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US:    Judge shoots down Indiana abortion reporting law, upholds clinic inspection requirement 

CNA Staff, Jul 10, 2020 / 05:34 pm (CNA).- A federal judge ruled against an Indiana law requiring medical providers to inform the state if they treat any complications connected to a prior abortion.

U.S. District Judge Richard Young ruled Wednesday that the law was “unconstitutionally vague.” He said the legislation was unclear about how and when doctors should report potential complications, as well as what criteria should be used to determine whether a later condition is tied a previous abortion.

“The indeterminacy of the statute’s requirements denies fair notice to physicians and invites arbitrary enforcement by prosecutors,” Young wrote.

“The language of the statute does not make clear whether the duty to report covers conditions exclusively caused by the abortion procedure, conditions that are only slightly caused or exacerbated by the abortion procedure, or something in between.”

Under the law, there are 26 physical or psychological abortion-related conditions, ranging from depression to future pregnancy complications, that would require a report from doctors to the state. Failure to comply would be punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a $1000 fine.

In 2018 court documents, Attorney General Curtis Hill said the requirement “serves the public interest by collecting comprehensive data on the complications that may result from abortion and the frequency of those complications,” the New York Times reported.

Hill defended the law in a statement on Thursday, calling the legislation a “commonsense” regulation to safeguard women’s health.

“The Indiana General Assembly has a record of passing legislation that safeguards women’s health and protects the lives of unborn children,” Hill said. “I will always consider it an honor to vigorously defend state laws aimed at such essential objectives.”

At the same time, Young upheld another part of the law requiring abortion clinics to undergo annual inspections.

Planned Parenthood has objected to the law as unfair, since hospitals and surgical centers do not face the same yearly inspections.

However, Young pointed to the misconduct by abortionist Dr. Ulrich Klopfer, whose property was discovered after his death in 2019 to house more than 2,000 aborted fetuses. Klopfer operated several abortion clinics before losing his license in 2015.

Young ruled that “the state has offered a rational reason for the decision to subject abortion clinics to stricter inspection requirements.”



US:    Archdiocese drops music, prohibits concerts, after new allegations against David Haas

CNA Staff, Jul 10, 2020 / 05:22 pm (CNA).-  

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis said Thursday it has received new allegations of misconduct on the part of composer David Haas, and that Haas will be prohibited from giving concerts and workshops in the archdiocese, and that his music will be prohibited at archdiocesan liturgies.

The archdiocese said it had in recent weeks “received additional reports from women in different parts of the country alleging that David Haas engaged in inappropriate conduct with them in the 1980s, when the women were young adults. The conduct described in these new, independent reports is similar in nature to the conduct described in previous allegations. Haas has denied any wrongdoing,” in a July 8 statement from safe environment director Tim O’Malley.

“We are sharing this information in the interest of accountability and transparency and believe that it may assist others, as it has assisted us, in making informed decisions. Survivors of sexual harassment and abuse deserve support and understanding.”

“Indeed, our community as a whole has suffered much from those who have used positions of power or privilege to harm others. We have a responsibility to be mindful of this and do what we can to prevent further injury to those who have already suffered harm.”

“Archbishop Hebda has decided that David Haas may not give presentations at workshops, concerts, or similar events hosted by the Archdiocese, parishes, Catholic schools, or other Catholic institutions in the Archdiocese. Likewise, the Archdiocese will not use Haas’ compositions at Archdiocesan Masses and other Archdiocesan events.”

“Also, the Archbishop has encouraged pastors, principals, and leaders of other Catholic institutions to consider the sensitivities involved with using Haas’ music in liturgies or other parish or school events, and to take appropriate steps to fully support those who have been harmed by sexual assault or abuse.”

Allegations of sexual misconduct against Haas surfaced in early June, when a group called Into Account sent a letter to some Catholic organizations and media outlets, addressing allegations against Haas.

The letter, obtained by CNA June 14, said the group had “received reports from multiple individuals reporting sexually predatory actions from the composer David Haas.”

Haas told CNA he denies those charges.

On June 16, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis released a statement saying that it had “received two reports from another diocese that David Haas acted inappropriately with two adult women at an event in another state. Both women complained that Haas’ conduct made them feel uncomfortable. The Archdiocese had received an earlier complaint, in 1987, that Haas had made unwanted sexual advances toward a young adult woman. In each instance, Haas denied that he engaged in inappropriate conduct.”

The archdiocese said that in 2018, it informed Haas it would no longer provide letters of recommendation for his ministry in other dioceses, and that he would not be allowed to perform the St. Paul archdiocese “without disclosure of these complaints.”

The composer, a layman, is a central figure in the “contemporary liturgical music” movement that began in the 1970s. Among Haas’ songs are some contemporary standards: “Glory to God,” “You are Mine,” “We are Called,” and “Blest are They,” among others.

Several of Haas’ publishers have suspended or dropped their relationships with the musician since the allegations were made public.

CNA has spoken with an alleged victim of sexual assault by Haas, and with a woman who offered a picture of her experience with Haas in the 1980s.

Maria* told CNA that Haas invited her to dinner in the fall of 1980, ostensibly to discuss music ministry. She had recently attended a music workshop that he had put on in St. Paul, and he had reached out to her directly by phone, she says.

She says during the evening Haas professed love for her, and that while he was driving after dinner, he refused to bring her back to her dormitory when she asked him to repeatedly, taking her instead to a second restaurant for dessert, despite her continued requests to be taken home.

Maria alleges that Haas tried to hold her back when she eventually did get out of his car, insisting on a kiss goodnight.

In later weeks, she says Haas pursued her with love notes and tried to meet with her one-on-one, even while he knew she was dating a man she eventually married. She says she rebuked his advances, "but it could have gone bad fast if I hadn't seen the writing on the wall," Maria told CNA.

When the Into Account allegations came to light in May, Maria says she began to reassess what had happened to her. He had taken her out under false pretenses— using his position as a music minister to get her to agree to meet him— and would not allow her to leave the situation, she said.

Maria also remembers hearing rumors that other members of the choir in which she participated in college— which Haas helped to lead— had experienced similar “dates” with Haas.

She said she hopes her story might inspire other women from that choir to come forward with their own allegations.

*Maria asked for anonymity to avoid potential retaliation from Haas, professionally, and from the public.



Vatican:    Analysis: 2020, the year to make or break Vatican finances?

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jul 10, 2020 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- The Holy See is facing a perfect storm of a massive income shortfall, months of financial scandal, and a looming international banking inspection. As it prepares to weather the second half of 2020, a range of measures have been taken to shore up its finances and reputation. But will they be enough, or could they end up making matters even more complicated?

