Browsing News Entries

Browsing News Entries

Pope Francis: Whatever happens, 'hope does not disappoint!'

Camerino, Italy, Jun 16, 2019 / 06:09 am (CNA).- Hope, which is more than mere optimism, gives one a deep-rooted confidence in the love and care of God, no matter what has happened, Pope Francis said Sunday.

Hope “does not expire, because it is based on the fidelity of God. The hope of the Spirit is not even optimism. Born deeper, it rekindles at the bottom of the heart the certainty of being precious because loved,” the pope said June 16.

“It is a hope that leaves peace and joy inside, regardless of what happens outside. It is a hope that has strong roots, which no storm of life can uproot,” he added. “It is a hope that, says St. Paul, ‘does not disappoint’ – hope does not disappoint! – which gives the strength to overcome all tribulations.”

Pope Francis said Mass in Camerino, Italy during a day visit to the Archdiocese of Camerino-San Severino Marche. The area was one of those affected by the earthquakes which struck central Italy in 2016 and 2017. The Mass was said in the square outside the cathedral, which is still under reconstruction after being damaged in the earthquake.

In his homily, Francis spoke to those who suffered damage, injury, or loss due to the earthquakes.

“When we are troubled or wounded – and you know well what it means to be troubled, wounded – we are led to ‘nest’ around our sadness and our fears,” he said, noting that the Holy Spirit can free people from these “nests.”

“The Spirit feeds us with living hope. Invite him. Let us ask him to come to us and he will come near. Come, Comforter Spirit! Come give us some light, give us the sense of this tragedy, give us the hope that does not disappoint. Come, Holy Spirit!” he prayed.

The pope also reflected on a line from the day’s Responsorial Psalm: “What is man that you should be mindful of him...” This question, he said, could come also in the face of “collapsed houses and buildings reduced to rubble.”

“What is man ever? What is he, if what you raise can collapse in an instant? What is he if his hope can end in dust?”

The truth, Francis said, is that “God remembers us as we are, with our frailties.”

“No one is contemptible in his eyes, each has an infinite value for him: we are small under heaven and powerless when the earth trembles, but for God we are more precious than anything.”

Before praying the Angelus following Mass, Pope Francis told the people of the diocese he came in order to be near to them and to pray with them, saying, “I pray to the God of hope, so that what is unstable on earth does not shake the certainty we have inside.”

God remembers everyone and he can heal the memories of that difficult time, he said. “God helps us to be builders of good, consolers of hearts. Everyone can do a little good, without waiting for others to start.”

Entrusting the diocese to the Virgin Mary, he prayed: “May she who animated the first community of Jesus’ disciples with her motherly presence, also help the Church today to give good witness to the Gospel.”

Before returning to the Vatican in the afternoon, the pope met with around 200 children who had received their first Holy Communion and with their parents and catechists.

 

Kenyan court rules that rape victims have right to abortion

Nairobi, Kenya, Jun 15, 2019 / 02:01 pm (CNA).- Kenya's High Court ruled Wednesday that rape victims whose pregnancy threatens their life or health have a right to procure abortion.

The June 12 ruling regarded a case brought on b ehalf of a young woman who died in June 2018 from complications related to a back-alley abortion she procured in 2014.

"Pregnancy resulting from rape or defilement, if in the opinion of a trained medical profession poses a danger to life or the health - that is physical, mental and social well-being of the mother – maybe terminated under ... sections of the constitution," said Justice Aggrey Muchelule, the Thompson Reuters Foundation reported.

The Standard, a Nairobi daily, reported that the judges ruled: “The apparent blanket prohibition of abortion in the penal code cannot stand while the Constitution gives the right to a woman to abort when their life and health are in danger.”

The 2010 Kenyan constitution made abortion legal in certain circumstances – in the cases of emergencies and when the woman’s health is in jeopardy.

The girl at the center of the case, known by her initials JMM, was raped in 2014 at the age of 15. In December of that year, her guardian was told by a relative that JMM was vomiting and bleeding heavily at a clinic where she had gone for treatment.

JMM had told clinic staff she had procured an unsafe abortion and that she had been sent to a variety of hospitals for post-abortive care.

In 2015, JMM's mother, along with the Federation of Women Lawyers and the Centre for Reproductive Rights, filed a suit against the Ministry of Health claiming JMM was not provided with proper post-abortion care and calling on the government to provide access to safe abortions.

JMM developed kidney failure, and died June 10, 2018.

The suit filed on JMM's behalf maintains that the poor care she received following her abortion was a result of the lack of safe abortion services.

In its ruling, the court awarded JMM's mother damage of 3 million Kenyan shillings ($29,500).

The court also ordered the health ministry to reinstate guidelines on conducting 'safe' abortions. In 2013 the ministry had withdrawn the guidelines, and banned health workers from training in the procedure, after it emerged they were being used to unintended purposes.

The court had heard three days of testimony in the case in July 2018. It had been expected to deliver a verdict before January 2019.

Among the testimonies heard by the court was that of Dr. Wahome Ngari, who said that figures on the number of back-alley abortions procured, which are used to argue for the expansion of abortion rights, are wildly inflated, and that similar inflation was used to push the Malawian government to repeal its abortion law.

Ngari said the focus on health care for pregnant women in Kenya should begin with blood loss.

“The reason pregnant mothers die in the country is haemorrhage, followed by infections, hyperactive disorders, prolonged or obstructed labour and lastly abortion. Anyone who wants to offer a solution should follow that order.”

