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Australian bishops dedicate start of Lent to abuse victims

Tue, 02/13/2018 - 2:16 AM

Sydney, Australia, Feb 13, 2018 / 12:16 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The bishops of Australia have called on the faithful of the country to begin the season of Lent with four days of fasting and reparation for victims of sexual abuse within the Church.

One suggested prayer for the penitential period asks God: “May all those who have been abused physically, emotionally and sexually by your ministers be respected and accompanied by tangible gestures of justice and reparation so that they may feel healed with the balm of your compassion.”

It adds: “We pray that your Church may be a secure home where all children and vulnerable adults are brought closer to your Beloved Son.”

The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference in a Feb. 5 message asked Catholics to dedicate Feb. 14-17 as days of fasting and reparation for cases of sexual abuse within the Church.

They said that they and other Church leaders have often expressed sorrow and apologies for “the harm suffered by victims and survivors, the instances of cover-up, the failure to believe survivors’ stories and to respond with compassion and justice, and the distress that many still experience.”

“Our apologies have at time seemed too little – not because they were insincere, but because trust has been broken,” they said. “We stand firm in our resolve to ensure that the abuse of children never happens again in the Catholic Church and to build new bonds of trust.”

The bishops released several liturgical and prayer resources for use in the home or in the parish and other public settings.

“Through fasting, we stand in solidarity with the victims and survivors of abuse whose much deeper hunger is for healing and peace in their lives,” they explained. “Through reparation, we make amends for the sin of those in the Church who abused children or failed to listen and act when they should have.”

“The days of fasting and reparation in sorrow for child sexual abuse and for the healing of victims and survivors will be marked by prayer – in our homes and in our Catholic communities,” said the bishops.

The call for prayer, fasting and reparation comes in the wake of the December 2017 release of the Royal Commission’s final report on Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

The commission was established in 2013 to investigate the handling of child sex abuse allegations by religious groups, schools, government organizations, and sports associations.
Numbers garnered from the various testimonies gathered show that claims of child sexual abuse have been made against 384 diocesan priests, 188 religious priests, 579 religious brothers, and as many as 96 religious sisters since 1950. Seven percent of Catholic priests in Australia serving between 1950 and 2009 have been accused of child sex crimes.

Among religious institutes, 40 percent of the members of the St. John of God Brothers in Australia have been accused of child sexual abuse. More than 20 percent of the Christian Brothers, Salesians, and Marist Brothers have faced accusations. Claims have also been made against some 543 lay workers in the Church.

In March 2016, Cardinal George Pell, the former Archbishop of Sydney, was accused of inappropriate sexual behavior by three men who were minors at the time at St. Alipius school in Ballarat. He has denied the charges, but took a leave of absence from his responsibilities leading the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Economy in order to defend himself in court.

Australia’s bishops said the conclusion of the Royal Commission means a “new moment” for Australia and for the Church.

“We are calling upon the Catholic community in Australia to embrace this new moment by beginning the penitential season of Lent with four days of fasting and reparation,” they added. “These are spiritual practices which express our desire for God’s reconciling and healing grace.”

The bishops encouraged the Catholic Church to “make the journey from Ash Wednesday to Easter.”

“We cannot undo the past. With God’s help, we can make the future better,” they said.

The bishops stressed the Church’s commitment to policies, procedures and structures that better respond to survivors of abuse and their families. The Church has worked “to establish professional standards for all ministers and Church workers” and “to safeguard children and vulnerable people.”

“For the Church, as for other institutions, this has involved gradual learning and development, and so it will continue to be,” they continued.

The Royal Commission recommendations were sometimes controversial, such as a recommendation that priests be legally obligated to disclose details of sex abuse revealed in the confessional or face criminal penalties. Under Church law, a priest who breaks the seal of confession faces automatic excommunication.

The report also said priestly celibacy should be made optional.

The bishops’ letter and the prayer resources are available at


Bishop Rhoades: 'I strongly disagree' with Notre Dame contraception decision

Mon, 02/12/2018 - 7:00 PM

South Bend, Ind., Feb 12, 2018 / 05:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend issued a statement on Thursday criticizing the University of Notre Dame’s recent decision to provide “simple contraceptives” on its insurance plans for faculty and students.

The university is located in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.

In the Feb. 8 statement, published on the diocesan website, Rhoades said that he “strongly disagree[d]” with Notre Dame’s decision to provide funding for contraception, and that the school is now “even more directly” contributing to immoral behavior.

“The Catholic Church clearly teaches that contraception is an immoral action that contradicts the truth of marital love,” Rhoades wrote.

Previously, the university worked with a third-party administrator to provide contraceptives without the involvement of the school, but Notre Dame President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C. announced in a letter last week that this relationship would be ending. Jenkins said he was concerned that the types of drugs covered by the third-party plan included contraceptives that could potentially cause an abortion, so he made the decision to drop this plan altogether. Instead, the school will now pay for a limited range of contraceptive drugs.

In the letter, Jenkins cited a concern for respecting the religious beliefs of others who use contraception after prayerful discernment as for why the school would be providing the drugs. Bishop Rhoades rejected this line of thought as misguided, and said that it was wrong for those people to expect the school to fund things contrary to Catholic teaching.
“Members of the community who decide to use contraceptives, however, should not expect the university to act contrary to its Catholic beliefs by funding these contraceptives,” said Rhoades. He said Notre Dame may have missed a chance to be a witness of Catholic faith and teaching, even if this would not have pleased everyone.

“Not providing funding for contraception would not be popular with some, but it would truly be a prophetic witness to the truth about human sexuality and its meaning and purpose.”

Bishop Rhoades said that he understands that not everyone fully understands or appreciates what the Church teaches about contraception.

“I encourage all who struggle with this teaching to study prayerfully this teaching of the Church, and I especially recommend the study of the encyclical of Blessed Pope Paul VI, Humanae Vitae, during this 50th anniversary year of the encyclical, as well as the rich teaching of Pope Saint John Paul II in his catecheses on the ‘theology of the body.’”

“I hope and pray that the University will reconsider its decision,” Rhoades concluded.


Florida resolution could label pornography a 'public health risk'

Mon, 02/12/2018 - 6:55 PM

Tallahassee, Fla., Feb 12, 2018 / 04:55 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A proposed resolution in Florida would declare pornography a public health risk, allowing for greater education and research into the hazards of porn, especially among developing children and teens.  

“It’s trying to raise agreement and awareness as to [pornography’s] risks,” said Michael Sheedy, executive director of the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“I don’t think the risks are limited to children alone, but there is a focus in the resolution on it,” he told CNA.

Sponsored by Republican Rep. Ross Spano, the resolution passed 18-1 on Jan. 18 in the House Health and Human Services Committee. On Tuesday, Feb. 13, it will be considered in the House Commerce Committee before it is sent to the full House of Representatives sometime before March 9.

A similar piece of legislation has also been sent to the Senate, but has not been read in committee. However, Sheedy said, the House resolution does not require approval from the Senate or governor to pass.

Spano originally sought to label pornography as a “health crisis,” but changed the words to “health risk” to increase support, according to Orlando Sentinel.

Speaking before the Health and Human Service Committee, Spano outlined studies showing that pornography use risks damaging relationships and human development.

“Research has found a correlation between pornography use and mental and physical illnesses, difficulty forming and maintaining intimate relationships, unhealthy brain development and cognitive function, and deviant, problematic or dangerous sexual behavior,” he said.

This resolution would not ban pornography or create legal consequences for its use or distribution.

However, Sheedy said it would be the first step in paving the way for more research and education on pornography’s hazardous effects, especially among children and teens.

“It’s a recognition that children are especially at risk given changes in technology – having more access to pornography than ever before – and the effects on their development and their sexuality. “

The resolution says that “a child who views pornography is at a higher risk of developing low self-esteem, an eating disorder, and a desire to engage in risky sexual behavior.”

A website called People Not Porn – endorsed by the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops – has been created to raise awareness of the resolution and to educate the public on the dangers of pornography.  

The website states that 27 percent of people ages 25-30 have admitted to seeing pornography before they hit puberty. Additionally, 64 percent of 13-24 year-olds will actively seek out porn once per week or more.

If Florida succeeds in passing a resolution acknowledging the risks of pornography, it will not be first state to do so. Since 2016, Tennessee, Arkansas, South Dakota, and Utah have all declared pornography a public health crisis. Virginia has labeled pornography as harmful to the public.