According to an apparently leaked internal memo published on Monday, all curial departments of the Vatican have been asked to move all their cash deposits to the Holy See’s central bank. The move signals the depths of the current liquidity crisis facing the Vatican, and raises a number of questions about its ability to mitigate it.

On July 7, Vatican journalist Marco Tosatti published the text of a letter supposedly sent to the heads of all curial dicasteries on May 8. Fr. Juan A. Guerrero, S.J., prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, said in the letter that the decision was taken after a May 4 meeting, led by Pope Francis, to respond to “this particularly negative economic juncture.”

According to the text of the letter, every Vatican department has been asked to move all their external cash deposits to APSA, which functions as the Holy See treasury, sovereign wealth manager, and administers payroll and operating expenses for Vatican City.

CNA asked the Holy See to confirm or comment on the leaked letter but received no response.

The instruction to move all curial funds to APSA is a dramatic step, exceeding previous attempts at financial centralization under Guerrero’s predecessor, Cardinal George Pell. It points to an acute cash crunch for the Holy See, and raises the possibility that it may already be struggling to meet daily operating expenses, including payroll.

In May, Guerrero said that in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the Vatican is forecasting a reduction in income between 30%-80% for the next fiscal year. While dismissing suggestions that this could lead to a default by the Holy See, Guerrero did say “that doesn't mean that we are not naming the crisis for what it is. We're certainly facing difficult years.”

Despite the loss of income, some Vatican departments maintain large investment and asset portfolios, most notably the Secretariat of State and the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples (Propaganda Fide).

But while moving all cash reserves and deposits held at external banks to APSA could provide a short-term liquidity bridge for the Holy See, it could also create fresh regulatory headaches for the Vatican, and will likely be difficult to achieve.

As CNA has previously reported, the Secretariat of State has maintained large cash balances with several external banks, including in Switzerland. However, transferring the balance of those funds could prove a far from straightforward process.

As reported previously, secretariat funds on deposit were used as security against a $200 million line of credit extended by two banks, Credit Suisse and BSI. The loaned funds were used, in part, to fund the secretariat’s controversial investment in a London building at 60 Sloane Avenue, which has led to the suspension of several curia officials and the arrest of Italian businessman Gianluigi Torzi.

In recent months, Swiss financial authorities have confirmed that several bank accounts, with balances totalling tens of millions of euros, have been frozen as part of an ongoing investigation into the London deal, led by Vatican prosecutors, making them likely hard to transfer.

It is also not clear if the arrangement of using cash deposits as collateral to secure loans to fund investments remains an ongoing practice for the secretariat with other banks. If it does, transferring those deposits to APSA could trigger the banks to call in their loans, adding a credit crunch to a cash shortage for the Vatican.

The text of the leaked letter from Guerrero appears to acknowledge some potential difficulties for different curial departments in complying with his “request,” noting that “where it is necessary to maintain a deposit with IOR or other banks for operational needs, I am kindly asking you to communicate this to this Secretariat [for the Economy] as soon as possible.”

Even if the Secretariat for the Economy is able to have all curial cash moved to APSA without serious financial penalties or complications, and even if this is sufficient to provide for the Holy See’s short-term liquidity needs, the move could still create other unexpected difficulties for the Vatican.

In September, Moneyval, the Council of Europe’s anti-money laundering watchdog, is set to conduct a two-week onsite inspection of the Holy See and Vatican City – the first since 2012.

The president of the Vatican’s Financial Information Authority, Carmelo Barbagallo has described the inspection as “especially important.” “Its outcome may determine how the jurisdiction [of the Vatican] is perceived by the financial community,” he said on July 3.

Moneyval is expected to arrive with its own list of concerns and questions following months of reporting on Vatican financial scandals. A key item on its agenda is likely to be the role of APSA.

Following the last onsite inspection in 2012, APSA agreed to stop providing services to individuals or taking part in commercial transactions, with these functions being transferred to the Institute for Religious Works (IOR), often referred to as the Vatican Bank, which maintains accounts for Vatican employees, individuals and religious groups. APSA was to be limited to administering the sovereign assets of the Holy See, meeting payroll and operational costs, and functioning as the national reserve bank of the Vatican.

In exchange for agreeing to step back from commercial activity, APSA was exempted from annual inspections by the Vatican’s Financial Intelligence Authority (AIF), whose efforts are in turn assessed by Moneyval.

In 2014, Pope Francis issued new norms, transferring oversight and control of APSA’s remaining investment functions to the Prefecture for the Economy, then headed by Cardinal George Pell.

The AIF’s 2015 annual report concluded that since it is no longer an “entity that carries out financial activities on a professional basis,” “APSA stopped being a part of AIF’s jurisdiction at the end of 2015.”

The 2015 AIF report which exempted APSA from further scrutiny said that “If APSA were to carry out financial activities on a professional basis, it would fall again under the jurisdiction of AIF which… must publish and update the list of subjects who must comply with the requirements set forth in [relevant law].”

But last year, Bishop Nunzio Galantino, head of APSA, acknowledged that it had loaned 50 million euros to finance the purchase of an Italian hospital, the Istituto Dermopatico dell’Immacolata (IDI), in 2015, even though APSA is prohibited from making loans that finance commercial transactions.

APSA was forced to write off 30 million of the 50 million euro loan, wiping out APSA’s profits for the 2018 financial year.

The acknowledgement by Galantino that APSA was in 2015 engaged in prohibited lending activity will likely have attracted the attention of European financial watchdogs, who will want to discuss it in September.

In 2016, Pope Francis partially reversed some of the 2014 reforms, returning control of its investment activity to APSA from the Prefecture for the Economy

That APSA is engaged in financial activity that requires oversight was underlined when, in June this year, Pope Francis moved the office of the Vatican’s financial records database from APSA back under the management of the Secretariat for the Economy -- a move explicitly made to emphasise the need for external oversight.

When Moneyval arrive in September, they are likely to push for a renewed look at the role of APSA and its exemption from AIF and Moneyval’s vigilance - all the more so if it becomes the home for all curial assets.

Some Vatican departments, most notably the Secretariat of State, remain engaged in commercial investments as part of their ongoing financial activities. If, as Guerrero’s May 8 letter indicates, all, or even most, liquid curial assets are now being banked with APSA, it will raise serious questions about how those commercial ventures are being maintained, and if APSA can still credibly claim to play no part in commercial activity.

2020 has become an incredibly high-stakes year for the Vatican, on the line is its ability to continue daily operations and remain a respectable member of the financial community.

