Browsing News Entries

Chaldean archbishop: Iraq unrest signals rejection of post-2003 settlement

New York City, N.Y., Dec 4, 2019 / 04:01 pm (CNA).- The largest protests in Iraq since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein signal the rejection by most Iraqis of the country's post-2003 structure and government, the Chaldean Archbishop of Erbil told the UN Security Council Wednesday.

Since the beginning of October, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis has been protesting government corruption. They have also objected to Iran's influence over their country's internal affairs. More than 420 have been killed by security forces.

The protests are “a rejection of a sectarian-based Constitution, which has divided Iraq and prevented it from becoming a unified and functioning country. Instead of bringing hope and prosperity, the current government structure has brought continued corruption and despair, especially to the youth of Iraq,” Archbishop Bashar Warda said at a Security Council meeting on Iraq held in New York City Dec. 3.

He added that Iraqi youth “have made it clear that they want Iraq to be independent of foreign interference, and to be a place where all can live together as equal citizens in a country of legitimate pluralism and respect for all.”

Archbishop Warda noted that Christians and other minorities “have been welcomed into the protest movement by the Iraqi Muslims,” which “demonstrates real hope for positive changes in which a new government in Iraq … will be much more positive towards a genuinely multi-religious Iraq with full citizenship for all and an end to this sectarian disease which has so violently harmed and degraded us all.”

He also highlighted the non-violent nature of the protests, especially in the face of the crackdown by security forces.

“At stake is whether Iraq will finally emerge from the trauma of Saddam and the past 16 years to become a legitimate, independent and functioning country, or whether it will become a permanently lawless region, open to proxy wars between other countries and movements, and a servant to the sectarian demands of those outside Iraq,” the archbishop stated.

He said that if the protests lead to a new government with a new constitution “not based in Sharia but instead based upon the fundamental concepts of freedom for all … then a time of hope can still exist for the long suffering Iraqi people.”

“If the protest movement is not successful, if the international community stands by and allows the murder of innocents to continue, Iraq will likely soon fall into civil war, the result of which will send millions of young Iraqis, including most Christians and Yazidis, into the diaspora,” he added.

Archbishop Warda urged the international community not to support “false changes in leadership which do not really represent change.” He charged that “the ruling power groups do not intend to give up control, and that they will make every effort to fundamentally keep the existing power structures in place.”

He said Iraq's government has a a “broken nature,” with a “fundamental need for change and replacement.”

“The first step must be the initiation of early elections,” stated the archbishop. He call for freedom of the press before and during the elections, as well as UN monitoring and observation “by all major parties in Iraq so that the elections are legitimate, free and fair.”

For Archbishop Warda, “only in this way can a new government set a course for the future of an Iraq which is free of corruption and where there is full citizenship and opportunity for all.”

Marginalized Iraqis look to the international community for “action and support,” he added. “We hold you all accountable for this. Iraq, the country which has so often been harmed, now looks to you all for help. We believe we have a future, and we ask you not to turn away from us now.”

After his briefing of the Security Council, Archbishop Warda said that Christians and other minorities in Iraq stand with “Muslim protestors as together they seek a better life, based on equality regardless of religious belief. Either Iraq will develop as these protestors hope, moving away from political violence and the current sectarian power structure and taking its rightful place among nations who respect the rights of all regardless of their faith, or it will slide backwards, a fate previewed in the killing of protestors and most notably with the genocide and other carnage at the hands of ISIS. In this latter case, Iraqi sovereignty too will be undermined as its strong neighbors meddle in its internal affairs.”

Cardinal Louis Raphael I Sako, Chaldean Patriarch of Babylon, said his community will not have public Christmas celebrations, “out of respect for the dead and wounded among protesters and security forces, and in solidarity with the pains of their families,” The New Arab reported Dec. 3.

“There will be no decorated Christmas trees in the churches or streets, no celebrations and no reception at the patriarchate,” he stated.

The Iraq protests, which began Oct. 1, are largely in response to government corruption and a lack of economic growth and proper public services. Protesters are calling for electoral reform and for early elections.

Government forces have used tear gas and bullets against protesters. Some 17,000 protesters have been injured. According to the BBC, at least 12 security personnel have died amid the unrest.

Prime minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi announced Nov. 29 he would resign, though he will remain as interim PM until his successor is chosen. The announcement came shortly after Ali al-Sistani, the most influential Shia spiritual leaders in Iraq, called on parliament to withdraw its support from the government.