Cardinal Cupich launches Amoris Laetitia seminars for US bishops

Mon, 02/12/2018 - 6:05 PM

Denver, Colo., Feb 12, 2018 / 04:05 pm (CNA).- The Archbishop of Chicago has invited some U.S. bishops to a series of conferences on the 2016 apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia. The seminars will be held at three Catholic colleges later this month.

According to a letter obtained by Catholic News Agency, the meetings, dubbed “New Momentum Conferences on Amoris Laetitia,” are designed to offer a “tailor-made program that goes from why Amoris Laetitia provides New Momentum for Moral Formation and Pastoral Practice to how to provide formative pastoral programs.”

“The aim is to gather fifteen to twenty Bishops to have a conversation with the aid of theologians on the related topics,” the letter said.

The letter, written by Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, explains that the conferences are modeled after a seminar of bishops and theologians discussing Amoris Laetitia held at Boston College in October 2017.

“The seminar treated the full document giving particular focus to its reception in the multi-cultural and diverse environment that characterizes the Church in the United States,” Cardinal Cupich wrote.

“Both the bishops and the theologians universally agreed that our two-day seminar was an exercise in synodality, a walking together in which the Church both taught and listened. In fact, in keeping with the counsel of Pope Francis at the start of the 2014 synod, the Boston College participants spoke with candor and boldness, parrhesia, but they also listened with humility,” the letter explained.

The letter said that Cardinal Kevin Farrell, Prefect of the Dicastery on Laity, Family and Life, encouraged and endorsed the upcoming conferences, which will be held at Boston College, the University of Notre Dame, and Santa Clara University.

The upcoming seminars come in the wake of a speech given by Cardinal Cupich Feb. 9, at the Von Hügel Institute, at St. Edmund College, in Cambridge, England.

In that speech, Cardinal Cupich said that “Pope Francis is convinced of the need for a new ministerial approach to families as he looks at the challenges facing families in today’s world.”

He added that “some people misinterpret and misunderstand Amoris simply because they fail or refuse to take into account the present reality in all its complexity.”  

Cardinal Donald Wuerl and Archbishop Wilton Gregory are scheduled to speak at the upcoming Boston College seminar. Cardinals Joseph Tobin and Blase Cupich will present at the University of Notre Dame. Bishops Steven Biegler and Robert McElroy will present at Santa Clara University, according to the invitation.

Several theologians and a canon lawyer will also present at the upcoming seminars.

Among the theologians is Dr. Kate Ward, a professor at Marquette University. From 2012-2015, Ward was a national board member of Call to Action, a group that has called for the ordination of women to the priesthood, expressed support for same-sex marriage, and said that the Church should re-evaluate its “position” on the use of artificial birth control.

From 2006-2009, Ward served as a national board member of Call to Action Next Generation, a youth affiliate of the organization. She chaired that board from 2008-2009.

In 2006, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, then-prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Bishops, wrote that Call to Action’s activities “are in contrast with the Catholic Faith due to views and positions held which are unacceptable from a doctrinal and disciplinary standpoint. Thus to be a Member of this Association or to support it, is irreconcilable with a coherent living of the Catholic faith.”

Also scheduled to present is Dr. Natalia Imperatori-Lee, a theologian at Manhattan College.

Imperatori-Lee was also a presenter at the October seminar at Boston College. At that seminar, she criticized the Church’s “infantilization of the laity,” saying that “lay people are infantilized by a logic...where pastors serve as gatekeepers, offering permission for sacraments, rather than as counselors who accompany laypersons on their sacramental journeys.”

In a 2015 interview with the podcast Daily Theology, Imperatori-Lee described the late theologian and University of Notre Dame professor Fr. Richard McBrien as a mentor. According to the National Catholic Reporter, “McBrien advocated the ordination of women priests, an end to mandatory celibacy for priests, moral approval of artificial birth control, and decentralization of power in the church.”

In a 2016 essay in the magazine America, she wrote “any claim that there are only two kinds of humans, male and female, is simplistic.”

Msgr. Jack Alesandro, a canon lawyer from the Diocese of Rockville Centre, also presented at the Boston College seminar, and will present at the upcoming conferences.

At the 2017 seminar, Alesandro said that Amoris Laetitia “as a whole supports the idea that as time passes, sacramental marriages become more sacramental and therefore more indissoluble.”

Alesandro also said that Amoris Laetitia suggests new thresholds for the validity of consent to sacramental marriage. The document suggests “a superior capacity and resolve of the will is required of those entering sacramental marriage than of those entering a non-sacramental union,” he said.

He said the exhortation “is challenging judges in a tribunal process to discover whether both spouses, including the man, were at the time of the wedding truly capable at the time of tenderness in the sense described by the pope, the tenderness of a mother cradling her infant.”

“Spouses must be capable of entering a lifelong adventure, and able to renew it constantly if they are to exchange consent validly. It requires that they be friends on the journey. While they do not start out whole and complete, we know that, they must at least be able to grow into this vocation. If they’re incapable of that growth, or they’re really not committed to it, I don’t think they’re validly married, at least, not the Christian marriage.”

“Canon lawyers may find it difficult to get their juridical mind around love, if their thinking has become overly legal, which is another way of saying ‘secularized,’” he said.

According to the invitation, “there will be other theologians who will be invited to participate at one or more of the days.”

During his Feb. 9 speech, Cardinal Cupich said that Pope Francis has introduced a set of “hermeneutical principles” – principles of theological interpretation – that “force a paradigm shift” in the Church’s work with families.

Among the aspects of such a paradigm shift, Cupich said, is “rejecting an authoritarian or paternalistic way of dealing with people that lays down the law, that pretends to have all the answers, or easy answers to complex problems, that suggests that general rules will seamlessly bring immediate clarity or that the teachings of our tradition can preemptively be applied to the particular challenges confronting couples and families.”

Cupich further discussed the importance of discernment in conscience. The “voice of conscience—the voice of God...could very well affirm the necessity of living at some distance from the Church’s understanding of the ideal, while nevertheless calling a person ‘to new stages of growth and to new decisions which can enable the ideal to be more fully realized,’” he said, commenting on an excerpt from Amoris Laetitia.

The cardinal said that a pastoral, not “merely doctrinal,” approach is needed in work with families, because “the conscience based Christian moral life does not focus primarily on the automatic application of universal precepts. Rather, it is continually immersed in the concrete situations which give vital context to our moral choices.”

The result of such a pastoral approach, Cupich said, “is not relativism, or an arbitrary application of the doctrinal law, but an authentic receptivity to God’s self-revelation in the concrete realities of family life and to the work of the Holy Spirit in the consciences of the faithful.”

Further, the cardinal said, “doctrinal development is about remaining open to the invitation to see our moral teachings on marriage and family life through the lens of God’s omnipotent mercy."

"Doctrine can develop as a result of the Church’s merciful accompaniment of families because God has chosen the family as a privileged place to reveal all that the God of mercy is doing in our time,” he added.

The cardinal concluded by saying that a failure to approach questions related to marriage and family life with a “holistic approach” has “led some critics to misinterpret and misunderstand Amoris. Instead of actually attending to the present reality of people’s lives today in all of its complexity, they limit their scope to an idealistic understanding of marriage and family.”

The letter inviting bishops to the upcoming conferences explained that transportation costs would be covered by “foundation grants.”

The Boston College event was sponsored by the Jesuit Institute, the Archdiocese of Chicago, the Cushman Foundation, Healey Foundation, and Henry Luce Foundation.

According to its tax forms, the Cushman Foundation provided the Archdiocese of Chicago a $12,300 grant in 2015 to fund periti, or theological experts, to the Synod of Bishops on the Family, in which then-Archbishop Blase Cupich participated.

The Henry Luce foundation has given at least $600,000 in grants to Commonweal Magazine since 2005, it has also given grants to a number of Catholic universities and theology programs. In 2007, it gave a $25,000 grant to the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual, according to grant listings on the foundation website. It also gave a one-time $9,500 grant in 2015 to the Archdiocese of Chicago “to support communications during the Ordinary Synod of the Roman Catholic Church.”
The foundation’s website says it “seeks to bring important ideas to the center of American life, strengthen international understanding, and foster innovation and leadership in academic, policy, religious and art communities.”
The Luce Foundation’s Theology program gives grants to “advance understanding of religion and theology.”
“Particular attention is given to work that rethinks what theology is and reimagines its contemporary significance; to research that creatively examines received assumptions about religion, secularity, and public culture; and to projects located at the intersections of theological inquiry and the multidisciplinary study of religion,” the foundation’s website says.

Sources told CNA that the USCCB is not involved in the New Momentum Conferences.

The Archdiocese of Chicago did not respond to questions before deadline.