Returning to financial health and international credibility are, in many ways, tied together for the Vatican. But after years of regulatory chaos and dubious financial conduct, it remains to be seen if 2020 is a crisis year that makes those efforts come good at last – or finally breaks the bank.


US:    US Navy changes course, allows attendance at religious services with coronavirus precautions

Denver Newsroom, Jul 10, 2020 / 02:30 pm (CNA).-  

After reports that sailors and their families could be barred from attending church services, the U.S Navy has clarified that its personnel may attend indoor religious services, provided that religious services take approved measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Archdiocese for Military Services has welcomed the change.

“The revision of the U.S. Navy’s orders to allow for the participation by Navy personnel in indoor religious services, provided that the appropriate guidelines are met, is most welcome,” Broglio told CNA July 10. “The change recognizes that worship is a part of the exercise of religious liberty and helps to ensure the readiness of the forces who defend us.”

“It is clear that the Catholic Church has taken to heart the CDC measures and organized the celebration of the sacraments in ways that ensure the safety of participants, good order, and the dignity of the rites. I am sure that other religious groups will do the same,” the archbishop said.

“I am grateful to the Department of the Navy and everyone else who contributed to this timely revision.”

In late March, the Navy imposed restrictions on attending off-base religious services.

Gregory Slavonic, acting assistant secretary of defense for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, said on Wednesday that Navy orders should not “restrict attendance at places of worship where attendees are able to appropriately apply COVID-19 transmission mitigation measures, specifically social distancing and use of face covering.“

The new guidance came late Wednesday in a memo from Slavonic to Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Mike Gilday, the news website Military.com reports.

Capt. Sarah Self-Kyler, public affairs officer for U.S. Fleet Forces Command, said all service members assigned to Navy units “must continue to follow force health protection protocols, such as maintaining social distance and use of face coverings, should they choose to participate in religious services or visit places of worship.”

U.S. Air Force Major Daniel Schultz, who is currently assigned to a Navy command, on June 29 sought a religious accommodation. Schultz, who leads worship at his church, said a new order allowed house parties and protests but banned attendance at indoor church services.

Mike Berry, general counsel for the First Liberty Institute, had sent a letter on behalf of Schultz. He told Fox News the change was a “major victory” for the Constitution and religious freedom.

“This memo means tens of thousands of our brave service members will be able to safely and freely exercise their religious beliefs,” he said.

U.S. Reps. Doug Collins, R-Ga., and Doug Lamborn, R-Colo. Had written to U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper objecting to the Navy's policy.

Collins welcomed the new clarification but called for further changes.

"For too long, the Pentagon has turned a blind eye as our military leaders have completely disregarded their obligation to protect the religious freedom of its service members," Collins said Thursday. "I look forward to sitting down with Secretary Esper and leaders at the Department of Defense to further discuss how we can protect religious freedom across all branches of our military.”

On July 5, Broglio criticized the orders and lamented that they also discouraged “civilian personnel, including families” from attending indoor church services.

Broglio called the Navy’s original order “particularly odious to Catholics,” because, he said, frequently there is no longer a Catholic program on naval installations due to budgetary constraints, or many installation chapels simply are still closed.

“Participation in the Sunday Eucharist is life blood for Catholics. It is the source and summit of our lives and allows us to receive the Body and Blood of the Lord,” he said.

Given the great efforts of Catholic churches to adjust seating, the reception of Holy Communion, and the liturgy to avoid contagion, Broglio had said, “I wonder why the Navy has decided to prohibit the faithful from something which even the Commander in Chief has called an essential service.”

Broglio's archdiocese serves some 1.8 million Catholics worldwide, including service members, civilian federal employees, and their families. About 25% of the military is Catholic, though only 6% of military chaplains are. There are under 500 ordained priests doing ministry work for the archdiocese, about 184 of whom are active-duty chaplains who are also commissioned officers.

While some news reports have highlighted dangers of contagion at religious services, other experts have emphasized that religious services are no more dangerous than similar events that take precautions recommended by health authorities.

A recent New York Times report linked religious facilities to more than 650 cases of Covid-19 infections contracted at nearly 40 churches and religious events since the epidemic arrived in the U.S. However, these make up a minuscule percentage of the more than 3.1 million confirmed cases in the country.



US:    Catholic Charities serves families facing food insecurity in DC

Washington D.C., Jul 10, 2020 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- In the shadow of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington distributed food to families in need Friday, as the nation’s capital continues to battle the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Today we provided food to hundreds of people who have been impacted by the pandemic,” Joe Dempsey, director of special projects for Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, told CNA. 

“This shows that this crisis is still very much affecting the D.C. area, and it continues to hit struggling families the hardest. But we are committed to meeting our clients’ needs for as long as this situation lasts,” said Dempsey. 

The distribution was held in the parking lot in front of the basilica, a Washington landmark and the largest church in North America. In addition to the 500 grocery boxes, Catholic Charities also distributed boxes that contained a hot meal for a family of four. 

DC Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie, who represents the district’s Ward 5, where the basilica is located, praised Catholic Charities for their work in feeding the hungry. 

“Here in Ward 5 we have the second highest number of COVID-19 positive cases in the District,” Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie told CNA on Friday. 

“A large number of our businesses have had to close temporarily, leaving many of our residents without employment. Catholic Charities has been committed to serving some of our most vulnerable residents in the District and I am immensely appreciative of their continued service during this difficult time,” he added. 

According to research done by Northwestern University, Black and Hispanic families are particularly struggling with food insecurity in the wake of the economic shutdown caused by the pandemic. Approximately 40% of Black and Hispanic families say that they are having trouble feeding their children. 

Ward 5 is approximately 56% Black, and about 11% of the ward’s population identifies as Hispanic or Latino. About 16% of the residents in Ward 5 live below the poverty line. 

These numbers are a stark increase compared to previous years. In 2018, which was the last time a national survey was held concerning food insecurity, 25% of Black households with children and 17% of Hispanic households with children said that they were food insecure. Those figures are now 39% and 37%, respectively. 

For white households with children, 22% report food insecurity, which researchers say is more than double the previous figure prior to the coronavirus pandemic.

Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, an economist and the director of the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University, told POLITICO that these numbers are “uncharted territory.” 

“We’ve never seen food insecurity rates double, or nearly triple--and the persistent race gaps are just appalling,” she said.


US:    US sanctions Chinese officials over abuses of Uyghurs in Xinjiang

CNA Staff, Jul 10, 2020 / 12:10 pm (CNA).- The Trump administration announced Thursday that it is putting travel and asset sanctions on several senior officials of the Chinese Communist Party for their role in the mass internment of Uyghurs.

