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San Francisco auxiliary bishop, seminary rector, dies age 70

San Francisco, Calif., Jul 15, 2019 / 10:32 am (CNA).- Bishop Robert Christian, O.P., an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of San Francisco and rector of St. Patrick Seminary in Menlo Park, died in his sleep Thursday at his residence at the seminary.

“I was deeply saddened to learn this morning of his passing. The Archdiocese was greatly blessed to have his wisdom and leadership even if for so brief a time as auxiliary bishop and even briefer time as rector of the Seminary,” Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco said July 11.

“We join with the Dominican community in praying for the repose of his soul and for peace and comfort for his wonderful family in their time of mourning.”

Born in San Francisco in 1948, Christian he graduated from Santa Clara University with a degree in literature in 1970.

He entered the Dominican novitiate in Oakland the same year, studying at Saint Albert College and the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology.

He made his solemn vows in 1974 and began attending courses at the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas in Rome. He was ordained a Dominican priest in 1976, and began his teaching career at Dominican College in San Rafael.

After later receiving his doctorate in theology from the Angelicum, Christian began what would be a long teaching career at the university, lasting from 1985-1997.

In California, he served as vicar and administrator of the Western Dominican Province, university professor at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, and as a member of the Clergy Education Board for the Archdiocese of San Francisco.

Christian then held the role of deputy dean of the Angelicum from 1999-2014. After a sabbatical, he became master of students for the Western Dominican Province at St. Albert Priory in 2015.

He was a peritus at the Synod of Bishops on Priestly Formation in 1990, and was a consultor to the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity and a member of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission.

Christian was appointed an auxiliary bishop of the San Francisco archdiocese in 2018, and was consecrated June 5 of that year.

He was appointed rector of St. Patrick's Seminary Jan. 14.

A visitation and vigil will be held for Christian July 22 at St. Dominic parish in San Francisco, and his funeral Mass will be said the following day at the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption.

His body will be buried at St. Dominic Cemetery in Benicia, about 60 miles southwest of Sacramento, July 24.

The Western Dominican Province said that “Bishop Christian has tirelessly served the Church and faithful for nearly 50 years. We are deeply saddened to hear of his death and entrust his soul to the loving arms of our Heavenly Father. We ask for your prayers for the repose of his soul, as well as for his grieving family, friends and Dominican brothers around the world.”

Teens encounter Christ by serving homeless persons in DC

Washington D.C., Jul 15, 2019 / 03:01 am (CNA).- It is an overcast day with threatening rain clouds overhead, but the mood in the basement of Holy Name of Jesus Church in Northeast Washington is downright sunny. Here, a group of Catholic teens are hard at work helping to prepare the “Holy Foods Market” food pantry for one of its monthly openings, and then later in the day they would make and distribute bagged lunches to some of DC’s homeless population.

The teens, under the supervision of adult volunteers, were participating in Encounter the Gospel of Life’s Service Camp, a weeklong program that place groups of teenagers with nonprofits in the Washington, D.C. area, where they serve during the day. At night, there are keynote speeches, concerts, prayers, and community building.

The Holy Foods Pantry was one of the nonprofit work sites, and a group of mostly high schoolers was stationed there for the week. CNA spoke to some of the participants to learn more about what would entice a teenager to give up a week of their summer vacation to serve on the streets of DC.

Frances Noory is a 15-year-old sophomore at a Catholic high school in northern Virginia. She told CNA that she “just really loves helping people,” and that she believes her service with Encounter is “God’s work and what He wants us to do.”

At Holy Foods Pantry, Noory said she had been working to organize the pantry, and assist clients with the “shopping” process.

“And then, we also make lunches and go out on to the streets--we hand them out to people who are in need, and we pray with them and talk with them and just give them support,” she said.

As a young, faithful Catholic, she said that living her faith “can be difficult sometimes,” but experiences like Encounter are “very encouraging and exciting.”

With programs like this, Catholic teens are given the opportunity to meet and fellowship with each other. Encounter participants are mainly from the Washington area, but the camp is open to groups from around the country.

Ryanne Thereault, 16, agreed with Noory. This is Thereault’s second time doing Encounter, but her first at the Holy Foods Pantry site. She told CNA that she loved “the atmosphere that the camp creates,” and that “everyone is just there for each other, and we all have a great time serving.”

Thereault also appreciated the opportunity to serve the less fortunate.

“I loved interacting with people on the streets,” said Thereault. “They all have really good hearts, and they were so happy to see us. They were really thankful for us.”

Many of the people CNA spoke to had been to Encounter in the past. For Matt Lawry, a 17-year-old who attends Archbishop Curley High School, this was his third summer, but his first working with the homeless. In previous summers, his service sites were primarily working with children.

“This site is more eye-opening, ‘cause you go out and interact with the homeless. It’s a completely different experience,” he said. In particular, he was struck by his encounter with a man named Orlando.

“He was in jail for like, 25 years,” said Lawry. “He was just telling us about how he did like every drug in the book, and that he promised his parents he would make it out, and he’d keep doing good things.”

Overall, Lawry said that he had enjoyed his time serving on the streets, and that “working with the homeless is like working to get closer to God.”

Young adults who have graduated from high school are also able to participate in Encounter’s service camp. Unlike the youth participants, young adults are able to pick their service site. Christine Johnson, an 18-year-old who attends the University of Maryland, chose Holy Foods Pantry.

This is Johnson’s fourth time doing Encounter. "It's been probably the best four weeks of my life, every year. I've just met so many amazing people," she said. Holy Foods was her favorite site “by far,” even though she had no idea what to expect when she first arrived.

She said she’s watched her group mates mature over the week, and they were able to overcome their initial apprehension about talking to homeless people.

Inner-city DC is very different from where Johnson grew up, and she said she has very much grown from her week serving on the streets.