Pope Francis: To fight human trafficking, listening to survivors is key

Mon, 02/12/2018 - 5:21 PM

Vatican City, Feb 12, 2018 / 03:21 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- On Monday, Pope Francis urged all people, and youth in particular, to meet with victims of human trafficking in order to learn more about how to fight the scourge of modern-day slavery.

Youth are in “a privileged place to encounter the survivors of human trafficking,” the Pope said Feb. 12. “Go to you parishes, to an association close to home, meet them, listen to them.”

Change starts with encounter, he said, so “don’t be afraid to encounter them. Open your hearts, let them enter, be ready to change.”

He urged youth who have been victims to speak out to others in order to help protect them and make them aware of the risks.

“Everyone who has been a victim of trafficking is an inexhaustible source of support for new victims and it's important [to listen to them],” the Pope said, adding that “youth who have encountered organized crime can play a key role in describing the dangers.”

He also encouraged young people to overcome fear and learn the warning signs of trafficking.

Pope Francis spoke off-the-cuff Monday at a question-and-answer session falling a few days after the World Day of Reflection Against Human Trafficking.

During the encounter, Francis received questions from five youth – four women and one man – both migrants and non-migrants, who asked about how young people in the Church can fight the conditions in which trafficking thrives and how they can help other young people from falling into the illusions presented by traffickers.

Pope Francis stressed the importance of encounter. He thanked all the parishes, schools and institutions that listened to his 2015 appeal for every parish, shrine, religious community and monastery in Europe to welcome a family of refugees.

“I ask you present here today to work in favor of opening to the other, above all when they are wounded in their own dignity,” he said.

Social networks and media can also play a key role in helping to create these spaces, the Pope said, explaining that “the internet can offer great possibilities for encounter and solidarity among everyone, and this is a good thing, it's a gift from God.”

However, these networks can also be misused, he said, noting that “for every instrument that is offered to us, the choice that man decides to make is fundamental.”

Underlying the scourge of human trafficking, the Pope said, is not only a significant amount of ignorance, but also “little will to understand the extent of the problem.”

This, he said, is because it touches our consciences: “A country that does or allows trafficking doesn't like that this comes to light, because it would embarrass them a lot, so they cover it.”

Hypocrisy from those who condemn human trafficking while at the same time taking advantage of trafficked laborers or sex slaves presents a major obstacle to the abolition of trafficking, he said.

Speaking out against this can be an easier task for youth, the Pope said, because “they are less structured in their thought, less obscured by prejudices, more free to reason with their own mind. Youth don't have anything to lose.”

He called trafficking a “crime against humanity” and a form of slavery which is “unfortunately increasingly widespread, which involves every country, even the most developed, and touches the most vulnerable people in society: women and young girls, children, the disabled, the most poor, whoever comes from situations of familial or social disintegration.”

“We need a common responsibility and a stronger political will to succeed on this front,” he said.

Pope Francis also highlighted education as a concrete means of helping other young people avoid the snares and illusions of traffickers. He pointed to the example of St. John Bosco, who established schools and a center for prayer and education to welcome boys living on the street.

“Education is the name of peace. Education is also the name of development...never children without an education. This is the first step,” the Pope said.

He also discussed the conditions that can pave the way for trafficking, such as extreme poverty and unemployment, violence, and corruption in government.

For those who have been victims of trafficking, the Church can offer guidance in the healing and rebuilding process, Pope Francis said, explaining that the Church “has always wanted to be at the side of people who suffer, in particular children and youth, protecting them and promoting their integral human development.”

This is especially true for minors “who are often 'invisible', subject to danger and threats, alone and manipulable,” he said. “We want, also in the most precarious realities, to be your grain of hope and support, because God is always with you.”

Pope Francis also voiced hope that those who have witnessed the dangers of trafficking would find at the upcoming Synod of Bishops “a place to express themselves, from which to call the Church into action.”

The Synod, which will be held this October in Rome, will discuss young people, the faith, and vocational discernment. The Synod is primarily a gathering of bishops, but about a dozen young people will also participate.

However, some 350 young people will participate in a pre-synod meeting at the Vatican next month. Pope Francis encouraged those present at the trafficking Q-and-A to contact organizers and ask to participate in that event.

Analysis: Two former IOR senior managers found guilty of mismanagement

Mon, 02/12/2018 - 5:00 PM

Vatican City, Feb 12, 2018 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- A Vatican Court has found two former IOR senior managers liable for mismanagement, and ordered them to compensate the IOR for resulting damages.
IOR is the Institute for Religious Works, better known as “the Vatican bank,” although it is not actually a bank and it does not operate as a bank.
The news of the sentence against the IOR’s former senior managers was delivered Feb. 6 in a short release that provided no names, nor the amount of money to be compensated.
However, it was clear that the managers found liable were Paolo Cipriani and Massimo Tulli, respectively IOR general director and deputy general director until July 2013, when they stepped down following the outbreak of the so-called “Scarano case.”
Msgr. Nunzio Scarano was an official in the Administration for the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, APSA, which does work as a sort of Vatican Central Bank. Scarano was charged with corruption and calumny by a court in Rome and with money laundering by a court in Salerno, and the charges involved the way Msgr. Scarano used his IOR account.
For the record, as a member of the clergy and a Vatican official, Msgr. Scarano was perfectly eligible to hold a IOR account.
In September 2014, after Cipriani and Tulli resigned, the IOR began a civil liability action against them, supported by a comprehensive review of financial investments made by the IOR before mid-2013, the recent IOR release read.
According to the release, the Vatican court ruling “is an important step, illustrating the significant work of IOR senior management over the last 4 years to transform the Institute”, and demonstrates “IOR’s continuing commitment to strong governance, transparency in its operations, and its determination to meet best international standards.”
This court’s ruling was anticipated Feb. 3, during the ceremonial of opening of the Vatican judicial year.
The judicial year is by custom opened by a report by the Vatican Promoter of Justice, who functions as a public prosecutor.  The report reviews the court’s work over the prior year.
In his report, Promoter of Justice Giampiero Milani complained about the most recent Council of Europe’s MONEYVAL progress report on the Holy See / Vatican City State. The report urged the Vatican Court to prosecute alleged cases brought to their attention by the Financial Intelligence Authority.
The Promoter of Justice noted that certain slowness is due to the Vatican system of justice, that is intended to protect from allegations until these are proven beyond any reasonable doubt.
Milani then stressed that “two sentenced for self-money laundering” will be delivered in the near future, and mentioned “a judicial civil litigation started toward IOR’s senior managers, charged with mismanagement that caused highly onerous financial loss to the institute.”
Milano underscored that the senior managers “contested the merits of the charges,” and the issue “was complex and widely debated,” and the promoter finally “made an intervention to defend the public interest.”
Within one month, the full sentence will be available, and will clarify why Cipriani and Tulli were found liable for mismanagement.
It is noteworthy that the first IOR Annual report, published October 2013, recorded a 2012 profit of 86.6 million euro, while the 2013 report – issued July 2014 – recorded a 2.9 million euro profit.
The decrease was described as the result of “extraordinary expenses” and “corrections on investment funds managed by third parties” for 28.5 million euros in 2012 and 2013.
Is this the loss Cipriani and Tulli are considered liable for? And how much mismanagement in investments is due to their management and how much is due to those who took the helm of the Institute’s financial operations?
These questions will be filled once the full sentence will be published.
In 2017, Cipriani and Tulli were also found guilty in a Roman court of failing to provide information to another bank on three money transfers.
The sentence had to be read in its entirety: Cipriani and Tulli were found guilty of 3 out of 9 charges, and they were minor charges, compared to those that began the trial.
That story began in 2010, with a decision by an Italian prosecutor to preventively seize money transferred by the IOR.
According to the prosecutor, the IOR did not fulfill its obligation of “reinforced due diligence”  when it transferred 20 million euro to JP Morgan and 3 million euro to Banca del Fucino from a bank account the Vatican financial institute held in the bank Credito Artigiano. At the time, the IOR was considered an entity in a non-European jurisdiction, that is “not equivalent” to the Italian jurisdiction.
The Vatican then adopted law n. 127, that is the first Vatican anti-money laundering law. Because of this, the Italian prosecutor revoked the seizure, as “there is no possibility of application, even because of new occurring facts.” That is, the seizure revocation was motivated by the adoption of a general law. Was it really sufficient to fulfill the requirements?
In the meantime, the Holy See carried forward its anti-money laundering reform: “law 127” was replaced by a new law, following recommendations expressed by Council of Europe’s committee MONEYVAL, which the Holy See joined  in 2011.
The new anti-money laundering law eventually led to the design of a brand new financial oversight system, and to the strengthening  of the Financial Intelligence Authority.
The change of pace given by the developments on new anti-money laundering law indicates the passage from a first phase focused on designing the anti-money laundering system to a second phase with a more stably designed system.
This second phase was marked by the issuance of Law n. 18 Oct. 2013, a comprehensive law governing the Vatican’s financial system, and by the strengthening of the Financial Intelligence Authority via new statutes approved Nov. 2013. The same year, the Financial Intelligence Authority and its Italian counterpart signed a Memorandum of Understanding.
The funds were repatriated to the Vatican Nov. 2014. In a release, the IOR underscored that “the repatriation" of the funds was possible thanks to "the introduction of a fully fledged anti-money laundering and supervisory system in the Holy See in 2013.”
Despite the fact that the funds had been repatriated, the trial against Cipriani and Tulli went on. The investigation started over an alleged lack of information on 155 transfers. In the end, the Italian prosecutor focused just on a few transfers lacking sufficient information.
So, beyond the 23 million transfer, the IOR was investigated for a 220,000 euro transfer operated by a certain Giacomo Ottonello; for a 100,000 euro transfer operated by a certain Giuseppina Mantese; for a 120,000 euros transfer operated by the Little Apostoles of Charity; for a 66,133 euros money transfer operated by Antonio D’Ortenzio; for a 70,000 euros transfer operated by Lelio Scaletti, who served as IOR general director; for a 100,000 euros transfer operated by Lucia Fatello; and 250,000 money transfer operated by “La Civiltà Cattolica”.
While the Vatican’s legal framework had changed, the trial went on. However, the court could only focus on minor issues, while finding Cipriani and Tulli not guilty of money laundering.
As the civil trial in Italy had a generally positive outcome, it is unclear why the Vatican prosecutor found the two former managers liable for mismanagements, especially considering that no investment could be undertaken without the approval of the IOR’s Council of Superintendency.
The IOR’s internal procedures will continue change. The Council of Superintendency met this week, and approved some reforms to the 1990 modification of the IOR’s statutes. According to sources, the reform will eliminate the college of auditors and will establish a new overseeing body within the Institute’s ranks.
This reform must be approved by the Cardinal’s Commission, chaired by Cardinal Santos Abril y Castello.