An estimated 1 million Uyghurs, members of a Muslim ethnoreligious group, have been detained in re-education camps in China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Inside the camps they are reportedly subjected to forced labor, torture, and political indoctrination. Outside the camps, Uyghurs are monitored by pervasive police forces and facial recognition technology.

“The United States will not stand idly by as the CCP carries out human rights abuses targeting Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs, and members of other minority groups in Xinjiang, to include forced labor, arbitrary mass detention, and forced population control, snd attempts to erase their culture and Muslim faith,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced July 9.

“The United States is taking action today against the horrific and systematic abuses in Xinjiang and calls on all nations who share our concerns about the CCP’s attacks on human rights and fundamental freedoms to join us in condemning this behavior,” he added.

Chen Quanguo, Communist Party Secretary of Xinjiang, and two other party officials of the region, Zhu Hailun and Wang Mingshan, as well as their immediate family members, will be unable to attain visas to enter the US.

Other CCP officals “believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, the unjust detention or abuse of Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs, and members of other minority groups in Xinjiang” are also being sanctioned with visa restrictions.

Chen, Zhu, Wang, and Huo Liujun, a former police official in Xinjiang, are being sanctioned by the US Treasury Department, as is the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau.

Their assets and entities in the US are blocked, and US persons may not do business with them.

“The United States is committed to using the full breadth of its financial powers to hold human rights abusers accountable in Xinjiang and across the world,” commented Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin.

Chen is also a member of the Politburo, a group of 25 who oversee the CCP, and he was Communist Party Secretary of Tibet from 2011-16. He is the highest-ranking Chinese official to have been sanctioned by the US.

Nury Turkel, a Uyghur human rights advocates who is a commissioner at the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, had told CNA June 24 that the commission “is disappointed that the U.S. government has not yet enacted targeted sanctions against Chinese officials responsible for the mass detention of Uyghur and other Muslims.”

President Donald Trump had on June 17 signed legislation that would impose financial and visa sanctions on individuals complicit in abuses in Xinjiang. The Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act directs the president to impose sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Act, one of several laws authorizing the president to sanction human rights abusers.

The statements explaining the new sanctions from both the State and Treasury Departments referred to the Magnitsky Act.

The Chinese government has defended its policy of mass detention and re-education as an appropriate measure against terrorism.

The government at one time denied the camps even existed, but has since shifted to defending its actions as a reasonable response to a national security threat.

Government officials from the region said in July 2019 that the area's re-education camps for Muslims have been successful, with most of those held having been reintegrated into Chinese society.

Uyghurs can be arrested and detained under vague anti-terrorism laws. Violence in the region escalated in the 1990s and again in 2008.

The US Commerce Department in October 2019 added 28 Chinese organizations to a blacklist barring them from buying products from US companies, saying they cooperate in the detention and repression of the Uyghurs.

A 2019 document from a Xinjiang county leaked to western media earlier this year gave violation of birth control policies as the most common reason for the “re-education” of some 3,000 Uyghurs, often alongside other reasons.

Last week an AP investigation found a systematic campaign by the CCP of pregnancy checks and forced abortions, sterilizations, and implantations of IUDs on Uyghurs and other minorities in Xinjiang.

The birth rate in the region plunged by 24% in 2019, the AP said, and in certain parts of the province birth rates had fallen by more than 60% from 2015 to 2018. 


Vatican:    Pope Francis sends message to priests on Argentina’s coronavirus front line

Vatican City, Jul 10, 2020 / 11:30 am (CNA).- Pope Francis sent a video message Thursday to the priests who work in Argentina’s poor neighborhoods serving the sick and vulnerable amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“I want to be close to you at this time, as I know that you are fighting with prayer and the help of medical professionals,” Pope Francis said in the video published on Twitter by Buenos Aires priests July 9.

The pope said that he had heard that three priests who minister in the barrios had become sick. He mentioned in particular Fr. Basilicio “Bachi” Britez, who has been hospitalized with COVID-19 since June 21, according to Vatican News. 

“I want to tell you that I am close to you, that I pray for you, that I accompany you at this time, all the people of God, along with their sick priests,” the pope said.

“It is time to thank God for the witness of these priests, ask for their health and move forward. May God bless you and do not forget to pray for me,” he added.


El Papa Francisco reza con nosotros por la salud del Padre Bachi, que sigue en terapia con #coronavirus, y por los sacerdotes de las barriadas que luchan junto al pueblo contra la pandemia #OremosJuntos @Pontifex_es pic.twitter.com/cwfOvOrjsl

— Curas Villeros (@PastoralVillera) July 9, 2020  

Pope Francis’ message was sent to the Curas Villeros, a team of priests who minister in the poor neighborhoods in and surrounding Buenos Aires, where the coronavirus has now spread.

These priests have been advocating for better medical treatment within these neighborhoods, issuing a statement June 29 denouncing the “scandalous delays of ambulances” and poor health systems that could better serve the communities “on the margins” of the city.

Their statement came after the death of Ramona Collante, a woman who died May 30 after her family repeatedly called an ambulance, which arrived two hours late.

There have been 90,693 documented cases of COVID-19 in Argentina, according to John Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. Argentina’s neighbors have seen much higher rates of infection. 

Chile has recorded 306,216 cases and Brazil has had more than 1.7 million COVID-19 cases.

On July 9 the UN Secretary General António Guterres said that Latin America and the Caribbean were now suffering from some of the highest per capita infection rates in the world. He said that this would have “unprecedented social and economic impacts” that must be addressed.

“The most vulnerable populations and individuals are once again being hit the hardest,” Guterres said.


Europe:    French archbishop criticizes push to pass bioethics law amid pandemic

Rome Newsroom, Jul 10, 2020 / 11:00 am (CNA).- The archbishop of Paris has criticized the French parliament’s decision to debate a controversial bioethics bill which would increase access to in vitro fertilization while the country is still recovering from the coronavirus pandemic.

“Shamelessly, while our country has just gone through a health crisis that brought it to its knees, the government’s priority is to have the bioethics bill passed in the National Assembly,” Archbishop Michel Aupetit wrote in Le Figaro last week.

Aupetit, who practiced medicine and taught bioethics at a medical school before entering the priesthood, said there was no urgency requiring the French parliament “to force through” in July “this set of laws which affects the very essence of our humanity.”

The bioethics bill allows medically assisted procreation for lesbian couples and single women. Currently in France IVF is restricted to married or cohabiting men and women with a diagnosis of infertility. 

The bill is scheduled to be debated by France’s lower house of parliament, the National Assembly, at the end of July. If passed, it is expected to go before the Senate for a second examination in October.