"Despite the fact that we're bringing them lunches and we're talking to them, every time I interact with someone I just feel like I've gotten so much more from them than I'm able to give them,” she said.

Johnson told CNA that she has encountered Christ through her service work.

"We do this thing at the end of the day where we go around in a circle and we all say our 'God sighting' for the day,” she said. “I feel like I have so many every day from this site, just because every person I meet says something and I am like, 'That was Jesus speaking through you.'"

Encounter has given Johnson much hope for the future of the Church in the United States, and it makes her happy to see hundreds of young people gathered together to serve the Lord.

"When someone is up on stage playing music, and everyone in the crowd is like swaying together and screaming the words together--you can see in their faces they know what it means, and they're so happy to be here,” she said.

“It's the future of the Church, and it looks pretty bright to me."

This Roman basilica is dedicated to 20th century martyrs

Rome, Italy, Jul 14, 2019 / 04:08 pm (CNA).- On an island in Rome’s Tiber River, there is a basilica devoted to the Christian martyrs of the 20th century, the bloodiest century in the history of the Catholic Church.

Flanked on either side by relics of Christians martyred under Communism and Nazism respectively, the main altar of the Basilica of St. Bartholomew on Tiber Island connects the tradition of Rome’s apostolic martyrs to the persecution of Christians today.

The church was first commissioned in 998 by German Emperor Otto III to receive the remains of St. Bartholomew, who was flayed alive for his faith, and St. Adalbert, bishop of Prague who was martyred in 997 during the evangelization of Poland.

Today the basilica houses relics of the apostle and medieval evangelist alongside those of St. Maximilian Kolbe, martyred in Auschwitz, and Sr. Leonella Sgorbati, a missionary nurse in Somalia in the height of the country’s civil war. Her last words as she was murdered in 2006 were: “I forgive them, I forgive, I forgive.”

Father Angelo Romano, rector of St. Bartholomew on Tiber Island, told CNA that the basilica has received more than 120 relics from the persecuted Christian communities of modern martyrs from around the world. Many of the objects are second-class relics, which are items, or fractions of an item, that a saint personally owned.

The basilica is currently working on a crypt museum to display the entire collection because the basilica’s side chapels, which preserve the memory of recent martyrs from the Middle East, Africa, Asia, the Americas, and Europe, cannot fit them all.

“The stories of the martyrs are attractive. People want to know about them because they are very close to Jesus, and when you are close to Jesus, people love you,” Fr. Romano said.

“These people, they forgave their own persecutors, like Jesus on the cross. This is the strength of love,” he said.

As a priest, Fr. Romano said that he is challenged daily by the memory of the martyrs preserved in the basilica. “The martyrs are questioning us as to the level of our coherence, the level of our commitment, the level of our spirituality,” he said.

“It is quite a challenge because first of all I knew one of them personally,” he explained. Romano was friends with Blessed Giuseppe Puglisi, a parish priest in Palermo, who was murdered for speaking out against the mafia in 1993. His beatification “was a turning point in Sicily, for the whole society,” Romano said.

Recently, the basilica acquired the breviary of Fr. Jacques Hamel, who was killed in 2016 by ISIS terrorists in France while celebrating Mass.

“It is a story which continues,” Romano said.

On July 15, the basilica will host the launch of an independent review into the global persecution of Christians by the UK government, hosted by the UK Embassy to the Holy See.

At the event, Iraqi Cardinal Louis Sako of the Chaldean Catholic Church and representatives from Pakistan and Nigeria will speak of the persecution their communities have endured in recent years.

“As John Paul II said, freedom of religion is the basic freedom. Without it, there is no freedom at all. If you deny freedom of religion, you deny all the other freedoms,” Fr. Romano said.

The story of the basilica’s dedication to the “new martyrs” began with St. John Paul II, Romano explained.

“John Paul II was a friend of many martyrs ... he lived through the persecution of the Second World War by the Nazi regime and then the Communist persecution,” he said.

In 1998, Pope John Paul II established the Commission for the New Martyrs of the Great Jubilee, giving them the task “not only to document Catholic martyrs, but also protestant and Orthodox, saying in the blood of the martyrs, the Church is already united. There was this vision of the ecumenicism of the blood.”

The Basilica of St. Bartholomew on Tiber Island continues the ecumenical focus today by honoring the Anglican martyrs of Solomon Island, a brotherhood working for reconciliation among the ethnic groups who were killed in 1992-93, and Russian Orthodox Father Alexander Men, who was assassinated in Moscow in 1990.

There is a large icon on the altar of the “New Martyrs and Witnesses to the Faith of the 20th and 21st centuries,” which was blessed by both an Orthodox patriarch and the cardinal vicar of Rome.

Pope Francis also gave the basilica a little wooden bird from the Orthodox Church of the Holy Mother of God in Syria, a church that burned during the bombing of Aleppo in the Syrian civil war. The bird was brought back to Rome with the humanitarian corridors of the Catholic Community of St. Egidio, a lay movement dedicated to works of charity, who have been entrusted with the spiritual care of the basilica of St. Bartholomew.

“When Christians are truly leaven, light, and salt to the earth, they are, like Jesus, subject to persecution; like Him they are ‘signs of contradiction,’” Pope Benedict XVI said on his visit to the basilica in 2006.

 

For pregnant women facing poverty, pro-life groups offer resources for success

New York City, N.Y., Jul 14, 2019 / 03:26 am (CNA).- Poor women are the most likely population to obtain an abortion.

While it may seem logical that a woman who is already struggling financially is one of the most likely candidates for an abortion, the trend is relatively recent, reports the New York Times.

According to a July 9 article, data from the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-choice research organization, shows that 50% of women who obtained an abortion in 2014 were considered low-income, compared to 1994, when only one-fourth of women who got an abortion that year were living in poverty.

The reasons for this are many, according to the New York Times. More people overall live at or below the poverty line now than did 25 years ago. There are many financial resources available for poor women who are seeking abortions, and hotlines to help them access these resources.