It’s a miracle: Lourdes healing officially declared supernatural

Mon, 02/12/2018 - 4:00 PM

Lourdes, France, Feb 12, 2018 / 02:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A miracle was officially recognized at the Marian shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in France this week, the 70th Lourdes miracle recognized by the Catholic Church.

The miracle was officially declared by Bishop Jacques Benoit-Gonin of Beauvais, France on Feb. 11, the World Day of the Sick and the feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes. During Mass at the shrine’s basilica, Bishop Nicolas Brouwet of Lourdes announced the miracle.

The miraculous event involved a French nun, Sister Bernadette Moriau, who went on a pilgrimage to the shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in 2008. She had been suffering from spinal complications which had rendered her wheelchair-bound and fully disabled since 1980. She also said she had been taking morphine to control the pain.

When Sister Moriau visited the Lourdes Shrine almost a decade ago, she said she “never asked for a miracle,” according to the Associated Press.

However, after attending a blessing for the sick at the shrine, something began to change.

“I felt a [surge of] well-being throughout my body, a relaxation, warmth…I returned to my room and there, a voice told me to ‘take off your braces,’” recalled the now 79-year old nun.

“Surprise. I could move,” Moriau said, noting that she instantaneously walked away from her wheelchair, braces, and pain medications.

Moriau’s case was brought to the attention of the International Medical Committee of Lourdes, who extensively researched the nun’s recovery. They eventually found that Moriau’s healing could not be scientifically explained.

After a healing is recognized by the Lourdes committee, the paperwork is then sent to the diocese of origin, where the local bishop has the final say. After the bishop’s blessing, a healing can then be officially recognized by the Church as a miracle.

The shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in southern France is a popular pilgrimage destination for individuals with special devotions to Mary and for those seeking miraculous healings. It is the site where young Bernadette Soubirous witnessed Marian apparitions, beginning on Feb. 11, 1858. The shrine also holds a spring of water which is said to have miraculous healing properties.

While there have been more than 7,000 miraculous recoveries attributed to the intercession of Our Lady of Lourdes at the French shrine, only 70 cases have been officially recognized by the Catholic Church. A miraculous recovery must generally be a complete, spontaneous, and immediate healing from a documented medical condition.

The last official miracle attributed to the intercession of Our Lady of Lourdes was declared in 2013.


The historically black Catholic university founded by a saint

Mon, 02/12/2018 - 2:00 PM

New Orleans, La., Feb 12, 2018 / 12:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Of the 106 historically black colleges in the United States, only one is Roman Catholic - Xavier University of Louisiana.

But Xavier is also the only Catholic college, of the United States’ 251 Catholic colleges, to have been founded by an American-born saint.

C. Reynold Verret, president of Xavier University of Louisiana, told CNA that the spirit and charism of St. Katharine Drexel, foundress of the school, continue strongly on campus today.

“She saw education as a transformative gift, and that’s something we need to understand today,” Verret said. “That education is not a gift to the individual, even though it does improve the life of the individual, but it’s a gift to the communities to which those individuals returned, in which they serve, it’s an ever-expanding gift.”

Katharine Drexel was born to a wealthy and devout Catholic family in Philadelphia in 1858, and shocked much of society when she decided to become a religious sister and a missionary to Native Americans and African-Americans.  

Supported by the inheritance from her father, Drexel and her Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament founded schools to serve these populations throughout the United States, including a Catholic secondary school for African-Americans in Louisiana in 1915.

By 1917, she also established a preparatory school for teachers, one of the few career tracks available to Black Americans at the time. A few years later, the school was able to offer other degrees as well and became a full-fledged university in 1925.

Drexel’s gift was her ability to see potential, and God’s presence, in all people, despite having grown up in a segregated world.

“There’s a famous New York Times interview in 1915 when...the reporter asked Mother Katharine - ‘why are you using this expensive Indiana limestone for a school for black children?’ And Mother Katherine said, ‘do they not deserve the best?’” Verret said.

“We often remind ourselves of that, and I think that comes from her spirituality, where she could see, despite living in a segregated country where some were more valued than others, somehow she could see value in all, and I think that is her charism,” he said.

That charism continues on in Xavier University today through its “rigorous academics, its great faculty, and expectations,” Verret said.

Besides being a top-ranked Historically Black College and University (HBCU), Xavier University also sends the most African Americans on to medical school of any HBCU in the country, Verret told CNA. The school is also one of the top HBCUs for sending students on to doctoral programs in the sciences, and has several alumni who are currently serving as federal judges, he added.

“We have great students, some who come to us and may not have had the pre-collegiate experience that they needed or deserved,” Verret said. “But we recognize where their gaps are and address them and they graduate.”

Verret said that the Catholic Church has a rich tradition in the black Catholic community from which to draw, and that the Church can continually grow and learn when it comes to reaching out to the black community. During Katharine Drexel’s time, many Catholic Churches and institutions operated with the same segregation as the rest of the country.

“As a human institution we fall short of God our Father and the calling of Jesus, but that’s not (surprising) because we’re human institutions in the process of perfection - we are called to speak the truth and to bring real information and light before the world and into the Church,” he said.

The Institute of Black Catholic Studies out of Xavier University also examines the worship styles and cultural traditions of black Catholics in the country.

What is distinct about black Catholic culture can be seen clearly in the music and worship style of the community, Verret said.

“I would offer any parish to use the hymnal ‘Lead Me Guide Me’, created by the Institute of Black Catholic Studies in the late 70s and 80s,” Verret said. “The style of worship somewhat differs from the style of worship in the Northern European tradition - it is not quiet, it is much more expressive of spirituality, people sing, people express things with their hands.”

While Xavier University is historically black, the school has always been open to students of other races, and today’s student population is about 70 percent black and 30 percent students of other races.

This diversity provides students with learning opportunities both in and out of the classroom, Verret said, which can show students how to be united even with those who are different than they are, Verret said.

“In this moment we’re still struggling with - ‘who’s the other?’ We’re not assuming that we are all one people. But really we have an expansive global message [at Xavier] which is that we are one people and what we have to give is for the large community and the larger nation,” he said.

During February, which is Black History Month, the school is also sponsoring events and speakers to honor their cultural heritage, including an art exhibit,  a private screening of the movie Black Panther, and a screening of the HBCU series "Tell Them We Are Rising".

Verret added that he hoped the message that Xavier University sends through its students and alumni is one that continues to dissipate the myth that black students can’t perform as well as other students.

