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Problemas de salud del Papa Francisco: Todo lo que debes saber

Durante su Pontificado, el Papa Francisco ha dado numerosas muestras de vitalidad pero también ha enfrentado distintos problemas de salud.

La Archidiócesis de Madrid atendió a 78 víctimas directas de abuso en 2023

La Archidiócesis de Madrid atendió en 2023 a 78 víctimas directas de posibles casos de abusos sexuales y de poder, la mayoría sucedidos en el ámbito intrafamiliar y sobre mujeres, que habrían sufrido abusos en su infancia.

Fue policía y enviudó: Hoy es sacerdote y asumió la administración de una parroquia

El Arzobispo de Mercedes-Luján (Argentina), Mons. Jorge Scheinig, designó administrador parroquial de San Cayetano, en la ciudad de Chivilcoy, al P. Oscar Viladesau, de 66 años, viudo y ex policía ordenado sacerdote en diciembre pasado.

El Cardenal Parolin califica de aterradora la propuesta de enviar tropas europeas a Ucrania

El Secretario de Estado Vaticano, Cardenal Pietro Parolin, señaló que sería “aterrador” concretizar la hipótesis de una intervención militar europea en Ucrania, a través del envío de soldados, para que luchen contra las fuerzas rusas.

Un “milagro” salvó a una imagen de la Virgen de ser destruida en un bombardeo en Ucrania

Uno de estos impactos cayó “justo al lado” de la imagen de la Virgen que se ubica en la entrada del templo. “El proyectil explotó, parte de él quedó sobresaliendo del suelo, pero sólo el bordillo quedó destruido. La figura en sí resultó casi ilesa. Sólo unos pocos lugares presentan algún daño por metralla”

Muere hijo de Gary Sinise, actor católico recordado por su papel en Forrest Gump

El hijo de Gary Sinise, actor católico estadounidense que interpretó al recordado teniente Dan en la película Forrest Gump de la década de 1990, ha fallecido a la temprana edad de 33 años a causa de una rara forma de cáncer.

Prosecutor vows to try ‘on a gurney’ 92-year-old Louisiana priest accused of rape

Credit: tglegend/Shutterstock

CNA Staff, Feb 27, 2024 / 17:20 pm (CNA).

A New Orleans priest accused of choking and raping a teenager in the 1970s is too sick to attend his own trial, his lawyers are claiming, though state prosecutors are vowing to bring him into the courtroom on a hospital stretcher in order to allow the trial to continue.

Lawrence Hecker was indicted on charges of aggravated rape, aggravated kidnapping, an aggravated crime against nature, and theft by an Orleans Parish special grand jury in September of last year. 

The sex abuse crimes are alleged to have occurred between Jan. 1, 1975, and Dec. 31, 1976, according to the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office

Hecker’s trial is scheduled for March 25. At a pretrial hearing this week, his attorneys claimed that the 92-year-old clergyman was too sick to stand trial, reportedly slipping “in and out of consciousness” while incarcerated in a medical facility. 

Prosecutors have vowed to proceed with Hecker’s trial regardless. Orleans Parish First Assistant District Attorney Ned McGowan promised at the hearing to “roll him in on a gurney” to try him, according to local media.

“Mr. Hecker was conscious and, in some respect, resting comfortably,” McGowan told Judge Ben Willard, according to reports. “The defense has not raised mental competency issues and if they wish to do so, we will need to convene a panel very quickly.” 

Hecker’s defense attorney Bobby Hjortsberg, meanwhile, suggested at the hearing that the priest was a “vegetable,” though he later clarified that medical records did not indicate as much. 

Neither the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s office nor Hjortsberg responded to queries from CNA about Hecker’s medical state and his looming trial.

The Guardian reported in June 2023 that in 1999, Hecker admitted to sexual misconduct with seven teenage boys between 1966 and 1979 but was allowed to remain in ministry until his retirement in March 2002. 

The report noted that he was sent to a psychiatric treatment facility that diagnosed him with pedophilia after his confession but was not removed from ministry. 

“I had thought I had buried this part of my life and would only think about it to remind myself not to have anything like this happen again,” Hecker’s 1999 confession read in part, according to the Guardian. 

“I have made it a point not to be alone with anyone under 18, and if possible not to be alone with anyone — and certainly not to hold anyone, except for a ‘holy hug,’” he reportedly wrote.

The Archdiocese of New Orleans lists Hecker as among the priests who “are alive and have been accused of sexually abusing a minor which led to their removal from ministry.”

The archdiocesan website says it received allegations against Hecker in 1996 and removed him from ministry in 2002. 

The Archdiocese of New Orleans announced in May 2020 that its administrative offices were filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, citing financial pressure from clerical abuse litigation compounded by the coronavirus crisis.

