O'Malley introduces whistleblower system for complaints against Boston bishops

6 days 18 hours ago

Boston, Mass., Mar 11, 2019 / 03:30 pm (CNA).- The Archdiocese of Boston has announced it will implement a third-party system for reporting allegations of abuse or misconduct against bishops in the diocese.

Boston is the second archdiocese to announce such a system, after a proposed national reporting system for allegations against bishops was scuttled during a November 2018 meeting of the U.S. bishops’ conference.

“I have decided to implement EthicsPoint, a confidential, anonymous and third-party system, exclusively for the reporting of misconduct by a Cardinal, Bishop or Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Boston,” Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston announced in a March 8 letter.

“Since 2011 we have utilized EthicsPoint for concerns of potential ethics violations, financial improprieties, and other violations of the Archdiocesan Code of Conduct related to financial matters.”

“Like the existing system currently in use, this will be web based and have a toll-free hotline to make a report. Reports will be sent to members of my Independent Review Board who will be charged to immediately notify law enforcement for claims of abuse as well as the apostolic nuncio; the diplomatic representative to the U.S. of the Holy See. The system will be hosted on secured servers at the EthicsPoint facility and is not connected to the Archdiocese of Boston website, intranet system or the existing EthicsPoint system currently in use. We anticipate the system being up and running soon and will provide more information at that time,” O’Malley said.

The cardinal said that the importance of “an effective reporting mechanism when a Bishop or Cardinal has failed in his duty to protect children or has himself abused children or vulnerable adults” was discussed at a February Vatican summit focused on prevent child abuse.

The bishop said he believes the U.S. bishops conference will introduce a national reporting procedure at some time, adding his desire to “address this need immediately for the Archdiocese of Boston.”

In November, the U.S. bishops’ conference was stopped by the Vatican from voting on proposals that would have created a nationalized third-party whistleblower system for reporting allegations against bishops, and a lay-led independent commission for investigating those allegations. The Vatican said it had not had sufficient time to review the proposals ahead of the scheduled vote.   

The Archdiocese of Baltimore announced a whistleblower hotline for complaints against bishops in January, as well as a plan for the archdiocesan independent review board to receive complaints and forward them to appropriate civil authorities.

When O’Malley announced Boston’s system, he also said that the Vatican’s abuse summit had pointed to the importance of hearing from the victims of clerical sexual abuse.

“The way forward for the Church is to hold as a priority the voices and experience of survivors, to keep them close to every step we take and make all possible efforts to provide the means for them to be heard.”

“In Boston we will continue to provide pastoral care and counseling for survivors. We will continue to carry out programs of prevention and education in our schools and parishes. We will continue to do background checks annually for bishops, priests, all archdiocesan personnel, and all volunteers who work with children and young people,” the cardinal added.

O’Malley faced criticism last year, after it was reported that he had received a letter raising concerns about laicized bishop Theodore McCarrick’s sexual misconduct with seminarians, and did not respond by forwarding it to the proper ecclesiastical authorities. The cardinal apologized for the way that letter, and others like it, were handled in his office.

The cardinal said that he left the Vatican abuse summit “convinced that no bishop could possibly say that his diocese is not affected by these issues or that this is not a problem in his country and culture. Patience among our people and in the wider community is exhausted and understandably the call is rising for effective action.”


Catholic missionaries, aid workers among victims of Ethiopian plane crash

6 days 21 hours ago

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Mar 11, 2019 / 11:56 am (CNA).- Pope Francis is offering prayers for the 157 people killed in an Ethiopian Airlines plane crash Sunday, which include a priest, a religious sister, and four staff members with Catholic Relief Services.

A Monday telegram from Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin said that “His Holiness Pope Francis offers prayers for the deceased from various countries and comments their souls to the mercy of Almighty God.”

“Pope Francis sends heartfelt condolences to their families, and upon all who mourn this tragic loss he invokes the divine blessings of consolation and strength,” said Parolin.

Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed just minutes after taking off from Addis Ababa Sunday. Everyone aboard the plane, which was headed to Nairobi, Kenya, was killed.

The 157 victims included seven crew members and one security officials, as well as 19 U.N. staff members, CNN reported. Those killed came from 35 countries, with the largest number from Kenya.

The cause of the crash is still under investigation.

Catholic Relief Services released a statement Monday saying, “It is with heavy hearts that we share the news that four members of our staff were killed” in the crash.

“All four individuals were Ethiopian nationals traveling to Nairobi to attend a training on our behalf,” CRS said.

Sintayehu Aymeku had worked for CRS/Ethiopia since January of 2017. He was first employed as a senior procurement officer in the administration department, and recently began a new position as procurement manager in the supplies chain department. He was a husband and a father of three daughters.

Sara Chalachew worked for CRS/Ethiopia since January of 2010, first as a commodity accountant and then as senior commodity accounts officer in the logistics department. Since December, she was the senior project officer for grants.

Mulusew Alemu worked for CRS/Ethiopia since May of 2018, as a finance officer, project grant accountant, and senior finance officer.

Getnet Alemayehu had worked for CRS/Ethiopia since August of 2009, first as a procurement officer and then as senior procurement officer in the administration department. In December, he began a new position as senior project officer in the department of procurement and compliance. He was married with one daughter.

Catholic Relief Services said that while mourning, they intend to “celebrate the lives of these colleagues and the selfless contributions they made to our mission,” in spite of the risks associated with humanitarian work. CRS offered prayers for all who had lost loved ones in the plane crash.

South African Catholic newspaper The Southern Cross also reported that a Kenyan priest and nun were aboard the plane when it crashed.