Iraq's constitution, adopted in 2005, establishes Islam as the state religion and the foundation of the country's laws, though freedom of religion is guaranteed. The constitution was largely backed by Shia Arabs and by Kurds (most of whom are Sunni), and opposed by Sunni Arabs.

This post-2003 settlement includes a quota system based on ethnicity and sect, which has fostered corruption and patronage.

In the Fund for Peace's Fragile States Index 2019, Iraq ranked 13th out of 178 countries, placing it in an alert category for state vulnerability and in the company of Haiti and Nigeria.

And Iraq was ranked 168 out of 180 countries in Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index 2018, in the company of Venezuela.

Senate confirms pro-life lawyer as federal judge

Washington D.C., Dec 4, 2019 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- The Senate on Thursday confirmed Sarah Pitlyk, a Catholic lawyer and advocate for pro-life activist David Daleiden, as a judge for the Eastern District Court of Missouri.

Pitlyk, confirmed by a vote of 49 to 44, was a special counsel at the Thomas More Society, a legal firm that specializes in pro-life and religious freedom cases. She was nominated by President Trump to the district court in August.

In her favor were 49 Republicans, with 42 Democrats and one Republican, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), voting against her confirmation.

The new judge once clerked for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, and studied as a Fulbright Scholar at Belgium’s Catholic University of Leuven. While at Yale Law School, she founded the group Yale Law Students for Life.

“Pitlyk is highly qualified with a world-class education and extensive legal expertise. She is principled and committed to fairness. Recent attacks on her record were clearly partisan, motivated in part by her success in litigating pro-life cases,” Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List, stated on Tuesday before Pitlyk’s nomination.

Planned Parenthood, in a press release, called Pitlyk “extreme and unfit to judge.” They pointed to Pitlyk’s record defending pro-life measures, such as Iowa’s “heartbeat” bill, and her opposition to St. Louis’ city ordinance on abortion.  

The St. Louis ordinance, which was enacted in 2017 and overturned by a federal court in 2018, would have forced pro-life groups to take contradictory stances such as employing abortion proponents or renting space to abortion clinics.

The American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary unanimously said that Pitlyk was “not qualified” for the position because she lacked trial and litigation experience.  

“Ms. Pitlyk has never tried a case as lead or co-counsel, whether civil or criminal. She has never examined a witness. Though Ms. Pitlyk has argued one case in a court of appeals, she has not taken a deposition. She has not argued any motion in a state or federal trial court. She has never picked a jury. She has never participated at any stage of a criminal matter,” the ABA committee stated in a Sept. 24 letter to the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).

In her time at the Thomas More Society, Pitlyk defended pro-life advocate David Daleiden who in 2015 first produced tapes of secretly-recorded conversations with officials at Planned Parenthood and fetal tissue procurement companies.

Daleiden meant to expose the fetal tissue trade between abortion clinics and tissue harvesters; a federal district court in San Francisco in November ruled that his Center for Medical Progress had caused Planned Parenthood “substantial harm” with the videos, and ordered the group to pay $870,000 in damages.

Pitlyk also submitted a brief on behalf of 67 Catholic theologians and ethicists in the case Hobby Lobby v. Burwell, against the Obama administration’s contraceptive mandate.

“Catholic moral and theological principles, which are shared by many other Christian traditions, indicate that providing health insurance coverage for these objectionable services could cause objecting employers to become unacceptably complicit in actions forbidden by their religious faith,” the brief stated.

Rochester bishop requested Fulton Sheen beatification delay

Vatican City, Dec 4, 2019 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- The beatification of Archbishop Fulton Sheen was delayed at the request of Bishop Salvatore Matano of Rochester, an official in the Peoria diocese and other Church officials have confirmed.

“They did not agree with the fact the beatification date was set and announced and asked the further consideration be done,” Msgr. James Kruse, Director of Canonical Affairs in the Diocese of Peoria, told CNA Dec. 4.

Kruse is also a member of the Sheen Foundation, and has worked for years on Sheen's cause for canonization.

Several other sources close to the beatification also told CNA that Matano requested the beatification be delayed.

The bishop requested the delay due to concerns that Sheen could be cited in the final report covering an ongoing state attorney general’s investigation into New York’s bishops and dioceses.

In September, New York’s attorney general began an investigation into whether any of the state’s eight Roman Catholic dioceses had covered up acts or allegations of clerical sexual abuse. Sheen was Bishop of Rochester from 1966 to 1969.

The bishop, who was a prolific author and television personality, was set to be beatified on Dec. 21, the last step before a person can be declared a saint.

