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Notre Dame university website celebrates ‘Pride Month’

University of Notre Dame / Peter Zelasko/CNA

Washington D.C., Jun 9, 2021 / 11:02 am (CNA).

The website of the University of Notre Dame has a feature post celebrating LGBTQ+ Pride on its diversity and inclusion page this month. 

“Pride Month is observed each June in the United States in commemoration of the Stonewall Uprising. The month is also a time to recognize the contributions of LGBTQ+ Americans and raise awareness about efforts for equal justice and equal opportunity for the LGBTQ+ community,” the post stated. 

As of Wednesday morning, the university’s media relations staff did not reply to CNA’s multiple requests for comment. The university’s campus ministry office told CNA that it was not aware of any plans for an initiative honoring the Sacred Heart in the month of June.

The Stonewall Uprising of 1969 began when New York City police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay club located in the city. The raid led to six days of violent protests outside the bar and in neighboring areas. 

Notre Dame’s Pride post also included a PBS series link for users to learn more about the Stonewall Uprising, featuring a collection of videos.

Some of the videos include an explanation of three generations of same-sex relationships in Western culture, interviews of people identifying as LGBTQ+ answering the question “when did you become gay,” a documentary on the Stonewall uprising, and more clips “that explore the LGBTQ+ experience in the United States and around the world.”

The university’s Pride post also encourages people “to explore what it means to be an ally in the effort to achieve equality for all” by offering resources from the pro-LGBT group Human Rights Campaign. Those resources consist of explanations of different sexual identities, ways to affirm those who identify as LGBTQ+, and more.

In the Human Rights Campaign “For People of Faith” section, it states, “If you come from a religious background that teaches that non-straight sexual orientations or gender variance are wrong or immoral, look back to your texts and history and take time to learn from people of faith who have become allies because of their faith, not despite it.”

One of the religious resources offered by the campaign is a post titled “What Does The Bible Say About Homosexuality?” While the post cites the Book of Genesis in claiming that “God began by creating human beings of male and female sex,” it adds, “there is nothing that indicates in Scripture that God only created this binary.”

The page argues that “Christians have a moral imperative to reconsider their interpretation of what the Bible says about LGBTQ identities.”

Notre Dame’s Pride post also referenced President Joe Biden’s June 1 proclamation for “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Pride Month. 

“Pride is both a jubilant communal celebration of visibility and a personal celebration of self-worth and dignity,” the post read, quoting Biden’s statement.

Biden, a Catholic, also called on Congress to pass the Equality Act. The Equality Act would extend federal civil rights protections to sexual orientation and gender identity, where race is currently protected. 

The legislation also prevents religious freedom claims from being made by individuals and groups under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The landmark 1993 law has been invoked by many as a defense against various government mandates, but the Equality Act would override those religious freedom protections.  

The U.S. bishops’ conference has warned that the Equality Act could be used to “punish” religious groups which do not recognize same-sex “marriage” and transgender ideologies.

EXCLUSIVE: Cardinal Pell calls for better fiscal accountability at the Vatican

Cardinal George Pell / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Washington D.C., Jun 9, 2021 / 09:00 am (CNA).

Cardinal George Pell – the former prefect of the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Economy – called for stronger fiscal accountability procedures at the Vatican, in a recent interview with CNA.

Referring to questionable investments and transactions by the Vatican’s Secretariat of State – including controversial investments in a London property which lost an estimated $100 million – Cardinal Pell, 80, expressed gratitude that those transactions have been made known to the public by reporters.

“Now to what extent it is gross incompetence, to what extent it is their willing connivance, to what extent criminal activity is involved – I simply don’t know, but it’s good that it’s come to light,” he said. “What is much more important is that the investment procedures are standardized, and that disastrous investments like this just don’t happen again.”

Cardinal Pell spoke with CNA on May 21, following the release of the second volume of his prison journal, “The State Court Rejects the Appeal.” In the journal – which covers the period of July 14-Nov. 30, 2019 – Pell discussed a variety of matters such as his time in prison, his reflections on the faith, and current events including financial scandals at the Vatican.

Pell, the former prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy tasked with overseeing the Vatican’s financial and administrative matters, in 2017 was charged with having sexually abused choir boys in his former cathedral in Melbourne, Australia, in 1996 and 1997.

He left Rome to stand trial in Australia. While Pell’s first trial ended with a hung jury, he was found guilty by a unanimous jury in a retrial, and sentenced to six years in prison on five counts of child sex abuse. A 2-1 decision of the Court of Appeal in Victoria upheld his conviction in August 2019.

Pell spent 404 days in solitary confinement in Melbourne Assessment Prison and HM Prison Barwon, a maximum-security prison southwest of Melbourne. His appeal was ultimately heard and his charges were unanimously overturned by the Australian High Court on April 7, 2020.

Cardinal Pell’s prison journal, written during his incarceration, is now being released in three volumes by Ignatius Press. The second volume was published on May 3.

