St. Mary's Church / Iglesia Santa María

Browsing News Entries

Browsing News Entries

Supreme Court rejects appeal to make Texas bishops release abortion communications

Washington D.C., Feb 20, 2019 / 06:30 am (CNA).- The Supreme Court has rejected an appeal in the case Whole Woman’s Health v. Texas Catholic Conference et al, in which the abortion provider sought to force the Catholic bishops of Texas to hand over all internal communications related to abortion.

 

The Feb. 19 decision was the last in a series of setbacks for Whole Women’s Health as they tried to compel a massive disclosure of in-house documents by the Church in Texas, in response to the bishops' support for a law which would require the burial or cremation of all aborted children.

 

In a statement released to CNA, the Texas Conference of Catholic Bishops welcomed the decision by the Supreme Court which, they said was a vindication of their religious freedom rights.

 

“The bishops are very grateful the Supreme Court has upheld the ruling of the Fifth Circuit, which protects the private religious communications of the bishops from a fishing expedition by abortion providers seeking access to our ministry information,” said the statement.

 

A 2017 law passed in Texas required that the remains of unborn children must be buried or cremated rather than disposed of by other means, including be flushed into the sewer system or sent to landfills.

 

At the time the law was passed, the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops (TCCB) voiced their support for the legislation and offered free burials for the remains of aborted babies.

 

Whole Woman’s Health responded by subpoenaing the bishops and demanded access to all internal communications regarding abortion, including any theological and doctrinal debates on the issue. The subpoena was filed despite the bishops not being party to the suit.

 

The Texas bishops released more than 4,000 pages of external communications on abortion, but applied for emergency relief to preserve their private correspondence.

 

In July 2018, a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overruled the trial court’s application of the subpoena, and the full court declined to hear the case in August. Whole Women’s Health then applied to the Supreme Court, which rejected the appeal on Tuesday.

 

In the Fifth Circuit Court’s decision, the judges described the subpoena as going “to the heart of the constitutional protection of religious belief and practice as well as citizens’ right to advocate sensitive policies in the public square.”

 

The court said that the Catholic bishops were left with a “Hobson’s choice” of either “retreating from the public square or defending its position.”

 

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represented the Texas bishops in the case, released a statement praising the outcome.

 

Eric Rassbach, vice president and senior counsel at Becket said in the statement that the court “saw this appeal for what it was: a nasty attempt to intimidate the bishops and force them to withdraw their offer to bury every child aborted in Texas.”

 

“Abortion groups may think the bishops ‘troublesome,’ but it is wrong to weaponize the law to stop the bishops from standing up for their beliefs,” he said.

 

In an earlier comment on the Fifth Circuit’s decision, Rassbach noted that “Constant surveillance of religious groups is a hallmark of totalitarian societies, not a free people.”

There are alternatives to abortion, says Archdiocese of New York

New York City, N.Y., Feb 20, 2019 / 04:21 am (CNA).-
After a January law expanded abortion protections in New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York City has reaffirmed the Church’s promise to support any pregnant woman, regardless of her circumstances.

“We are enthusiastically committed – and have been for half a century – to providing women with a warm, embracing, life-giving alternative [to abortion],” the cardinal said.

Dolan spoke at a convent of the Sisters of Life in New York City on Feb. 18. Mother Mary Agnes Donovan, the order’s foundress, hosted the press conference, which reiterated Church’s dedication to pregnant women.

Dolan’s announcement followed the signing of a New York’s  Reproductive Health Act, which took place on Jan. 22, the anniversary of the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision.
The law limits abortions to the first 24 weeks of pregnancy but allows for abortions to be conducted later in gestation if the wellbeing of the mother is at risk. Some experts say that loophole will allow for practically unrestricted late-term abortion in the state.

The law also decriminalizes the procedure, and strips it of most regulations and safeguards. Non-doctors will now be permitted to perform abortions.

At the meeting on Monday, the cardinal expressed concern that these abortion expansions will influence women to think that abortion is the only viable option to a difficult pregnancy, according to the National Review.  

“We’re here. We love you. We welcome you. There is an alternative here,” he said.

Dolan said the Archdiocese of New York offers services to pregnant women confidentially.

“It does not matter what your marital status, religion, or immigration status might be,” he said.

“We are here to help, and all of our services are confidential. Any woman facing a difficult pregnancy and tempted to an abortion is assured of a warm welcome, encouragement, and loving support.”

The press conference included additional speakers like Christopher Bell, co-founder of Good Counsel homes in New York and New Jersey; Mother Donovan, who is also superior general for the Sisters of Life; and Dr. Anne Nolte, who runs the Gianna Center, which provides reproductive health to women.