A “postponement” of the beatification was announced by the Peoria diocese, where Sheen is buried and would have been beatified, on Dec. 3.

The diocese said that “a few members of the Bishops’ Conference” had “requested a delay,” adding that “the Diocese of Peoria remains confident that Archbishop Sheen’s virtuous conduct will only be further demonstrated.”

A source close to the Vatican’s Secretariat of State told CNA that Matano contacted the apostolic nuncio after the beatification date was set, to express concerns that Sheen could be named in a report by the attorney general, or accused of insufficiently handling allegations of abuse during his tenure as Rochester’s bishop.

There was apparently specific concern that such an allegation against Sheen could be timed to coincide with the beatification on Dec. 21, sources told CNA.

“A beatification is a celebration,” an official close to the Secretariat of State told CNA about the decision to postpone. “The purpose is to help the faith of the people, not to be an occasion for scandal and problems, nothing is lost by waiting and maybe some things are avoided.”

“There has been a great deal of impatience in some parts about [Sheen’s beatification], but in the normal course of these things this all is happening very fast - look at [St. Cardinal John Henry] Newman and how long the wait was.”

Kruse told CNA that in July, Matano told him “the case is in the hands of Rome and we simply should wait for their determination and direction.”

“Last week, Peoria got direction from Rome, ‘Beatify him on Dec. 21,’” Kruse added, noting that Matano subsequently objected to the Holy See's initial decision on the matter.

Several senior U.S. archbishops were consulted on the matter before the final decision to delay was made by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State. The U.S. bishops consulted reportedly reached consensus that it would be “imprudent” to proceed with the beatification plans until after the attorney general’s report has been released and the matter resolved.

At issue, Kruse said, is Gerard Guli, a former Rochester priest.

The priest was ordained in 1956, and from 1963 to 1967 served in parishes in West Virginia. According to a document issued by the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, in 1963 the Diocese of Rochester received an allegation that in 1960 Guli committed abuse or misconduct against adults, not minors.

Kruse told CNA that the priest “returned from Wheeling to help his sick parents” in 1967.

Sheen became Rochester’s bishop in October 1966.

Some have claimed that Sheen gave Guli an assignment in the Diocese of Rochester, despite the 1963 allegation against him, Kruse said. The priest said that issue is what Matano is concerned the NY attorney general will identify.

“Guli is the issue,” he told CNA.

But Kruse said that Sheen never assigned Guli to ministry.

“We have studied extensively Sheen’s administrative decisions regarding Guli, and he never put children in harm’s way,” Kruse said.

“And in talking with Guli, assignments that some say Sheen gave him, Guli says ‘I never served there.’”

“And so this whole concept that Sheen appointed a pedophilic priest, that’s just not true,” Kruse added.

“The documents clearly show that Sheen’s successor, Bishop Hogan, appointed Guli, and it’s at that assignment that Guli offended again.”

“It’s [Bishop] Hogan who appointed Guli to the parishes in the towns of Campbell and Bradford where Guli offended, and it’s part of the reason that led to his ultimate removal and laicization, as well as other issues.”

Hogan was Sheen's successor.

In 1989, Guli was arrested for an incident of abuse involving an elderly woman. The priest was serving at Rochester’s Holy Rosary Parish at the time. He was subsequently laicized.

The Diocese of Rochester declined to respond to questions from CNA about Guli.

The Diocese of Peoria’s Dec. 3 statement said that “the life of Fulton Sheen has been thoroughly and meticulously investigated. At every stage, it has been demonstrated definitively that he was an exemplary model of Christian conduct and a model of leadership in the Church. At no time has his life of virtue ever been called into question.”

“Upon my scrutiny and extensive scrutiny of the information regarding Sheen’s administration, particularly in the case of Guli, that Sheen acted in no way to put children in harm’s way or danger, he in no way did cover-up, and I have spoken to Guli who has told me that the assignment that is being claimed was given to him by Sheen, Guli has told me he never served there,” Kruse told CNA.

“We have known about the Guli issue for quite a long time and all of that has been thoroughly examined…that all of the life and everything has been vetted, and in the end, Sheen is exonerated in things. And likewise, Rome has vetted all of that also,” he added.

Another official close to the beatification process told CNA that “the officials of the cause in Illinois looked very carefully at every part of his ministry as a bishop in New York. They did not find that he handled cases badly.”

Still, the official said, “now we will just have to wait and to see.”