Pell told CNA that, in publishing his journal, “I hope people will listen to my claim that the Christian package works,” including “the teachings of Christ about faith, and forgiveness, and especially about redemptive suffering.”

In his journal entries during the fall of 2019, Pell mentioned hearing of financial scandals at the Vatican. He stated his concern that the Vatican’s annual deficits could bring serious financial problems for future popes.

In October 2019, the Financial Times first reported that Vatican authorities were investigating a 2014 $200 million investment by the Secretariat of State through the fund Athena Capital. The investment financed a stake in the development of a London luxury apartment project. In 2018, the Vatican Secretariat of State made a $50 million investment in the same property.

The Vatican ultimately lost an estimated $100 million in the investment.

Italian businessman Gianluigi Torzi helped broker the original deal. He was eventually arrested in London on May 11, after an Italian judge issued a warrant in his name for money laundering and fraud offenses. The Vatican is investigating his role in brokering the London deal.

Pell mentioned the controversial property deal in his journal, calling it “only one such disaster and a major part of a much wider crisis” at the Vatican.

“I fear for the financial future,” he continued in his journal entry for Oct. 24, 2019. “Chickens come home to roost, and a poorer bankrupt Church can do nothing material to help the poor.”

In his interview with CNA, Cardinal Pell said that at the time the controversial London deal was reported by the press, “I wasn’t quite sure where it was going.”

“But I’m not a bit sad that news of it has come out, because the Vatican has just lost such an enormous amount of money. The pope said to me he thought it was $150 million. I’m not sure. And the judge in the Torzi case in England wasn’t able to quantify just what the losses were,” he said.

Pell also called on the Vatican to improve its prosecution of financial crimes.

The Vatican had previously arrested Torzi in 2020 on charges of two counts of embezzlement, two counts of fraud, extortion, and money laundering, alleging he was part of a conspiracy to defraud the Secretariat of millions of euros.

In March, a British Judge reversed the Vatican’s seizure of Torzi’s accounts, stating that the “non-disclosures and misrepresentations” provided by the Vatican “are so appalling that the ultimate sanction” was to reverse the seizure of assets. He added that there was not “reasonable cause” to believe Torzi “benefitted” from criminal acts in the case.

Cardinal Pell cited the matter to call for better prosecutors at the Vatican.

“I think the single word I remember from it was ‘appalling’,” Pell said of the judge’s words. “So, I said to one or two senior people here in the Vatican, for goodness’ sake, get good lawyers, so that you can prosecute your case competently and justly.”

In his journal, Pell warned of the Vatican’s annual financial deficits as one of two “major challenges” facing the Holy See, noting that future popes “will face huge financial challenges” if the annual deficits are not addressed.

“The Vatican has only got assets of three or four billion [euros]. But whatever it is, they can’t afford to keep losing €50 [million] or even €20 million a year forever,” he told CNA, noting that expenses from the pension fund could also balloon to hundreds of millions of euros in a decade.

“So, these things have to be faced up to, and dealt with. Because, as I often say, we don’t know how many people go to heaven and hell, but we do know when we’re losing money,” he said.

In March, the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy released a budget for the 2021 year, showing a projected deficit of nearly $60 million.

Regarding the future of Peter’s Pence – the Vatican’s annual collection for the pope’s charitable causes and the Roman Curia – Pell expressed hope in his successor’s oversight of the fund.

“I know my successor Fr. [Juan A.] Guerrero is a competent man, and an honest man. And I think the particular challenges of Peter’s Pence are clearly visible, not least the decline in donations. And, please God, this will be faced up to and dealt with,” he said.

Elsewhere in his journal, the cardinal talked about the value of redemptive suffering, figures from Scripture and Church history he grew close to in prison, and his thoughts on the future of the Church.

Regarding redemptive suffering, “I’ve taken to quoting Karl Marx, who had a terrible attack of boils,” Pell said. “And he [Marx] lamented the fact that he had no god to whom he might offer his suffering. He knew what he was missing. If there’s no God, there’s no meaning to suffering whatsoever.”

“But if you follow a religion where you believe that redemption was affected, was brought about by the suffering and death of a young man, God, 2,000 years ago, and that we can join our suffering with His – that’s a radical, radical difference,” he added.

He said he grew close to several Catholic and biblical historical figures during his time in prison, including the prophet Elijah – “he saved monotheism at a time when it was in desperate trouble, and as a symbol and a patrol for our age and the Western world, his role is very, very obvious.”

Cardinal Pell also mentioned Vietnamese Cardinal Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan as a role model for him. Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan had spent 13 years in prison, including nine years in solitary confinement, under the communist regime in North Vietnam. Pell also cited Sts. John Fisher and Thomas More as figures he grew close to, as well as American priest Fr. Walter Ciszek, who spent 23 years in Soviet prisons and labor camps.

Pell was not able to offer Mass while in solitary confinement. “It was painful. And I felt it particularly at some times more than others, at the times of the great feasts, Easter, Pentecost, and Christmas,” he told CNA.