Trial date set for Argentine priests accused of abusing deaf children

Mendoza, Argentina, Jun 15, 2019 / 06:01 am (CNA).- Two priests accused of sexually abusing minors at a school for deaf children in Argentina will stand trial Aug. 5.

The priests and a former employee at the Antonio Provolo institute will face charges of the abuse of more than 20 children, the AP noted.

One of the priests involved is Fr. Nicola Corradi, who is a member of the Company of Mary, an Italian religious community which operates schools for deaf children in several countries, including Argentina and Italy. The schools are named for Antonio Provolo, a nineteenth-century Italian priest who founded Corradi’s religious community.

Corradi was arrested in 2016 along with Fr. Horacio Corbacho and other employees in connection with the abuse allegations, and the school was closed down.

Sr. Kosako Kumiko, a religious sister with the school, was arrested in May 2017 for charges of facilitating and covering-up sexual abuse at the school. Some students have also accused the sister of sexual abuse, though she has maintained her innocence.

Corradi, now 83, was first accused of abuse in 2009, when 14 Italians reported that they had been abused by priests, religious brothers, and other adults at the Provolo Institute in Verona, over the course of several decades.

After an investigation, five priests were sanctioned by the Vatican. Corradi, then living in Argentina, was among those accused of abuse, but was not arrested or otherwise sanctioned.

In 2014, Corradi was the subject of a letter sent to Pope Francis from victims of sexual abuse who were concerned about the priests ongoing ministry, despite the accusations against him. In 2015, the group handed a list of priests accused of abuse to the Pope in person, according to the Washington Post.

The group reportedly did not hear back from Pope Francis, but did hear from a Vatican official, Archbishop Giovanni Becciu, who wrote to the group in 2016 to tell them that he had informed the Italian bishops’ conference of their request for an investigation.

Later that year, Corradi, as well as Corbacho and another employee of the school, were arrested. However, according to a Washington Post report, it was civil authorities who decided to take action against Corradi and remove his access to children, while the Church in Argentina was not fully cooperative with the investigation, according to local officials.

“I want Pope Francis to come here, I want him to explain how this happened, how they knew this and did nothing,” a 24-year-old alumna of the Provolo Institute told the Washington Post in February.

Prosecutors in the case told the Washington Post that children at the school were “fondled, raped, sometimes tied up and, in one instance, forced to wear a diaper to hide the bleeding. All the while, their limited ability to communicate complicated their ability to tell others what was happening to them. Students at the school were smacked if they used sign language.”

“They were the perfect victims,” Gustavo Stroppiana, the chief prosecutor in the case, told the Washington Post, because the students were typically from poor families and had communication limitations.

According to previous reports from the AP, pornographic videos and magazines, along with $34,000 in cash, were found in Corradi’s room at the time he was arrested.

Corradi could face up to 50 years in prison if he is convicted by the Argentine court.

Lead by example, not documents, Vatican abuse expert tells Polish bishops

Warsaw, Poland, Jun 14, 2019 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- As the Catholic Church in Poland continues to respond to sex abuse by clergy, Archbishop Charles Scicluna, a leading Vatican expert on prosecuting sex crimes under church law, attended the bishops’ plenary assembly to discuss child and youth protection.
 
Scicluna told the Catholic news source KAI that he wanted to encourage the bishops “to implement the very good guidance points that they themselves adopted” in 2013, Reuters reported.
 
“I have a great hope that Polish bishops will do what is needed...I hope this situation can be repaired,” said Scicluna, who took part in a June 14 session of the 383rd Plenary Assembly of the Polish Bishops’ Conference in Walbrzych.
 
“My very strong message to the bishops of Poland this morning was - we need to pass from very good documents to an example of best practice,” the archbishop said.
 
He said rules alone are not enough unless they are implemented. Parishioners need to know to whom they can report suspected abuse.
 
Scicluna urged anyone aware of a coverup to report it to Church authorities. In cases where high-ranking bishops are involved, they should report the coverup to Poland’s papal nuncio, the Associated Press reported.
 
In a May 22 letter, the Polish bishop’s conference spoke out against clergy sexual abuse and pledged both to continue to “eliminate factors conducive to crime” and to adopt a more sensitive attitude toward victims.
 
“We admit that as shepherds of the Church we have not done everything to prevent these harms,” they said, thanking the victims who have come forward and urging those who have not to report their abuse to both Church and state authorities.
 
A documentary about clerical sex abuse in Poland, titled “Tell No One,” was produced and recently released by filmmaker brothers Tomasz and Marek Sekielski. Millions of viewers have watched it on YouTube.
 
Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki of Poznan, President of the Polish bishops’ conference, thanked the filmmakers on May 13. He said he was “deeply moved and saddened” by the film.
 
“I am convinced that this film, too, will result in an even more stringent compliance with the guidelines for the protection of children and young people in the Church,” he said, noting Pope Francis’ recent instructions in the document “Vos estis,” which includes rules on the prevention of and response to sexual abuse by clergy.
 
Close to 400 Polish priests were accused of sexual abuse of minors, with alleged incidents dating as far back as 1950 with as many as 625 potential victims, according to a study commissioned by the Episcopal Conference of Poland and released in March 2019. These accusations were submitted to Poland’s bishops starting in the year 1990 until 2018.  
 