In August, New York state law opened a window in the statute of limitations for vicitms of child sexual abuse to file civil or criminal complaints concerning historic offences. The one-year window was created through the Child Victims Act, which also altered New York’s statute of limitations for filing criminal claims and civil claims for survivors of child sexual abuse.

Over 400 lawsuits were filed on the first day of the window, include an allegation against a sitting bishop and a RICO suit against the Diocese of Buffalo and the Northeast Province of the Jesuits. Claims were also filed against laicized former archbishop and cardinal Theodore McCarrick.

In September, the Rochester diocese filed for bankruptcy protection, amid a flood of abuse lawsuits.

"This is a very difficult and painful decision, but after assessing all reasonable possibilities to satisfy the claims, reorganization is considered the best and fairest course of action for the victims and for the well-being of the diocese, its parishes, agencies and institutions," Bishop Matano wrote in a Sept. 12 letter.

"We believe this is the only way we can provide just compensation for all who suffered the egregious sin of sexual abuse while ensuring the continued commitment of the diocese to the mission of Christ."

The Diocese of Rochester declined Dec. 4 to answer questions from CNA, but did provide a statement.

“The decision to postpone the beatification of Archbishop Sheen was solely the decision of the Holy See. Respecting the competency of the Holy See in this matter, the Diocese will decline further comment.”

Kruse emphasized that, in his view, while the decision belong to the Holy See, it was the Diocese of Rochester that influenced it.

“I have seen the statement saying that they did,” he told CNA.

 

Ed. note: This story was updated at 5:00 pm MT.

Ed. note: This story initially mentioned reports claiming that Guli was laicized in 1967 and subsequently returned to ministry. Kruse clarified that was not the case, and the references have been removed.

 

New Buffalo apostolic administrator pledges 'openness' with victims

Buffalo, N.Y., Dec 4, 2019 / 12:25 pm (CNA).- Bishop Edward Scharfenberger of Albany spoke to the press Wednesday following his appointment as Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Buffalo, and emphasized that although he is not yet sure how exactly he will divide his time between the two dioceses he is now tasked with shepherding, he trusts Pope Francis’ decision to appoint him.

“I’m not here as a knight in shining armor. I’m not here as the fix-it man. I’m just here as a spiritual father,” Scharfenberger told the press Dec. 4.

“Fear is useless, it’s faith that counts, my personal relationship with Jesus Christ— I believe that He loves me and that He loves every person,” Scharfenberger said.

He stressed his desire for “openness” in moving forward with the diocese, and pledged to work toward healing for those who have been hurt.

Bishop Richard Malone, who has for over a year faced heavy criticism for his handling of cases of clerical sexual abuse in the diocese, asked Pope Francis for an “early retirement” during last month's ad limina visit in Rome, and on Wednesday Pope Francis accepted his resignation.

The Apostolic Nunciature in Washington, D.C. announced in October that Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn had been asked to lead an apostolic visitation and canonical inspection of the Buffalo diocese on behalf of the Vatican Congregation for Bishops.

That review concluded at the end of October, with DiMarzio having made three trips to Buffalo, and interviewing more than 80 people before submitting his report to Rome. The details of DiMarzio’s apostolic visitation have not been released, and the Vatican has not suggested that Malone has been formally accused of any particular canonical crime.

Malone said he had been made aware of the “general conclusions” of the report and the conclusions had factored into his discernment to resign, but that he had done so “freely and voluntarily.”

When asked if he had read DiMarzio’s report, Scharfenberger said that he had not. Reporters pressed Scharfenberger on whether he had met with or spoken with Malone about the situation in the diocese, and Scharfenberger said he and Malone had met on a bus in Rome, and that Malone had “spoken from the heart” about the difficulties he was facing in the diocese.

Scharfenberger said he thinks Malone made a prudent decision to withdraw as bishop when he did, and that he does not have any immediate plans to meet with Malone. Meeting with him “is not my job,” he said, adding that the only communications about the situation he has had are with the nuncio.

Scharfenberger emphasized that his position as apostolic administrator is by definition temporary, and the decision of who will ultimately lead the diocese is entirely up to the Holy See.

“It’s not about me, it’s about the mission of the Church,” he said.

“I try to open my heart, but ultimately my confidence is in the Lord...I say, ‘Lord Jesus I trust in you.’”

When asked by a reporter whether he thinks there is a need for a complete house cleaning of all of Malone’s advisors in the diocesan chancery, including Auxiliary Bishop Edward Grosz and Attorney Terry Connors, Scharfenberger said he thinks “a clean sweep” of Malone’s advisors is “too broad a stroke,” but that he would look into it.