“I also knew that God hadn’t abandoned me because I wasn’t able to celebrate Mass,” he added, noting that he was allowed to keep his breviary with him and watched Sunday morning Masses and services from jail.

His experience without the Mass was an “exact parallel” to the plight of many Catholics during the coronavirus pandemic when churches closed, he said. 

In his journal, Cardinal Pell also addressed a decline in Church attendance and warned of a spread in replacing Catholic doctrine with “pagan teachings.”

“We haven’t been explicitly godly enough,” he told CNA. “We haven’t spoken about God’s love, about the importance of that, God as creator, God as judge,” he said, adding that “the vertical dimension has weakened.”

The cardinal added that Eucharistic adoration is an antidote to this problem.

“I think that’s one reason why adoration before the Blessed Sacrament is so important, and I think one reason why it is so popular amongst younger Catholics, is precisely to open them to transcendence, to take them in the direction of godliness when so much of the society around them keeps them distracted and keeps them at a horizontal level,” he said. 

Theology can help guide speculation about aliens, professor says

lif3vil/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Jun 8, 2021 / 16:01 pm (CNA).

Fundamental theological principles provide the framework for any doctrinal questions over the discovery of extraterrestrial beings, a theologian claimed in a lecture on June 5. 

While the Church does not have any specific teachings on extraterrestrial life, theologians can speculate on the existence of these beings and their nature due to the “underlying principles” which influence Church doctrine, said Dr. Christopher Baglow, director of the Science and Religion Initiative at the University of Notre Dame’s McGrath Institute for Church Life, on Saturday. 

“We have something, in a way, more essential than doctrine to guide us: What St. John Henry Newman identified as the permanent elements in the development of doctrine, the underlying principles which animate doctrines,” he said.  

“According to Newman, these principles are so important that they are the very life of doctrines,” and “an even better test of heresy than doctrine,” Baglow said.

Regarding the possibility of an extraterrestrial incarnation, Baglow cited sacramentality and solidarity for why it could have occurred. 

If rational life existed outside of earth and were to be discovered, it would not be theologically inconsistent to believe that the extraterrestrial rational beings were creatures of God in need of a savior to achieve salvation, he said. Baglow referred to this as “incarnational plurality,” adding that God would not be limited by constraints. 

Baglow delivered the keynote lecture, titled “Extraterrestrial Life and Catholic Theology,” on June 5 at a conference for the Society of Catholic Scientists in Washington, D.C. 

The fourth annual conference of the society was held June 4-6, and focused on “Extraterrestrials, A.I., and Minds Beyond the Human.” It featured lectures and presentations on the theological implications of extraterrestrial life and artificial intelligence. The conference was broadcast online, as international members were not permitted to travel to the United States.

“When we talk about extraterrestrial rational species (ETRS), we are not discussing angelic creatures, but embodied ones. In particular, animals, rational animals, like us,” he explained. 

These species would likely have a society, with differing cultures, similar to humans. Baglow pointed out that in the animal world, more intelligent and rational creatures tend to be more social, so it would make sense that the ETRS beings would be social as well. 

The ETRS would have liturgy and rituals, although Baglow said that what these would entail is “beyond my imagination.”

These species would have “some history” where God made Himself accessible to them, said Baglow. 

If these species were “in need of salvation, there would be a real history of divine engagement and self-revelation with that species,” with laws, prophets, “music-makers and poets,” elders and sages, and finally, there would be a member of the species who was “fully ETRS, but fully God.” 

“It would be this one who would draw together and fulfill all (that) the great ones spoke and did. Because God can be no more perfectly mediated than by mediating himself as a divine person who is fully ETRS,” said Baglow. 

According to the Society of Catholic Scientists website, “The Society exists as a place where Catholic scientists can share their knowledge, perspectives, and intellectual and spiritual gifts with each other for their mutual enrichment, and with fellow Catholics and the wider community.” 

The society was founded in 2016 with only six members, and has grown with now more than 1400 scientists, students, and other intellectuals in more than 50 countries.  

Lawrence Principe, professor of the humanities at Johns Hopkins University, delivered the St. Albert Award Lecture on June 5.

Other scheduled conference speakers included Jonathan Lunine, director of the Cornell Center for Astrophysics and Planetary Science; Karin Öberg, a Catholic convert, professor of astronomy and director of undergraduate studies at Harvard University; and Simon Conway Morris, chair of evolutionary palaeobiology at the University of Cambridge.

The society says it “hopes to provide role models and mentors for young Catholics” who are studying the sciences in universities. All scientists who are practicing Catholics are permitted to join.

Court reinstates Virginia teacher suspended over transgender pronoun policy

June 4 rally in support of Tanner Cross, Loudoun County, Virginia / Alliance Defending Freedom

Washington D.C., Jun 8, 2021 / 13:56 pm (CNA).

A county court on Tuesday ruled that a Virginia teacher suspended for opposing a school transgender pronoun policy must be reinstated while his case continues.