“We are disabusing the nation of the myth that was prevalent after the Civil War, which is that these young people are not educated and could not be educated at a high level. What Xavier did was to educate students who can sit and compete and be equal and present whether at medical school or law school...and these students demonstrate that they’re able to achieve and contribute at those levels, and that’s an important message.”

Pope, Bangladesh Prime Minister discuss Rohingya crisis at Vatican

Mon, 02/12/2018 - 10:05 AM

Vatican City, Feb 12, 2018 / 08:05 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Just two months after his recent visit to Bangladesh, Pope Francis on Monday welcomed Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to the Vatican, where they discussed positive inter-faith relations in the country and the need to find a lasting solution to the ongoing Rohingya refugee crisis.

According to a Feb. 12 Vatican communique, the conversation was cordial and highlighted the positive bilateral relations between the two countries and the success of Francis' Nov. 30-Dec. 2 visit to Bangladesh.

In particular, the “keen participation” of many non-Catholics was emphasized, as Bangladesh is a majority Muslim nation. Catholics are a small minority in Bangladesh, numbering only 375,000 – 0.2 percent – out of a total population of almost 156 million people.

The two spoke in English with the help of the Pope's official interpreter, Monsignor Mark Miles. As Hasina walked in, she told the Pope that she was “very glad you were able to visit Bangladesh,” and Francis expressed his own gratitude, saying “thank you.”

In the conversation, which lasted for 20 minutes, Francis and Hasina also discussed the Catholic Church's contribution to education in the country, as well as the State's efforts in promoting peaceful relations among different religious communities.

They also focused on the need to defend minorities and refugees. To this end, appreciation was voiced to the Bangladeshi government for welcoming Rohingya Muslim refugees, whose plight was a major underlying theme of the Pope's visit to both Burma – also called Myanmar – and Bangladesh last fall.

A largely Muslim ethnic group who reside in Burma’s Rakhine State, the Rohingya have faced a sharp increase in state-sponsored violence in their homeland, recently reaching staggering levels that have led the United Nations to declare the crisis “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

With an increase in persecution in their home country of Burma, more than 600,000 Rohingya have fled across the border to Bangladesh, and are living in refugee camps.

Pope Francis personally greeted 18 members of the Rohingya community who were present at a Dec. 1 interreligious encounter in Dhaka, Bangladesh, asking forgiveness on behalf of all who persecute the Burmese minority.

In the Pope's meeting with Hasina, the two voiced hope that a “just and lasting solution to their ordeal” might be reached soon.

After the meeting the Pope met the Prime Minister's nine-person delegation and the two exchanged gifts. For her part, Hasina gave Francis an image of a boat. Pope Francis in turn gifted Hasina the medal of peace, which he often gives to the heads of state he receives, as well as a copy of his 2018 Message for Peace and his environmental encyclical Laudato Si.

Hasina then met with Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Msgr. Antoine Camilleri, under-Secretary for Relations with States.

Pope Francis 'signs up' for World Youth Day in Panama

Sun, 02/11/2018 - 7:30 AM

Vatican City, Feb 11, 2018 / 05:30 am (CNA/EWTN News).- After the Angelus Sunday, with the help of a tablet and two young people, Pope Francis signed up for World Youth Day 2019 in Panama, announcing that registration for the international event has opened.

“I too, now, with two young people, sign up by means of the internet,” the Pope said Feb. 11, clicking “register” on a tablet. “There, I have enrolled as a pilgrim to World Youth Day,” he announced.

"We have to prepare ourselves. I invite all the young people of the world to live with faith and enthusiasm this event of grace and fraternity, both [those] going to Panama and [those] participating in their communities."

Pope Francis chose Panama to be the host of the next World Youth Day, an international gathering of youth which was started in 1985 by Pope St. John Paul II. Ordinarily held sometime in the summer months, in 2019 it will take place Jan. 22-27, to avoid Panama’s rainy season.

Before the Angelus, Pope Francis spoke about the day's Gospel, which tells of Jesus’ healing of a leper, noting that “in this context the World Day of the Sick is well placed.”

In the Old Testament, having leprosy made you unclean, and you would be separated from the community, Francis explained. Therefore, the leper in the Gospel of Mark would have felt unclean not only before other people, but also before God.

But Jesus is the true physician, and heals both our bodies and our souls, he said. Christ's compassion and mercy move him to reach out to the man suffering from leprosy, to touch him and to say: “I will it, be cleansed!” the Pope said.

Jesus’ act of touching the leper, which was forbidden by Mosaic law, makes the leper clean, he said. “In this healing we admire, in addition to compassion and mercy, also the audacity of Jesus, who is not concerned with contagion nor the rules, but is moved only by the will to free that man from the curse that oppresses him.”

Francis said that in fact, it is not illness that makes us unclean, or that we should fear, but our sins. And that we all need healing from selfishness, pride and corruption, which are the “diseases of the heart from which we need to be cleansed.”

The Pope then asked everyone present to take a moment of silence to look inside themselves, and to search out the impurities and the sins in their hearts. He also encouraged everyone to pray to God with the same words of the leper: “If you want, you can purify me.”

“Every time we approach the Sacrament of Reconciliation with a repentant heart, the Lord also repeats to us: ‘I will it, be cleansed!’” Francis continued. “Thus the leprosy of sin disappears, we return to live with joy our filial relationship with God and we are readmitted fully into the community.”

Dominicans worldwide pray for their deceased parents

Sun, 02/11/2018 - 7:00 AM

Washington D.C., Feb 11, 2018 / 05:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Dominican friars around the world celebrated a unique tradition last week: they offered Masses for their deceased parents and for all deceased parents of friars. Feb. 7 is specifically designated in the Dominican order’s liturgical calendar as a day of prayer for the deceased parents of all Dominicans.

The Dominicans regularly dedicate themselves to pray for the repose of souls. Each day the friars pray for the souls of those Dominicans who passed away on that date. And Dominican priests are bound to offer Mass for recently-departed brother priests.

“Most Dominican friars have heard at some point in their life that the Dominican Order is not only a good order to live in, it’s a great order to die in. That’s because from its foundation, the Dominican order has had a strong devotion to praying for the dead,” said Fr. Thomas Petri, O.P., academic dean of the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C., in an interview with CNA.

“Every day, friars gather to pray for the souls of their brothers who have died on that particular day. When a friar dies, his brethren who are priests are bound in obedience to offer a Mass for him, and one rosary each week said by a friar is for the souls of his deceased brethren.”

Petri thinks the custom of praying for deceased parents developed because “unlike other orders in the history of the Church, the Dominican order rejected a sense that that friars are cut off from their family, like men dead who rise again in the service of Christ,”

Despite their total dedication to the order’s mission, the Dominicans respect the fact that without their parents, they would not have been born, and therefore would have never become friars.

“In filial piety, we recognize that we wouldn’t be here without them. Therefore, we constantly pray for the parents of the brethren, and most especially, when the parents of the brethren die. Like our devotion to praying for our deceased brothers, we pray for our deceased parents and celebrate Mass for their repose.”

The Masses celebrated by Dominicans on Feb. 7 had a bit of an adjustment to the normal words of the liturgy. Petri explained that the friars prayed a special prayer that God would have mercy for their parents, and that one day, they themselves will be reunited with them in heaven.

“(...)we pray, in the words of the Collect for the Mass, that God have mercy in his compassion on our parents, forgive them their sins, and bring us to see them one day in the gladness of eternal joy.”


Bishops urge Nigerian president to address deadly violence & kidnappings

Sat, 02/10/2018 - 2:00 PM

Abuja, Nigeria, Feb 10, 2018 / 12:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Amidst violent clashes between nomadic-herdsmen and settled farmers in central Nigeria, Catholic bishops met with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, urging him to work towards a peaceful, equitable solution.

“Herdsmen may be under pressure to save their livestock and economy, but this is never to be done at the expense of other people’s lives and means of livelihood,” the bishops told Buhari. during their Feb. 8 visit to the Presidential Villa in Abuja.

The bishops decried the violent attacks in several Nigerian states, including the state of Benue, where 80 people have been killed and 80,000 displaced, according to the BBC.

The Nigerian government has proposed the creation of “cattle colonies” in central Nigeria to provide grazing land for northern herdsmen, who have moved south because of the desertification of the soil in northern Nigeria. They have violently clashed with the farmers of the region, as cattle have overtaken some farmed fields.

Some, including the bishops, have asserted that terrorist groups are embedded among the nomadic herdsmen.