The article ended with the story of a poor woman who, finding herself unexpectedly pregnant, decided to get an abortion in order to get through college.

But there are also abundant resources available for poor, pregnant women who want to carry their pregnancies to term and parent their children, and they should be included in stories such as these, pro-life advocates told CNA.

“The New York Times is so disingenuous to pretend that there are no services for women, no help for women, no hope for women, and basically their message is - you might as well have an abortion,” Kristi Hamrick, a spokesperson for Students for Life of America (SFLA), told CNA.

“It’s a defeatist message and it’s an anti-feminist message, because we should be about empowering women. We should be about protecting their rights against pregnancy discrimination. We should be about making sure that if you want an education, you can get one,” she added. “So I find it fascinating that these so-called champions of women aren’t willing to champion pregnant women.”

SFLA is a pro-life group that works specifically with pregnant and parenting students on campus to ensure that their rights are protected and that they have access to the resources they need.

“It’s really part of the work we’re doing every day, letting women know that there is help for them, there is support for them, and that defeatist messages from the abortion industry - that’s a marketing pitch, but that’s not the truth,” Hamrick said.

One of the main things that SFLA’s “Pregnant on Campus” initiative does is work with schools to ensure that the rights of pregnant women are protected, and that the campus is creating a welcoming environment for them.

For example, Hamrick said, SFLA works with students to ensure that their Title IX protections aren’t violated. Title IX protects pregnant students from being discriminated against based on accommodations needed for their pregnancies, making it illegal to take away scholarships, housing or placement in schools for pregnant students.

Hamrick recalled one case in which a pregnant woman missed finals because she was giving birth, and her school threatened to pull her financial aid and her place at the school.

“So SFLA got involved, we got her financial package reinstated, and frankly communicated with the school that you can’t do that. That is discrimination against women,” she said. The student was allowed to continue at the school, and her financial aid was reinstated.

Besides working to fight pregnancy discrimination, the group also works with schools to create welcoming environments for pregnant and parenting students by adding things such as short-term handicapped parking, nursing stations, and access to daycare programs on campuses.

Hamrick sent CNA an internal document used by SFLA of a list of more than 20 resources available to pregnant women in need, which includes resources such as counseling, food stamps, shelter, church groups, abortion pill reversals, adoption programs and more.

When it comes to scholarships, Hamrick said they work locally with women to determine what they are eligible for in their region and from their school. The website scholarshipsforwomen.com also lists more than 19 scholarships and grants available to pregnant women of various qualifications.

Marisol Health, a service of Catholic Charities in Denver, is another pro-life service that exists to help pregnant women in need.

In 2017, Marisol Health provided care to 821 clients, 70% of whom had incomes under $30,000; 45% had no income or incomes less than $15,000 a year. Of patients that year, 45 percent had Medicaid and 32 percent were uninsured.

“You are unique, capable and strong. You deserve to be listened to and cared for in a way that's confidential and empowering,” Marisol’s website states on its homepage.

Senite Sahlezghi, the program director of Marisol Health in Lafayette, Colorado, told CNA that they seek to serve the whole person in their services.

“The whole person... is not only a physical body, but we all have a multilayered context to our lives as well and so I think it's just been really beautiful that Marisol Health is this comprehensive OB/GYN clinic with wraparound supportive services to meet the urgent and ongoing needs of women and families,” Sahlezghi said.

Sahlezghi said the first thing Marisol does when a woman in need seeks their help is to listen to them fully.

“A lot of our families and women that come to us are in crisis situations,” she said, “which means that they're coming through our doors with a lot of circumstances that are overwhelming to them.”

The first step is to welcome these women and families in, offer them a cup of tea or a glass of water, and listen to their story and how they are doing, in order to better understand what help they most need, Sahlezghi said.

Through a partnership with Bella Natural Women’s Care, Marisol is able to offer women free pregnancy testing, free ultrasounds, STD testing and treatment, counseling, fertility awareness education, and other OB/GYN services.

But beyond services, they also provide women with accompaniment throughout their pregnancy and afterward, Sahlezghi said.

“When you're in an unexpected pregnancy or crisis situation, it is unbelievable how profound the feeling of loneliness can be and what decisions and consequences come from it,” she said. “Our main goal is to really be their village and to let them know that they're not alone.”

Besides OB/GYN services, Marisol Health is able to connect women with a variety of services, including housing, food and financial assistance through Catholic Charities. Marisol Homes provides housing for both pregnant women and homeless women with children. Through a partnership with Gabriel services, Marisol also connects women with parenting classes, education classes and other support.

Marisol also offers support groups for postpartum women, mentoring programs for fathers, and counseling and support for post-abortive women. They provide these services to women in need without discrimination, including to women who are undocumented and may have difficulty finding care elsewhere, Sahlezghi added.

“That doesn't even begin to describe the scope of the continuum of care that Catholic Charities offers,” Sahlezghi added. “Mother Theresa said, ‘Find them, love them,’ and I think that the continuum of care really allows us to try and strive after that idiom well.”

Although it has only been open for three years, Marisol Health has already helped more than 1,330 women through unexpected pregnancies.

“We want to make sure that women know that this is available to them and that their life isn't over because they're pregnant,” Sahlezghi said.

Conn. bishops call for 'complete overhaul' of immigration policies

Hartford, Conn., Jul 13, 2019 / 06:01 am (CNA).- The bishops of Connecticut have joined a number of bishops’ voices in calling for “a complete overhaul of existing immigration policies” in the face of escalating tensions at the southern border of the United States.

In a July 10 letter released through the Connecticut Cathoic Conference, the bishops expressed their concern over the border crisis, citing the June 23 deaths of Óscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez, 25, and his 23-month-old daughter Valeria, who drowned as they tried to cross the Rio Grande from Matamoros.

