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Priest-president of elite NY Jesuit high school sacked, sexual misconduct against adults alleged

Regis High School in New York City. / ajay_suresh via Flickr (CC_BY_2.0)

CNA Staff, Apr 13, 2021 / 17:17 pm (CNA).

A Jesuit priest who was president of an all-boys high school in New York City has been removed after the board of trustees determined he engaged in inappropriate, non-consensual sexual misconduct with several adults, including subordinates.

 

Anthony DiNovi, chair of the Regis High School board of trustees, sent an April 11 message to the high school community announcing the removal of Father Daniel Lahart, S.J. from his position as school president. The 59-year-old Lahart had been president since 2016.

 

DiNovi said the board had put Lahart on administrative leave on Feb. 28 after learning of allegations he had “acted inappropriately with adult members of the Regis community.” The board hired a third-party investigator to review the claims.

 

Based on the investigator’s findings, the board has concluded “that Fr. Lahart engaged in inappropriate and unwelcome verbal communications and physical conduct, all of a sexual nature, with adult members of the Regis community, including subordinates.”

 

“This conduct was non-consensual, and moreover, continued notwithstanding express requests from the affected parties for the conduct to cease,” said DiNovi.

 

DiNovi said the investigation was committed to due process, adding “Fr. Lahart was invited to participate, but declined to do so.”

 

“Last week, the school notified Fr. Lahart that the board—with the approval of the USA East Province of the Society of Jesus—intended to remove him for cause as President, which we expect will take effect on April 21, 2021,” said the message.

 

DiNovi said the school would not disclose further details about the investigation to protect victims’ privacy. Regis is an all-boys school run by the Society of Jesus. It has faculty and staff of both sexes. The school’s student body numbers over 500. The Upper East Side Manhattan school does not charge tuition and instead relies on donations from alumni and other benefactors.

 

“Please know the board did not come to its decision lightly and took seriously its obligation to act with transparency, integrity, and compassion in service of our community, both with respect to Fr. Lahart and to those members of our community who were harmed by his conduct,” DiNovi said. “We are committed to ensuring a safe, respectful, and caring workplace for all current and future Regis staff members.”

 

Lahart was the 22nd president of the school. The 2015 announcement of Lahart’s selection as president noted his 14 years as president of the Houston, Texas school Strake Jesuit College Preparatory. He previously served as vice president for finance and administration at Washington, D.C.’s Gonzaga College High School and as provincial assistant for secondary education for the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus. In that role, he was the provincial’s delegate to middle and secondary schools.

 

Lahart also had taught mathematics at Scranton Preparatory School in Pennsylvania.

 

Regis High alumni include Bishop Frank Caggiano of Bridgeport, Conn.; Father Joseph McShane, S.J., president of Fordham University; U.S. Rep. Andrew Harris, R-Maryland; and Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who has been a leading media commentator on the novel coronavirus epidemic. 

 

The board of trustees has named Christian Talbot, a former Regis faculty member, as interim president.


Priest-president of elite NY Jesuit high school sacked, sexual misconduct against adults alleged

Regis High School in New York City. / ajay_suresh via Flickr (CC_BY_2.0)

CNA Staff, Apr 13, 2021 / 17:17 pm (CNA).

A Jesuit priest who was president of an all-boys high school in New York City has been removed after the board of trustees determined he engaged in inappropriate, non-consensual sexual misconduct with several adults, including subordinates.

 

Anthony DiNovi, chair of the Regis High School board of trustees, sent an April 11 message to the high school community announcing the removal of Father Daniel Lahart, S.J. from his position as school president. The 59-year-old Lahart had been president since 2016.

 

DiNovi said the board had put Lahart on administrative leave on Feb. 28 after learning of allegations he had “acted inappropriately with adult members of the Regis community.” The board hired a third-party investigator to review the claims.

 

Based on the investigator’s findings, the board has concluded “that Fr. Lahart engaged in inappropriate and unwelcome verbal communications and physical conduct, all of a sexual nature, with adult members of the Regis community, including subordinates.”

 

“This conduct was non-consensual, and moreover, continued notwithstanding express requests from the affected parties for the conduct to cease,” said DiNovi.

 

DiNovi said the investigation was committed to due process, adding “Fr. Lahart was invited to participate, but declined to do so.”

 

“Last week, the school notified Fr. Lahart that the board—with the approval of the USA East Province of the Society of Jesus—intended to remove him for cause as President, which we expect will take effect on April 21, 2021,” said the message.

 

DiNovi said the school would not disclose further details about the investigation to protect victims’ privacy. Regis is an all-boys school run by the Society of Jesus. It has faculty and staff of both sexes. The school’s student body numbers over 500. The Upper East Side Manhattan school does not charge tuition and instead relies on donations from alumni and other benefactors.

 

“Please know the board did not come to its decision lightly and took seriously its obligation to act with transparency, integrity, and compassion in service of our community, both with respect to Fr. Lahart and to those members of our community who were harmed by his conduct,” DiNovi said. “We are committed to ensuring a safe, respectful, and caring workplace for all current and future Regis staff members.”

 

Lahart was the 22nd president of the school. The 2015 announcement of Lahart’s selection as president noted his 14 years as president of the Houston, Texas school Strake Jesuit College Preparatory. He previously served as vice president for finance and administration at Washington, D.C.’s Gonzaga College High School and as provincial assistant for secondary education for the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus. In that role, he was the provincial’s delegate to middle and secondary schools.