Father George Kageche Mukua CMM, a member of the Congregation of Mariannhill Missionaries was a passenger on the flight. The 40-year-old missionary had been ordained a priest in 2017.

Sr. Florence Wangari, a Notre Dame de Angers Sister in her early 30s, was also on board, on her way to Nairobi to renew her passport, The Southern Cross reported. She was a missionary nurse in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Bishops Bransfield, Bennett restricted from exercising ministry

6 days 22 hours ago

Baltimore, Md., Mar 11, 2019 / 10:40 am (CNA).- Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore announced on Monday restrictions on the ministry of both retired West Virginia Bishop Michael Bransfield and retired Bishop Gordon Bennett, S.J.

The restrictions against Bransfield are the result of a months-long preliminary investigation conducted by Lori, into allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct, as well as financial improprieties.

“Pending the assessment of the findings of the Holy See, as Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, I have directed that Bishop Bransfield is not authorized to exercise any priestly or episcopal ministry either within the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston or within the Archdiocese of Baltimore,” Lori said in a March 11 press release.

Lori was appointed apostolic administrator of Wheeling-Charleston in September, five days after Bransfield turned 75 and submitted his resignation to the Holy See. Wheeling-Charleston is the only diocese in West Virginia.

Shortly after Bransfield’s resignation, Lori announced that Pope Francis had directed him to open an investigation into claims the bishop had engaged in repeated “sexual harassment of adults.”

Lori said in September that a hotline for the investigation received more than three dozen calls during his first two weeks as apostolic administrator of the diocese.

In the March 11 press release, the Archdiocese of Baltimore said the investigation was led by Archbishop Lori as well as five lay experts, including one who is not Catholic. The team interviewed 40 people, including Bransfield, as part of their investigation. The results have now been sent to the Holy See, where a final decision about Bransfield will be made.

In 2012, Bransfield was accused of covering up sexual misconduct by other priests, as well as molesting a minor. Bransfield denied these allegations, calling them “completely false,” and the alleged victim came forward to say that he was never abused by Bransfield.

The archdiocese also announced in the release that “similar restrictions were warranted” concerning former Archdiocese of Baltimore auxiliary Bishop Gordon Bennett, S.J. Bennett was an auxiliary bishop in the archdiocese from 1998 until 2004, when he became the bishop of Mandeville, Jamaica. He retired, reportedly due to health reasons, just two years later in August 2006, at the age of 60. The ordinary retirement age for bishops is 75.

Lori’s press release revealed that in May 2006, the archdiocese received an allegation of “sexual harassment of a young adult” by Bennett, which it reported to the apostolic nunciature. The bishop resigned from his Jamaican diocese three months later.

Upon the announcement of Bennett’s retirement, Fr. John P. McCarry, S.J., provincial of the Jesuit California province, informed province members that Bennett would be moving to California “for medical assessment and treatment for fatigue and depression.” Bennett is a member of the Jesuit California province.

Bennett will no longer be permitted to do any sort of priestly or episcopal ministry within either the Archdiocese of Baltimore or the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston.

In January 2019, the Archdiocese of Baltimore announced a series of new protocols to investigate allegations against a bishop within the archdiocese. These protocols were developed by the archdiocese’s Independent Review Board, which will investigate claims that a bishop of the archdiocese engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior or abuse towards a child, as well as claims of sexual harassment or misconduct with adults, or if bishops “engaged in activities that constitute seriously negligent supervision or improper cover-up” of the sexual misconduct of others. Bishops within the archdiocese also signed a code of conduct.

Lori’s is believed to be the first policy of its kind in the United States.

Pope begins Lenten spiritual exercises reflecting on Christ's gaze

6 days 23 hours ago

Rome, Italy, Mar 11, 2019 / 10:24 am (CNA).- A Benedictine abbot is leading Pope Francis and the Roman curia in Lenten spiritual exercises this week, with the theme of Christ’s gaze and gestures in the life of the world.

“Let us allow ourselves to be looked at by Him. Jesus is our humanism,” the Italian monk Bernardo Francesco Maria Gianni said in the first of his spiritual reflections March 10.

Gianni, the abbot of San Miniato al Monte Abbey in Florence, will provide two meditations each day of this week’s papal retreat, which also includes daily Eucharistic adoration and Mass.

“Look at how He looked. Looking at the rich young man, He loved him; the meeting of eyes with Zacchaeus, who climbs up a tree to see the Lord Jesus, who looks up to meet him,” the Gianni said.

The monk told the Roman curia, “Our pastoral action, our taking care of the people entrusted to us … of the humanity that is entrusted to us by the Lord, can really be a new flame of ardent desire, and a return to being a garden of beauty, peace, justice, measure, harmony.”

Citing the Italian poet Mario Luzi and Venerable Giorgio La Pira, a mayor of Florence in the 1950s and '60s, the abbot said that the Benedictine tradition “prolongs the gaze of the monk from the cloister to the city in front of the monastery.”

“The perspective of the monastery is not an alternative to the city, but an exemplary, paradigmatic, authentic testimony, in which the city could rediscover the reasons for its vocation, its mystery, present and future,” he continued.

The pope’s spiritual exercises are taking place at the Casa Divin Maestro in Ariccia, a town just 16 miles outside of Rome. Located on Lake Albano, the retreat house is just a short way from the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo. It will be the sixth consecutive year the pope and members of the Curia have held their Lenten retreat at the house in Ariccia.