Martinez and his daughter, as well as his wife, Tania Vanessa Ávalos, intended to apply for asylum in the US, but the international bridge from Matamoros was closed until June 24, so they chose to swim across the Rio Grande.

The bishops said Martinez and his daughter “were fleeing the dangers of El Salvador for the safety of the United States.”

According to the New York Times, the family had left their home in El Salvador for economic reasons, and not to escape gang violence.

“Other immigrants,” the bishops commented, “have crossed the border with their lives, but have been captured and are now detained in overcrowded conditions as a result of political gridlock in our nation’s capital.”

“Those responsible in government need to undertake an examination of conscience as to what they have done and failed to do when it comes to respect for human persons and the enactment of fair and balanced legislation.”

The bishops noted that an average of 357 migrants have died annually on the southern border in the last 20 years, according to the U.S. border patrol.

“The governments of other nations also need to be encouraged and aided where necessary to remedy the conditions that force people to flee their homeland,” they said.

“We urge everyone to work and pray for a better way forward in addressing this humanitarian crisis,” the bishops concluded.

The letter was signed by Archbishop Leonard Blair of Hartford, and his auxiliary, Bishop Juan Miguel Betancourt; Bishop Frank Caggiano of Bridgeport; Bishop Michael Cote of Norwich; and Bishop Paul Chomnycky of the Ukrainian Eparchy of Stamford.

Pope Francis expressed his "immense sadness" June 26 upon seeing the image of the drowned migrants. He has spoken frequently about the need to respect the human dignity of migrants.

“They are persons; these are not mere social or migrant issues!” he said July 8. “‘This is not just about migrants,’ in the twofold sense that migrants are first of all human persons, and that they are the symbol of all those rejected by today’s globalized society.”

Leaders of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops echoed the pope’s grief and said the image of the drowned father and daughter demand action.

“This image cries to heaven for justice. This image silences politics. Who can look on this picture and not see the results of the failures of all of us to find a humane and just solution to the immigration crisis?” said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston and Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin.

The number of migrants journeying to the U.S.-Mexico border climbed sharply in recent months. A July 2 report by the Inspector General for the Department of Homeland Security found that the number of apprehensions in the Rio Grande Valley Sector alone rose by 124 % in the 2019 fiscal year against the same eight-month period the previous year.

The IG report warned of “dangerous overcrowding and prolonged detention of children and adults in the Rio Grande Valley” and urged DHS to “take immediate steps” to address the problem.

Witnesses testified before Congress this week, speaking of crowded conditions for children and adults in several Immigration and Customs Enforcement facilities in Texas.

Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso stated June 27 before he crossed the border into the U.S. from Mexico over the Lerdo International Bridge: “A government and society which view fleeing children and families as threats; a government which treats children in U.S. custody worse than animals; a government and society who turn their backs on pregnant mothers, babies and families and make them wait in Ciudad Juarez without a thought to the crushing consequences on this challenged city.”

Apprehensions of migrants by authorities on the southern border, especially of migrant families, rose sharply in the past year. According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, apprehensions of “unaccompanied alien children” has risen by nearly 75% from May 2018 to May 2019. The rise in apprehensions is led by El Paso, which has seen a 323% rise in that period period.

Despite this, Fernando Ceniceros, communications specialist for the Diocese of El Paso, told CNA last week that changes in border patrol policy have likely led to a recent decrease in migrants entering the United States at El Paso, but the humanitarian crisis is no less severe— the difference is that many would-be migrants in need of aid are required to remain in Mexico, rather than crossing the border.

DHS announced new Migrant Protection Protocols in January, providing that migrants arriving illegally or without proper documentation “may be returned to Mexico and wait outside of the U.S. for the duration of their immigration proceedings, where Mexico will provide them with all appropriate humanitarian protections for the duration of their stay.”

In a recent development, planned raids to detain and deport thousands of undocumented immigrants will go ahead after a postponement of several weeks, the Trump administration announced this week.

Pro-Life leaders tell White House summit of online censorship

Washington D.C., Jul 12, 2019 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- Pro-life leaders were invited to a White House social media summit Thursday, amid claims of online censorship by search engines and social media sites.  

“We are the tip of the spear as far as social media persecution goes,” Cary Solomon, co-writer, director and producer of the pro-life film “Unplanned” told CNA on Friday. “We are an example of a business that was directly, monetarily hurt” by online censorship.

President Trump has previously met with the heads of tech and social media corporations, but “Unplanned” co-director Chuck Konzelman said, yet “what struck a chord” at the July 11 summit “was that idea that I think he’s finally recognized this is all in bad faith.”

Several pro-life leaders were among the 200 digital and social media experts invited to the White House summit. Among those also invited were several members of Congress including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), and Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas).

Lila Rose, founder and president of the pro-life group Live Action, addressed President Trump and the summit briefly on Thursday, sharing how Live Action has had to deal with obstacles to online advertising.

Live Action has been prevented from advertising on Twitter for four years, Rose said, having been told by the social media giant that the group would need to stop calling for the defunding of Planned Parenthood and sharing its pro-life content.

Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider still advertises on the site, she noted. Meanwhile, the site YouTube “buried our pro-life videos and boosted abortion videos,” Rose said.

Live Action says it was also permanently suspended from Pinterest in June, over allegations of promoting “conspiracy theories,” despite abortion clinics and pro-abortion groups posting freely.

Mallory Quigley, vice president of communications for the Susan B. Anthony List, was also present at Thursday’s summit. She said that Pinterest has left up posts on its site explaining how to do at-home abortions. “That threatens the health and safety of women,” she said.

Informing voters of pro-life issues ahead of the 2018 elections was “critical” to the mission of Susan B. Anthony List, Quigley said. But their videos—including TV ads featuring children born prematurely at 20 weeks to illustrate that babies are viable by that age—faced censorship online.