The study covered data collected from the more than 10,000 parishes in Poland, and included religious orders.
 
According to the report, 382 priests were accused of abuse during the time covered. Of the clerics accused, 284 were diocesan priests, and 98 belonged to a religious order. Figures provided by the Holy See Press Office in 2016 reported there are 156 bishops and some 30,661 priests in Poland.
 
At the time of the report’s release, Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki, head of the Episcopal Conference of Poland, called the report’s findings “tragic,” and said every instance of sexual abuse is a “particularly painful” betrayal of public trust.
 
About 58 percent of allegations of abuse involved male victims, while 42 percent of victims were female. About 45 percent involved sexual abuse of a victim under age 15.
 
Only 168 priests were charged with a crime by civil authorities, with 85 being convicted. Two of these priests were acquitted outright, while other accused priests’ cases did not move forward. As of March 2019, 33 priests’ trials were ongoing.
 
Polish law currently provides for a 12-year prison sentence for abuse of a child under 15. Jaroslaw Kaczynski, head of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party in Poland, has discussed extending this to 30 years.
 
A canonical process under the Catholic Church’s internal laws was sought against at least 362 of the 382 accused priests.
 
A total of 68 priests were canonically removed from the priesthood, and another 109 punished by limits on ministry or other sanctions. Another 31 were transferred either to a different parish or to a location away from children. Of the accused priests, 34 passed away before the process could finish. Only 28 priests were acquitted. There was no data or explanation for the canonical response to 20 of the accused priests.
 
A separate report was produced by the sex abuse victims support group Have No Fear. The group presented a Spanish-language edition to Pope Francis after his general audience Feb. 20.
 
Their report aims to document “violations of civil and canon law by Polish bishops in the context of priests who engaged in sexual abuse of minors.” It examines more than 20 cases of clergy sexual abuse reported to the relevant Polish bishops in the last three decades, some cases reported as recently as 2012. It also examines these bishops’ responses.
 
The report accuses 24 former and current Polish bishops of having protected or transferred priests who abused children and adolescents.
 
According to the New York Times, about 87% of the Poland's 38 million people self-identify as Catholic.

 

Pro-life leader: All-time high abortion rate in UK shows society has failed women, children

London, England, Jun 14, 2019 / 06:32 pm (CNA).- More than 200,000 UK women received an abortion in 2018, setting an all-time high rate of abortion in England and Wales.

The UK Department of Health and Social Services released a study on Wednesday which revealed that last year, 200,608 UK residents and nearly 5,000 more non-residents received an abortion in the UK.

According to the survey, abortions in the country had decreased in 2009, but have steadily increased since 2010. The previous record high was in 2008.

In the last decade, the number of abortions have increased particularly for women who are over 29 and those who already have a family. Over half of the abortions in 2018 were performed on women who have had children or had a still-born birth.

“The rates for women aged 30-34 have increased from 15.6 per 1,000 women in 2008 to 19.9 in 2018, and rates for women aged 35 and over have also increased from 6.7 per 1,000 women in 2008 to 9.2 per 1,000 women in 2018,” the study states.

However, the rate of abortions for women under the age of 18 significantly decreased in the past decade. The 2018 rate reflected a decrease by more than half in the number of teens who received abortions, compared to the rate in 2008.

According to Daily Mail, abortion experts said the trends are complicated. Clare Murphy, director of external affairs for British Pregnancy Advisory Service, said contraception distribution and family planning have both played a part in the numbers.

“Accessible contraceptive services are often focused on the needs of younger women and women over the age of 25 can in particular find themselves excluded from schemes providing free, pharmacy access to emergency contraception,” she said.

“However, it is also possible that over the longer term couples are making different decisions about family size and the number of children they can afford and feel able to properly care for.”

Following budget cuts to health services, abortion advocates have called for more funding to be provided. Prof. Lesley Regan, president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, told BBC that the under-funding needs to stop.

“We are calling for an end to fractured commissioning and greater accountability to stop the under-funding and fragmentation of these services which disproportionately affects women," she said.

However, Clare McCarthy, spokesperson for the pro-life non-profit Right to Life, decried the recent record, calling it a “national tragedy.” According to the Telegraph, the pro-life leader said the issue will probably worsen.

"Every one of these abortions represents a failure of our society to protect the lives of babies in the womb and a failure to offer full support to women with unplanned pregnancies,” she said.

"Proposals from abortion campaigners to remove legal restrictions around abortion and introduce abortion right to birth would likely see these numbers get even worse."

 

Ecuadorian bishops lament court's recognition of same-sex marriage

Quito, Ecuador, Jun 14, 2019 / 06:01 pm (CNA).- The Ecuadorian bishops' conference expressed Thursday their rejection of the recognition of same-sex marriage by the Constitutional Court, and recalled that a marriage is comprised of one man and one woman.

The Constitutional Court recognized gay marriage June 12 in a 5-4 decision.

The minority opinion stated that “the proper avenue for recognizing marriage equality is the procedure to amend the constitution, which is the competency of the National Assembly.”

The majority opinion judges stated that they based their decision on one by the Inter-American Court on Human Rights and by interpreting Article 67 of the Constitution of Ecuador “in light of the constitutional norms favorable to the equality of persons and which rejects all types of discrimination.”

In a statement published June 13, the bishops pointed out that “the Constitutional Court under no argument is entitled to reform the content of the Constitution of the Republic including the concept  of marriage, defined in its Art. 67 as the union of one man and one woman.”