“The pandemic from which we are just emerging has reminded us of our common vulnerability, the need to return to a certain sobriety, the richness, as well as the fragility, of family relationships, and now the government thinks it can quickly conclude the discussion of this bioethics bill as if nothing had happened,” Aupetit wrote.

Caroline Roux, of the pro-life association Alliance VITA, said last month “we are here to denounce the government’s obstinacy to push through the highly controversial bioethics bill by adding it to the parliament’s agenda in July’s extraordinary session. Considering the bioethics bill as a national priority when we are still recovering from a crippling health crisis is diametrically opposed to what this country urgently needs.”

This month’s debate will mark the bill’s second reading, and comes right before the French parliament’s summer recess.

The bill was originally adopted by the National Assembly in October 2019. At the first reading, more than 2,500 amendments were tabled. The Senate also adopted the text in early 2020, but amended it in February.

In its recent committee, the National Assembly voted to include some amendments which had been previously rejected, including authorization of the ROPA method, also called “shared motherhood.”

ROPA, which stands for Reception of Oocytes from Partner, is a method of in vitro fertilization which places the embryo fertilized with the egg of one woman inside the uterus of the woman’s female partner for gestation.

Also reintroduced to the Senate bill was a provision on so-called “savior siblings” -- embryos created via in vitro fertilization for the use of the stem cells in their umbilical blood to treat a sick older sibling.

The creation of “savior siblings” was permitted under a previous bioethics law in 2004, but the National Assembly voted in October to discontinue its use in in vitro fertilization in France.

Archbishop Aupetit said June 29, “the culture of death that hangs over our country has been amplified by the fear of death caused by the pandemic.”

“Here we are again engaged head down in the upheaval of the genealogical relations which structure the person, in the trivialization of the human embryos selected, analyzed and discarded like vulgar consumable products, in the artificial production of gametes which has no other interest than that of fueling the myth of procreation ‘outside sex.’”

“It is indeed consumer society that pushes the desire of adults again and again without any consideration of the consequences on future generations. To the point of doing violence to them,” he continued.

“Is there not violence, indeed, when a child is deliberately deprived of a father, when selective abortions are arranged in the case of multiple pregnancies, when the child discovers that the embryo it was might just as well have ended up under a researcher’s microscope or in a landfill after a more or less lengthy period of freezing? Is the child subject to the omnipotence of the ‘parental plan’ still our equal?” he asked.

The archbishop accused the country’s representatives of pretending that there is no ongoing health crisis, as well as an “economic and social crisis” threatening to severely affect the lives of its citizens.

“It would be to the honor of our deputies to question this unjust and unequal project to focus on the real problems of the French,” he concluded.


Europe:    Hagia Sophia declared a mosque hours after court ruling

CNA Staff, Jul 10, 2020 / 10:15 am (CNA).- Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has signed a decree converting Hagia Sophia, the former cathedral of Holy Wisdom in Istanbul, into a mosque.

The presidential decree was signed within hours of a court ruling Friday, which declared unlawful an 80-year old government decree which converted the building from a mosque into a museum.

Ayasofya Mosque, as it is known in Turkish, will now fall under the supervision of the government’s religious directorate.

The decree is the culmination of a long-held goal of Erdoğan, who has called for the building to be returned to the status of a mosque for years.

The court’s decision drew heavy criticism from the international community, as has the Turkish president’s stated aim of ending the building’s neutral usage.

The Greek culture minister, Lina Mendoni, released a statement condemning the decision, saying the court ruling "absolutely confirms that there is no independent justice" in Turkey, and that "the nationalism displayed by President Erdogan... takes his country back six centuries."

Eastern Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople has said that the building’s prior status as a museum made it “the symbolic place of encounter, dialogue, solidarity and mutual understanding between Christianity and Islam.”

In a June 30 homily, Bartholomew said that Hagia Sophia, a UNESCO World Heritage site, belongs “belongs not only to those who own it at the moment, but to all humanity.”

Hagia Sophia was founded in 537 under the Emperor Justinian. For a time it was the largest building in the world and the largest Christian church. It served as the cathedral of the Patriarch of Constantinople before and after the Great Schism split Western and Eastern Christianity into the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches.

After the Ottoman capture of Constantinople in 1453, the cathedral was converted into a mosque. Under the Ottomans, architects added minarets and buttresses to preserve the building, but the mosaics showing Christian imagery were whitewashed and covered.

In 1934, under the leadership of President Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey after the fall of the Ottoman empire, the mosque was turned into a museum.

The conversion of Hagia Sophia into a museum was considered a symbol of the Atatürk government’s commitment to building a secular liberal state. Mosaics were uncovered, including depictions of Christ, the Virgin Mary, John the Baptist, Justinian I, and the Byzantine Empress Zoë Porphyrogenita.

When the museum reopens for worship as a mosque, it is believed that the mosaics will have to be covered during Muslim prayers, as well as the seraph figures located in the high basilica dome. 

Hagia Sophia is one of Turkey’s most recognizable landmarks and its most visited site, drawing more than 3.7 million visitors a year.

Erdoğan’s spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, said that “Opening up Hagia Sophia to worship doesn't keep local or foreign tourists from visiting the site."


Europe:    Turkish court ruling paves way for Hagia Sophia to be turned into mosque

Rome Newsroom, Jul 10, 2020 / 08:20 am (CNA).- A Turkish court paved the way Friday for the former Byzantine cathedral of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul to be turned back into a mosque.

Turkey’s highest administrative court ruled July 2 to revoke the 80-year-old decree that declared the sixth-century building a museum. The ruling was announced July 10.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is expected to make the final decision on whether Hagia Sophia will revert to a mosque -- a cause he has loudly championed.

Christian leaders in the Middle East and Europe have spoken out in favor of maintaining the status quo at the historic site.

Eastern Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople said Turkish people have the responsibility "to make the universality of this wonderful monument shine," given that as a museum it is “the symbolic place of encounter, dialogue, solidarity and mutual understanding between Christianity and Islam.”

Patriarch Bartholomew addressed the place of Hagia Sophia in his homily during Divine Liturgy at the Church of the Holy Apostles in Istanbul June 30, Fides news agency reports.

Hagia Sophia belongs “belongs not only to those who own it at the moment, but to all humanity,” he said.

The Eastern Orthodox Christian leader warned that converting it to a mosque “will push millions of Christians around the world against Islam.”

“A threat against Hagia Sophia is a threat to all of Christian civilization, meaning our spirituality and history,” Patriarch Kirill of Moscow said July 6. He said the former basilica of Constantinople is “one of the biggest monuments of Christian civilization.”