The Loudoun County Circuit Court ruled that Tanner Cross, a teacher at Leesburg Elementary School, had to be reinstated by Loudoun County Public Schools after he was suspended for speaking out against the school district’s proposed “preferred pronoun” policy.  Judge James Plowman, Jr. called the suspension an “unconstitutional action.”

“Nobody should be punished for expressing concern about a proposed government policy, especially when the government invites comment on that policy,” stated Michael Farris, president and CEO of the legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, which represented Cross.

“School officials singled out his speech, offered in his private capacity at a public meeting, as ‘disruptive’ and then suspended him for speaking his mind,” Farris said. “That’s neither legal nor constitutional.”

Cross was placed on paid administrative leave by the district on May 27. He had objected to two proposed school policies during a public comment session of a May 25 school board meeting.

The proposed policies would require that students be addressed by their preferred gender pronouns, rather than the pronouns corresponding with their biological sex.

In its decision to suspend Cross, the school district cited “allegations that [Cross] engaged in conduct that had a disruptive impact on the operations of Leesburg Elementary School.” Cross was forbidden from accessing school property and attending school-sponsored events.

The school district cited six emails from five families of students asking that their children not be taught by Cross, as evidence for his disruption to school operations.

Alliance Defending Freedom filed a lawsuit on behalf of Cross, saying that the district engaged in “viewpoint-based retaliation” in suspending him. Cross’s opinions were based upon his “sincerely held religious beliefs” about gender, the lawsuit stated.

The court on Tuesday found that, in balancing Cross’ free speech rights with the school board’s claims that his speech was disruptive, Cross’ interests outweighed the board’s. Cross’ “speech and religious content” were “central” to his suspension, the court ruled.

Judge Plowman added that “it is clear the Plaintiff was speaking as a citizen, not in his official capacity,” on a “matter of public concern.”

The court granted Cross a temporary injunction against the school’s action, and required the school to reinstate him and allow him access to school property.

Cross also claimed that five school district employees wished to speak up on the pronoun issue but said they declined to do so, due to the district’s action against him.

The court acknowledged the complaints by the parents about Cross’ comments, but added that given the size of the school, the number of parents’ complaints were “de minimis.” Regarding the school’s May 27 email to parents informing them of Cross’ suspension, Judge Plowman called it “an unnecessary and vindictive act given the end of the school year was so close.”

“Educators are just like everybody else—they have ideas and opinions that they should be free to express,” Farris said on Tuesday. “Advocating for solutions they believe in should not cost them their jobs.”

New tech company aims to provide platform for Catholic businesses

Catholic Ventures

Washington D.C., Jun 8, 2021 / 13:01 pm (CNA).

A Catholic technology company recently launched a platform for Catholic publishers, small businesses, and religious communities to reach customers and supporters.

Catholic Ventures announced this month the launch of Catholic.store, an e-commerce platform working with publishers and small businesses selling Catholic books, jewelry, art, and other products. The announcement said the platform will donate a percentage of proceeds to the Church.

Matt Meeks, CEO of Catholic Ventures, told CNA in an interview that “we live in the most disruptive time period in human history, and I don’t think we really recognize that, and that’s particularly the case for the Church.” 

“We're seeing massive disruption within every industry,” Meeks said. “If you look at hotels, you’ve got Airbnb, and taxis, you’ve got Uber, and retail and actually distribution, you’ve got Amazon.”

Meeks argued that digital forces are leading to consolidation in the private sector, “but the Church, because of its subsidiarity, is fragmenting between more and more websites and nobody is working together. For lack of a better word, we’re our own worst enemy.”

He said he was inspired by Pope Benedict XVI’s 2009 World Communications Day message where the pope spoke about evangelizing a “digital continent.” Meeks described the line as a “missionary call.”

“We need truly Catholic platforms,” he said, “platforms that respect subsidiarity but operate in solidarity. That became the initial kind of motivation for Catholic Ventures.” 

He pointed to a recent incident where the online retail giant Amazon de-listed Catholic author Ryan Anderson’s book that was critical of the transgender movement. Amazon later said it de-listed Anderson’s book because of the book’s framing of “LGBTQ+ identity as a mental illness.”

While he didn't address the content of Anderson's book, Meeks argued that Catholic creators should not rely on retailers like Amazon when “our content is out of fashion or contrary to the public opinion.”

“So, basically in this idea of building platforms, we want to lift up our vendor partners so they can thrive,” he said, “so the idea is building a platform that can network all of these creators, making them more powerful, but respecting their uniqueness.” 

Catholic.store recently went live with thousands of products available for purchase online. 

Catholic Ventures is also announcing its project of Catholic Creatives, which it says is “an online community of makers, artists, engineers, musicians and creatives seeking to bring beauty back to the Church with planned initiatives in healthcare, education and technologies to support Catholic families and groups.”

Father Kapaun pilgrimage celebrates 13 years

Fr. Kapaun with his pipe/ Fr. Emil Kapaun walking pilgrimage, 2021. / Sharon Norden/Diocese of Wichita

Washington D.C., Jun 8, 2021 / 11:01 am (CNA).