Facebook took down one such campaign ad in Tennessee, but reinstated it with an apology. But a similar ad in Montana disappeared just hours later, Quigley said, a process of “starting and stopping” online ads for seemingly “arbitrary reasons.”

“And that really impedes our ability to reach voters,” she said.

Search engines like Google and social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube “have set themselves up as a platform where all voices are supposed to be welcomed,” Quigley said, yet “there’s been just demonstrable bias against pro-life organizations,” she said, “and we haven’t heard of the same thing happening on the other side of this debate.”

On its opening weekend—critical to any film, but especially to a smaller-budget film — “Unplanned” had its Twitter page taken down and lost the vast majority of its followers, Konzelman said. Pro-Life activist Abby Johnson, who’s conversion from a Planned Parenthood clinic manager is the premise of the film, could not access her own Twitter account during the same period.

In addition, in its Google searches for movie times, the film was labeled “Drama/Propaganda,” he said, “and ‘propaganda’ is not something an algorithm would assign. That’s the work of a human being.”

In addition, Konzelman said YouTube pulled their behind-the-scenes documentary off the website, posted to promote interest in the film, citing several pieces of copyrighted music in the video, even though “Unplanned” had rights to the music. At the same time, the site allowed a serious copyright infringement to take place as the entire copy of the movie stayed on the site and was not taken down after it was released in theaters.

All four attendees were grateful that the White House was giving the subject attention.

“This double-standard and bias is a growing problem in big tech, even though they say that they are politically neutral and that they don’t discriminate,” Rose said on Thursday at the summit. “So thank you so much to the administration and to you, Mr. President, for holding this very important summit.”

Quigley said Trump’s invitation had “put the spotlight on such an important pro-life leader, and an issue that they have faced in a very particular way, and that the entire movement is facing.” 

“It is very moving and encouraging.”

No answers from Washington archdiocese about McCarrick’s money 

Washington D.C., Jul 12, 2019 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- More than one year after the announcement of allegations of sexual abuse against former cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the Archdiocese of Washington has continued to refuse questions about McCarrick’s use of a personal charitable fund. 

McCarrick funnelled hundreds of thousands of dollars through what was known as the Archbishop’s Fund, and reportedly made gifts to senior Vatican officials, even while the fund remained under the charitable auspices of the archdiocese.

Senior sources close to the Archdiocese of Washington have confirmed that archdiocesan records include the names of individuals, including senior Vatican figures, to whom McCarrick made payments from the fund.

But the Archdiocese of Washington has declined to disclose sources, sums, and uses of money, though it has acknowledged that the fund exists.

The archdiocese has also declined to comment on whether Archbishop Wilton Gregory will address accusations of financial misconduct by McCarrick, or publish the names of bishops who personally received gifts from the disgraced former archbishop. 

The former cardinal’s reputation for gift-giving and participation in so-called “envelope culture” has come under renewed scrutiny following recent revelations concerning former Wheeling-Charleston Bishop Michael Bransfield. 

Like Bransfield, McCarrick has faced a string of allegations of sexual misconduct, dating back years, and his ability to offer large financial gifts to other bishops has come under scrutiny as a possible reason he was able to operate unchecked for so long.

Several sources, among them cardinals, officials of the Roman curia, and McCarrick’s former staff members, have told CNA about McCarrick’s habit of visiting Rome and distributing cash or personal checks to senior officials. 

In light of the Bransfield report, CNA asked the Archdiocese of Washington if it would publish the names of bishops and other Church figures who had personally received gifts or donations from McCarrick’s Archbishop’s Fund. 

On July 10 the archdiocese declined to comment in response.

CNA also asked if the archdiocese could confirm whether information relating to the Archbishop’s Fund, including the names of beneficiaries, had been included in a report submitted to Rome as part of a Vatican investigation into McCarrick.

The archdiocese declined to comment.

CNA also asked if the archdiocese would be willing to comment, even in a general way, on the outstanding questions of financial propriety around McCarrick and Archbishop Gregory’s willingness or ability to offer a clear account of what has happened.

The archdiocese again declined to comment.

In August 2018 the Washington archdiocese told CNA that the fund was designated for McCarrick’s “personal works of charity and other miscellaneous expenses” and audited annually, along with all other archdiocesan accounts - although not included in any published financial reports or materials - and that “no irregularities were ever noticed.” 

If personal payments to Church officials in Rome were offered with money from the Archbishop’s Fund, it is unclear what “charitable purpose” or “miscellaneous expenses” they would have been for, or how such expenditures would have been recorded. 

Sources close to McCarrick and familiar with archdiocesan records have told CNA he made multiple “donations” to individuals with fund resources, and sources close to the archdiocesan chancery previously have told CNA that annual expenditures may have been examined only to ensure either a “broadly charitable” purpose or a “reasonable” miscellaneous expense.

The archdiocese declined to comment on the auditing process and standards used to evaluate McCarrick’s use of the Archbishop’s Fund over the years. 

In February the archdiocese told CNA that although the account was held under the umbrella of the archdiocese, the funds were considered to be McCarrick’s own to use as he wished, but a former financial advisor to the archdiocese told CNA on July 11 that the fund was, for accounting purposes, archdiocesan money.

Kathy McKinless served as a financial consultant to the archdiocese between 2003 - 2018, throughout much of McCarrick’s tenure in Washington, and as acting chief financial officer from July 2015 to January 2016.

She told CNA that while McCarrick was responsible for raising and allocating the money in the Archbishop’s Fund, “it was on the general ledger of the archdiocese, so gifts that were made to the account were considered gifts to the archdiocese and the checks written out were considered checks of the archdiocese, because he still had standing as our archbishop emeritus.”

McKinless told CNA that while McCarrick had the freedom to give as he saw fit, there was some oversight by the archdiocese, while stressing that she did not herself have a direct role in scrutinizing the account. 

“It was definitely treated as being under the umbrella of the archdiocese because I know that the reconciliations were done at the pastoral center.” 