“What could happen to Hagia Sophia will cause deep pain among the Russian people,” said the Russian Orthodox patriarch.

U.S. leaders have also objected.

“The Hagia Sophia holds enormous spiritual and cultural significance to billions of believers of different faiths around the world,” U.S. Ambassador At Large for Religious Freedom Sam Brownback said on Twitter June 25.

“We call on the government of Turkey to maintain it as a UNESCO World Heritage site and to maintain accessibility to all in its current status as a museum.”

Hagia Sophia, which means “Holy Wisdom,” was built in 537 under the Byzantine Emperor Justinian. For a time it was the largest building in the world and the largest Christian church. It served as the cathedral of the Patriarch of Constantinople before and after the Great Schism split Western and Eastern Christianity into Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches.

After the Ottoman capture of Constantinople in 1453, the cathedral was converted into a mosque. Under the Ottomans, architects added minarets and buttresses to preserve the building, but the mosaics showing Christian imagery were whitewashed and covered.

In 1934, under a secularist Turkish government, the mosque was turned into a museum. Some mosaics were uncovered, including depictions of Christ, the Virgin Mary, John the Baptist, Justinian I, and the Byzantine Empress Zoë Porphyrogenita.

It was declared a World Heritage Site under UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. When the museum becomes a mosque, it is believed that the mosaics will have to be covered during Muslim prayers, as well as the seraph figures located in the high basilica dome. 

Turkey’s population of 82 million is overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim. Non-Muslim minorities make up only 0.2%, and the Christian population is split among several Orthodox and Catholic Churches, as well as other groups.


Europe:    Catholic bishops urge renewed solidarity within EU for pandemic recovery

Rome Newsroom, Jul 10, 2020 / 07:00 am (CNA).- The European Catholic bishops’ commission urged the European Union this week to commit to deepening solidarity in its pandemic recovery plan.

The bishops issued an 11-page joint proposal in partnership with the ecumenical Conference of European Churches filled with recommendations on the priorities of the German Presidency of the Council of the European Union’s “Together for Europe’s recovery” package.

“The unsettling experience of the coronavirus pandemic has shown to us Europeans that we are not isolated individuals, but persons that need both human relations and to live together with the awareness of interconnectedness … It is necessary to revitalize our sense of solidarity by using and strengthening the possible measures of the EU to fight against the COVID-19 crisis and its consequences for all societies and for every human person,” the joint statement published July 7 said.

“We are strongly committed to developing the European project, our joint aim being a peaceful and prosperous, just, inclusive and sustainable Europe for all,” the Christian leaders stated.

German Chancellor Angela Merket presented the German Presidency’s proposed pandemic recovery plan to the Members of the European Parliament July 9, stating that “Germany is prepared to show extraordinary solidarity” to make Europe’s recovery more sustainable and innovative.

A delegation of the Catholic Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE) and the ecumenical Conference of European Churches met in the Belgian capital Brussels earlier in the week to discuss the German Presidency’s priorities with Michael Clauss, the Ambassador at the Permanent Representation of Germany to the EU. 

The delegation stressed the importance of supporting both immediate economic recovery and a more long-term recovery by amending the current financial framework “in order to cushion the economic and social impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“This is the time for all of us to demonstrate our joint commitment to the European project and to common European values of solidarity and unity, instead of capitulating to fear, extreme nationalism and shortsighted populistic interests,” they urged in the statement.

“Specific attention needs to be given to protecting the most vulnerable in our European societies,” they said. “We need to promote the common good, strengthen the spirit of solidarity and promote a European recovery through ecological, social and contributive justice.”

Among their specific recommendations, the European bishops voiced support for the European Green Deal, calling it “a major step ahead in efforts in order to protect the environment, reduce GHG (greenhouse gas) pollution and in order to achieve a sustainable future.”

The European Green Deal, launched at the end of 2019, provides a roadmap for transforming the EU’s economy so that there will be no net emissions of greenhouse gases from the region by 2050. 

“We are convinced that efforts to overcome impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic must not be shaped along the guidelines aiming to return to previous environment damaging production habits and overconsumption levels,” they stated. “The lessons learned from the pandemic need to be taken as an opportunity for correcting mistakes of the past as much as possible.”

“Lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemics regarding dramatically reduced carbon emissions from transport as a consequence of reduced traveling and new ways of remote working and online meetings need to be analyzed,” they added.

Increased solidarity can also be attained through a reform of Europe’s migration and asylum policies, the bishops explained.

“Christian churches in particular hope that many of those 30,000 which should have been resettled to the EU in 2020 (pledge made at the Global Refugee Forum December 2019) will still arrive in EU member states in the second half of 2020,” they stated.

In particular, they recommended the expansion of the EU’s refugee resettlement capacities, the efforts to prevent the loss of lives in the Mediterranean Sea, and assistance to address the root causes that drive migration.

The bishops called on the EU to set up a permanent mechanism to monitor and report religious persecution in countries outside of the EU and to promote religious freedom and freedom of conscience globally. 

“The EU Guidelines on Freedom on Religion or Belief need to be implemented more consistently, and EU needs to put particular attention on promoting freedom of religion or belief in the world -- not only as a human right, but also as a strategic dimension for democratic freedom and fostering social peace, justice and reconciliation, and foresee a mechanism to reinforce it outside EU,” they said.

The bishops’ statement offered support for increased use of artificial intelligence within Europe with the caveat that these developments needed to be monitored closely to ensure the protection of human dignity and privacy, including data relating to religious beliefs.

“Progressive digitalization also poses challenges in terms of social justice in Europe. Algorithms are not impartial,” the bishops noted.

The bishops said that any temporary erosion of personal data protection and privacy standards due to the pandemic would need to be eliminated at the earliest possible stage. 

“Digitalization in innovation, research and education will be key factors regarding European competitiveness and the ability to lead in the transition to a recovered and socially just post-corona digital age which is rooted in a deep ethical responsibility,” they said.

Social justice, ecological justice, and contributive justice will be key to grounding the European Union’s recovery on “the pillar of justice,” according to the statement. 

“As regards social justice, the EU should care about and respect the needs of the most vulnerable in order to ensure social cohesion in Europe, combating poverty and inequalities,” they stated. 

“This requires an overall budget that is aligned to the political priorities and values of the EU, so that new hope for Europe can be found in a joint recovery, expressing both a renewed spirit of solidarity as well as an ambition to work for a just future.”