The Diocese of Wichita concluded its Father Emil Kapaun pilgrimage on Sunday, after four days of walking, companionship and prayer. 

Each year hundreds of pilgrims walk 60 miles to remember the heroic Army chaplain who is on the path to sainthood.

The march, which is all on foot, begins in northeast Wichita at the Church of the Magdalen, and ends at St. John Nepomucene church in Marion, Kansas - Father Kapaun's home parish. The pilgrimage concludes with the Father Kapaun Day Mass.

“The walk is demanding,” Sharon Norden, a veteran pilgrim for Father Emil Kapaun, told CNA. “Every year 95% of travel is on gravel roads. It is in the heat, with nature and all the elements that come with it.”

The annual pilgrimage is now in its 13th year. The 2021 walk was unique because the Wichita diocese is preparing to welcome the bodily remains of Fr. Kapaun. 

The priest had served as a chaplain during the Second World War; he became known for his service in the Korean War with the U.S. Army's Eighth Cavalry regiment. After he was taken prisoner, Fr. Kapaun served and ministered to other soldiers in a prison camp, where he died on May 23, 1951.

His remains were discovered in Hawaii in March, and will be placed in a crypt at the cathedral in Wichita. His cause for canonization is open.

Bishop Carl Kemme of Wichita welcomed the discovery of Fr. Kapaun’s remains in March.

“It was a joyful and exciting surprise for the Diocese of Wichita that Fr. Kapaun’s mortal remains were recovered after so many years and we continue to look forward to his process of canonization in the future,” the bishop stated.

Kapaun’s surviving family is helping to plan the transport of his remains and his final resting place. Kapaun’s body is expected to arrive in Kansas in September, The Wichita Eagle reported.

The walk can be grueling, sometimes forcing pilgrims to excuse themselves and ride in one of the support vehicles which follows the group. 

Pilgrims can often suffer from blisters or dehydration from the walk. Now on her eighth time completing the pilgrimage, Norden told CNA she had to excuse herself from one day of marching because of dehydration. 

“This is a humbling experience,” she told CNA. “But even Jesus needed help on his way to the cross.” Norden was able to rejoin the pilgrimage and finish the next day. 

Pilgrims had access to the sacraments while on the walk, as priests celebrated Mass and heard confessions each day. 

Norden told CNA that much of the pilgrimage focuses on prayer and faith conversations with other pilgrims.

“Once you get on the road and start talking to people, hear their stories, listen to how faith changes their lives and how they let God work through life, the advice they give, books suggested, podcasts to listen to, and daily prayers that have helped through difficult challenges in their life, it is fantastic to witness faith in action in so many people in this time of struggle," she said.

“No one scoffs at saying a rosary on the road or the divine mercy chaplet between conversations,” Norden said. “It is where you feel your faith recharged, just like Father Kapaun recharged the men and they all continued to go on in their imprisonment.”

Arizona bishops 'very concerned' about possible executions - including by gas chamber

Gas chamber at the Wyoming Frontier Prison in Rawlins / Nagel Photography/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Jun 8, 2021 / 09:17 am (CNA).

Arizona bishops are “very concerned” that the state could resume executions this fall – including the possibility of executions by gas chamber. 

Documents obtained by The Guardian show that Arizona’s department of corrections spent more than $2,000 on the necessary ingredients to make hydrogen cyanide gas - the same type of gas used in the infamous Nazi concentration camp of Auschwitz.

The documents also reveal the state has “refurbished” its gas chamber for executions.

Ron Johnson, executive director of the Arizona Catholic Conference, told CNA on Monday that no matter the method of execution, “the bishops of Arizona are very concerned we might be resuming executions in Arizona as early as late September or early October after a seven year pause from litigation.”

“We’re very concerned about that, we believe the death penalty contributes to a culture of death, among other things, and our opposition remains firm,” Johnson said. 

Pope Francis in 2018 ordered a revision to the Church’s catechism, calling the death penalty “inadmissible” and an “attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person.” Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville, the next doctrine committee chair of the U.S. bishops, has said the death penalty is part of the “throwaway culture” condemned by Pope Francis.

In a statement to CBS News, the Arizona Department of Corrections stated its intent to resume executions. 

The department said it is “prepared to perform its legal obligation and commence the execution process as part of the legally imposed sentence, regardless of method selected. (The department) stands ready, with the Arizona Attorney General's Office, to carry out court orders and deliver justice to the victims' families.”

The statement noted that Arizona law permits death row inmates to choose between dying from lethal injection or gas.

"If the defendant fails to choose either lethal injection or lethal gas, the penalty of death shall be by lethal injection," the statement said.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, the state has executed 37 people since 1976, and there are 119 people on death row. 

It last executed a prisoner in 2014, a botched execution where inmate Joseph Wood died two hours after being injected with lethal drugs. An Arizona Republic reporter observed Wood wheezing hundreds of times, gulping, convulsing, and making loud snoring and sucking noises before he died.