Cardinal Burke promotes 9-month novena to pray for the Church amid ‘forces of sin’

Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke during the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul in St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, June 29, 2019. / Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/CNA

CNA Staff, Feb 27, 2024 / 13:38 pm (CNA).

Cardinal Raymond Burke this week invited Catholics to join in praying a nine-month novena seeking Mary’s intercession beginning on March 12 and culminating on the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Dec. 12. 

The American cardinal, who founded the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Wisconsin, announced the prayer initiative in a video address posted over the weekend. 

“Our Lord has not called us to fear. No matter the darkness of our age, men and women of faith are not without the truth and love of Christ, nor the faithful care of his mother,” Burke wrote in an accompanying letter posed to the Guadalupe shrine website. 

“The darkness of sin seems so great. But Our Lord has not called us to fear! Evil cannot approach the power of God’s grace. Sin cannot prevent Our Lord’s healing mercy from reaching those who repent and seek it. And nothing can diminish the care and protection of Our Lady for us, which remain as strong today as they were 500 years ago.”

A novena, a traditional Catholic practice usually consisting of a nine-day series of petitionary prayers, can also be much longer. Those who sign up to join Burke’s novena will receive, via email, short video reflections from the cardinal each month in addition to regular written reflections and prayers. 

Recalling St. Juan Diego, to whom Christ’s mother appeared under the name of Our Lady of Guadalupe in present-day Mexico in 1531, Burke invited “all Catholics, especially those in the Americas” to ask for the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe for “maternal care and protection.”

“The world wrestled with famine and disease, and war in the Holy Land threatened to reduce that beautiful and tortured region to chaos. Then, too, poisonous confusion from within the Church corroded the faith of Christians the world over,” Burke wrote. 

“And then, too, we saw the forces of sin retreat before the presence of Our Lady. Through St. Juan Diego’s humble and courageous cooperation with grace, Our Lady claimed the New World for Christ, drawing nearly 9 million new souls into the Church by the time of St. Juan Diego’s death in 1548. It is this same maternal care and protection that we seek today — a care and protection that she will grant us, should we earnestly ask for it.”

A native of Wisconsin, Burke previously shepherded the Diocese of La Crosse and the Archdiocese of St. Louis before being appointed in 2008 as head of the Church’s highest court, the Apostolic Signatura, until 2014. 

The AI dilemma: job loss, hallucinations, and virtual girlfriends

"A Fundamental Difference?" was the title of a conversation about generative artificial intelligence at the 2024 New York Encounter. From left to right are Indiana University’s Davide Bolchini, Jon Stokes of Symbolic AI, and journalist Jennifer Strong. / Credit: Renata Gelmi

New York City, N.Y., Feb 27, 2024 / 12:05 pm (CNA).

Since the generative artificial intelligence (AI) platform ChatGPT made its debut last year, millions of users have discovered how it can save time and make life easier. Ask it a question, and in seconds it will have drafted an email for you or created a schedule for your next vacation. 

But with this technology only in its infancy, should we be worried about what society stands to lose if AI takes over an ever-expanding list of functions once performed by humans? 

“If people are feeling fretful, it makes sense. We’re in a stressful moment,” Jennifer Strong, a journalist who covers the impact of new technologies on society, said at a discussion on AI at the New York Encounter cultural festival held earlier this month in Manhattan. 

Strong joined Jon Stokes, co-founder and chief product officer at Symbolic AI, in a conversation about the potential promises and perils of AI. 

‘It will replace some kinds of labor’

Strong and Stokes, technology journalist and technology entrepreneur, both agreed on one thing: generative AI will take the place of humans and result in the loss of jobs.

The use of generative AI has primarily been as a “productivity efficiency tool,” Strong said. “This was in every sector, everywhere, a way to save time and save money.”

Those in upper-level positions need not worry about their jobs for now, the panelists said. However, entry-level writers and reporters whose job it is to read press releases and speeches and write about their highlights are already being replaced by AI.

Stokes, whose company creates AI tools for writers and publishers, acknowledged that handing over these roles to a machine comes at a price.

“But then the flip side is doing all of that [work] kind of trains you. It makes you better. And so I think that we may have a talent pipeline problem in the future because of gen AI. If it takes over the low-level stuff,” he said.

As a journalist, Strong shared her concern about how AI will affect her industry. “And we do have a talent pipeline issue. How do you get an investigative reporter if you don’t have a newsroom and you don’t have that mentorship, that job, that on-the-job training?” 

AI hallucinations and errors

Davide Bolchini, executive associate dean of the Luddy School of Informatics at Indiana University, who moderated the panel, raised the issue of AI “hallucinations.” AirCanada, he said, was recently ordered by a court to issue a refund to a customer who got incorrect information about fares from the airline’s AI-powered bot. 