“Violent attacks by unscrupulous persons, among whom are terrorists masquerading as herdsmen, have led to a near civil war situation in many parts of the country,” Archbishop Ignatius Ayau Kaigama of Jos told the Nigerian president.

“The silence of the federal government in the wake of these horrifying attacks is, to say the least, shocking,” the archbishop continued. “We therefore earnestly urge the government to take very seriously its primary responsibility of protecting the lives and property of its citizens and ensure that such mindless killings do not reoccur,” said Kaigama, who was accompanied by Bishop William Avenya of Gboko.

However, the bishops told Buhari on Feb. 8 that there must be a better solution, one that does not clearly favor one group in the dispute. The bishops called for an alternative plan that would include assistance for the farmers who have been victims of the attacks by the herdsmen.

“We would like to add our voice to those of other well-meaning Nigerians who insist that a better alternative to open grazing should be sought rather than introducing “cattle colonies” in the country. While thinking of how best to help cattle owners establish ranches, government should equally have plans to help the other farmers whose produce is essential for our survival as a nation.”

The bishops added, “We work with the people at the grassroots and, therefore, have first-hand information about what they are going through.”

During the meeting, the bishops also advocated for the government to address the growing number of kidnappings in Nigeria by investing in better technology to track down the perpetrators.  

The bishops concluded, “As the voice of the voiceless, we shall therefore continue to highlight the plight of our people.”


Pray for each other, Pope Francis tells Stigmatine Fathers

Sat, 02/10/2018 - 12:22 PM

Vatican City, Feb 10, 2018 / 10:22 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In an off-the-cuff speech Saturday, Pope Francis told members of the Stigmatine Fathers that in community life, fraternity is a grace which requires concrete prayer for each other, and that to hold onto resentment after arguments is a sin.

“The life of community, the life of fraternity, is difficult because there are human problems, jealousies, competitiveness, misunderstandings… Fraternity is a grace, and if there is no prayer, this grace does not come,” the Pope said Feb. 10.

You might say that you pray the Divine Office or meditate on the Gospel, but “do you pray for this brother, for the other… for the Superior?”

The sin is not to argue, Francis continued, pointing out that even in good marriages there are fights. The sin comes in the “rancor, the resentment that you keep in your heart, having quarreled.”

Pope Francis spoke to about 40 participants in the General Chapter of the Congregation of the Sacred Stigmata of Our Lord Jesus Christ, commonly called “Stigmatine Fathers.” The Pope opted to speak off-the-cuff, so copies of his prepared speech were instead handed out to participants after the audience.

Besides fraternity, Francis also spoke about the “terrorism” of gossip, which he said is like throwing a bomb to destroy another from afar.

To have a good community doesn't mean everyone has to be close friends, but you must have respect and esteem for one another, and you must pray for one another, he said, inviting those present to make an examination of conscience on this issue.

He also spoke about the wounds of Christ, especially the stigmata, which is found in the name of their order. As St. Bernard said, if you are depressed or if you have sinned, done this or that, “Go and take refuge in the wounds of the Lord,” the Pope said.

“Only the conscience of a 'wounded' Church, of a 'wounded' Congregation, of a 'wounded' soul or heart leads us to knock on the door of mercy in the wounds of the Lord.”

He encouraged them not to be ashamed of their devotion to the wounds of Christ, because it is their path to sanctification, and they are called to teach anyone “plagued” by their sins to find comfort there.

“A ‘wounded’ sinner finds forgiveness, peace and consolation only in the wounds of the Lord, not elsewhere,” he said.

In his prepared speech, Pope Francis invited the Stigmatine Fathers to revive both within themselves and their community the “fire of the Word of God.”

In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus announces: “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!” the Pope said. “Imitating the divine Master, you too are called to bring fire into the world.”

He noted that there is a good, holy kind of fire and a wrong kind, however. The wrong kind he said is that illustrated in the Gospel of Luke, when Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem, but sends messengers before him to a village of Samaritans, who did not want to welcome him.

The disciples, James and John, said, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?” But in answer to this, Jesus rebukes them. “This is the wrong fire,” the Pope said. “God in the Bible is likened to fire, but it is a fire of love…”

He encouraged them to announce the Gospel with meekness and joy like the founder of the Stigmatine Fathers, St. Gaspare Bertoni. “This is the style of evangelization of Jesus, our Master. He welcomed and approached everyone and conquered people with kindness, mercy, with the penetrating word of Truth,” he said.

“So you missionary disciples, who are evangelizers, can bring people to conversion, to communion with Christ, through the joy of your life and with meekness.”


Abortion funding limits get priorities right, bishops say

Sat, 02/10/2018 - 7:00 AM

Washington D.C., Feb 10, 2018 / 05:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The U.S. bishops have praised signs of progress against ‘abortion ideology,’ in response to a State Department report on new limits to U.S. funding for groups involved in abortion.
“Abortion undermines basic human rights, certainly for the child, and it also can wound the mother emotionally and physically,” Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York said Feb. 8. “U.S. tax dollars have no business going to organizations that are unwilling to pursue health outcomes for every person and instead insist on promoting and imposing their abortion ideology on women and children.”
Cardinal Dolan, speaking in his role as chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, said “I again applaud this administration for restoring our foreign assistance to its rightful goals of promoting health and human rights.”

The Feb. 6 report from the U.S. State Department’s Office of U.S. Foreign Assistance Resources is a six-month review of the implementation of the Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance policy, an expanded version of the Mexico City Policy. The original policy, first instituted under President Ronald Reagan in 1984, directs U.S. overseas family planning funding away from organizations that perform or support abortions overseas.
The report is early evidence that the “vast majority” of NGOs are “willing and able to comply with this policy and that compliance does not appear to undermine delivery of appropriate health services,” said the cardinal.
President Donald Trump reinstated the Mexico City Policy on Jan. 23, 2017, then ordered Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to extend the policy to other forms of monetary aid, like global health assistance, provided by all U.S. departments or agencies.
The new report, covering the period through the end of fiscal year 2017, said that almost all “prime partners” who have had the chance to accept the policy have accepted it. Only four of 733 partners declined funding under the new policy.
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List and co-chair of the 2016 Trump campaign’s pro-life coalition, welcomed the report.
“The overwhelming 99.5 percent compliance rate shows that the dire prognostications of abortion advocates have not come true,” she said. “The Trump administration’s pro-life policy has not reduced foreign assistance by a dime, but instead ensures that U.S. international aid partners act consistently to save lives, rather than promoting and performing abortion.”
Two major abortion providers, Marie Stopes International and International Planned Parenthood Federation, are among the partners that have declined funding linked to the new policy.
Previously, Marie Stopes received about $80 million per year in U.S. funds, about 17 percent of its donations. The organization has secured short-term replacement funds for most of that sum, but many programs may face losses in mid-2018, National Public Radio reports. It may shut down outreach teams for sexual and reproductive services for impoverished women in Madagascar, Uganda and Zimbabwe.
In January 2017, before the policy’s expansion, a spokesperson for International Planned Parenthood Federation said the organization could lose $100 million in annual funding for its non-abortion services.
“Only a tiny minority of extreme pro-abortion groups have stubbornly refused to put the wellbeing of all women ahead of their agenda,” Dannenfelser continued. “The funds they forfeited have gone to worthy providers who respect the life, dignity, and values of women and families worldwide, as well as the will of American taxpayers.”
At the same time, international funders are working to replace the prior U.S. funding, such as the She Decides NGO launched by the Dutch government. About $450 million has been raised from country donors, especially European governments, and private donors such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In July, Melinda Gates announced the foundation would boost family planning funding by 60 percent, another $375 million over the next four years, the U.K. newspaper The Guardian reports.
Many of the grantees in the State Department report are pass-through groups and it is unclear how many of their partners will comply with the new policy.
There are still assistance agreements made prior to the policy change that have not yet come under the new standard, the State Department report said.
The policy affected grants made through the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Defense. The agencies began implementing the policy in May 2017.
One Defense Department partner, a U.S. NGO, accepted the new policy requirements in all countries in which it is active but one.
As of Sept. 30, no HHS partners had declined to accept the policy. USAID reported that three centrally funded partners and 12 sub-awardee implementing partners refused to agree to the terms of the policy. The development agency is working to transition these organizations to other partners “while minimizing disruption of services.”
U.S. departments and agencies are including the policy provision in grants and agreements and are conducting trainings to ensure the policy is applied, the report said, adding that a standard contract clause is in development.
The report said there is a need to clarify that the provision must be included in U.S. department or agency awards to state or local government agencies, including state universities, “in the same manner as they include it in awards to U.S. NGOs.”
A further review is planned by Dec. 15, 2018.