Vatican:    Pope Francis appoints former European Central Bank chief to pontifical academy

Vatican City, Jul 10, 2020 / 06:45 am (CNA).- Pope Francis appointed the former president of the European Central Bank to the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences Friday.

The pope named Mario Draghi July 10 as one of three new members of the pontifical academy founded in 1994 by Pope John Paul II to promote the study of social sciences.

Draghi, 72, is an Italian economist best known for serving as president of the European Central Bank (ECB) from 2011 to 2019. 

When he took over the helm of the ECB, he was faced with the European sovereign debt crisis. There were fears that mounting debt problems could force countries such as Italy, Spain and Greece to exit the eurozone.  

In a 2012 speech, Draghi famously said that the ECB would do “whatever it takes” to preserve the euro during the crisis. The phrase is credited with helping to save the currency. As a result of his interventions, he earned the nickname “Super Mario.”

He will serve as an “ordinary member” of the pontifical academy, along with the Chilean sociologist Pedro Morandé Court and Kokunre Adetokunbo Agbontaen Eghafona, a sociology and anthropology professor at the University of Benin, Nigeria, who were also appointed July 10. 

The Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences is one of 10 pontifical academies in Vatican City. Its headquarters is the Casina Pio IV, a villa in the Vatican Gardens, and its current president is another Italian economist, Stefano Zamagni.


US:    Indiana priest's suspension after Black Lives Matter letter divides Catholics

Denver Newsroom, Jul 9, 2020 / 11:22 pm (CNA).-  

Catholics in one Indianapolis suburb are divided over the suspension of a priest who called organizers of the Black Lives Matter Movement “maggots and parasites.”

On June 28, Fr. Ted Rothrock wrote in the parish bulletin at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Carmel, Indiana a letter on the Black Lives Matter movement and escalating racial tension in the country.

“The brutal murder of a black man has sparked a landslide of reaction to the alleged systemic racism in America,” the priest wrote. “We are being told that the scars of race relations in this country are really unhealed wounds that continue to fester and putrefy; amputation is required! Reforms must be sweeping and immediate to crush the rising wave of racism that pervades the nation and perverts the body politic.”

“What would the great visionary leaders of the past be contributing to the discussion at this point in time? Would men like Fredrick (sic) Douglass  and the Reverend King, both men of deep faith, be throwing bombs or even marching in the streets?”

On the “Black Lives Matter” movement, the priest asked “do those black lives really matter to the community organizers promoting their agenda? Is ‘Antifa’ concerned with the defeat of fascist right-wing nationalism or more interested in the establishment of left-wing global nationalism?”

“Who are the real racists and purveyors of hate?” the priest continued. “You shall know them by their works. They are wolves in wolves clothing, masked thieves and bandits, seeking only to devour the life of the poor and profit from the fear of others. They are maggots and parasites at best, feeding off the isolation of addiction and broken families, and offering to replace any current frustration and anxiety with more misery and greater resentment.”

“Black Lives Matter, Antifa, and other nefarious acolytes of their persuasion are not the friends or allies we have been led to believe,” Rothrock wrote.

Some groups in Carmel immediately protested the priest’s message, calling it racist and inappropriate, and called for his removal from the parish. Supporters said the priest had spoken truthfully, with one telling the Indianapolis Star that the priest was referring to organizers of “Marxist” Black Lives Matter organizations. 

Amid the controversy, Bishop Timothy Doherty of the Diocese of Lafayette-in-Indiana issued a June 30 statement, saying “I expect Father Rothrock to issue a clarification about his intended message. I have not known him to depart from Church teaching in matters of doctrine and social justice.”

On the same day, Rothrock posted an apology on the parish website. “It was not my intention to offend anyone, and I am sorry that my words have caused any hurt to anyone,” he wrote.

The priest’s apology said that the Gospel condemns bigotry, according to the Indianapolis Star, adding that “We must also be fully aware that there are those who would distort the Gospel for their own misguided purposes. People are afraid, as I pointed out, rather poorly I would admit, that there are those who feed on that fear to promote more fear and division.”

The next day, July 1, Doherty announced that Rothrock had been suspended from ministry.

“Father Theodore Rothrock is suspended from public ministry according to Canon 1333. The suspension comes in the wake of Father Rothrock’s June 28 bulletin article. The Bishop expresses pastoral concern for the affected communities. The suspension offers the Bishop an opportunity for pastoral discernment for the good of the diocese and for the good of Father Rothrock,” Doherty wrote in a July 1 decree.

Doherty celebrated Mass and preached at St. Elizabeth Seton parish on July 5. Protesters and counter protesters gathered outside the Church.

Addressing the congregation at Sunday Mass, the bishop praised Rothrock as part of the parish’s “wonderful history” while expressing that “serious consequences of that article are still playing out among us, and in the wider community. I chose the suspension provided for in church law. The suspension offers me an opportunity for pastoral discernment for the good of the diocese, of St Elizabeth Seton Church, and for the good of Father Rothrock.”

The bishop drew a distinction between the Black Lives Matter social movement and the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, an organization which, Doherty said, “clearly says things that I oppose.” But, the bishop said, echoing remarks from black Catholic leaders in recent weeks, “it is a mistake to say that that foundation is the headquarters of what is a very diverse movement.”

When Doherty concluded his remarks with the phrase “Black Lives Matter,” one woman called out, saying the bishop was a coward, according to Catholics in attendance at the Mass, and she was then removed from the church. Outside the parish, demonstrators chanted for or against the priest.

Division over the priest continues in Carmel, a wealthy, mostly white city north of Indianapolis, where some citizens have organized as Carmel Against Racial Injustice to protest systemic racism, while others, Catholics and non-Catholics, have continued to voice support for the priest.

Rothrock could not be reached for comment.

While Doherty said that he had observed Church law in suspending Rothrock, it is not clear that the bishops’ action was undertaken in accord with canon law on the subject.

The bishop’s decree indicated that he had suspended the priest in accord with canon 1333 of the Code of Canon Law. The canon describes the formal penalty of suspension issued after a formal penal process- a canonical trial or an administrative penal process. Such a process determines whether a person has committed a “delict”- a crime in Church law.

CNA asked the Diocese of Lafayette-in-Indiana to clarify whether the priest was accused of a particular canonical crime, and whether he had been formally sanctioned with suspension following a canonical process- a procedure which ordinary takes weeks or more to complete.

The diocese declined to respond to CNA’s questions.

It is also not clear whether Rothrock formally remains pastor of St. Elizabeth Seton Parish. The priest was due to be transferred to another parish in Carmel, and the diocese now says the transfer will not happen. But the diocese has declined to respond to questions about whether the priest has offered his resignation from St. Elizabeth Seton, or whether he remains the pastor. Removing a pastor from office involuntarily requires a specific canonical process.