Brhane Love, a mother and immigrant who struggled with her own pregnancy, also spoke at the event. Love spoke about the pressure she felt to abort. She said the Sisters of Life provided support in immigration, career, babysitting, and housing. She was introduced to the nuns after a man intercepted her on the way to Planned Parenthood.

“He took me to meet the sisters and I talked to them for hours. They told me they were with me, that I wasn’t alone, and that they would help me,” said Love, according to National Review.

“I love my daughter,” she added. “She changed my life. I am so happy.”

The Sisters of Life have helped almost 10,000 women since their religious community was founded in 1991. According to National Review, Mother Agnes said the sisters serve an estimated 600-1000 women a year, noting the number is growing.

As their ministry gain greater publicity, Mother Agnes expressed hope that more women will discover alternative options to abortion like the Sisters of Life provide. She said the sisters are there to work with women, providing encouragement and practical support.

“Standing in radical solidarity with a woman, during an unexpected or difficult pregnancy, the Sisters and the woman together find a pathway through fear, a path defined by realistic and ongoing emotional and practical support that she may respond with courage and dignity to one of life’s most difficult moments.”

 

Colorado's Catholic bishops will open abuse records for review

Denver, Colo., Feb 19, 2019 / 08:51 pm (CNA).- An agreement between Colorado’s attorney general and the state’s Catholic bishops aims to investigate clergy sex abuse of minors in the state’s Roman Catholic dioceses, the dioceses’ past handling of sex abuse, and current procedures and responses to abuse allegations.
 
“The damage inflicted upon young people and their families by sexual abuse, especially when it’s committed by a trusted person like a priest, is profound,” Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver said at a Feb. 19 press conference held with the Colorado attorney general.
 
This process will involve “painful moments” and “cannot ever fully restore what was lost,” the archbishop said.
 
“We pray that it will at least begin the healing process,” he said. Transparency for the Church’s history on child abuse is needed, said the archbishop, who hoped that the programs offer a “path to healing for survivors and their families.”
 
Also speaking at the press conference were Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser, who took office in January; Colorado’s immediate past attorney general Cynthia Coffman; and Father Randy Dollins, vicar general of the Denver Archdiocese. In addition to the Archdiocese of Denver, the Colorado Springs diocese and the Pueblo diocese are parties to the agreement.
 
“It’s well known that child sexual abuse is a societal-wide problem,” Weiser said. “It demands our attention and action. I am so pleased the Church today has recognized the need for transparency and reparations for survivors.”
 
The process involves an independent review of church records, a compensation process for victims, and a victims’ support service to aid their participation in the compensation program.
 
Robert Troyer, former U.S. Attorney for Colorado, will conduct the independent review. The agreement with the dioceses gives him “full access” to their files on sexual abuse of minors by diocesan clergy, according to a Feb. 19 joint statement from Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser and the Catholic bishops of Colorado.
 
The review will examine the records and policies of Colorado’s three Roman Catholic dioceses about the sexual abuse of minors. A public report will be drafted and released to the public. The review aims to ensure that there are “no known or suspected abusers in active ministry.”
 
The review aims to provide transparency regarding abuse in the Church and the dioceses’ historic responses. The report will analyze dioceses’ current policies and procedures for abuse prevention and their response to abuse allegations.
 
The independent review aims to provide “recognition of past wrongdoing” and an opportunity for healing. The report process is not a criminal investigation, but an “independent inquiry with the full cooperation of the Catholic Church.”
 
The joint statement from the attorney general and the bishops said that they are not aware of any previously unreported criminal conduct. Should the review find any abusers, they will be reported to law enforcement immediately.
 
The report is expected to be released by fall 2019. It will not identify victims by name to protect their privacy. It will name diocesan priests with “substantiated allegations” of sexually abusing minors. It will detail these substantiated allegations, including the assignments of abusive priests and the years of the alleged abuse.
 
Misconduct with minors described as “inappropriate but not illegal behavior,” will also be included in the report, but those accused of misconduct will not be named.
 
The term “diocesan priest” does not include religious order priests, who, according to the agreement, are “assigned, transferred, and subject to the control of their own religious orders and religious superiors,” and not subject to the governance of the Colorado dioceses.
 
While sexual misconduct with adults is not a focus of the report, if adult victims of abuse come forward, the attorney general’s office will support them, Weiser said.
 
Half the costs of Troyer’s independent review will be met by the three dioceses, and the rest by anonymous donors.
 
The Catholic dioceses will also fund “an independent, voluntary program that will compensate victims of abuse, regardless of when the abuse occurred,” the joint statement said.
 
The program will be developed by nationally recognized claims administrations experts, Kenneth R. Feinberg and Camille S. Biros.
 