Arizona is one of 27 states, as well as the federal government, that still permit the use of the death penalty. The Trump administration executed 13 federal death row inmates last year, after the federal government had not executed any prisoners for nearly two decades.

The state last executed a prisoner with lethal gas in 1999, according to the New York Times. Christoph Heubner, executive vice president of the International Auschwitz Committee, told the paper that for survivors of the camp, “the world will finally come apart at the seams, if in any place on this earth the use of Zyklon B in the killing of human beings is considered again.”

‘Eucharistic consistency’: What the US bishops will discuss at their meeting next week

Priest gives communion on the feast of the Holy Family in St. Peter's Basilica on Dec. 27, 2015. / Alexey Gotovsky/CNA

Washington D.C., Jun 7, 2021 / 20:01 pm (CNA).

The U.S. bishops next week will deliberate and vote on whether to draft a teaching document on the Eucharist – despite the recent request of some bishops to delay such a discussion.

At the bishops’ virtual spring meeting scheduled for June 16-18, one agenda item that has received scrutiny is consideration of “Eucharistic consistency.” The agenda item is a “proposal to draft a formal statement” on “the meaning of the Eucharist in the life of the Church.” The proposal comes from the bishops’ doctrine committee.

In a May 22 memo to the U.S. bishops, the president of the conference – Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles – explained that the proposal for such a document came from the doctrine committee. The committee followed the administrative procedures for securing an agenda item on the matter, he said.

Further, the proposed outline of the document “reflects recent guidance from the Holy See,” Archbishop Gomez said, referring to a May 7 letter from the prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Luis Ladaria, to Gomez and, by extension, the U.S. bishops.

Gomez added that “the focus of this proposed teaching document is on how best to help people to understand the beauty and mystery of the Eucharist as the center of their Christian lives.”

The conference will not be voting on any final text of a document, but simply on whether to begin drafting a document, he said. If the bishops approve the motion, they will still have the opportunity to deliberate and amend the document when presented in final form at a future meeting.

In its proposal, the bishops’ doctrine committee explained the two-fold need for a teaching document on the Eucharist.

First, the bishops’ three-year strategic plan – approved in November 2020 – has a Eucharistic title, “Created Anew by the Body and Blood of Christ, Source of Our Healing and Hope.” Second, a special working group of the bishops – convened in the aftermath of Joe Biden’s election to the presidency – recommended a teaching document on “Eucharistic consistency.”

That term has its roots in the 2007 closing document of the Aparecida conference of Latin American and Caribbean bishops – a document which then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio had a hand in developing. Used in the document, the term refers to the need for Catholic leaders and legislators to defend life and the family against grave evils such as abortion and euthanasia.

Making specific reference to “legislators, heads of government, and health professionals,” the document states, “We must adhere to ‘eucharistic coherence,’ that is, be conscious that they cannot receive holy communion and at the same time act with deeds or words against the commandments, particularly when abortion, euthanasia, and other grave crimes against life and family are encouraged.”

Although individual U.S. bishops have talked about the matter of Communion for pro-abortion politicians in recent months - given that President Biden is Catholic and supports taxpayer-funded abortion - the bishops’ Eucharistic document would be “addressed to all Catholics.”

“In light of recent surveys, it is clear that there is a lack of understanding among many Catholics about the nature and meaning of the Eucharist,” the doctrine committee’s proposal stated.

In 2019, a Pew Research report found that fewer than one-third of Catholics (31%) surveyed believed in the Real Presence, and more than two-thirds (69%) believed the Eucharist to be merely a symbol. Several bishops at the time, citing the survey, emphasized the need for catechesis on the Eucharist.

A proposed outline of the Eucharistic document reveals a comprehensive catechesis on the Eucharist, covering both the sacrament itself and how Catholics must live in accord with the Commandments in their daily lives.

The outline covers teachings such as the “Real Presence” of Christ in the Eucharist, a “recovery of understanding the Eucharist as sacrifice,” “the importance of Sunday as a day of obligation,” the need for beautiful liturgies, Catholics living as a “Eucharistic people” in daily life, the Eucharist as a “call to conversion,” and the importance of practicing the works of mercy.

The third part of the document also includes a section on “Eucharistic consistency,” and “the nature of eucharistic communion and the problem of serious sin.” It cites the teaching of St. Paul in the First Epistle to the Corinthians, “A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself.”

Some bishops had recently moved to delay the discussion on the Eucharist, citing a Vatican letter to argue against a virtual discussion of such a serious topic.

Archbishop Gomez had written to the Vatican in March, informing them of the plans for the spring meeting. On May 7, Cardinal Ladaria responded to Gomez, addressing the topic of Communion for public officials who support permissive legislation on grave evils such as abortion.

If the bishops were to issue any “national policy” on Communion in these situations, he said, they would first need “serene” dialogue among themselves to ensure unity on Church teaching. Then individual bishops should dialogue with the Catholic politicians in their jurisdictions, to better understand their positions and their “comprehension of Catholic teaching.”