While the practice of the Bishop of Rome going on retreat with the heads of Vatican dicasteries each Lent began some 80 years ago, it had been customary for them to follow the spiritual exercises on Vatican ground. Beginning in Lent 2014, Francis chose to hold the retreat outside Rome.

All of the pope’s activities are suspended this week until he returns from his Lenten retreat March 15.

Monday of the First Week of Lent

1 week ago
Reading 1 Lv 19:1-2, 11-18 The LORD said to Moses,
"Speak to the whole assembly of the children of Israel and tell them:
Be holy, for I, the LORD, your God, am holy.

"You shall not steal.
You shall not lie or speak falsely to one another.
You shall not swear falsely by my name,
thus profaning the name of your God.
I am the LORD.

"You shall not defraud or rob your neighbor.
You shall not withhold overnight the wages of your day laborer.
You shall not curse the deaf,
or put a stumbling block in front of the blind,
but you shall fear your God.
I am the LORD.

"You shall not act dishonestly in rendering judgment.
Show neither partiality to the weak nor deference to the mighty,
but judge your fellow men justly.
You shall not go about spreading slander among your kin;
nor shall you stand by idly when your neighbor's life is at stake.
I am the LORD.

"You shall not bear hatred for your brother in your heart.
Though you may have to reprove him,
do not incur sin because of him.
Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against your fellow countrymen.
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
I am the LORD."
Responsorial Psalm Ps 19:8, 9, 10, 15 R. (John 6:63b)  Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.
The law of the LORD is perfect,
refreshing the soul.
The decree of the LORD is trustworthy,
giving wisdom to the simple.
R. Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.
The precepts of the LORD are right,
rejoicing the heart.
The command of the LORD is clear,
enlightening the eye.
R. Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.
The fear of the LORD is pure,
enduring forever;
The ordinances of the LORD are true,
all of them just.
R. Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.
Let the words of my mouth and the thought of my heart
find favor before you,
O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.
R. Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.
Verse Before the Gospel 2 Cor 6:2b Behold, now is a very acceptable time;
behold, now is the day of salvation.
Gospel Mt 25:31-46 Jesus said to his disciples:
"When the Son of Man comes in his glory,
and all the angels with him,
he will sit upon his glorious throne,
and all the nations will be assembled before him.
And he will separate them one from another,
as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
Then the king will say to those on his right,
'Come, you who are blessed by my Father.
Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
For I was hungry and you gave me food,
I was thirsty and you gave me drink,
a stranger and you welcomed me,
naked and you clothed me,
ill and you cared for me,
in prison and you visited me.'
Then the righteous will answer him and say,
'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you,
or thirsty and give you drink?
When did we see you a stranger and welcome you,
or naked and clothe you?
When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?'
And the king will say to them in reply,
'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did
for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.'
Then he will say to those on his left,
'Depart from me, you accursed,
into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels.
For I was hungry and you gave me no food,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
a stranger and you gave me no welcome,
naked and you gave me no clothing,
ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.'
Then they will answer and say,
'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty
or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison,
and not minister to your needs?'
He will answer them, 'Amen, I say to you,
what you did not do for one of these least ones,
you did not do for me.'
And these will go off to eternal punishment,
but the righteous to eternal life."
- - -
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.

Pope Francis: Martyred seminarians provide a witness for priests, bishops

1 week 1 day ago

Vatican City, Mar 10, 2019 / 07:04 am (CNA).- Pope Francis said Sunday that the nine Spanish seminarian martyrs beatified this weekend provide a witness to priests and bishops to remain pure and generous.

Blessed Ángel Cuartas Cristóbal and eight of his seminary classmates were martyred amid the "Red Terror" persecution of the Church during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s in which more than 6,800 clergy or religious were killed.

"These young aspirants to the priesthood loved the Lord so much as to follow Him on the way of the Cross. Their heroic witness helps seminarians, priests, and bishops to remain pure and generous, faithfully serving the Lord and the holy people of God," Pope Francis said March 10.

In the martyrs’ beatification Mass in Oviedo, Spain the day prior, Cardinal Angelo Becciu, prefect of the Vatican Congregation of Saints expressed a similar sentiment.

“With the sanctity of their lives, the newly beatified speak above all to the Church of today. With their blood, the have made the Church great and have given splendor to the priesthood,” Becciu said.

“We are all troubled by the scandals that seem to have no end and that disfigure the face of the Bride of Christ. We need seminarians, priests, consecrated persons, generous pastors like these martyrs of Oviedo,” the cardinal continued.

“We need honest and irreproachable priests who bring souls to God and do not cause suffering to the Church and disturb the people of God,” he said.

In his Angelus address, Pope Francis reflected on Sunday’s Gospel narrative of Jesus’ temptation in the desert. After fasting for forty days, Jesus is tempted three times by the devil.

The three desert temptations to turn a stone into bread, to rule over all of the kingdoms on earth, and to tempt God’s providence by jumping from the highest point in Jerusalem indicate “three roads that the world continually proposes, promising great success,” Francis said.

These three paths are the road of greed, the road of human glory, and the road of “instrumentalization of God,” he explained.

“These are the paths that are set before us, with the illusion of being able to achieve success and happiness. But, in reality … they separate us from God because they are the work of Satan,” Francis said.

“This is always the insidious logic of the devil. He starts from the natural and legitimate need to eat, to live, to be fulfilled, to be happy, and pushes us to believe that all of this is possible without God, even against Him,” he said.

Pope Francis explained that “the remedies” for these three temptations are also threefold: the interior life, faith in God, and the certainty of God’s love.

“Let us therefore take advantage of Lent, as a privileged time to purify ourselves, to experience the consoling presence of God in our lives,” he said.