In his statement, Malone announced his intention to continue to reside in the diocese as Bishop Emeritus, “and to be available to serve in whatever ways that our Apostolic Administrator and new bishop determines is best.”

The bishop emeritus becomes a member of the clergy, Scharfenberger said, and added that it would be within the scope of his office to “limit” Bishop Malone if necessary.

Scharfenberger said his commitment is to be physically present in the diocese at least one day a week. Options for connecting digitally, such as live streaming, will also be considered, he said.

“The time that I give is not limited to me being physically present,” he said.

“In my heart is a desire to be a parish priest,” he said, adding that he wants to hear how he can help the people of the Buffalo diocese.

Scharfenberger, who has previously served on a diocesan review board, said it is his goal to encourage parishes in the diocese to be places where people feel welcome and comfortable talking about abuse they may have faced.

Scharfenberger said when he speaks to a congregation, he tends to think that 20-25% have suffered some form of abuse, such as sexual abuse or domestic violence. He said a priest once estimated to him it could be as high as 50%.

“We’re all hurting,” he said, adding that his number one priority is “openness in conversation, particularly with those who have been hurt the most.”

Scharfenberger said although there’s no question that trust in the hierarchy in Buffalo has been broken and compromised, he urged the faithful not to “judge [all priests] as a class.” When asked if he would release the personnel files of all priests in the diocese accused of abuse, he pledged that “anything I can do within the scope of canon law, I will do.”

In November 2018, a former Buffalo chancery employee leaked confidential diocesan documents related to the handling of claims of clerical sexual abuse. The documents were widely reported to suggest Malone had covered-up some claims of sexual abuse, an allegation the bishop denied.

Six months later, in April 2019, Malone apologized for his handling of some cases in the diocese, and said he would work to restore trust. The bishop particularly apologized for his 2015 support of Fr. Art Smith, a priest who had faced repeated allegations of abuse and misconduct with minors.

In August 2019, a RICO lawsuit was filed against the diocese and the bishop, alleging that the response of the diocese was comparable to an organized crime syndicate.

Recordings of private conversations released in early September appeared to show that Malone believed sexual harassment accusations made against a diocesan priest months before the bishop removed the priest from ministry. In one recording, the bishop is heard to say that if the media were to report on the situation, “it could force me to resign.”

“I have acknowledged on many occasions the mistakes I have made [in not] addressing more swiftly personnel issues that, in my view, required time to sort out complex details pertaining to behavior between adults,” Malone said in his Dec. 4 statement.

“In extensive listening sessions across our Diocese, I have heard your dismay and rightful concerns. I have been personally affected by the hurt and disappointment you have expressed, all of which have informed our actions. I have sought your understanding, your advice, your patience and your forgiveness.”

Scharfenberger urged any victims of abuse to immediately contact law enforcement before contacting the diocese.

Release of new curial constitution delayed again

Vatican City, Dec 4, 2019 / 09:30 am (CNA).- The publication date of the new constitution governing the Roman Curia has been delayed again as Pope Francis' council of cardinals continues to evaluate suggestions to the draft that was given to bishops' conferences in May.

The now six-member advisory council met at the Vatican Dec. 2-4.

According to a brief Vatican press release Dec. 4, the group of cardinals had continued to receive suggestions on the text of the new apostolic constitution, provisionally titled Praedicate evangelium, until a few days before the start of the latest round of meetings.

The council of cardinals will continue its “reading and evaluation” of the draft at its next meeting, which will take place in February 2020, the Holy See press office stated.

Praedicate evangelium will replace Pastor bonus, the current apostolic constitution on the Roman Curia promulgated by Pope John Paul II on June 28, 1988, and subsequently modified by both popes Benedict and Francis.

The new document is expected to place renewed emphasis on evangelization as the structural priority of the Church’s mission, with some predicting the merger of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization into a single larger department.

In June, the secretary of the council, Bishop Marcello Semeraro, said there was a possibility Pope Francis would see a final draft of the document in September, but in September cardinals were still working on incorporating the suggestions submitted by bishops’ conferences and others during the summer.

The new constitution has been the advisory group’s key reform project since its establishment in 2013, one month after Pope Francis’ election.

According to the press release, this week’s meetings focused on two aspects of the draft text: the relationship between the Roman Curia and bishops’ conferences, and the presence of lay men and women in decision-making roles in curial and other Church offices.

The “theological-pastoral bases of these aspects” was also studied.