Only after that, he said, should the bishops discern how best to move forward on the matter. Any action they take should ensure consensus, respect the authority of individual bishops in their own dioceses, be framed within the broader context of general worthiness to receive Communion among all Catholics, and must not appear to list abortion or euthanasia as the only grave moral issues, he said.

After the Vatican sent its letter to the bishops, Cardinal Blasé Cupich of Chicago led a letter by some bishops to Gomez, asking that the planned discussion on the Eucharist be delayed. The gravity of the issue necessitated an in-person discourse, Cupich argued, and should first be addressed by provinces or regional groups of bishops before the entire conference deliberated on it.

Gomez, in his May 22 memo, said that the discussion will take place as planned at next week’s meeting. Such a motion is in line with the administrative procedures of the conference and the requests in Cardinal Ladaria’s letter, he said.

Las Cruces diocese says abuse records disclosed voluntarily, despite New Mexico attorney general's claims

The Cathedral of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Las Cruces, N.M. Credit: Peter Potrowl via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0).

Santa Fe, N.M., Jun 7, 2021 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

While New Mexico’s attorney general has taken credit for securing Catholic Church documents on sex abuse by clergy, saying they will be released to the public soon, a spokesperson for the Las Cruces diocese said it provided the documents voluntarily out of a desire to address the “abhorrent crime” of sex abuse, not because of a search warrant or legal obligation.

 

“In September of 2018, the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office requested documents related to the potential abuse of children by priests,” a Las Cruces diocese spokesperson told CNA June 7. “The Diocese of Las Cruces immediately began the voluntary process of providing the requested documents. Any statement claiming that a search warrant was presented to the diocese for the requested documents is incorrect, as is the assertion that the Diocese of Las Cruces only responded due to a legal obligation.”

 

“In fact, the Diocese of Las Cruces fully and freely cooperated with the attorney general's request due to a sincere desire to address any failures from the past and to ensure that future errors would not occur,” the spokesperson said. “Sexual abuse of minors is an abhorrent crime and the Diocese of Las Cruces has no interest in hiding the sins of the past.”

 

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas has announced plans to make public documents relating to clergy sex abuse in all three of the state’s Catholic dioceses.

 

Balderas had said that a criminal investigation and the warrant to force a search was crucial to securing the documents, which might not have been released otherwise.

 

“A law enforcement office had to get involved and had to bring search warrants of which we had probable cause to get these documents in order to intervene on behalf of citizens,” he said.

 

The Las Cruces diocese’s account differs from that of Eyewitness News at the news station KOB 4. According to Eyewitness News, in 2018 Balderas ordered the Santa Fe archdiocese, the Las Cruces diocese, and the Gallup diocese to turn over documents about clergy sex abuse, with the goal of investigating whether any living priest could be prosecuted.

 

He portrayed the investigation as a safety assessment. The shift from criminal prosecution to civil litigation is the best way to achieve this goal, he said.

 

“We feel like now we have evolved over to a civil approach," said Balderas. “And providing those records to these families is also an important step for healing”

 

The Las Cruces diocese said it is “committed to transparency.” The documents on alleged clergy abuse have been reviewed while maintaining privacy and information that might identify victims.

“In addition to immediately reporting to the police any and all allegations of the sexual abuse of minors, the Diocese of Las Cruces maintains a citizen’s review board comprised of professional men and women who examine every accusation of the sexual abuse of a minor pertaining to clergy,” the spokesperson told CNA.

 

“We have done our best to identify those responsible for the abuse of minors, to publish their names on our list of credibly accused persons, and to bring justice to their victims, the spokesperson continued. 

“Bishop Peter Baldacchino has made accountability and rebuilding trust with local Catholics a priority since arriving in the Diocese. In line with the provisions of Pope Francis, he is committed to ensuring every accusation is heard and investigated and every victim cared for. The Diocese of Las Cruces will continue to cooperate with the attorney general’s office in order to do what is just and with the hope that some peace might be brought to victims who suffered abuse at the hands of clergy.”

 

Suzanne Hammons, communications director for the Gallup diocese, said the diocese could not comment because the attorney general is still conducting an active investigation.

 

“For now, I can say that the Gallup Diocese takes all allegations of abuse seriously, and as for a response from Catholics - support and prayer for survivors,” she told CNA June 4. “It’s vital that all Catholics, from the hierarchy to the laity, commit to not repeating our past failures and sins.”

 

The Gallup diocese filed for bankruptcy in November 2013 in response to sex abuse claims. It first made a list of workers against whom there are credible allegations of sexual abuse of a minor in December 2014. Bishop James Wall of Gallup began holding healing services across the diocese in November 2016.

 

Balderas said the safety assessment report will examine any cover-ups and make recommendations to prevent abuse.

 

He said the document release is “fast tracking this safety assessment of what went wrong.”

 

“In New Mexico, we're also doing a national review, because New Mexico is a dumping ground for many of these priests, they evaded jurisdiction in other states. As soon as we expedite that, we will then be producing that information to all your requesters," said Balderas.