Pope Francis asked for prayers as he and the Roman curia begin their annual Lenten spiritual exercises this week. On Sunday evening, the pope will depart by bus for the town of Ariccia, where he will spend a week in prayer and reflection led by Benedictine Abbot Bernardo Francesco Maria Gianni.

“May the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary, an icon of fidelity to God, sustain us on our journey, helping us always to reject evil and to welcome good,” Pope Francis said.

First Sunday of Lent

1 week 1 day ago
Reading 1 Dt 26:4-10
Moses spoke to the people, saying:
"The priest shall receive the basket from you
and shall set it in front of the altar of the LORD, your God.
Then you shall declare before the Lord, your God,
'My father was a wandering Aramean
who went down to Egypt with a small household
and lived there as an alien.
But there he became a nation
great, strong, and numerous.
When the Egyptians maltreated and oppressed us,
imposing hard labor upon us,
we cried to the LORD, the God of our fathers,
and he heard our cry
and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression.
He brought us out of Egypt
with his strong hand and outstretched arm,
with terrifying power, with signs and wonders;
and bringing us into this country,
he gave us this land flowing with milk and honey.
Therefore, I have now brought you the firstfruits
of the products of the soil
which you, O LORD, have given me.'
And having set them before the Lord, your God,
you shall bow down in his presence."
Responsorial Psalm Ps 91:1-2, 10-11, 12-13, 14-15. R. (cf. 15b)  Be with me, Lord, when I am in trouble.
You who dwell in the shelter of the Most High,
who abide in the shadow of the Almighty,
say to the LORD, "My refuge and fortress,
my God in whom I trust."
R. Be with me, Lord, when I am in trouble.
No evil shall befall you,
nor shall affliction come near your tent,
For to his angels he has given command about you,
that they guard you in all your ways.
R. Be with me, Lord, when I am in trouble.
Upon their hands they shall bear you up,
lest you dash your foot against a stone.
You shall tread upon the asp and the viper;
you shall trample down the lion and the dragon.
R. Be with me, Lord, when I am in trouble.
Because he clings to me, I will deliver him;
I will set him on high because he acknowledges my name.
He shall call upon me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in distress;
I will deliver him and glorify him.
R. Be with me, Lord, when I am in trouble.
Reading 2 Rom 10:8-13 Brothers and sisters:
What does Scripture say?
The word is near you,
in your mouth and in your heart

—that is, the word of faith that we preach—,
for, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord
and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead,
you will be saved.
For one believes with the heart and so is justified,
and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved.
For the Scripture says,
No one who believes in him will be put to shame.
For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek;
the same Lord is Lord of all,
enriching all who call upon him.
For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."
Verse Before the Gospel Mt 4:4bOne does not live on bread alone,
but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.
Gospel Lk 4:1-13 Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan
and was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days,
to be tempted by the devil.
He ate nothing during those days,
and when they were over he was hungry.
The devil said to him,
"If you are the Son of God,
command this stone to become bread."
Jesus answered him,
"It is written, One does not live on bread alone."
Then he took him up and showed him
all the kingdoms of the world in a single instant.
The devil said to him,
"I shall give to you all this power and glory;
for it has been handed over to me,
and I may give it to whomever I wish.
All this will be yours, if you worship me."
Jesus said to him in reply,
"It is written:
You shall worship the Lord, your God,
and him alone shall you serve."

Then he led him to Jerusalem,
made him stand on the parapet of the temple, and said to him,
"If you are the Son of God,
throw yourself down from here, for it is written:
He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,
With their hands they will support you,
lest you dash your foot against a stone."

Jesus said to him in reply,
"It also says,
You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test."
When the devil had finished every temptation,
he departed from him for a time.
- - -
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.

Why one Alabama man is suing on behalf of an aborted fetus

1 week 1 day ago

Montgomery, Ala., Mar 9, 2019 / 04:30 pm (CNA).- In what is believed to be the first case of its kind in the United States, an attorney will represent the estate of an aborted child, after the father filed a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the six-week old fetus.

Court documents allege that a then-16-year-old Alabama woman obtained a medication abortion in February 2017, despite the protestations of her boyfriend, who says he is the father of the child.

The man subsequently sued the Alabama Women’s Center for Reproductive Alternatives in Huntsville last month, saying that he had wanted to keep the child.

Brent Helms, the attorney representing the father in the lawsuit, told CNA in an interview that the goals of the lawsuit are to ensure that no father has to endure what the defendant has so far endured, and also to protect unborn children in cases of abortion by establishing a right to legal “personhood” for them.

“The issue that we ran into, in the case of 'personhood,' there was some incongruency there in that the definition of 'person' from conception excluded an aborted child,” Helms said.

“And so one of the goals of this case was to ensure that we were able to establish personhood for the unborn baby.”

Alabama voters approved changes to the state constitution – Amendment 2 – in November 2018 to establish a right to life of unborn children, known as a “personhood clause.” The measure passed with 60 percent support from the public.

In addition to the new constitutional amendment, Alabama has statutes created by the legislature, Helms said, to define “personhood” as beginning at conception. The state also has seven opinions from the Alabama Supreme Court defining personhood as beginning at conception, he said.

None of these, however, have immediate legal effect, due to Roe v. Wade establishing a constitutional “right to abortion” nationally.

The attorney sees this lawsuit as another effort to enshrine personhood in the state.

Helms said he's already had one indication that the lawsuit could succeed; he successfully set up an estate for the aborted child – identified in court documents as “Baby Roe” – and Probate Judge Frank Barger has allowed the lawsuit to go forward.