On July 8, the diocese issued an “updated statement” saying that Doherty had “asked Father Theodore Rothrock to step aside from public ministry because of the division and damage that was instantly felt within the parish, the diocese and the larger community following Father Rothrock’s controversial bulletin article. Father Rothrock has expressed regret and he understands and appreciates God’s gift of the human family, and therefore the value of every human life which is made in the image and likeness of God.”

“This time for pastoral discernment is for the good of the diocese, for St. Elizabeth Seton and for the good of Father Rothrock,” the statement said, adding that “various possibilities for Father Rothrock’s public continuation in priestly ministry are still being considered.”



US:    NY Catholic archdiocese to close 20 schools, merge 3

CNA Staff, Jul 9, 2020 / 06:15 pm (CNA).- The Archdiocese of New York announced Thursday that 20 of its schools will not reopen, following the coronavirus crisis, and three of its schools will merge.

Michael Deegan, the archdiocese's Superintendent of Schools, said July 9 that “the reality of these schools being lost is painful, and it was only accepted reluctantly after a detailed study was conducted of their respective fiscal standing in the wake of the coronavirus public health crisis. I have been a Catholic school educator for more than 40 years, and could never have imagined the grave impact this pandemic has had on our schools.”

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York commented that “I’ve kept a hopeful eye on our schools throughout this saga and my prayers are with all of the children and their families who will be affected by this sad news. Given the devastation of this pandemic, I’m grateful more schools didn’t meet this fate, and that Catholic schools nearby are ready to welcome all the kids.”

Eleven of the schools that will be closed are located in New York City: six in the Bronx, three in Staten Island, and two in Manhattan. Six schools will not reopen in Westchester County, and one each in Orange, Rockland, and Dutchess counties. Another three schools in Orange County will be merged into one.

Some 2,500 students and 350 staff will be impacted by the changes, according to the archdiocese.

No schools are closing or merging in Putnam, Sullivan, or Ulster counties.

The superintendent's office has said it will help affected families find nearby Catholic schools for the autumn, and that it “is dedicated to working in coordination with the teachers’ union to do everything it can to help faculty of the affected schools to find employment within the Archdiocesan school system.”

The archdiocese said the coronavirus crisis “has had a devastating financial impact on Catholic school families.”

It noted that unemployment and health concerns “have resulted in families’ inability to pay their current tuition, and a significantly low rate of re-registration for the fall,” and that “months of cancelled public masses and fundraising for scholarships have seen a loss of parish contributions which traditionally help support the schools.”

The local Church expects the closures and merge to ensure “the overall fiscal stability and strengthen the vitality of New York Catholic schools for decades to come.”

Deegan commented that “if more assistance is not forthcoming in the longed for HEROES Act now before Congress, I am afraid even more might close.”

The Heroes Act would provide funding for state and local governments, assistance to hospitals, and direct payments to American families along with funding unemployment insurance. The Senate and White House have indicated their opposition to the bill.

In June the US Department of Education said that federal coronavirus aid to private schools is now enforceable by law, following concerns that Catholic and other non-public schools were being excluded from sufficient epidemic relief funds to support protective equipment for students and teachers, cleaning, training in remote education, and distance education tools.

Education Secretary Besty DeVos said on a June 25 phone call with reporters that “While a number of traditional public schools aren’t sure whether they will open their doors in the fall, too many other kinds of schools are sure they won’t open at all. More than 100 private schools, including many Catholic schools, have already announced they will never reopen, and hundreds more face a similar fate.”

The Education Department's decision is being challenged by a July 7 suit filed by Michigan, California, Maine, New Mexico, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia

The National Catholic Education Association said in June that at least 100 Catholic primary and secondary schools across the US would not be reopening, citing low enrollment and decreased donations amid the coronavirus.

Sister Dale McDonald, public policy director for the NCEA, told CNA that for most Catholic schools about 80% of their operating budget comes from tuition. In addition, many Catholic schools hold major fundraisers in the spring, which had to be cancelled or postponed after the pandemic hit.


Europe:    German bishop appoints committee to reevaluate beatification process of Schoenstatt founder

CNA Staff, Jul 9, 2020 / 05:54 pm (CNA).- Bishop Stephan Ackermann of the German diocese of Tier announced the appointment of a commission of historians to review the beatification process of Fr. Josef Kentenich, founder the Schoenstatt Movement, a decision that was welcomed by Fr. Juan Pablo Catoggio, international  president of the Schoenstatt movement.

The decision, announced on July 7, follows the recent revelations published by Church historian Alexandra von Teuffenbach,  former professor of theology and Church history at the Pontifical Lateran University and the Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum, who reviewed Vatican-commissioned assessments of the Schoenstatt movement, which reportedly portray Kentenich as manipulative and coercive.

The beatification process of Father Josef Kentenich was opened by Bishop Bernhard Stein on February 10, 1975 in the Diocese of Trier and has not yet been concluded at the diocesan level.

According to a diocesan statement, the task of the commission of historians, whose members have not yet been determined, “will especially be to collect all now accessible documents of the Vatican Archive that in some way relate to this beatification process, and to assess their significance.”

It will also be the task of the commission “to reconcile the newly found material with what has already been gathered and evaluated from other archives by the previous commission. At the end of their work, the commission – including the results of the previous commission – will write a report in which a statement will also be made about the personality and spirituality of Fr. Josef Kentenich as depicted in the collected documents.”

Reacting to the announcement, Fr. Catoggio issued a statement addressed to the “dear Schoenstatt Family throughout the world” on July 8, saying that “we very much welcome this decision of the bishop, since in this way the clarification of the questions regarding the person and actions of Father Kentenich.”  

“We understand that the Schoenstatt Family throughout the world expects initiatives from us that respond to the many justified questions, confusions and demands for transparency. You rightly expect that the history of Father Kentenich, the history of Schoenstatt, and the history of the Sisters be more openly and transparently processed and communicated to the Schoenstatt Family,” Catoggio said.

“We recognize that we have held back for too long out of consideration and for the protection of persons and communities,” he added.

The priest also recognized that Schoenstatt members around the world “are searching for answers to the questions you have at the moment. This is understandable. It is important to us that the relevant texts of our founder or individual historical documents can be understood from their context.”

He promised that “we will also take the necessary steps from our side to examine the material of the archives that are now accessible.”

“We are convinced that this clarification process on various levels will bring the truth into full light and thus also allow for a more objective and comprehensive understanding of the person, way of acting and charism of Father Kentenich,” he concluded.


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