Pontifical university offers new youth protection degree program

Sat, 02/10/2018 - 2:00 AM

Rome, Italy, Feb 10, 2018 / 12:00 am (CNA).- Rome's Pontifical Gregorian University will begin offering a two-year licentiate course in protecting minors, a move Fr. Hans Zollner SJ, said is a sign of the progress the Church has made in terms of abuse-awareness and prevention.

“In most countries ten years ago, five years ago, there was no talk about safeguarding. Now you have degree programs, certificates, diplomas,” he told CNA in a Feb. 9 interview.

“Why has this developed? Because people realize it's not only done by talking about it or by writing about it in articles or pointing the finger to this or that institution. What needs to be done is serious study.”

Fr. Zollner has been a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors and heads the Center for Child Protection (CCP) at the Gregorian University, which is offering the new licentiate course.

The two-year course will launch in October 2018 as an interdisciplinary university degree. Classes will be taught in English, and those who enroll will also participate in an internship based on their respective academic backgrounds.

The first semester will be dedicated to exploring the work of safeguarding minors, while the second will dig deeper into more theoretical study of what ‘safeguarding’ fully means. In the third semester students will participate in internships, and the final semester will be dedicated to writing a thesis.

The new licentiate was announced Feb. 9 during the graduation ceremony for the university's one-semester diploma course in safeguarding minors, which was launched by the CCP in 2016.

The objective of the diploma course is to form people who will eventually become child protection officers for dioceses, religious congregations, and similar organizations, as well as advisers and trainers in the field of safeguarding.

In his comments to CNA, Zollner said while other similar courses exist, the licentiate will be unique, because to his knowledge, it's the “very first full time, two-year academic program that is multidisciplinary and transdisciplinary” while also taking into account Pope Francis' new Apostolic Constitution “Veritatis Gaudium” on the nature and curriculum of ecclesiastical universities and institutions.

The licentiate, he said, is needed because although the diploma course gives a solid foundation child abuse prevention, “we also need people who are capable of adapting, inventing, creating new approaches to safeguarding in very different environments.”

While the diploma course allows students to gain the knowledge and experience needed in order to implement guidelines and policies when they go back to their countries and dioceses, the licentiate will take it a step further, he said.

“The scale of the problem and the breadth of the different issues that have to be tackled is enormous, and we Westerners don't have very much understanding of what's going on in some areas of the world,” Zollner said.

“We hope that we can get a real foot on the ground with people who are formed in-depth and know how to transmit a message that goes from head to heart. That's for us a goal with this new licentiate.”

He said that from what he's seen, the results of the diploma course have been largely positive, which is significant given the challenge of having people come together from various cultures with different attitudes in terms of talking about about child sexual abuse.

But despite the challenges, Zollner said “we have seen a transformation in a good number of them. I have been at the beginning and end of the semester with them and you see the difference not only in language, not only in how they use words, but in the whole attitude, how they talk about survivors of abuse.”

“It's not anything threatening, anything disturbing, sort of difficult to talk about, it is, but now they have the capacity to really empathize, to be compassionate, to really do what they will be asked to do, which is to accompany victims and do whatever they need to do so that abuse is prevented.”

This year there were 18 graduates of the diploma course, which was coordinated by Prof. Dr. Karlijn Demasure, executive director of the CCP, and Dr. Katharina A. Fuchs. Diplomas were awarded by the Institute of Psychology of the Pontifical Gregorian University, which founded the CCP in 2012.

Students who received their diploma came from all over the world, including countries such as Czech Republic, Ghana, India, Japan, Lebanon, Mozambique, Nigeria, Slovakia, Taiwan, Tanzania, Thailand and the United States.

One of the graduates, Sr. Perpetua of the Congregation of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus, who comes from the Bukoba diocese of Tanzania, told CNA that she signed up for the course “because there is a need to create awareness in my country because people are not aware about child sexual abuse.”

She said she feels “empowered” after taking the course, and that when she returns to her diocese, “I'll create awareness by education, by educating the children at the school, at universities, parents and society at large.”

Similarly, Perla Freed, Director of the Safe Environment program for the Archdiocese of Atlanta, said “people don't want to talk about child sexual abuse because it's not a happy subject,” but she enrolled in the course because she wanted “more of an awareness of this problem and how to confront it.”

Not having background in topics such as theology or canon law, Freed said getting formation in these areas was “a very good model” to follow in studying the various aspects of abuse and prevention.

She said she is looking forward to returning to her diocese where she can implement what she's learned, specifically in terms of prevention and victim assistance.

When it comes to abuse, “every case is heartbreaking and shouldn't happen,” she said, but stressed that the Catholic Church “is making a lot of efforts to ensure that those people are taken care of.”

“I think the Catholic Church, in the U.S. and in other countries, is an example of what everybody should be doing on child safeguarding all over the world,” she said. “We have the programs for schools, we have the training for adults working with those children and young people, so we're an example of what other public schools systems and other organizations working with youth should follow.”

In his comments to CNA, Zollner said the model of the course has been replicated by other entities throughout the world, including in Manila and in Mexico City, as well as in other institutions at the university.


USCCB praises disaster relief policy for churches

Fri, 02/09/2018 - 5:00 PM

Washington D.C., Feb 9, 2018 / 03:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The USCCB issued a statement Friday praising the early morning passage of the Bipartisan Budget Act, which, in addition to preventing a government shutdown, also codified into law a new FEMA policy that would allow churches and other houses of worship to apply for disaster relief funds.

The policy was developed by FEMA in January, after three Texas churches damaged by hurricanes sued the government claiming discrimination.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">U.S. Bishops Chairmen Commend Provisions in Budget Act that Ensure Houses of Worship Can Apply for Federal Disaster Assistance <a href=";ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#BudgetDeal</a> <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; US Catholic Bishops (@USCCB) <a href="">February 9, 2018</a></blockquote>
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As houses of worship--including churches, synagogues, and mosques--are often directly involved in the recovery effort after a natural disaster, it makes sense that they too are able to receive federal assistance with rebuilding, said a statement from  Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, chairman of the Committee for Religious Liberty, and Bishop Joseph C. Bambera, chairman of the Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.

"We applaud Congress for including provisions in the Budget Act that direct the Federal Emergency Management Agency to make disaster relief assistance available to houses of worship on the same terms as other nonprofit entities. These provisions ensure that houses of worship are treated fairly,” said the bishops.

Catholic skater Yuna Kim lights the Olympic torch

Fri, 02/09/2018 - 4:35 PM

Seoul, South Korea, Feb 9, 2018 / 02:35 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Catholic Olympic gold-medalist Yuna Kim lit the torch at the Opening Ceremony for the 2018 Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea on Feb. 9.

The Korean skating sensation has long expressed a desire to use her public role to share the light of Christ by witnessing to her Catholic faith in international competitions and performances.

Kim was honored as the final torch bearer to light the Olympic cauldron for this year’s games, after two athletes from the inter-Korean women’s hockey team, one skater from North Korea and another from the South, passed the flame along.

After making the sign of the cross as she stepped onto the ice to win gold in the 2010 Vancouver Games with a record-breaking score, Kim teamed up with Korean bishops for a national rosary campaign. Kim was seen wearing a rosary ring, which her fans had previously mistaken for an engagement ring, during her silver-medal performance at the 2014 Sochi Games.

The Olympian converted to the Catholic faith alongside her mother in 2008 after they came in contact with local nuns and Catholic organizations through her personal physician – also a Catholic – who was treating her for knee injuries.

At her baptism, Kim took the name “Stella” after Mary, Star of the Sea, and told a diocesan paper that during the baptismal rite she “felt an enormous consolation in my heart” and promised God to continue to “pray always,” especially before competitions.  

Kim has also been active in using her position as an opportunity for charitable works, volunteering and donating funds to Catholic Hospitals, universities, and other charitable organizations, and working alongside the Catholic bishops in Korea as a spokeswoman for Catholic charities in Seoul.

In 2012, Kim donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Salesian of Don Bosco to help support the missionary brothers in South Sudan and to establish Catholic Schools throughout the war-torn country, meeting with Salesian brothers in Seoul to personally deliver the gift.

She told Korean press that while visiting Africa in 2011 she “felt the need to help out children there,” and wanted “to offer what little support I can” to those in Africa.

Kim is now retired from competitive skating, but the 27-year-old has served as an ambassador for the 2018 Winter Olympics in her home country of Korea. She delivered the original presentation to the International Olympic Committee seven years ago, pitching South Korea as a potential host country, and has been present at most of the official events leading up to the games. She delivered a speech to the United Nations in 2017 advocating for the "Olympic truce" resolution.