The prelates also noted that “two judges on the Constitutional Court were morally and legally impeded from participating in processing these cases, as they have been lawyers in cases advancing this cause and advocates of marriage equality before being appointed judges and moreover, they previously publicly expressed their criteria in support of this claim.”

The Ecuadorian bishops recalled that “the definition of marriage, as the union of a man and a woman was approved by the Ecuadorian people through the referendum held in 2008, with 63% of the vote, precisely to protect and strengthen the institution of marriage which is the only one that guarantees the continuance of the human species and its free development, therefore five judges simply cannot go against the sovereign will of Ecuadorians.”

The bishops reaffirmed their commitment to respect for human rights regardless of “age, race, sex, religion, sexual orientation or culture,” and reiterated their desire to “promote marriage between a man and a woman … as the foundation of the family and of society, an institution that must be recognized and guaranteed by the Ecuadorian Government.”

The bishops said that the recognition of marriage and the family is finally a “religious freedom right, recognized by the Secular State of Ecuador.”

In conclusion, the bishops committed to “teaching children and young people that marriage according to the Christian faith is the indissoluble union between a man and a woman and that, as a fruit of that love, children are born for society and the Kingdom of God.”

St Louis University: employee who signed abortion rights letter apologized, retracted support

St. Louis, Mo., Jun 14, 2019 / 05:12 pm (CNA).- A group of 180 business leaders this week signed an open letter, published June 10 as a full-page advertisement in the New York Times and online, in support of abortion rights and declaring abortion restrictions “bad for business.”

“Restricting access to comprehensive reproductive care, including abortion, threatens the health, independence and economic stability of our employees and customers. Simply put, it goes against our values and is bad for business,” the letter read.

Among the original list of signatories was Cindy Mebruer, director of the Center for Supply Chain Excellence at Saint Louis University’s Richard A. Chaifetz School of Business. SLU is a Jesuit institution with a total enrollment of 13,000.

Mebruer signed the letter on behalf of the center, and the name of the university was included in the online version of the letter.   

“Saint Louis University had no knowledge of the New York Times advertisement until it was brought to the University’s attention Thursday,” the university said in a statement to CNA.

“The employee who signed the letter has apologized for including the University within the petition profile in a way that may have been misconstrued as a statement that reflects the University’s viewpoint, rather than her own personal views.”

The Center for Supply Chain Excellence is classified as a “Center of Distinction” within the Richard A. Chaifetz School of Business at the university, and offers certificate programs related to supply chain management.

“[The employee] has stated that it was not her intent to speak for the entirety of the University and upon hearing of the misunderstanding, immediately reached out to the advocacy group to request that her employer's name be removed from the statement,” the university continued.

As of Friday afternoon, neither the university, the center, nor Mebruer's name appear on the online version of the letter.

“Saint Louis University is committed to acting consistently with the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. While the University respects the freedom of conscience for each person, any official University action is in accord with SLU’s Catholic identity,” the statement concluded.

A coalition of pro-abortion organizations, including Planned Parenthood Federation of America, NARAL Pro-Choice America, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and the American Civil Liberties Union coordinated the letter.  

“We, the undersigned, represent more than 108,000 workers and stand against policies that hinder people’s health, independence and ability to fully succeed in the workplace,” the letter continued.

Signatories include CEOs on behalf of multi-billion dollar corporations such as Bloomberg, H&M, Atlantic Records, and Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream. The list includes a number of influential technology companies such as Slack, Zoom Video Communications, and Yelp.

Raoul Scherwitzl, the CEO of Natural Cycles, an app to track fertility, also signed the letter.

Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Square, a payment processing company, is another signatory; Dorsey is also the CEO of Twitter.

The letter was prompted, in part, by the recent passage of laws restricting abortion in states such as Georgia, Alabama, and Missouri, where Saint Louis University is located.

Missouri Governor Mike Parson signed the “Missouri Stands for the Unborn Act” in May, which criminalizes performing abortions after eight weeks in the state, except when the life of a mother is determined to be in danger.

The law criminalizes the performance of abortions or the prescribing of medical abortions, punishable as a Class B felony, for doctors and medical professionals. It does not penalize women who obtain abortions. Class B felonies are punishable by 5-15 years in prison in the state of Missouri.

St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson applauded the new law, calling it a “giant step forward for the pro-life movement.”

Liberian priest's wide-ranging accusations against two bishops include sexual harassment

Monrovia, Liberia, Jun 14, 2019 / 04:01 pm (CNA).- Liberian Church leaders have visited the Vatican after a priest claimed to have been mentally and psychologically abused by two bishops, reportedly in retaliation against him for refusing sexual relations.

Father Gabriel Sawyer, who has since left ministry and attempted to marry, made the accusations against Archbishop Lewis Zeigler of Monrovia and Bishop Andrew Karnley of Cape Palmas in an Aug. 15, 2018 letter to the apostolic nuncio to Liberia, Archbishop Dagoberto Campos Salas.

Archbishop Zeigler declined comment to Front Page Africa, while Bishop Karnley characterized Sawyer’s claims as “a campaign of lies and falsehoods against me.”

The visit took place the last week of May, the news site Crux reported. The Vatican meeting included Bishop Anthony Borwah of Gbarnga, who heads the Liberian bishops’ conference; Father Dennis Cephus Nimene, secretary of the bishops’ conference; and Campos, the nuncio.