They were involved in compensations in the wake of the Aurora, Colo. theater shooting in 2012 and have also been involved in Catholic sex abuse victims’ compensation programs in New York, New Jersey and other states.
 
Colorado’s bishops and the attorney general agreed that the program must accept claims through the public release of the independent review, as well as for “a reasonable period of time” after.
 
Former U.S. Sen. Hank Brown will chair an independent commission overseeing the reparations program.
 
The reparations program will be augmented by a victims’ support service that will be created to aid victims or survivors. The service will be staffed by professionals who can discuss the reparations, program, hear stories from abuse victims, answer possible claimants’ questions, and help support the submission of documentation to the program.
 
Coffman, Weiser’s predecessor as Colorado attorney general, initiated action investigating Catholic clergy sex abuse in Colorado in late 2018.
 
“There is a recognition that childhood sexual abuse is not specific to one institution,” Coffman said. “The spotlight is on the Catholic Church but this abuse is indicative of what has happened in other institutions. We want to shine a light on the activity.”
 
After a July Pennsylvania attorney general report compiled allegations against over 300 Catholic clergy, with over 1,000 reported victims, Coffman’s office began receiving calls from Colorado citizens who had suffered sexual abuse in the past. Some were abused in other states by priests who were no longer alive.
 
Representatives of the group Survivors’ Network of those Abused by Priests asked the Colorado attorney general to conduct a grand jury investigation into sex abuse of children in the Catholic Church in Colorado. The request was part of the group’s national effort to engage every state attorney general.
 
While some states’ attorneys general have the authority to launch such investigations, Colorado’s does not.
 
Coffman’s office began examining alternatives for uncovering previously undisclosed abuse involving Catholic priests. That effort drew a response from the Catholic bishops, who reached out to understand the effort. Her office discussed options on investigations.
 
Meeting with Aquila, Dollins, Bishop Stephen Jay Berg of Pueblo, and representatives of the Colorado Catholic Conference, Coffman said, “demonstrated their commitment to acknowledging past abuse by priests and moving forward with honesty and accountability.”
 
She voiced gratitude for their “cooperation and collaboration.”
 
Aquila referred questions about the Denver archdiocese’s current policy on abuse of minors to a website the archdiocese created to provide information.

 

Notre Dame rescinds McCarrick's honorary degree

South Bend, Ind., Feb 19, 2019 / 05:52 pm (CNA).- The University of Notre Dame has rescinded the honorary Doctor of Laws (LL.D.) degree it conferred on former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick in 2008, becoming the latest of a growing number of schools who have rescinded honorary degrees from the defrocked former archbishop.  

“The Vatican has announced the conclusion of the adjudicatory process against former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, finding that he transgressed his vows, used his power to abuse both minors and adults and violated his sacred duty as a priest,” said the University of Notre Dame in a statement posted to its website on Saturday, the day McCarrick was laicized, or removed from the clerical state.  

“In accord with University President Rev. John I. Jenkins’ statement of Aug. 2, 2018, the University of Notre Dame is rescinding the honorary degree conferred in 2008.”

In August, Jenkins said that the school would revoke the degree if McCarrick were found guilty at the conclusion of his canonical process, but would hold off on a decision until that point.

McCarrick, who was Archbishop of Washington until his retirement in 2006, was found guilty on Saturday of charges of sexually abusing adults and minors, as well as soliciting sex from the confessional. Prior to his laicization, he was forbidden from public ministry and had been sentenced to a life of prayer and penance while the canonical process was ongoing. He is currently living at a friary in Kansas.

In July 2018, he resigned from the College of Cardinals after the Archdiocese of New York received two credible and substantiated claims that he had abused minors.

After these allegations were made public, it was revealed that the Archdiocese of Newark and the Dioceses of Metuchen and Trenton had paid two settlements to men who had been abused by McCarrick when they were adult seminarians in New Jersey. More people came forward throughout the summer of 2018 to describe a culture of abuse and sexual harassment that permeated seminaries in New Jersey while McCarrick was the Bishop of Metuchen and Archbishop of Newark.

During his time as a bishop, McCarrick was awarded honorary degrees by more than 30 colleges and universities from around the world. Since June, a number of universities have rescinded honorary degrees they had conferred upon McCarrick.

His honorary degrees from Fordham University, Catholic University of America, College of Mount Saint Vincent, Siena College, University of Portland, and University of New Rochelle were all rescinded in 2018 after he resigned from the College of Cardinals. Georgetown University is currently reviewing whether to rescind the Doctor of Humane Letters it conferred on McCarrick in 2004. Providence College has rescinded the degree it gave McCarrick in 1987. St. John’s University conferred an honorary degree on McCarrick in 1974, and announced Feb. 21 that its board of trustees had chosen to rescind that degree.