Pope Francis said earlier this week that he is praying for the people of the Korean Peninsula during the Olympic games, “The traditional Olympic truce this year becomes especially important: delegations from the two Koreas will march together under a single flag and compete as one team. This fact gives hope for a world in which conflicts can be resolved peacefully through dialogue and mutual respect.”


Cardinal Zen continues criticism of possible Vatican-China deal

Fri, 02/09/2018 - 4:13 PM

Hong Kong, China, Feb 9, 2018 / 02:13 pm (CNA).- Cardinal Joseph Zen again had harsh words for the Vatican on Friday, saying that the proposed deal between the Vatican and the Chinese government-controlled Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association was not in the best interests of Chinese Catholics.

The Catholic Church in China is divided into the illegal “underground” Church, which remains faithful and in communion with Rome, and the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, whose bishops are appointed by the government. Members of the underground church are often persecuted by the Chinese government.

The agreement would reportedly legitimize the bishops of the Catholic Patriotic Association, and would force the underground church’s bishops into retirement. Cardinal Zen has been outspoken in recent weeks against the Vatican’s deal with the Chinese church.

Zen is the emeritus Archbishop of Hong Kong.

The Vatican and China have not had formal relations for the past 70 years, when the communist government took control in the country in 1951. The Chinese government is officially atheist, although there are a handful of state-approved churches in the country.  

At a press conference Zen expressed concern that despite assurances that Pope Francis would have final approval of over who is made a bishop in China, the Chinese government will still only nominate candidates who would be loyal and obedient to the government, Reuters reported.

He criticized the possible agreement as something that might sound “wonderful,” but is actually just “fake.”

He continued, “They are not going to make good choices for the Church ... surely they choose the one they prefer, which means the one who always obeys the government. So how (could) the Holy Father approve such a choice?”

“Okay, he can veto. How many times? It takes courage to veto the second time, the third time, five times,” Zen said.

He said that he fears that Pope Francis hasn’t been informed about the reality of the situation of the Church in China, and that he thinks the Vatican may be too quick to make an agreement with China.

But, said Zen--the current agreement is nothing more than a surrender on the Vatican’s part.

“I am not judging their conscience but ... it’s a surrender and they have no right to surrender.”

Notre Dame professor criticizes university’s provision of ‘simple contraceptives’

Fri, 02/09/2018 - 4:00 PM

South Bend, Ind., Feb 9, 2018 / 02:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- After the University of Notre Dame announced it would fund  “simple contraceptives” in its insurance plan, one Notre Dame professor has criticized the move, calling it “a giant leap into immorality.”

“Now the University [of Notre Dame] is to be sole funder and proprietor of a contraception giveaway,” wrote Notre Dame law professor Gerard V. Bradley in an essay published Thursday at Public Discourse.

“What is solemnly declared for years to be morally impossible is, suddenly, the substance of Notre Dame’s free choice,” Bradley wrote.

In a Feb. 7 statement, Notre Dame's president Rev. John I. Jenkins, CSC, announced that while the insurance plan at the university will not provide abortifacients, the school will fund the use of “simple contraceptives,” which apparently include drugs that prevent conception.

In the statement, Jenkins noted that contraception is indeed “contrary to Catholic teaching,” while explaining that offering contraception to the school was a way to “respect” other religious traditions and conscientious decisions - particularly decisions made by those in the university’s community who rely on access to contraception through the insurance plan.

This step came as a surprise to many, since the university was one of the institutions which sued the United States over the 2012 Obamacare contraception mandate.

“In its lawsuit, Notre Dame cited chapter and verse of Church teaching,” Bradley recalled.

“The University said, basically, that, to remain faithful to its beliefs, it could not be involved in any way whatsoever with a process designed to provide contraceptives to its employees, its students, or their dependents,” he continued.  

Bradley noted that “Notre Dame’s practice until just a few years ago exhibited all the ‘respect’ possibly due to those who want to contracept.”

The university “rightly did nothing,” he said, to make contraception available or cheaper, while at the same time, it “did not discriminate in the workplace against those who chose to contracept.”

While Bradley said the allowance for contraception will cause incalculable harm to “so many persons’ minds, bodies and souls,” he also noted that “Fr. Jenkins supplied a primer about how Catholics should make all sorts of morally important decisions that is not only mistaken, but catastrophic for the moral life.”

“Our moral duty to respect others’ choices does not have anything to do with giving them the means to do evil,” Bradley said, adding that “one should not respect another’s specific immoral choice at all.”

“Everyone’s immoral choices should be regretted, and their repetition discouraged, and their occurrences criticized appropriately,” he continued.

Bradley said he believes that Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, the diocese where Notre Dame is located, will speak out against the decision, noting that he will “have no choice but to publicly do so” in order to “protect all the faithful in his care from this grave scandal.”

Bradley said that the rationalization behind Jenkin’s most recent allowance for contraception is a “crucial mistake” which violates the sexual and moral teachings of the Catholic Church, as delineated in Pope Paul VI’s encyclical, “Humanae Vitae.”

“God does not want us to weigh up pros and cons of adhering to the moral truth,” Bradley said.

“And the greatest respect we can show others is to bear faithful witness to the truth.”


Vatican conference unites police and Church in fight against human trafficking

Fri, 02/09/2018 - 12:05 PM

Vatican City, Feb 9, 2018 / 10:05 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A conference on human trafficking and modern-day slavery was held at the Vatican Feb. 8-9, bringing together church leaders and senior police officers from more than 30 different countries to discuss progress and setbacks in initiatives.

It was the fifth meeting of the Santa Marta Group, a Pope Francis-endorsed international alliance of police and bishops, since its formation in 2014. The group was developed by the Catholic Bishops' Conference for England and Wales (CBCEW) and is named after the building where Francis lives in the Vatican.

The two-day meeting included reports from delegates of 18 countries, and several international agencies, as well as presentations by Greg Burke of the Holy See Press Office and Alexander DesForges, spokesperson of the England and Wales bishops’ conference.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols, archbishop of Westminster, told journalists Feb. 9 that he was “humbled” by what he heard from delegates. “What was important in this meeting was that members were willing to share their sense of failure as well as their sense of success,” he said.

Often in these kinds of meetings “it's all about saying how good we are, what we are going to do, our promises...” he noted. But this time, people felt comfortable enough with each other “to say, ‘Well, actually, we’re just beginning,’ or ‘Actually, this didn’t work,’” he said.

Nichols explained that estimates say there are 42 million people around the world currently enslaved in some form. “The drama of human trafficking,” he said, “has never been greater ever… than it is at this moment.”

Archbishop Augustine Akubeze of Benin City, Nigeria, was also present at the conference. He told journalists that the Nigerian bishops’ conference joined the Santa Marta Group because their country is one of the major countries of origin for trafficked people.

He said that because of the Santa Marta Group, the Nigerian government has become more aware of the issue and started to do more to tackle the problem, which he said stems in particular from a lack of education and a lack of jobs.

When people are in poverty, they are more easily tempted into trafficking, whether as a perpetrator or as a victim, he said. They also run awareness programs and teach in schools to help young people not be taken in by perpetrators.

They bring people to the Santa Marta Group meetings in order to “seek out more good ideas,” Akubeze said, “and then we go back home and try to do something.”

Cardinal Charles Bo, archbishop of Yangon in Bangladesh said that listening to the experiences of delegates from four different continents was interesting and the greatest advantage he personally gained during these meetings.

“After listening to the positive side as well as the weakness and the realities of human trafficking I think many of us who are working in this group have a new determination really to eradicate this curse of human trafficking,” he said.

Pope Francis met with participants of the conference at its conclusion Feb. 9. Speaking to Church and police leaders from around the world, he said that “experience shows that such modern forms of slavery are far more widespread than previously imagined, even – to our scandal and shame – within the most prosperous of our societies.”

“God’s cry to Cain, found in the first pages of the Bible – ‘Where is your brother?’ – challenges us to examine seriously the various forms of complicity by which society tolerates, and encourages, particularly with regard to the sex trade, the exploitation of vulnerable men, women and children,” he continued.

Francis said that initiatives to combat human trafficking must look not only at dismantling criminal structures, but also responsible use of technology and media. He added that we should also explore the ethical implications of economic models which put profit before people.

“I trust that your discussions in these days will also help to raise awareness of the growing need to support victims of these crimes by accompanying them on a path of reintegration into society and the recovery of their human dignity,” he said.

“The Church is grateful for every effort made to bring the balm of God’s mercy to the suffering, for this also represents an essential step in the healing and renewal of society as a whole.”