The alleged victim said in his letter to the nuncio that the harassment was constant and systematic for over 14 years.

In a May 23 Front Page Africa / New Narratives report, the priest said he was left destitute and waited for a year and a half for an investigation. He claims to have then attempted to marry a friend in February 2019 “to protect my own life.” He said he faced threats and he accused his ecclesiastical superiors of refusing to provide him with necessary healthcare.

“Once the information got out they were sending me threatening messages,” he said. “I am the first person to speak out on these homosexuality and sex abuse charges. And these things have haunted the Church for years. I felt it is time someone speaks out about them.”

Sawyer said the retaliatory incidents involving Karnley lasted more than two decades, dating back to his time as a seminarian when Karnley was vocations director.

Karnley made sexual advances towards him “continuously” when they traveled by car together, Sawyer alleged.

In one incident, Sawyer said, Karnley tried to touch him sexually when he was half-asleep in his room. When he refused the bishop further sexual activity, the retaliation began, the priest claims.

“He quietly and calmly left my room, telling me at the same time, that he will make sure that I did not become a priest,” said the priest, who said the previous Archbishop of Monrovia, Michael Francis, assigned him to another priest for evaluation before approving his ordination to the priesthood. Francis died in 2013.

Sawyer said he kept quiet “in order to save my vocation.” He said he discussed the retaliatory behavior with his classmates, though not Karnley’s alleged sexual advances.

Karnley, 52, has served as Bishop of Cape Palmas since 2011. He was a priest of the Archdiocese of Liberia, and was its apostolic administrator from 2005-2009.

The 75-years-old Zeigler has been Monrovia’s archbishop since 2011. He is the former Bishop of Gbarnga.

New Narratives said it has interviewed five other priests and lay people who affirmed Sawyer suffered abuse from the two bishops. These alleged witnesses asked for their identities to be withheld for fear of retribution from Church leadership.

Moses Carter, a spokesman for the Liberia National Police, affirmed that the country’s laws will be enforced if anyone is convicted, explaining, “If any individual in the Catholic Church commits an act it does not becloud the entire church said individual must be made to face the full weight of the law.”

“Whoever claims they were sodomized or attempts were made on them, the law is always there for everyone. They can come over to the (Liberia National Police),” said Carter.

Liberia’s penal code bars “involuntary sodomy,” classifying as a third-degree felony “deviate sexual intercourse” or causing someone to engage in such intercourse. It is unclear whether the law would apply in Sawyer’s case.

Sawyer has also charged that the archbishop abused his power and refused him leave to go to Ghana for treatment for an illness.

The harassment was so severe it has caused him “untold sufferings and mental disorders,” he charged, including “psychological breakdown” and even a periodic “state of paralysis.” He also suffers from acute gastrointestinal disorder.

Explaining his sex abuse claim against Zeigler, Sawyer said the archbishop “told me that I was looking nice and he loves me.” It appears to be based in the archbishop’s recommendation that “I should make time available to visit him at his house,” which Sawyer said he realized meant “something else.” In Sawyer’s account, the bishop later repeated such a proposal.

“This time I told him I was not interested and cannot reduce myself to that level. I was so upset and left his office without discussing what I went to see him about,” the priest said.

Another priest speaking anonymously to Front Page Africa said that Zeigler has professed his innocence of the allegations in meetings with clergy.

Karnley told Front Page Africa, “I challenge Father Sawyer in the name of God to take me to any court and prove it, not only him but any man living or dead.”

News reports cited a leaked email to Sawyer from Bishop Borwah, dated Dec. 4, 2018, that appears to show Borwah asking Sawyer to “please keep things away from the media, public and the court.”

The bishop, who was ordained a priest of the Monrovia archdiocese in 1996, appeared to want the priest’s side heard.

“You have the right to be listened to and protected by the Church,” said the bishop, who pledged his help to bring the process to a successful conclusion “as much as I can with God’s help.”

Sawyer has supporters and detractors.

One lay Catholic, Aaron Weah, told Front Page Africa he supported “a strong and impartial investigation.”

“I believe that if they are verified to be lies it will help the Church. If these acts are actually happening in the Church and they can be verified and authenticated it will also help our faith,” Weah said.

Others were critical of the accuser.

“I think it is misinformation,” Solo Otto Gaye, a journalist and a Catholic who volunteers with the Cape Palmas diocese, said of Sawyer’s claims. “This is hard to believe because (the) bishop is an African man from the village. I run his social media page. I have gone from village to village with him. We even sleep together. If he is gay I would know.”

Some reactions came from the pulpit.

“What you are hearing is because an individual is hurt and decided to smear the image of the church,” Sacred Heart Cathedral’s administrator, Father Alphonsus Momoh, said to a Sunday congregation in Monrovia. “One day the truth will be told by the one who told the lie. Some believe it, some don’t and some are standing firm.”

He attributed the controversy to greed and a desire for money, saying, “Nobody wants to go through the proper channel. You will go and tarnish the name of the institution you belong to. There is no trust. We find in our midst- pulling down each other.”

A division of the Catholic fraternity Knights of St. John International, based at the same cathedral, expelled a member who spoke to the press about the matter and criticized the Church.

Sawyer said harassment continued after his ordination, though indirectly. He charged that Karnley and his allies conspired to oust him from his parish assignment, leaving him destitute and forced to beg for money at times.