The Council of Cardinal Advisors is often referred to informally as the “C9,” although there have been only six members for nearly the past year.

The current members - Cardinals Pietro Parolin, Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, Reinhard Marx, Sean O'Malley, Giuseppe Bertello, and Oswald Gracias - were all present for the latest gathering, the group’s 32nd round of meetings.

Pope Francis also attended sessions, when not in other audiences and appointments. Bishop Marcello Semeraro, the secretary of the council, was also present at the meetings this week.

Besides discussing the curial constitution, the council heard a report from Cardinal Michael Czerny on October’s Synod of Bishops on the Amazon and some considerations from Cardinal O'Malley on the work of the post-synodal apostolic exhortation.

They also heard from Cardinal Marx on the Church in Germany’s “synodal path” and the topics on which it will focus.

Pray that bishops, priests will manifest Christ's love, Pope Francis urges

Vatican City, Dec 4, 2019 / 06:17 am (CNA).- Bishops and priests have a duty to guard and protect the Catholics entrusted to their care; and they need the faithful’s prayers for this task, Pope Francis said at the general audience Wednesday.

“Let us ask the Lord to renew in us love for the Church and for the deposit of the faith that it preserves, and to make us all co-responsible in the custody of the flock, supporting the pastors in prayer so that they manifest the firmness and tenderness of the Divine Shepherd,” he said Dec. 4.

He emphasized that “bishops must be very close to their people to guard them, to defend them; not detached from the people.”

Reflecting on the Acts of the Apostles, he explained that in chapter 20 Paul is saying farewell at the end of his apostolic ministry in Ephesus, giving a sort of “spiritual testament” to those who will lead the community after his departure and who will probably never see him again.

Pope Francis recommended everyone read chapter 20 of the Acts of the Apostles to learn how to say goodbye, calling it one of the “most beautiful” passages in Acts.

In this passage, Paul also exhorts the leaders of the community. “And what does he say to them?” the pope said. “‘Watch over yourself and the whole flock.’ This is the work of the shepherd: waking, watching over himself and the flock.”

“The priests must watch, the bishops, the pope must watch,” he continued. “Keep vigil to guard the flock, and also to watch over oneself, examine one's conscience and see how this duty to watch is carried out.”

He quoted Acts 20:28, which says, “Watch over yourselves and over the whole flock, in the midst of which the Holy Spirit has constituted you as guardians to be shepherds of the Church of God, which was acquired with the blood of his own Son.”

The pope again recommended that people “not forget today to take a Bible and read the 20th chapter, verses 17 onward, of the Book of the Acts of the Apostles. It is a jewel and good for everyone.”

Pope Francis also spoke against belief in magic, fortune telling, or tarot cards.

“Even today in the big cities, practicing Christians do these things,” he said. “Please: magic is not Christian!”

“These things that are done to guess the future or guess many things or change life situations are not Christian. The grace of Christ brings you everything: pray and entrust yourself to the Lord,” he urged.

 

Buffalo's Bishop Richard Malone resigns after year of scandal

Vatican City, Dec 4, 2019 / 04:01 am (CNA).- Pope Francis Wednesday accepted the resignation of Buffalo’s embattled Bishop Richard Malone. The Diocese of Buffalo will be administered by Albany’s Bishop Edward Scharfenberger until a permanent replacement for Malone is appointed.

A Dec. 4 communique from the United States' apostolic nunciature said Malone asked Pope Francis for an "early retirement" during last month's ad limina visit, after being made aware of the results of an apostolic visitation to the Diocese of Buffalo, which concluded at the end of October.

In his own statement Dec. 4, Malone said the results of the apostolic visitation were a factor in his decision to resign, but he is doing so "freely and voluntarily."

"I have concluded after much prayer and discernment that the spiritual welfare of the people of the Diocese of Buffalo will be better served by a new bishop who perhaps is better able to bring about the reconciliation, healing and renewal that is so needed," he said.

"It is my honest assessment that I have accomplished as much as I am able to, and that there remain divisions and wounds that I am unable to bind and heal."

The resignation comes after more than a year of scandal surrounding Malone.

In November 2018, a former Buffalo chancery employee leaked confidential diocesan documents related to the handling of claims of clerical sexual abuse. The documents were widely reported to suggest Malone had covered-up some claims of sexual abuse, an allegation the bishop denied.

Six months later, in April 2019, Malone apologized for his handling of some cases in the diocese, and said he would work to restore trust. The bishop particularly apologized for his 2015 support of Fr. Art Smith, a priest who had faced repeated allegations of abuse and misconduct with minors.