“It was only handled as an account that was reconciled [annually] at the pastoral center, it had inflows which were gifts to him and outflows which were checks from him but they were seen by somebody at the pastoral center,” she told CNA.

McKinless said it would have been possible for McCarrick to write checks to individuals, such as bishops or cardinals either in Rome or elsewhere, without raising suspicion, though she added that “I just was not in a position that I would have seen it.”

McKinless stressed to CNA that while there was potential for abuse, the rationale behind the fund’s existence should not be considered insidious: “I actually think that it is a worthy system, even if [McCarrick] abused it. There are lots of legitimate reasons you might want a retired bishop from your diocese to continue to do good works.”

McKinless told CNA that bishops from Asian or African dioceses and other parts of the world would often come through Washington and leave with financial support for different projects from McCarrick. Similar accounts of his legitimate generosity were given by former staff close to McCarrick, both in Washington and Newark.

A former priest-secretary who served under McCarrick told CNA that he would often make large donations to Church projects or institutions.

“A bishop from India or Africa would come through town and cry over dinner that he couldn’t feed his seminarians and McCarrick would make sure he left with a $10,000 check; he was good like that, very open-handed.”

McKinless suggested that structures and oversight could be tightened in the light of possible abuses. 

“Instead of an active checking account, it could be rearranged so that the retired bishop can make check requests, like one of our auxiliary bishops would have to do when they want to make a substantial donation.”

“In McCarrick’s case, I think allowing him to have direct access to the account rather than budget authority to make check requests would primarily have been about accounting convenience. But it’s easy enough to change it and make it about control, giving them a budget line item system to make donations instead of direct access to the account.”

“I guess the problem with McCarrick is he could [just] write a check.” 

Despite archdiocesan refusal to comment, CNA has learned that McCarrick established the Archbishop’s Fund during his time in Newark, using money received through personal financial gifts he obtained in the course of his ministry, through private fundraising initiatives, and from grantmaking foundations for which he served as a board member. 

According to former chancery officials in Newark and Washington, when McCarrick moved between the archdioceses in 2001, he arranged for the money to be transferred from his fund in Newark to a newly created Archbishop’s Fund in Washington.

Several sources familiar with the transaction told CNA that the transfer took the form of a check sent to Washington by the Archdiocese of Newark. Multiple sources told CNA that the check’s amount was well in excess of $100,000.

Later, as a cardinal, McCarrick used his position as a board member on various grant-making foundations to assign regular five-figure grants to his own foundation, with two such foundations alone registering donations to the Archbishop’s Fund totaling $500,000.

McCarrick reportedly cultivated a network of very wealthy individuals who would donate tens of thousands of dollars to his discretionary fund. 

“People would give him money all the time, in parishes when he’d visit as archbishop, but also privately – he was a natural fundraiser,” one former priest-secretary told CNA.

Another former chancery official told CNA that even during his time in Newark, McCarrick attracted considerable personal support from friends and benefactors. 

“We are easily talking about six-figure sums every year,” he said. 

USCCB official: NEA abortion support 'appalling'

Washington D.C., Jul 12, 2019 / 02:10 pm (CNA).- The lay head of the U.S. bishops’ Catholic education secretariat has decried the decision of nation’s largest teachers union to recognize abortion as a fundamental right.

“It’s an appalling development,” Mary Pat Donoghue, Executive Director of the Secretariat for Catholic Education at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told CNA, Thursday. “Here you have the largest union of educators in the country, basically affirming the destruction of those they claim to serve.”

The National Education Association (NEA) Representative Assembly last weekend adopted agenda items recognizing the “fundamental right to abortion under Roe v. Wade” and supporting the controversial Equality Act, at the NEA’s annual meeting in Houston from July 4-7.

“The NEA vigorously opposes all attacks on the right to choose and stands on the fundamental right to abortion under Roe v. Wade,” stated New Business Item 56, adopted by the Representative Assembly at the NEA Annual Meeting in Houston, attended by more than 6,000 delegates representing state and local affiliates, student members, retired members and others.

Composed of around 8,000 delegates in total, the NEA’s Representative Assembly calls itself “the largest democratic deliberative assembly in the world, which at the Annual Meeting determines NEA yearly policy priorities and a strategic plan, among other items.”

The statement in support of abortion was included in a business item honoring survivors of abuse in the #MeToo movement. The NEA did not respond to repeated requests for comment, but according to the NEA website, the rationale given for the item was that “the most misogynistic forces, under Trump, want to abolish the gains of the women's right movement [sic].”

While the Assembly adopted the abortion resolution, it defeated a business item declaring that the NEA “will re-dedicate itself to the pursuit of increased student learning” by making it the “lens through which we will assess every NEA program and initiative.”

“That tells me that the child is not truly the focus of NEA,” Donoghue said to CNA, noting that the move to support abortion is a mirror for society, “that we no longer have an understanding of the human person that begins with the Creator.”

“When God is separated out from the human person, then this is where these types of ideologies really take root and develop and grow,” she said.

However, Donoghue drew a distinction between the NEA’s Annual Meeting of several thousand delegates and the millions of public school teachers in the U.S. who were not present at the meeting, and may not be members of the NEA.

“We can’t look at this as reflective of the way that the average public school teacher would approach his or her job,” she said, noting that many teachers have “the desire to serve and to help and support children.”

The NEA Representative Assembly also voted to adopt a business item saying the NEA would “organize and mobilize” in support of the Equality Act as a “top legislative priority.”

The Equality Act establishes anti-discrimination protections for sexual orientation and gender identity in areas including education, housing, employment, jury duty, and credit. The 2019 legislation was introduced in Congress as H.R. 5 by Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) and as S. 788 by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR).

While U.S. bishops supported the goal of ending unjust discrimination against persons, they have signaled their opposition to the bill because it would “impose sweeping regulations” that would promote redefinitions of the human person, using state coercion to threaten freedoms of thought and religion.