His letter objected that the bishop’s office provided him insufficient funds to secure a visa to the U.K. for studies, and provided insufficient funds to support him while studying in the U.K., which similarly forced him to beg.

Upon his return, he was assigned to pastors who failed to provide his basic material needs. Sawyer contended his assignment as an associate priest after having served as pastor was non-canonical and a “total abuse of ecclesiastical power.”

A pastor he served under, he said, called the bishop and falsely reported that Sawyer threatened to kill the pastor “with a cutlass.” Sawyer also claimed that Karnley falsely accused him of having affairs with women, because of his refusal of sexual advances.

Sawyer claimed that his refusal of Zeigler’s alleged sexual advances meant that the bishop would listen to gossip about him rather than fairly investigate the accusations and unjustly kicked the priest out of his assignments. He claimed that the archbishop showed insufficient empathy to the priest and did not pay sufficient respect to his family after his father’s death. The priest’s letter speculated on whether this apparent inaction was due to an Ebola outbreak.

Both bishops ignored canon law, the priest charged.

The series on the Liberian bishops was produced by New Narratives as part of the West Africa Justice Reporting Project. It acknowledges funding from the Australian government agency Australian Aid, with the disclaimer that the funder had no say in the content.

The New Narratives project’s international partners are the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the U.K.-based charitable arm of the news network, and Chime for Change, founded by the Italian luxury fashion company Gucci in 2013. The Chime for Change campaign on its website describes as an effort “to convene, unite and strengthen the voices speaking out for gender equality.”

Should Catholics attend 'pride' events?

Denver, Colo., Jun 14, 2019 / 03:50 pm (CNA).- On June 1, Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence tweeted that Catholics should not attend Pride events during the month of June, which is commemorated as “Pride Month” throughout the United States.

“A reminder that Catholics should not support or attend LGBTQ ‘Pride Month’ events held in June,” Tobin tweeted. “They promote a culture and encourage activities that are contrary to Catholic faith and morals. They are especially harmful for children.”

By the following day, the bishop issued another statement after widespread backlash against his original tweet.

“The Catholic Church has respect and love for members of the gay community, as do I,” Tobin said, adding that “individuals with same-sex attraction are beloved children of God and our brothers and sisters.” While the bishop expressed regret that some people took offense at his tweet, he did not apologize for or retract any of the content of his original statement.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly teaches what Tobin tweeted: that people with same-sex attraction must be treated with love and respect, and that the promotion of same-sex sexual relationships is contrary to faith and morals, and God’s plan for human sexuality.

Given these two teachings, what should a Catholic do if invited to participate in “Pride” events?

How Pride month started

The commemoration of June as “Pride Month” was officially established by President Bill Clinton in 1999, but it was already being unofficially celebrated for decades prior to that.

Pride Day, which eventually grew to be Pride Month, has been commemorated since June 1969, during the Stonewall Uprising, when activists and other New Yorkers took to the streets to protest against police raids at the Stonewall Inn, a popular bar and lounge at the time for people identifying as gay and lesbian.

Today, Pride Month is celebrated throughout the U.S. with parades, parties and concerts celebrating the gay rights movement and celebrating the LGBT lifestyle.

CCC 2358

Chris Stefanick, a Catholic author, speaker and lay minister at Real Life Catholic, said in a video posted to his Facebook page that he would not be attending “Pride” events, and that he also discouraged other Catholics from doing so, especially with children.

“The Catechism of the Catholic Church is really clear about this,” Stefanick said. He cited the Catechism’s paragraph 2358, which states that people with same-sex attraction “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”

Stefanick noted in his video that “Pride” events, in their origin, were largely about speaking up against just that - unjust discrimination and harsh treatment towards LGBT people.

“I agree with the Catechism on that because I’m a devout, card-carrying Catholic. If that’s all that ‘Pride’ parades were about, I would show up, I would march in one, and I would have a t-shirt that said ‘Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2358.’ Right? Because it would be a Catechism of the Catholic Church 2358 parade!” he said.

But “Pride Parades” today encompass a much larger agenda than anti-discrimination, Stefanick said.

“They’re largely funded by, supported by, attended by, the secular LGBT agenda. And while one sliver of what they’re standing for and pushing against in society is upholding the dignity of the person, which I would agree with, there’s a whole lot more that they’re pushing for that’s directly against my faith,” he said.

In follow-up comments to CNA via email, Stefanick said that that video cost him a donor, who accused Stefanick of being unloving for his opposition to attending Pride events. In a subsequent email to that donor, Stefanick reiterated that he was attempting to approach the issue out of love for all people, and in line with his faith.

“So much confusion exists around this issue,”  Stefanick said.

“And that confusion is often perpetuated by people in Church leadership who add to the world's perception that anything said with clarity is hateful and hurtful and bigoted. It's perpetuated by people who refuse to clarify which aspects of the LGBT movement we agree with, and which ones we have to absolutely reject...not because we're moralists, but because Jesus Christ is the fulfillment and happiness we're looking for, and nothing else will do!”

How to love without compromise

Courage is a Catholic organization for people with same-sex attraction and for those who love them. It supports them in leading a chaste life and building community and deep friendships with others in the Church who support them.

Courage is active in about two-thirds of the Catholic dioceses of the U.S., as well as in multiple other countries, with more than 150 Courage Chapters and just under 100 Encourage Chapters. Encourage is the apostolate for relatives and loved ones of people who identify as LGBT.