“That was the first estate, to my knowledge, ever created in the United States for an aborted child,” he said.

“So we've already had one victory, and we're moving on now to the wrongful death case...Obviously, it's the first case of its kind, ever, and we hope to establish legal precedent.”

In terms of broader implications if the father wins his lawsuit, Helms explained that in the state of Alabama, abortion is a profit-making industry, and in a wrongful death lawsuit the wrongdoer is punished in some way. In this case, the lawsuit names as wrongdoers the manufacturer of the pill that terminated the unborn baby's life, as well as the abortion clinic, the doctor, the nurses, all those that participated in the abortion.

If those entities are found liable for the wrongful death of Baby Roe, Helms said, then what was once a profit-making industry will now be subject to liability.

“And the question for them will be, ‘are we more subject to liability than we are to profitability?’ If a drug manufacturer determines that they're going to be held liable for an abortion in the state of Alabama, I doubt they're going to send any kind of pills to Alabama for an abortion,” Helms speculated.

“So I would think [their] conclusion would likely be that liability outweighs profitability, and therefore abortion is eliminated in the state of Alabama. It's just a simple business decision.”

Prominent pro-abortion groups such as NARAL Pro-Choice America have spoken out against the lawsuit and the implications for legal personhood for aborted fetuses.

Eric Johnston, a fellow attorney and president of the Alabama Pro-Life Coalition, told CNA that while he doesn't “disagree in principle” with what Helms is doing, he is worried that the lawsuit will not succeed unless the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the 1973 decision that found a constitutional right to abortion.

While the lawsuit is currently in a state court, he said, if the abortion clinic or the drug company can successfully move it to federal court, it will be “rejected in pretty short order.” If it stays in the state system, he said, even the Alabama Supreme Court is unlikely to rule in favor of the father.

“That case is not going to be upheld until Roe v. Wade is reversed,” Johnston told CNA. “I really don't think that that approach is an approach that will get to the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Johnston said putting together the right lawsuit to challenge a longstanding precedent like Roe v. Wade is extremely difficult. He said he thinks laws passed by states, that directly challenge Roe v. Wade and are designed to be reviewed in the Supreme Court, are more likely to succeed.

“The Court has ruled in the past that the father of the child does not have a right over the unborn child, that it's the woman's right, and that's based on the idea that abortion is legal,” Johnston explained.

“So I don't think that the claiming of wrongful death damages by a father is the right set of circumstances that would cause the Supreme Court [to hear the case] to review Roe v. Wade. I just don't think that's the right approach for it. I just don't think it's going to fly.”

Johnston said as long as Roe v. Wade gives the woman the right of privacy to have an abortion, then there is not a wrongful death cause of action, regardless of Alabama law.

“The Alabama Constitution does not supersede or overrule the U.S. Constitution,” Johnston said.

“And under Roe, they have held that the U.S. Constitution permits abortion. So it's irrelevant what the Alabama Constitution says and it's irrelevant what the Alabama Supreme Court has said in several cases.”

Helms is more hopeful. “We're in uncharted territory, and we're trying to do the best we can to navigate through it. But that also means the other side is in the same uncharted territory,” he said.

“We're obviously excited about the opportunities that this may present for future fathers who are in the same position as [this father].”

Helms said protecting life is a particularly important issue for his family – he’s the father of seven children.

“When my mom was pregnant with my brother, the doctor told her that your health is such that either you or the baby is going to die, and my mom said 'Well, if the Lord wants one of us or both of us he'll take us,'” Helms reflected.

“And so she refused to have an abortion, and had my brother. He's the smartest and best-looking of the bunch, an so we're grateful to have him. So yes, [the pro-life issue] does hit home, and my wife and I have been blessed and we're grateful to have such a large family.”

The Huntsville abortion clinic has until April 1 to respond to the lawsuit.


Pope Francis: Be bold in responding to the Lord's call

1 week 2 days ago

Vatican City, Mar 9, 2019 / 05:37 am (CNA).- It takes courage and boldness to trust in God’s promises and follow the vocation he has set out for you, Pope Francis said in a message for the World Day of Prayer for Vocations, released Saturday.

“Responding to the Lord’s call involves putting ourselves on the line and facing a great challenge. It means being ready to leave behind whatever would keep us tied to our little boat and prevent us from making a definitive choice,” the pope said March 9.

“We are called to be bold and decisive in seeking God’s plan for our lives,” he continued. “Gazing out at the vast ‘ocean’ of vocation, we cannot remain content to repair our nets on the boat that gives us security, but must trust instead in the Lord’s promise.”

“Every vocation is a summons not to stand on the shore, nets in hand, but to follow Jesus on the path he has marked out for us, for our own happiness and for the good of those around us.”

Pope Francis’ message was released in advance of the 56th World Day of Prayer for Vocations, which will be celebrated on May 12. This year’s theme is “The courage to take a risk for God’s promise.”

In his message the pope reflected on the passage from the Gospel of Mark, when Jesus calls Simon, Andrew, James, and John to be his disciples.

At the time, the two pairs of brothers were going about their daily work as fishermen, Francis explained, noting that fishing is demanding work which sometimes produces results and sometimes does not.

“Much of life is like that,” he said. Each person, in trying to realize his or her deepest desires, puts out into a “‘sea’ of possibilities” and “sometimes we enjoy a good catch, while at others, we need courage to keep our boat from being tossed by the waves, or we are frustrated at seeing our nets come up empty.”

But, he emphasized, the Gospel is about an encounter with a person, Jesus Christ. “That day, by the sea of Galilee, Jesus drew near to those fishermen … and he immediately made them a promise: ‘I will make you fishers of men.’”