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, Nebraska, and Bishop Frank Dewayne of Venice, Florida wrote a letter to U.S. Senators in March outlining the problematic aspects of the legislation.

The bishops pointed out that it would “remove women and girls from protected legal existence,” mandate “uniform assent to new beliefs about human identity that are contrary to those held by many,” and be exempt from the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, thus bypassing fundamental protections for religious freedom that were enacted by a broad bipartisan majority.

Forced abortion judge ignored family, human rights, appeal court finds

London, England, Jul 12, 2019 / 10:53 am (CNA).- Courts in the United Kingdom have released the text of judicial decisions in the case of a disabled woman orginally ordered to undergo a forced late-term abortion.

The decisions, made available July 11, reveal that the woman was hours away from being made to undergo the procedure at the time the Court of Appeals heard her case.

On June 21, Justice Nathalie Lieven from the Court of Protection had ruled that a 24-year-old woman, identified in court as AB, undergo an abortion at 22 weeks pregnant. Neither AB, nor her mother, “CD”, wished for her to have an abortion. Both CD and AB are devout Catholics, and are members of the Nigerian Igbo community. 

The Court of Protection hears cases related to people who do not possess the capacity to make decisions for themselves. The Court of Appeal overturned Lieven’s decision just three days later, on June 24, finding that Lieven’s decision disregarded the assessment and wishes of AB’s mother and social worker, and went against her human rights.

“[Lieven]... was in error in failing to make any reference in her ultimate analysis to [the mother’s] views about AB's best interests when, as the judge found, she knew AB better than anyone and had her best interests at heart,” reads the Court of Appeal’s judgment.

“[The mother and the social worker] each know AB better than the assessing psychiatrists could possibly do notwithstanding the lengthy, caring and careful assessments they had carried out. The judge had the expert evidence of the psychiatrists on the one hand and the views of those who know AB best on the other, but she did not weigh them up, the one against the other.”

Writing for the three judge panel, Lady Justice King concluded that Lieven “went beyond what the evidence could support” in concluding that the woman’s circumstances made a forced late-term abortion in her own best interests.

In the Appeal Court summary, AB is described as “a 24-year-old woman with moderate learning disabilities” who “exhibits challenging behaviour and functions at a level of between 6 and 9 years old.” AB is also said to have had a mood disorder, for which she is medicated. 

“It may be that, on any objective view, it would be regarded as being an unwise choice for AB to have her baby, a baby which she will never be able to look after herself and who will be taken away from her,” King concluded. 

“However, inasmuch as she understands the situation, AB wants her baby. Those who know her best… believe it to be in AB's best interests to proceed with the pregnancy,” she continued.

“[Lieven’s] conclusion as to what was in AB's best interests was substantially anchored in the medical evidence. In my judgement, that medical evidence, without more, did not in itself convincingly demonstrate the need for such profound intervention.”

King also noted that, although the woman has developmental disabilities, applicable human rights law had not been considered by Lieven.

Citing applicable case law, King wrote that “a conclusion that a person lacks decision-making capacity is not an ‘off-switch’ for [their] rights and freedoms. To state the obvious, the wishes and feelings, beliefs and values of people with a mental disability are as important to them as they are to anyone else, and may even be more important.” 

Because the Court of Protection’s original decision was rendered so close to the legal limit for abortion in the U.K. -  the 24th week of pregnancy - court documents revealed that AB was being seen at a doctor’s office for the first pre-abortion appointment when her case was scheduled to be heard in the Court of Appeal.

Had the Court of Appeal not overturned Lieven’s decision, AB would have returned to the hospital June 25 for the first part of the abortion procedure. The abortion would have been carried out June 25 and 26, shortly before her pregnancy reached its 23rd week. Both days would have required that AB go under general anesthesia, and she would have been told “in simple terms” that she would no longer be pregnant when she woke up.

According to the care plan submitted by the doctors petitioning for the forced abortion, the woman would be given a baby doll to replace the baby she was carrying. 

“To minimise the potential impact of not having a baby girl to take home with her AB can be given a new ‘baby doll’ soon after the procedure to keep with her. AB is known to enjoy keeping a doll. The doll will need to be female, and AB can keep it with her/dress it etc," read her care plan.

AB is believed to have become pregnant while visiting family in Nigeria over Christmas. It is unknown who is the father of the child, and it is conceded by all parties that she lacks the capacity to consent to sex. 

The case generated substantial outcry at the time the decision of the Court of Protection was reported. 

The Court of Appeals decision noted that the case turned primarily on the relative truama AB would have endured, either through an enforced surgical abortion or the likely loss of her child once born. 

Had the woman’s medical team applied to enforce a termination at an earlier stage, the appeal court found, it “would have thrown up entirely different issues, given that at that stage AB was entirely unaware and had no understanding of the concept of pregnancy, and that the pregnancy could have been brought to an end in a non-invasive way.”

While Lieven’s conclusion on the balance and weight of evidence was rejected by the appeal court, King nevertheless underscored the right of the court to impose an abortion if the circumstances merit it.

“Carrying out a termination absent a woman's consent is a most profound invasion of her Article 8 [human] rights, albeit that the interference will be legitimate and proportionate if the procedure is in her best interests,” King concluded.

Clare McCarthy, spokesperson for Right to Life UK, said in a statement that the decision was a “chilling” reminder of the life and death power of UK courts.

“As the ruling from the Court of Appeal made clear, the right to life of the baby held no weight in court, as the ‘the court does not take into account the interests of the foetus but only those of the mother.’ This is despite the fact that the baby, this late in gestation, would in some cases have been able to survive outside of the womb,” McCarthy said.

“Although it is a major relief that the Court of Appeal came to this decision, and that the forced abortion did not take place, it is a chilling case that demonstrates the power the court holds over life and death.”