Fr. Philip Bochanski, the executive director of Courage, told CNA that Catholics should keep in mind that Pride events “were originally meant to draw attention to unjust discrimination and harsh and sometimes even violent treatment against people because of their sexual attractions and their understanding of their sexual identity.”

“And so the idea that we ought to call that out and condemn it is simple. That's something that The Church is fully in agreement with,” he said, also referencing CCC 2358.

“And a letter from the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith from 1986 goes even further and says: 'It's deplorable that homosexual people have been and are the object of violence malice in speech and in action, and that such behavior deserves condemnation from the Church's pastors whenever it occurs,’” Bochanski added.

“The Church has always been in agreement that people who are living with these experiences should not be discriminated against unjustly and should not be treated with malice or violence,” he said.

But the Church also teaches that the answer to the unjust treatment of people identifying as LGBT “is not to change the Church's teaching or to say that homosexual relationships are good or moral, but the answer really should be to teach the truth more clearly about the dignity of the human person, and call all of our brothers and sisters to a life in holiness which always includes the virtue of chastity, among the other virtues,” he said.

Bochanski added that he has some Catholic friends, many of whom are involved in the Courage apostolate, who attend Pride events -- though not as participants or marchers.

“They're there along the route offering words of encouragement about God's love and the inherent dignity of every person, talking about the virtue of chastity, offering people friendship and support and if they'd like to know more about what the Catholic Church teaches about same-sex attraction, offering them support if they want to understand what chastity means and how to embrace it.”

Still, he said, while it may be good for some people to attend Pride events in order to witness to God’s love and the teachings of the Church, it would be “foolish to ignore the reality” that sometimes, at some of these events, some people display “images that can be lewd and in some cases offensive and scandalous and especially for younger people.”

“(Catholics) have to be very prudent and careful about that reality and not expose ourselves to situations we can't control that are offensive or obscene, or raise issues that a person is too young to understand,” he noted.

Bochanski said that Catholics can love those who identify as LGBT by being willing to listen seriously to them, and by accompanying them on a path of holiness.

“I think that trying to welcome and accompany people as Jesus would do really starts with a willingness to listen to where people are coming from and what they're going through,” he said.  

“So, I often say, a person who wants to spread the Good News and lead people to understand God's plan for sexuality and relationships and virtues like chastity...(should) say, first of all, 'I love you very much,'” to such a person, he said.

“Second, 'I believe that God has a plan for your life and for your relationships and for sexuality, and if you follow that plan, it's going to lead you to be happy.' And third, 'I want to hear your story so that we can see your story in light of the Gospel story and we can walk together as we see that path that God has marked out for us,'” Bochanski added.

He also said that it’s important to present the fullness of the truth of God’s plan for sexuality, which is a Church teaching that cannot change: “that's always going to be true, because it comes from the Word of God.”

Bochanski emphasized loving people with same-sex attractions as full persons, and helping them to see that their identity does not lie solely within their sexuality. This is the reason the apostolate typically uses the terms “people with same-sex attractions” rather than “gay” or “lesbian,” for example.

“(A)s we're striving to love someone, we shouldn't label them or encourage them to label themselves according to their sexual attractions, saying 'this is who I am and how God made me,'” he said, “because it's not telling the whole truth about the nature of the human person and the nature of God's plan for our bodies, our sexuality, our relationships.”


 

Bea Cuasay and Michelle McDaniel contributed to this report.

What’s going to bring the ‘nones’ back to the Church?

Baltimore, Md., Jun 14, 2019 / 02:49 pm (CNA).- As the U.S. bishops gathered in Baltimore this week, primarily to vote on proposals to respond to the clergy abuse crisis, another crisis loomed large with no easy solutions—how to evangelize the “nones,” or people with no religious affiliation.
 
Bishop Robert Barron, auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles and chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis, delivered a presentation on Tuesday morning at the annual spring meeting of the U.S. bishops on “this massive attrition of our own people, particularly the young” from the Church. He exhorted fellow bishops “to look at this issue of who are the unaffiliated, why are they leaving, and how do we get them back.”
 
He presented some sobering statistics: for every one person joining the Church today, 6.45 are leaving. Almost eight in ten leave by the age of 23, and the median age for leaving the Church is just 13 years old.
 
Where are they going? While roughly one quarter are becoming Evangelical, and another 25 percent are joining another religion or denomination of Christianity, half are simply atheist, agnostic, or without any religious affiliation, Barron said.

“Most are ambivalent about religion rather than hostile to it,” he noted.
 
They are leaving Catholicism primarily because “they don’t believe it,” he told CNA in an interview on Thursday. Regarding “the questions about God and about Jesus and about eternal life and about the soul,” he said, “they don’t believe it. They think religion’s at odds with science. That comes through all the time.”
 
Bishop Christopher Coyne of Burlington, Vt., agreed with the assessment that a primary reason for young people leaving the Church is a lack of belief. However, he challenged the assumption that there are clear-cut intellectual reasons why teenagers as young as 13 are leaving the Church. “The question that popped into my head was were they really believing (in the first place)?” he said of the statistic.  
 
According to Barron, some of the other common reasons given for lack of religious affiliation are a perceived intolerance of revealed religion, opposition to being told what to do, a belief in a personal relationship with God outside of revealed religion, and a perception that religion is anti-science or anti-rational.
 