Until Monday, the only other honorary degree that the University of Notre Dame had rescinded was an LL.D. the school conferred on comedian Bill Cosby in 1990. The school rescinded the degree after Cosby was convicted on numerous sexual assault charges in 2018 and sentenced to 3-10 years in prison.

 

Ed. note: CNA initially reported that Providence College did not respond to an inquiry regarding McCarrick's honorary degree. Subsequent to publication, Providence confirmed to CNA that it had rescinded McCarrick's degree.

This article initially reported that St. John's University did not respond to an inquiry. The university subsequently announced the rescission, on Feb. 21.

Why the USCCB is speaking out against payday loan rule rollbacks

Washington D.C., Feb 19, 2019 / 04:43 pm (CNA).- The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on Feb. 14 officially proposed to rescind a rule to protect borrowers from predatory lending, prompting concern from Christian groups nationwide that the CFPB may weaken existing protections against loan sharks.

Catholic Charities USA and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops joined a coalition of Christian groups to sign a letter last week expressing concern that rescinding the so-called “small dollar lending rule” could harm low-income borrowers.

“We encourage you to take this opportunity to strengthen, not weaken, the rule,” the letter reads, penned by the group Faith for Just Lending.

“The rule as finalized seeks to protect vulnerable individuals and families in time of financial crisis from debt traps designed around their inability--as opposed to ability--to repay their loan...We believe that the rule was a step in the right direction, but more must be done.”

The “small dollar lending” rule, which the financial agency announced in Oct. 2017, was designed to protect financially vulnerable consumers from annual interest rates of up to 300 percent on so-called payday loans and auto title loans. The bureau announced Feb. 6 that it seeks to delay the rule’s implementation until 2020 and remove key requirements on lenders.

Though an estimated 12 million customers use small-dollar loans each year, the agency has long chronicled the risks these loans pose to the vulnerable. Faced with having to repay a loan along with high interest and fees, borrowers risk “defaulting, re-borrowing, or skipping other financial obligations like rent or basic living expenses such as buying food or obtaining medical care,” according to the CFPB.

Many borrowers will end up repeatedly rolling over or refinancing their loans, racking up more debt in the process and possibly running the risk of having their vehicle seized, the bureau says.  

The new rule would have required lenders to conduct a “full-payment test” to determine upfront that borrowers can afford to repay their loans within two weeks or a month without re-borrowing. It also would have capped at three the number of loans that could be given in quick succession, the CFPB said in its Oct. 2017 release.

The U.S. bishops’ conference and others said that the finalized rule would have also contained a loophole to allow customers to take out six successive 300% interest loans under certain conditions.

“This sanctioning of usurious loans not only contradicts our own faith traditions, but also contradicts the CFPB’s own reasoning laid out in its rule,” the Feb. 15 letter says.

“The CFPB recognizes in its proposal the harmful consequences of unaffordable loans, such as defaulting on expenses or having to quickly re-borrow. By the CFPB’s own reasoning, allowing six loans in a year in rapid succession, as exceptions to the assessment of a borrower's ability to repay, is too many.”

The letter notes that Scripture provides guidance for “honorable lending and borrowing,” which includes the principles of not taking advantage of the weak, not charging usurious interest, and seeking the good of the other person.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church condemns usury as theft and a violation of the Seventh Commandment, specifically mentioning the “forcing up prices by taking advantage of the ignorance or hardship of another.”

“A business that targets vulnerable people with a product that leaves most of its customers worse off does not contribute to the common good,” the letter says.

Bishops throughout the U.S. have decried the use of payday loans, and have backed legislation which would restrict the effect these loans on have on the borrowers.

In November of 2013, Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton, then-chair of the committee on domestic justice and human development for the U.S. bishops’ conference, wrote the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau about payday lending abuses, calling such lending immoral because it “preys on the financial hardship of poor and vulnerable consumers, exploits their lack of understanding, and increases economic insecurity.”

Bishops elsewhere have fought for payday loan reforms, like in Texas, where the state’s Catholic Conference has pushed for regulations at the state legislature.

Dr. Robert Mayer, a professor of political theory at Loyola University Chicago, told CNA in a 2016 interview that regulations on payday lenders could successfully curb lending abuses, but they could also carry adverse consequences for some people needing a fast line of credit, including perhaps those who have successfully paid off such loans in the past without incurring large amounts of debt.

This is where the Church and faith-based organizations could step in to help those who need emergency cash at a low cost, including local St. Vincent DePaul societies and Catholic Charities branches.

Local Catholic Charities in places like Salina, Kansas already have offices that can help customers refinance their debt after falling into a cycle of predatory lending. Catholic Charities in Kansas started a program in 2016 that provides small, low interest loans, with a maximum of a $1000, so that people who do have an immediate need are able to borrow funds.