New commission will give 'critical attention' to human rights, experts say

Washington D.C., Jul 12, 2019 / 10:00 am (CNA).- International human rights experts have praised the creation of a State Department advisory body on human rights, calling it a very much needed contribution to global affairs.

“It’s been a long time since anybody in any official capacity gave critical attention to what it means to claim that something is a human right,” Dr. Robert George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University, told CNA.

The new human rights commission will seek better to clarify fundamental human rights amidst an increase in the number of rights claims—claims that compete against each other, he said. 

“Today, the dominant discourse is the human rights discourse,” George said. “There’s certainly been an inflation of rights claims, an inflation of rights language. Now anybody who advocates anything advocates it in the name of human rights. So how do we sort through those claims?”

At a July 8 press conference at the State Department, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the creation of the Commission on Unalienable Human Rights, consisting of up to 15 human rights experts of various religious, philosophical, and cultural backgrounds. 

The purpose of the commission, Pompeo said, would be to advise him on human rights matters “grounded in our nation’s founding principles and the principles of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” 

That landmark document, proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris in 1948, recognized fundamental human rights including the rights to life, religious freedom, equal protection under the law, and rights against torture and slavery.

In addition, Pompeo said he hoped the commission’s work would prove to be “one of the most profound reexaminations of the unalienable rights in the world since the 1948 Universal Declaration.” 

The commission is anticipated to meet once a month with a periodic review by the State Department, and members must have “distinguished” backgrounds in diplomacy, law, and human rights, and each can serve up to one year at the decision of the Secretary.

Mary Ann Glendon, a Harvard Law professor and former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, was chosen by Secretary Pompeo to lead the commission. Other members include Russell Berman, Peter Berkowitz, Paolo Carozza, Hamza Yusuf Hanson, Jacqueline Rivers, Meir Soloveichik, Katrina Lantos Swett, Christopher Tollefsen, and David Tse-Chien Pan.

“There’s a spectrum of traditions that are represented here,” George said of the panel, noting that the commission members are steeped in knowledge of human rights and have “engaged more broadly” with a variety of traditions. 

“If there are people making the claim that this commission isn’t diverse enough, maybe they could show me a gender studies department or a university faculty that’s got greater diversity,” he said. 

George praised the appointment of Glendon, whom he called “the leading human rights scholar of our time” who “literally wrote the book on the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948.” Glendon is the author of “A World Made New,” on the creation of the Universal Declaration and the discussions that shaped the document. 

The commission’s creation appears to be the fruition of a long-term policy priority in the State Department.

In May, Pompeo spoke on foreign policy at the Claremont Institute’s 40th Anniversary Gala, stating that “respect for God-authored rights and liberties” is part of “the distinctive mark of Western Civilization.” He added that the U.S. should uphold human rights by working “to cooperate with like-minded democracies,” while making sure to “guard against those who don’t.”

“You could see this commission as an outgrowth of that speech,” a senior administration official explained to CNA on Monday. 

Speaking separately to CNA, an administration official and human rights experts both emphasized two main reasons for the creation of the commission: countering the abuse of rights language by terrorists and bad actors on the international stage; and addressing the “proliferation” of international human rights claims. 

Today, “some of the worst human rights abusers in the world being represented and even chairing international human rights commissions. That’s just outrageous,” George said. 

Emilie Kao, Director of the Richard and Helen DeVos Center for Religion & Civil Society at The Heritage Foundation, told CNA that abusive regimes hide behind the expanded language of rights.

“What often happens is governments which are the worst abusers will say” that “we’ve protected economic and social rights” as a means to “deflect criticism away from their failure to protect unalienable human rights” like freedom of religion and association.

The commission could assist the State Department in putting fundamental human rights, such as religious freedom, at the heart of its diplomacy with other countries, Kao said. But she warned it would not be easy.

Religious freedom has fallen by the wayside in attempts to redefine or introduce new international human rights which have led to “a devaluation of the unalienable human rights,” she told CNA. Nearly 80% of the global population lives in countries with significant restrictions on religious freedom.

Kao also said that the “proliferation” of rights claims could be seen in efforts at the international level to recognize rights that the 1948 Universal Declaration did not, citing the UN Human Rights Council’s adoption of a resolution on the right to compete in sports based on one’s “gender identity.” 

The senior administration official explained to CNA that the commission’s work will consider the difference between “unalienable” and other kinds of rights—whether the “right not to be tortured” is on the same level as “the right to clean water,” or if the “right to liberty” is akin to the “right to social welfare payments.” 

“Those are the kinds of questions that they’ll ask,” they said.

Some advocacy groups have issued sharp criticisms of the commission. 

Amnesty International called the commission’s creation a “politicization of human rights” that would “further hateful policies aimed at women and LGBTQ people” and ignored an already-existing “global framework” to secure human rights.

Speaking to CNA, a senior administration official said this critique lacked a clear basis. 

“First of all, what global framework?” the official asked. “Has it all worked after 70 years? Have multilateral institutions done the job? Why not step back from it and have a serious genuine debate?”

Kao agreed, noting that groups like Amnesty International have worked to change the existing global framework on rights. She pointed to the Yogyakarta Principles, adopted by various rights groups in 2006, calling it a “manifesto” of the LGBT movement to add sexual orientation and gender identity categories into existing international human rights law and treaties. 

“That’s not what the member states of the UN, the governments, intended for those treaties to mean,” Kao said. 

The State department official also noted that “unalienable” rights are those that apply to everyone, and that the commission was not founded to discover new rights or take existing rights away, and that this should be weighed against more narrow concerns of LGBT rights in a Western political context.

“You have nations where gays are thrown off of roofs,” the administration official said. “Don’t you want government focusing on that?”

“It is really important to go back to the foundations,” Kao said of the effort to better understand human rights, noting that “cultural relativism” also plays a part in the current debate that “devalues” human rights. 

“Unalienable” human rights are universal, she said, they “transcend the civil and political rights” of a particular location.