If AI introduces errors, Strong said, it defeats its purpose as a time-saving device.

“The whole reason we started using AI to sift through lots of data and examples and all of this and look for patterns and pattern matching is because we, as humans, are not fabulous at that. And so now we’re putting ourselves in a position where we’ve come full circle and we’re having to take all this stuff and start looking through it,” Strong said.

Such hallucinations can be damaging to personal reputations, Strong said, pointing to the example of law professor Jonathan Turley.  

In 2023, Turley’s name appeared when ChatGPT was asked to create a list of legal scholars who had sexually assaulted someone. His name came up simply because he had taught classes about sexual discrimination and sexual assault. 

Strong said Turley “now is associated with those words, appears to be accused by AI of committing these crimes, and cannot seem to extract himself from that,” Strong said. “Yeah, I think truth matters.”

She added that it is hard to correct AI’s mistakes, because “AI is not a simple database.”

“If we decide to delete something that’s not true after it’s gone through this machine learning process, you can’t really do that. Microsoft Research spent seven months last year trying to see if it could help a model forget something, and it couldn’t figure out how,” Strong said.

AI girlfriends 

When asked about any concerns he may have about AI, Stokes, the AI engineer, said he worries some people might “forsake human connection for a kind of world of their own construction,” perhaps with an “AI girlfriend in VR.” 

“I think some people will isolate, and some people’s minds will kind of bifurcate and leave the collective,” he said.

Others, he said, “will try and maintain real connections and relationships, and in some cases, maybe use some gen AI to augment those.” 

He explained that AI can be used, alternatively, to bring people together.

“I mean, the promises for translation and for other kinds of work. There’s a story that you can tell about gen AI, where it maximizes communication bandwidth. Like, people whose language is maybe awkward, who are bad at putting together linguistic constructs, can sort of get their ideas through with generative AI. And so it can be a communication aid,” he said.

“But I worry about it maybe becoming like an obsession or an end in itself, a way that people escape and grow further apart,” Stokes said.

Standing up to AI: screenwriters’ strike

It’s not inevitable that AI will take humans entirely out of the creative process, Strong said.

While AI is currently being used to “write the first draft of everything,” she notes that we saw resistance to it with the 2023 screenwriters’ strike in Hollywood. 

“We saw the film industry really step up and say, ‘Hey, you’re going to cut our pay because you’re taking away the part that is most unique to us and most valued about us. You’re going to give us a first draft of a movie and then tell us just to make it good. And it’s never worked that way,” she said.

“I think we’re going to see more people just saying, ‘Okay, technology is great, but what’s the purpose and who does it serve and why is it here? And how to not put it on me so much as let me interact with it?’ I think [this] will be one of the big trends to watch,” Strong said.

Two San Francisco Bay Catholic schools to close over security and other concerns

Students from St. Anthony Catholic School in Oakland, California, visit the Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland. / Credit: Facebook of St. Anthony Catholic School

ACI Prensa Staff, Feb 27, 2024 / 07:00 am (CNA).

The Diocese of Oakland in California has announced that at the end of the school year it will close two private Catholic schools in the east San Francisco Bay area amid concerns about security and the presence of human trafficking activity in the vicinity.

According to an investigative report by ABC 7 News, parents at St. Anthony Catholic School, part of Lumen Christi Academies, were informed of the decision two weeks ago by email.

In addition to security issues, the Diocese of Oakland’s email stated that the reasons for the closing of the schools also include financial problems as well as outside factors such as homelessness, unemployment, a shortage of affordable housing, and the presence of human trafficking activity near the school.

More than a year ago, the ABC7 News investigative team reported the existence of human trafficking activity in the area in a video showing apparent sex workers and pimps loitering near the school, which led the FBI to install surveillance cameras and traffic barriers in streets near the school.

In November 2023, Operation Phoenix, a large-scale operation conducted by various law enforcement agencies, dismantled an alleged human trafficking ring spanning several cities in the San Francisco Bay area.

Months earlier, in Operation Cross Country, local police rescued 200 trafficking victims and located 59 minors who were also victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation.

According to the most recent report from the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, during 2021 more than 5,200 alerts of possible cases were recorded in California, which topped the list with approximately 10% of the total.

In addition to St. Anthony Catholic School, the Diocese of Oakland confirmed that Our Lady of Guadalupe School in the bay city of Fremont will close its doors on June 6.

In an official statement, the diocese explained that the school run by the Dominican Sisters of Mission San José will close due to a “drastic decrease in enrollment” and a “reduction in reserve funds,” factors that made the continued operation of the school unsustainable.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.