Some of the reasons Barron gave for the migration of young people away from the Church are secularism, and with it, a culture of relativism “which gives rise to the self-invention culture (of)...I decide who I am. I decide what I believe.”
 
Thus, when the Church makes objective claims and preaches dogmas and doctrines, “that meets with a lot of resistance,” particularly teachings on sexuality and morality which are a “stumbling block for a lot of people,” Barron added.
 
However, despite recent revelations of clerical sex abuse and misconduct and cover-up by bishops and prelates, the abuse crisis has not played a primary role in young people departing the Church, both bishops said.
 
“It’s not been certainly one of the top reasons. It’s there, but certainly not a top reason,” Barron said.
 
“All of the surveys that I’ve seen around people who have turned 18 since 2000,” Coyne said, “the abuse crisis is way, way down on the list of why they left the Church, and why they’re not affiliated with the Church.”
 
According to a survey of the religiously unaffiliated by the Pew Research Center conducted in December of 2017, 25 percent of respondents said that “I question a lot of religious teachings” is the most important reason they do not identify with a religion, the leading reason among the “Nones” for their lack of affiliation.
 
“I think we’ve underplayed the intellectual side. We’ve undervalued what kids are capable of, intellectually,” Barron said, noting that young people are leaving the Church “more and more consciously. They are making a conscious decision—not just drifting away, but they are deciding to go. And that’s often on intellectual grounds.”
 
During his presentation to the bishops, Barron brought up University of Toronto psychology professor Jordan Peterson and his popular online discussion of the Bible as an example of young people still showing interest in religion despite having no official affiliation.
 
However, the mere mention of the controversial best-selling author of “12 Rules for Life” at the meeting of the bishops provoked backlash and claims that the conference had endorsed Peterson’s treatment of the Bible as a “model” for evangelization.
 
On Thursday. Barron clarified that he brought up Peterson not to cast him as a model for evangelization, but rather to draw attention to his online appeal and evoke questions as to why he is so popular.
 
“It really wasn’t about the content at all, except that he is talking about the Bible, which I think is really interesting, and getting millions of views with learned talks about the Bible, which aren’t bad,” Barron told CNA. “From a psychological perspective, they’re pretty good I think.”
 
He brought up Peterson “to look at the phenomenon and say maybe we’ve been underplaying what our young people are capable of. Maybe we can address these issues at a high level too.”
 
However, in addition to paying attention to intellectual currents among the religiously unaffiliated, cultural and sociological currents need to be considered as well, Coyne insisted. For example, there are trends showing that Millennials do not join parishes or social clubs at nearly the same rates as previous generations once did—and thus may be harder to reach within the traditional boundaries of parish life.
 
Furthermore, approaches to evangelization cannot be “too high-altitude,” he cautioned, because in addition to young people who are invested in intellectual debates about religion such as online forums about atheism or Jordan Peterson’s discussion of the Bible, there are many other Millennials without a college education who don’t partake in any of these discussions.
 
Vermont has one of the highest graduation rates for high school students, Coyne said, but one of the lowest rates of graduates who enter college; instead of tertiary education, they pursue careers in small business, the military or other occupations that don’t require a college degree.
 
“A 22 year-old in a double-wide in rural Vermont is not going to put the YouTube of the psychologist from Toronto on who talks about faith,” he said.
 
So what is working for evangelization in his diocese? Ideally, the faith is learned at home, practiced by the parents, and passed on to the children, he said.
 
“I would say if we’re going to try and help people raise children in the faith so as to make a good choice to stay in the faith, then they have to be disciples,” Coyne said. “I’m seeing that in a lot of our families that stay in the Church, the parents are disciples because they choose to stay in the Catholic Church.”
 
“It’s not a matter of cultural Catholicism, it’s Catholicism by choice,” he added.
 
For adults who are religiously unaffiliated and living apart from their families, there’s also networking, he said. Lay Catholics in Burlington have begun to form Catholic business associations and medical associations not unlike the guilds from centuries ago, and in the process have been able to form relationships and support each other in the faith.
 
“It’s the Holy Spirit, it’s incredible,” Coyne said. “The evangelization part is really being picked up by lay men and lay women, and they understand that evangelization is relational.”
 
“They come together, they pray, they support each other, and they also talk about the struggles of being a Catholic in the medical profession or being Catholic in the business community.”
 
For example, a local doctor started a Catholic medical association group and “they had their first meeting at my house, they had about 40 people come who are all in the medical profession, who are all Catholics who are looking to network,” Coyne said.
 
Meanwhile, regarding evangelization on the intellectual level, Barron pointed to the Catholics who are prolific in their evangelization through social media and in person such as his Word on Fire Ministries, FOCUS, St. Paul Street Evangelization, and figures such as Scott Hahn and Peter Kreeft.
 
He also admitted to other paths to the faith than through purely intellectual arguments, such as the “way of beauty” and the “way of justice.”
 
“Young people respond very much to the call to social justice,” he said. “There’s a huge part of our tradition around that, from John Chrysostom to Dorothy Day and Pope Francis. That’s a wonderful tradition.”
 
If there was one thing he could tell a lay Catholic at a parish about evangelization to others, Barron said, “don’t be afraid to tell them about your relationship with the Lord.”
 
“Don’t be afraid to share your faith, and talk about your faith and what it means to you. And people will respond to that, even if they don’t seem to at first."