This is how God calls each person: through an invitation, he explained. “The Lord’s call is not an intrusion of God in our freedom … On the contrary, it is the loving initiative whereby God encounters us and invites us to be part of a great undertaking. He opens before our eyes the horizon of a greater sea and an abundant catch.”

Francis also noted the importance of a person’s vocation for not just in his or her life, but for the community and for the growth of God’s kingdom on earth.

“These vocations make us bearers of a promise of goodness, love and justice, not only for ourselves but also for our societies and cultures, which need courageous Christians and authentic witnesses of the kingdom of God,” he said.

On the coming World Day of Prayer for Vocations, he concluded, “let us join in prayer and ask the Lord to help us discover his plan of love for our lives, and to grant us the courage to walk in the path that, from the beginning, he has chosen for each of us.”

Utah school apologizes after student forced to remove Lenten ashes

1 week 2 days ago

Salt Lake City, Utah, Mar 9, 2019 / 04:50 am (CNA).- A school district in Utah has issued an apology after a fourth-grade student was told by a teacher that he must remove the cross from his forehead on Ash Wednesday.

William McLeod, a student at Valley View Elementary School in Bountiful, Utah, arrived at school with ashes on his forehead in the shape of a cross, a custom for Catholics at the beginning of the Lenten season.

He told Fox 13 that he was the only pupil with ashes at the school. Other students were curious about them, he said, and he explained the Ash Wednesday custom when they asked.

But then McLeod says, his teacher Moana Patterson confronted him about the ashes, telling him they were inappropriate and that he needed to remove them.

Despite McLeod’s objections, Patterson made him remove the ash cross with a sanitizing wipe, said his grandmother Karen Fisher.

“He went to see the school’s psychologist crying,” Fisher told the Associated Press.  “He was embarrassed.”

The school has released a statement of apology, saying that the matter is being taken very seriously. Patterson has been placed on administrative leave, and additional disciplinary action is being considered.

“The actions were unacceptable,” district spokesman Chris Williams said, according to the Associated Press. “No student should ever be asked or required to remove an ash cross from his or her forehead.”

Fox 13 reported that the teacher met with the principal after the incident, and a phone call was made to the family. McLeod later received an apology letter with some candy from Patterson.

Jean Hill, government liaison for the Diocese of Salt Lake City, told the Associated Press that mistakes occur, and that the event was a positive opportunity for interreligious dialogue. Catholics are a minority in the predominantly Mormon state of Utah.

“The diocese is also very grateful to the young student who used the situation to educate his teacher about a part of his faith and its importance to him,” Hill said.

“Learning about one another is one way we build community across religious, political, racial, ethnic and other borders,” she added.

Saturday after Ash Wednesday

1 week 2 days ago
Reading 1 Is 58:9b-14 Thus says the LORD:
If you remove from your midst oppression,
false accusation and malicious speech;
If you bestow your bread on the hungry
and satisfy the afflicted;
Then light shall rise for you in the darkness,
and the gloom shall become for you like midday;
Then the LORD will guide you always
and give you plenty even on the parched land.
He will renew your strength,
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring whose water never fails.
The ancient ruins shall be rebuilt for your sake,
and the foundations from ages past you shall raise up;
"Repairer of the breach," they shall call you,
"Restorer of ruined homesteads."

If you hold back your foot on the sabbath
from following your own pursuits on my holy day;
If you call the sabbath a delight,
and the LORD's holy day honorable;
If you honor it by not following your ways,
seeking your own interests, or speaking with malice--
Then you shall delight in the LORD,
and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth;
I will nourish you with the heritage of Jacob, your father,
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken. Responsorial Psalm Ps 86:1-2, 3-4, 5-6 R. (11ab)  Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth.
Incline your ear, O LORD; answer me,
for I am afflicted and poor.
Keep my life, for I am devoted to you;
save your servant who trusts in you.
You are my God.
R. Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth.
Have mercy on me, O Lord,
for to you I call all the day.
Gladden the soul of your servant,
for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
R. Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth.
For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving,
abounding in kindness to all who call upon you.
Hearken, O LORD, to my prayer
and attend to the sound of my pleading.
R. Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth.
Verse Before the Gospel Ez 33:11 I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked man, says the Lord,
but rather in his conversion, that he may live.
Gospel Lk 5:27-32 Jesus saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at the customs post.
He said to him, "Follow me."
And leaving everything behind, he got up and followed him.
Then Levi gave a great banquet for him in his house,
and a large crowd of tax collectors
and others were at table with them.
The Pharisees and their scribes complained to his disciples, saying,
"Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?"
Jesus said to them in reply,
"Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do.
I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners."
For the readings of the Optional Memorial of Saint Frances of Rome, please go 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.

Kansas archdiocese responds after denying school admission to child of same sex-couple

1 week 2 days ago

Kansas City, Kan., Mar 8, 2019 / 05:03 pm (CNA).- A K-8 Catholic school in Kansas is defending its decision to deny admission to a kindergarten student who is the child of a same-sex couple, citing archdiocesan admissions policies.

Father Craig Maxim sent a letter dated Feb. 27 to the families of St. Ann Catholic School in Prairie Village, a suburb of Kansas City. Maxim, the church’s pastor, wrote that when the question of whether to allow the child to enroll first arose, he sought the guidance of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.

He wrote that diocese has the ability to “form policy on these matters while individual diocesan schools do not.” The archdiocese advised against admission, he said.