“Lessons have been learned,” Malone said in April.

“I personally need to repent and reform, and it is my hope that this diocese can rebuild itself and learn and even grow from the sins of the past. I ask you to pray for me, pray for the Church, and pray for all those who suffered and suffer as a result of abuse as we go forward together to address the worldwide problem of child sexual abuse,” the bishop added.

In August 2019, a RICO lawsuit was filed against the diocese and the bishop, alleging that the response of the diocese was comparable to an organized crime syndicate.

Recordings of private conversations released in early September appeared to show that Malone believed sexual harassment accusations made against a diocesan priest months before the bishop removed the priest from ministry.

The contents of recordings of conversations between Malone and Fr. Ryszard Biernat, his secretary and diocesan vice chancellor, were reported in early September by WKBW in Buffalo.

In the conversations, Malone seemed to acknowledge the legitimacy of accusations of harassment and a violation of the seal of confession made against a diocesan priest, Fr. Jeffrey Nowak, by a seminarian, months before the diocese removed Nowak from active ministry.

In an Aug. 2 conversation, Malone can be heard saying, “We are in a true crisis situation. True crisis. And everyone in the office is convinced this could be the end for me as bishop.”

The bishop is also heard to say that if the media reported on the Nowak situation, “it could force me to resign.”

On Oct. 3, the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington, DC, announced that Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn had been asked to lead an apostolic visitation – and canonical inspection – of the Buffalo diocese on behalf of the Congregation for Bishops in Rome.

That review concluded at the end of October, with DiMarzio having made three trips to Buffalo, and interviewing more than 80 people before submitting his report to Rome.

Malone visited Pope Francis last month, afterward telling Buffalo Catholics that “in a few words spoken privately to me, it was clear that the pope understands the difficulties and distress we here in Buffalo, and I personally, have been experiencing.”

“He was very understanding and kind.”

“I ask for your prayers and patience while the path forward is discerned. In the meantime, be assured that I am wholly committed to fostering the healing of victim survivors, rebuilding trust, and with our clergy and other Church ministers, renewing faith and carrying on the essential ministries that serve the needs of Catholics and of the larger Western New York community,” Malone said in a Nov. 18 video.

Rumors that Malone would resign surfaced last month, after the bishop’ ad limina visit to the pope, required every five years. A diocesan spokesperson said those rumors were false.

When reports emerged again this week that Malone would resign, diocesan personnel did not deny them.

The details of DiMarzio’s apostolic visitation have not been released. The visitation did not take place under Pope Francis’ recently promulgated norms for investigating bishops accused of negligence or sexual abuse. The Vatican has not suggested that Malone has been formally accused of any particular canonical crime.

In 2014, Pope Francis issued a document, formally called a rescript, noting that in “particular circumstances,” the pope “may consider it necessary to ask a bishop to present the resignation of his pastoral office, after letting him know the motives for such a request and after listening attentively to his justifications, in fraternal dialogue.”

The document did not establish a new policy, but clarified the freedom of the pope to request the resignation of a bishop. It is not clear whether Francis requested Malone’s resignation.

Malone is not the first U.S. bishop to resign amid crisis in recent years. In 2018, mired in scandal surrounding Theodore McCarrick, Cardinal Donald Wuerl asked the pope to accept his 2015 letter of resignation from the Archdiocese of Washington. Francis did so in October 2018, but Wuerl continued to lead the archdiocese until his successor was named in April.

Archbishop John Nienstedt of Minneapolis, along with Bishop Lee Piche, his auxiliary, resigned from office in June 2015, amid reports of systemic negligence, and after criminal charges were filed against the archdiocese for its mishandling of clerical sexual abuse allegations.

Bishop Robert Finn resigned from leading the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph in April 2015. Finn had been convicted in 2012 of a misdemeanor, namely the failure to report suspected child abuse. The bishop was sentenced to two years’ probation for that crime.

Malone, 73, began leading the Buffalo diocese in 2012. He was ordained a priest of Boston in 1972, and became an auxiliary bishop in that diocese in 2000, two years before a national sexual abuse scandal emerged in the United States, centered on the Archdiocese of Boston and the leadership of Cardinal Bernard Law. Malone was Maine’s bishop from 2004 until 2012.

 

This story was updated at 4:33 am MST.