 

Paul Linnenburger, an attorney representing a sex abuse victim, used a state law governing inspection of public records to seek the diocese’s records.

 

“This seemed like the perfect instance to be able to open the door so that the people of New Mexico could finally learn the true extent and what it is that happened here,” Linnenburger said according to Eyewitness News.

 

Balderas said he initially wanted to protect the records from abuse victims’ attorneys in case they could be used for criminal prosecution. He later decided to hand over the Diocese of Las Cruces records.

 

CNA sought comment from the Santa Fe archdiocese but did not receive a response by deadline. The archdiocese filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in late 2018. At the time, Archbishop John Wester said there were between 35-40 active sexual abuse claims against the archdiocese. Today, there are at least 400 active claims. 

 

In October 2017, following a judge’s order in response to a request from KOB-TV, the Santa Fe archdiocese released court records related to sex abuse allegations against three Catholic priests.

 

The documents were related to three priests “credibly accused of sexual misconduct with minors” in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, the archdiocese said. Among the documents were hundreds of pages of court records that concern allegations against the clergy. They included letters indicating that Church leaders knew of sex abuse allegations that had been made against three priests.

 

Arthur Perrault, a former Catholic priest later convicted of sexually abusing priests in the 1990s, served in the Santa Fe archdiocese from 1973 to 1992. Prior to that, he had been accused of molesting minors as a priest in Connecticut. In 1965, Perrault had spent time at a treatment center for sexually abusive priests run by the Servants of the Paraclete religious order in Jemez Springs, N.M.

 

In 1966 he was released from the treatment center after a psychologist recommended him for a teaching position at St. Pius X High School in Albuquerque. 

 

Nearly 40 people have come forward claiming to have been victims of Perrault and a mother of a young man has claimed he committed suicide after abuse by the priest.

 

In April 2021 CNA reported that the Santa Fe archdiocese intended to sell over 700 properties by late July to help pay for sex abuse settlements.

Buffalo diocese places three priests on leave following accusation

St. Joseph Cathedral, Buffalo diocese / CiEll/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Jun 7, 2021 / 17:01 pm (CNA).

The Diocese of Buffalo has placed three diocesan priests on administrative leave, following a new abuse accusation that dates back to the 1990s.

In a press release on Saturday, the diocese announced that a new abuse accusation had been made against three priests of the diocese under the Child Victims Act. The accusation was filed anonymously and was not directly served, the diocese claimed.

“The Diocese of Buffalo recently became aware of an action brought pursuant to the Child Victims Act by an individual who alleges that he was abused as a child in the 1990s by three priests of the Diocese,” the release stated.

The three accused priests are Fr. Adolph Kowalczyk, pastor of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart parish in Orchard Park, New York; Fr. Gregory Dobson, a retired priest who assists at paishes; and Fr. Mieczyslaw Nycz, pastor of Saints Peter and Paul in Williamsville, New York.

The diocese said it notified local law enforcement and the Independent Review Board, and has reached out to the plaintiff’s attorney regarding any cooperation with an investigation.

“Bishop [Michael] Fisher wishes to emphasize that the decision to place the priests on administrative leave at this time is in no way intended to indicate their guilt or any determination about the truth or falsity of the complaint,” the diocese stated.

Bishop Fisher said the priests all “deny ever committing any acts of abuse,” the Associated Press reported.

According to the Buffalo News, the lawsuit was filed by an Erie County man who was a student at the time the alleged abuse occurred at Sacred Heart School. The man claimed that the three priests “coerced him to engage in sexual contact with other underage female students,” which the priests filmed, on school grounds and in “the confessional rooms.”

The Buffalo diocese declared bankruptcy in February 2020, following hundreds of lawsuits under the Child Victims Act against the diocese. The act, which was implemented in August 2019, created a one-year lookback “window” for new child sex abuse lawsuits to be filed in old cases where the statute of limitations had previously expired.

While the original window was set to expire in August 2020, the state extended it for another year until August 14, 2021, due to complications caused by the ongoing pandemic.

A law firm that frequently represents victims of clerical sexual abuse announced in April that at least 2,800 lawsuits had been filed against Catholic institutions in the state under the law.

A federal bankruptcy judge on March 31 ruled that 36 abuse lawsuits against Buffalo Catholic parishes and schools would remain on hold until Oct. 1, 2021, so as not to interfere with settlement payouts that were a part of the bankruptcy process.

The diocese and its former bishops are also facing a lawsuit from the state of New York.

In November 2020, the state’s attorney general Letitia James sued the diocese in the state supreme court; Bishop Emeritus Richard Malone, retired auxiliary Bishop Edward Grosz, and Buffalo’s apostolic administrator, Bishop Edward Scharfenberger of Albany who served in the role during 2020, were all named in the lawsuit.

The state alleged that the diocese, Malone, and Grosz failed to properly investigate claims of clergy sex abuse, to monitor priests with credible abuse accusations, and to take action against priests credibly accused.