A petition dated March 1 asks the school to “prayerfully reconsider” its decision. The petition has reportedly garnered over 1,000 signatures and was sent to Archbishop Joseph Naumann and the school’s superintendent Kathy O’Hara.

The petition claims that the school admits children of parents who are divorced and remarried or have conceived through in-vitro fertilization, as well as non-Catholic children and families.

“Respectfully, we believe that the decision to to deny a child of God access to such a wonderful community and education, based on the notion that his or her parent’s union is not in accordance with the Church’s teaching on Sacramental marriage, lacks the compassion and mercy of Christ’s message,” the petition reads.

In a media statement, the Kansas City archdiocese explained its admissions policy, which all Catholic schools affiliated with the archdiocese are bound to follow.

The statement affirms the Church’s teaching both that “individuals with same sex attraction should be treated with dignity,” as well as the Church’s understanding of marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

“Marriage is considered the building block of the family, of society, and the heart of the Church. The Church’s teaching on marriage is clear and is not altered by the laws of civil society,” the statement reads, in reference to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 decision that legalized gay marriage nationwide.

“The decision of the Supreme Court to grant marital status to same-sex unions does not change Church doctrine on marriage, but does present the Church with new pastoral challenges.”

The fact that a same-sex couple is not capable of modeling the “essential components” of the Church’s teaching on marriage “creates a conflict for their children between what they are taught in school and what is experienced at home,” the archdiocese said, and could become a source of confusion for other students.

“Our schools exist to pass on the Catholic faith. Incorporated into our academic instruction and spiritual formation, at every grade level, are the teachings of the Catholic Church,” the statement continues.

“It is important for children to experience consistency between what they are taught in school and what they see lived at home. Therefore, we ask that parents understand and be willing to support those teachings in their homes.”

The archdiocese concluded its statement by saying that the Church does not think it respectful, fair, loving or compassionate for individuals who disagree with the Church’s teaching to “place their children in an educational environment where the values of the parents and the core principles of the school conflict.”

While acknowledging that other diocese across the country have different policies regarding enrollment for children of same-sex couples, Father Maxim wrote that he had communicated his parishioners’ concerns to the archdiocese. He stressed that this was not to “undermine Church doctrine,” but rather an attempt to “continue dialogue” with the archdiocese about the policy.

“As your pastor, I am distressed over the division this sensitive and complex issue has caused within our school and church,” he wrote, asking for prayers for healing, peace, and understanding.

Cardinals spar in responses to Vatican-China deal

1 week 2 days ago

Beijing, China, Mar 8, 2019 / 03:40 pm (CNA).- After Cardinal Fernando Filoni and a Chinese-appointed bishop both spoke out this week separately in support of the Vatican-China deal for fostering unity, Cardinal Joseph Zen responded strongly.

During a weeklong trip to Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Macau, Cardinal Filoni told Macau News Agency March 4 that the provisional agreement between Beijing and the Holy See signed Sept. 22, 2018 “will be a very good thing for the Church in the future, and also for China.”

“One wonders: from which planet did our leaders in Rome descend?” Zen, the emeritus bishop of Hong Kong, responded on his blog March 5.

In a lengthy interview with a Vatican-sponsored newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, Filoni, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, called for greater trust between the ecclesial and civil authorities who manage religion in China.

“There is above-all the need to rebuild trust, perhaps the most difficult aspect, toward ecclesiastical and civil authorities entrusted with religious matters, as well as between the so-called official and unofficial ecclesial currents,” Filoni said. “It is not about establishing who wins or who loses, who is right or wrong.”

Zen responded, “The incredible thing is the invitation to trust the government! Is information on recent oppression measures missing from our superiors in the Vatican?”

Filoni said that he realized that it may appear that the Holy See is asking for “a unilateral sacrifice” from members underground Chinese Catholic community, “while nothing is requested of the ‘official’ members.”

“The issue should not be put in these terms; in fact, it is not about the ‘underground’ surrendering to the ‘official’ or to the civil authorities, regardless of the appearance, nor of a victory over the non-official community,” he continued.

“The underground status will fade away, but not the people involved. Their faith, their traditions, and their spirituality remain, which are enjoyed by the entire diocesan community,” Filoni said.

He pointed to September’s provisional agreement as a continuation of the dialogue between the Holy See and China under St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

Zen objected to this claim, writing, “The Holy See intends to present the dialogue with China as a homogeneous process from John Paul II through Benedict until Pope Francis. Not so, John Paul II and Benedict, having lived under totalitarian regimes, never believed the Ostpolitik theory.”

“With the choice of Parolin as his Secretary of State, Pope Francis gave the curia’s group of powerful men the opportunity to resume their project of Ostpolitik,” Zen said.

“Now following Pope Francis in his optimism, they dangerously push him towards an easy surrender, hiding the horrible face of Chinese communism of which they are well aware,” Zen continued.

Filoni criticized those who “run the risk of rowing out of sync within the ship of Peter” and of leading the Chinese faithful into misunderstanding the agreement.

“Only with a superficial spirit or in bad faith could one imagine that Pope Francis and the Holy See would abandon the flock of Christ, wherever or in whatever condition it finds itself in the world,” Filoni said.

“Therefore, we must continue to work to improve the perception of the faithful, who are often influenced by media messages that are not altogether correct or balanced and find it difficult to understand the due discretion that surrounded the dialogue between the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China,” he continued.

“The Pope, together with his coworkers, has done, is doing, and will do all that is possible to be close to the Church in China. Our methods are not infallible, but we truly love the Church and the Chinese people,” Filoni said.