Pope: Mariology helps foster dialogue and fraternity among cultures

Pope Francis sends a message to the XXIV public session of the Pontifical Academies where the annual Award was presented to Dr. Carme López Calderón and to the Reverend Ionuț-Cătălin Blidar for their commitment to theological research.

Foes of Louisiana abortion regulation file briefs with Supreme Court

Washington D.C., Dec 4, 2019 / 12:30 am (CNA).- A Louisiana law that requires abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at local hospitals has drawn opposition from medical groups and national Democratic politicians, who have filed briefs against it.

Backers of the law say it is a commonsense measure that protects women’s health and supports the dignity of life. Opponents argue that it places an undue obstacle on women seeking an abortion.

In October the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it would hear a challenge to Louisiana’s Unsafe Abortion Protection Act, which requires doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion clinic. When then-Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) signed the bill into law in 2014, it was promptly challenged in court.

The requirement could shut down at least two of Louisiana’s three abortion clinics, the pro-abortion Center for Reproductive Rights has said.

Louisiana state officials are defending the bill.

“Women deserve better than incompetent providers that put profits over people,” Louisiana Solicitor General Liz Murrill told National Public Radio.

However, foes of the law have filed friend-of-the-court briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of the plaintiff, the Shreveport-based abortion clinic June Medical Services.

Among the groups signing on to one amicus brief were the American Medical Association, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The medical groups’ brief said the Louisiana law is similar to the Texas law struck down in the 2016 U.S. Supreme Court case Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt.

In the Hellerstedt case, the court ruled that the Texas law created an “undue burden” on abortion access in the state, as it had decided in Planned Parenthood v. Casey that state abortion laws could not pose such an obstacle.

The Supreme Court faulted the Texas law, which required abortion doctors to have admitting privileges. A “working arrangement” was already in place between hospitals and abortion clinics in the state, the court found. The provision could have meant the closure of around half the clinics in Texas.

While a district court permanently barred the Louisiana law from taking effect, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court overturned that decision in January. It ruled the law was sufficiently different from that of Texas. Unlike Texas, few Louisiana hospitals require doctors to see a minimum number of patients. While most abortion clinics in Texas would have closed because of the law, only one doctor at one Louisiana abortion clinic is unable to obtain privileges.

In February, the Supreme Court temporarily blocked Louisiana’s law from taking effect.

In response, Archbishop Joseph Naumann, the chair of the U.S. bishops’ pro-life committee, said that the law simply required “basic health standards” of abortion clinics. He said that the court’s stay, together with the abortion industry fighting the law, are “further evidence of how abortion extremism actively works against the welfare of women.”

State Rep. Katrina Jackson, a Democrat from Monroe who sponsored the Louisiana legislation, in October said the case concerns whether a state is able “to enforce its duly enacted laws aimed at protecting the health and safety of its citizens.”

“Together with my colleagues, our legislature passed the Unsafe Abortion Protection Act by a wide bipartisan margin to protect the health and safety of women,” she said, according to the Baton Rouge-based newspaper The Advocate. “Abortion has known medical risks, and the women of this state who are often coerced into abortion deserve to have the same standard of care required for other surgical procedures.”

Though the legislation sponsor is a Democrat, national Democratic leaders have weighed in against the bill. Nearly 200 Members of Congress, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) and Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) have submitted a brief opposing the Louisiana law, National Public Radio reports.

The American Bar Association has also filed an amicus brief against the Louisiana law. It objected that the law is contrary to existing pro-abortion precedent and the case “raises significant concerns about adherence to basic rule of law principles.”

Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie, M.D., a Florida-based radiologist who is a policy advisor for The Catholic Association, in October told CNA the law did nothing more than provide commonsense protections for women’s health.

The law “ensures that women suffering from dangerous complications do not show up at emergency rooms where doctors who don’t know them can only guess at the surgical intervention that was done at the abortion facility,” she said.

Louisiana law currently bars abortion after 20 weeks into pregnancy and requires a 24-hour waiting period between the first consultation and the abortion procedure.

Two other Louisiana laws restricting abortion could take effect, pending judicial decisions regarding similar Mississippi laws: a restriction on abortion to 15 weeks into pregnancy; or when a fetal heartbeat is detectable, about six weeks into pregnancy.

Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards signed both laws and cited his pro-life positions in his recent successful re-election campaign.

Burkina Faso Bishops inaugurate new headquarters for justice and peace

Amidst a climate of persecution against Christians, the Episcopal Commission for Justice and Peace in Burkina Faso inaugurated their new headquarters; a symbol of the revitalisation hoped for in the struggle for peace in the region.