superior general of the community, sent a letter of warning Jan. 1 to Sr. Lucy Kalapura. Sr. Lucy is accused of leading a life “against the principles of religious life” by disobeying a transfer order, publishing poems after having been denied permission to do so, buying a vehicle, withholding her salary from the congregation, and participating in a protest against Bishop Mulakkal.

Bishop Mulakkal was arrested Sept. 21, 2018, but was released on bail in October. A police investigation is ongoing, and the bishop has been temporarily removed from his responsibilities as Bishop of Jullundur.

Several nuns began protesting in Kochi Sept. 8, 2018 how both police and the Church had responded to the accusation against Bishop Mulakkal.

The Missionaries of Jesus is based in the Diocese of Jullundur, and the Bishop of Jullundur is its patron.

In January, the superior of the Missionaries of Jesus asked five members of her community who have been protesting Bishop Mulakkal to transfer out from the Kuravilangad convent. All but one were being asked to leave Kerala, reported.

But the nuns were told Feb. 9 by Bishop Agnelo Gracias, apostolic administrator of Jullundur, that “as far as it lies within my power, there will be no move from the Diocese of Jalandhar to oust you from the Kuravilangad Convent as long as you are needed for the Court case”, according to The Caravan. He added that the superior general was not to send them letters without his permission.

Yet the diocese's communication's director, Fr. Peter Kavumpuram, shortly after said that because the Bishop of Jullundur does not normally intervene in the Missionaries of Jesus' internal affairs, the superior general's transfer order “is not cancelled but stands.”

The five nuns remain at the Kuravilangad convent. Fr. Kavumpuram has said that if the nuns do not obey their superior, “Action will be taken against them based on the Constitution of the congregation. I cannot tell you what kind of action it will be at this point.”

On Oct. 22, 2018 Fr. Kuriakose Kattuthara, who testified in support of the nun's claims against Bishop Mulakkal, was found dead under mysterious circumstances. Foul play has been alleged by members of the priest’s family, but a final autopsy report has not yet been reported.

Catholic university to review Rosica work for plagiarism

6 days 16 hours ago

Toronto, Canada, Mar 11, 2019 / 05:05 pm (CNA).- A Catholic university in Ontario, Canada, says it will review any published work by its former president and vice-chancellor, Fr. Thomas Rosica, C.S.B.

“In so far as Fr. Rosica has admitted that his published work has included unattributed material originally published by others, it is possible that what he published as President contained similar material. We will endeavour to determine if this is the case,” Richard Corneil, president of Assumption University in Windsor, Ontario, told the Windsor Star March 8.

Rosica served as president and vice-chancellor of the university from 2011-2015. In recent weeks, the priest has come under fire amid revelations of extensive plagiarism in his published articles, books, and speeches.

The priest, a long-serving English language press aide at the Vatican Press Office, and the CEO of Canada’s Salt+Light Television network, was reported by Life Site News Feb. 15 to have plagiarized sections of text in several lectures and op-eds from a variety of writers, among them priests, theologians, journalists, and at least two cardinals.

The priest apologized for plagiarism on Feb. 22, shortly after initial reports emerged.

“What I’ve done is wrong, and I am sorry about that. I don’t know how else to say it,” Rosica told the National Post.

“I realize I relied too much on compiled notes,” Rosica told the National Post, adding that his plagiarism was inadvertent and not malicious. He explained that “it could have been cut and paste,” apparently meaning that he had mistakenly included passages of text written by others in his texts without remembering to attribute them.

“I realize the seriousness of this and I regret this very much … I will be very vigilant in future,” he said.

Subsequent reports found widespread plagiarism in essays, speeches, and op-eds by Rosica, dating back more than a decade.

In late February, evidence emerged on Twitter that Rosica had also copied directly and without attribution the work of several theologians in a 1994 article he published in the theological journal “Worship.”

Liturgical Press, which publishes the journal, announced Feb. 26 "that the editors of Worship are retracting the [1994] article by Thomas M. Rosica because of plagiarism."

Liturgical Press subsequently retracted two additional articles published by the priest.

The 1994 article covers the same topic as Rosica’s 1990 licentiate thesis at the Pontifical Biblical Institute, leading some to raise questions about whether that text, through which the priest earned a pontifical degree in scripture, might also have been plagiarized.

Last week, the priest was discovered to have misrepresented his studies at the Ecole Biblique et Archéologique Française de Jérusalem. While he had claimed to have a degree from graduate school, its director told journalists that while Rosica had been enrolled there, he had not earned a degree of any kind.

On Feb. 24, Rosica resigned from the Collegium, or governing board, of the University of St. Michael’s College in Toronto, and the governing boards of St. John Fisher College in New York and the University of St. Thomas in Houston.

On Feb. 25, Rosica acknowledged to The Catholic Register that he had plagiarized. “We know that plagiarism is wrong, especially when it is practised deliberately. Please note that my actions were never deliberate. Nevertheless they were wrong,”

While the board of directors at the the Salt and Light Media Foundation has acknowledged that Rosica’s plagiarism was wrong, board chairman Tony Gagliano said in a March 7 statement that board members “unanimously pledge our support of the continued leadership of Fr. Rosica as Chief Executive Officer.”

“For the past 16 years, Fr. Thomas Rosica has worked consistently with young adults on many media platforms and in multiple languages to offer experiences of unity, prayer, celebration, reflection, education, dialogue, thought-provoking reporting and stories of faith and action. This work must continue,” the board statement said.

The Knights of Columbus, financial supporters of Salt+Light, have told reporters that they will review and reevaluate their relationship with the media network.