Filoni said that he hopes “not to hear or read about local situations in which the Agreement is exploited to compel people to do what is not even required by Chinese law, such as joining the Patriotic Association.”

“In the sixty years since the creation of the Patriotic Association, everyone, in perhaps an unequal and dramatic way, has suffered, both in a physical and moral sense,” he said.

“It is the Lord who guides history. Therefore, I would hope that, first of all, in dealing with any possible dilemmas, they would know always how to see the other with trust, even if some aspects of the current situation are perceived as injustices and with difficulty,” Filoni said.

Zen responded, “His Eminence loves to have legitimate reservations about what the Holy See does, but in the meantime he accuses me of not rowing in harmony with the barque of Peter.”

Several Chinese bishops participating in the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) also spoke out about the Vatican-China agreement this month.

The theme of this year’s CPPCC assembly meeting is “the study and application of Xi Jinping's thinking on socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era.”

Bishop Vincent Zhan Silu of Mindong (Ningde), a member of the CPPCC, told Chinese press at the meeting, “There will be no official or unofficial Church when the Church is united,” reported UCA News.

Mindong is one of two dioceses in China in which an underground bishop was asked to step down to be replaced by a formerly excommunicated bishop.

Pope Francis reportedly asked the former bishop of Mindong to step down in obedience and “in sacrifice” so that Chinese government-appointed Bishop Zhan could take his place through a letter signed by Cardinal Filoni and Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin.

In response to a question about what this would mean for the underground church, Zhan responded, "Don't you want the Church to be united? A Church schism is not the fundamental aspiration of Catholics."

Cardinal Zen questioned, “Can the gentlemen at the Vatican tell us what we have gained with that agreement? Is it true that the Chinese communists have finally recognized the authority of the pope? Has the spokesperson of the Patriotic Association and the bishops’ conference not publicly declared that they will maintain the principle of the independent Church and that they will follow the leadership of the Party?”

Assisted suicide bill advances in Maryland despite lack of 'meaningful safeguards'

1 week 2 days ago

Annapolis, Md., Mar 8, 2019 / 02:45 pm (CNA).- The lower house of the Maryland legislature passed a bill Thursday to legalize assisted suicide, in the face of critics' concerns about a lack of safeguards and economic discrimination.

The House of Delegates approved the End-of-Life Options Act by a 74-66 vote March 7.

Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore has said the bill would “further undermine the dignity of human life.”

“Physician-assisted suicide is not a partisan issue, and those who are concerned about the health disparity and economic discrimination issues raised by the bill stand in strong opposition to its passage,” said Jennifer Briemann, executive director of the Maryland Catholic Conference.

“Among those in opposition were a majority of the members of the Legislative Black Caucus and many members of Democratic House leadership, and we applaud their courage to stand up to the out-of-state interests pushing this predatory agenda.”

“We call on the members of the Maryland Senate and Governor Hogan to act swiftly to decry the action of their colleagues in the House and stop this dangerously flawed bill from advancing.”

Maryland Against Physician Assisted Suicide, a coalition opposed to the bill, expressed hope that the Senate would recognize “that the legislation simply does not address any of the dangers that physician assisted suicide poses to Maryland.”

“As coalition members have said all along, there are no meaningful safeguards in this legislation to protect against the coercion and abuse of seniors, the disabled, and other vulnerable populations. There is no way to address the fact that patients in states where this practice is legal are requesting the lethal drugs because they feel like burdens on their families, not because they are in pain … Alongside these dangers, this practice distorts medical ethics and devalues existing end-of-life care.”

This is the fourth attempt in five years to legalize assisted suicide in the state. The move is being supported by the Compassion and Choices, an Oregon-based group that advocates for assisted suicide, and the bill is based on Oregon's assisted suicide law.

Similar bills were introduced in 2015, 2016, and 2017, but were withdrawn before they could be voted down.

If passed, the bill would permit doctors to prescribe lethal medications to adult patients with a terminal illness and six months left to live. The bill would overturn a 1999 Maryland law that banned assisted suicide, and it would protect from prosecution doctors who prescribe the drugs. It would require that a patient make two oral and one written request to a physician, waiting two to 15 days between requests.

Physicians who decline to provide the lethal medication would be required to refer the patient to another doctor.

The bills have also been opposed by groups such as the Maryland Psychiatric Society and Baltimore City Medical Society.

The MCC found that, under the bill, no assessment screens for depression nor is there a supervisor to ensure a patient is not pressured into the process. The bill also does not require a medical professional to be present during the suicide, or a contingency if the attempt is unsuccessful.

Delegate Nic Kipke noted that “if people cannot afford treatments they need for their care, and if people are making choices based on economic factors that is not consistent with choice or safety from coercion,” WAMU reported.

The Senate version of the bill has at least 19 sponsors in the 47-member body.

Governor Larry Hogan, a Catholic and a Republican, has not indicated whether he would sign the bill. The Baltimore Sun reported that Hogan has said the bill is “one that I really wrestle with from a personal basis.”

Assisted suicide is legal by law in the District of Columbia, Washington, Oregon, California, Vermont, Hawaii, and Colorado; and in Montana through a state supreme court ruling.

According to MAPAS, Dr. Joseph Marine, an associate professor of medicine at John Hopkins, said this kind of end-of-life care is dangerous to Maryland, noting other states have already witnessed its ugly effects.

“We are already seeing reports of insurance companies in some states declining to cover the cost of life-extending treatments, and instead paying for these drug overdoses that end a patient’s life.”

During debate on the bill, Delegate Joseline Peña-Melnyk said that “we have 40 years of documented evidence that this is not a problem and there has never been abuse.”