 

Lahart also had taught mathematics at Scranton Preparatory School in Pennsylvania.

 

Regis High alumni include Bishop Frank Caggiano of Bridgeport, Conn.; Father Joseph McShane, S.J., president of Fordham University; U.S. Rep. Andrew Harris, R-Maryland; and Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who has been a leading media commentator on the novel coronavirus epidemic. 

 

The board of trustees has named Christian Talbot, a former Regis faculty member, as interim president.


Federal court upholds Ohio's Down syndrome abortion ban

Natalia Bratslavsky/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Apr 13, 2021 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

A federal court on Tuesday upheld an Ohio law prohibiting doctors from performing abortions based on a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome. 

The full Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 9-7 to lift an injunction on Ohio's Down Syndrome Non-Discrimination Act, signed into law by former Republican governor John Kasich in 2017. 

A federal district court judge first blocked the law from going into effect in March 2018. A three-judge panel of the Sixth Circuit upheld the judge’s ruling in October 2019.

After the state of Ohio appealed the ruling to the full panel of the Sixth Circuit, a majority on Tuesday reversed the district court’s injunction. 

“The right to an abortion before viability is not absolute,” wrote Judge Alice Batchelder in the court’s majority opinion, adding, “Simply put, there is no absolute or per se right to an abortion based on the stage of the pregnancy.”

Ohio’s law H.B. 214 would make performing abortions based on a Down syndrome diagnosis - or the likelihood of such a diagnosis - subject to criminal penalties. Doctors would be in violation of the law if they knew the mother’s reason for seeking an abortion was a diagnosis of Down syndrome, or a belief that the child had Down syndrome.

Some pro-life advocates argue that the Supreme Court should now rule on the Ohio law, or on similar laws in other states.

In a statement, Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, said the ruling “upholds Ohio as a safe haven for unborn babies with Down Syndrome.” 

“This law includes reasonable, compassionate measures to prevent lethal discrimination in the womb,” Dannenfelser said. She added that the law “has the potential to pose a significant challenge to Roe v. Wade.” 

The court’s 1973 ruling in Roe found that women had a right to an abortion before the “viability” of the unborn child, but that states could regulate the issue once the child is viable. In the 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey ruling, the court found that states could regulate abortion pre-viability, but could not pose an “undue burden” on a woman’s right to an abortion.

On Tuesday, a majority on the Sixth Circuit ruled that the law did not impose an “undue burden” on women seeking an abortion.

“We hold that the restrictions imposed, or burdens created, by H.B. 214 do not create a substantial obstacle to a woman’s ability to choose or obtain an abortion. Moreover, those restrictions are reasonably related to, and further, Ohio’s legitimate interests,” the majority opinion stated.

Dannenfelser said that the Supreme Court should rule on the matter. 

“Now that a circuit split has occurred on the issue of whether states may prohibit the eugenic practice of discrimination abortion, the Supreme Court has even more reason to weigh in on this important matter and declare these laws as constitutional,” she said. 

Other “discrimination abortion” bans have been passed by states, outlawing abortions conducted for reasons of the baby’s sex, race, or fetal anomaly.

“Discriminatory abortions based on sex, race and disability are no less than modern-day eugenics, and must swiftly come to an end,” Dannenfelser stated. 

Two Ohio Planned Parenthood affiliates were among the organizations that sued over Ohio’s law. Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement, “This abortion ban inserts politicians between patients and their doctors, denying services to those who need it.”

Federal court upholds Ohio's Down syndrome abortion ban

Natalia Bratslavsky/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Apr 13, 2021 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

A federal court on Tuesday upheld an Ohio law prohibiting doctors from performing abortions based on a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome. 

The full Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 9-7 to lift an injunction on Ohio's Down Syndrome Non-Discrimination Act, signed into law by former Republican governor John Kasich in 2017. 

A federal district court judge first blocked the law from going into effect in March 2018. A three-judge panel of the Sixth Circuit upheld the judge’s ruling in October 2019.

After the state of Ohio appealed the ruling to the full panel of the Sixth Circuit, a majority on Tuesday reversed the district court’s injunction. 

“The right to an abortion before viability is not absolute,” wrote Judge Alice Batchelder in the court’s majority opinion, adding, “Simply put, there is no absolute or per se right to an abortion based on the stage of the pregnancy.”

Ohio’s law H.B. 214 would make performing abortions based on a Down syndrome diagnosis - or the likelihood of such a diagnosis - subject to criminal penalties. Doctors would be in violation of the law if they knew the mother’s reason for seeking an abortion was a diagnosis of Down syndrome, or a belief that the child had Down syndrome.

Some pro-life advocates argue that the Supreme Court should now rule on the Ohio law, or on similar laws in other states.

In a statement, Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, said the ruling “upholds Ohio as a safe haven for unborn babies with Down Syndrome.” 

“This law includes reasonable, compassionate measures to prevent lethal discrimination in the womb,” Dannenfelser said. She added that the law “has the potential to pose a significant challenge to Roe v. Wade.” 

The court’s 1973 ruling in Roe found that women had a right to an abortion before the “viability” of the unborn child, but that states could regulate the issue once the child is viable. In the 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey ruling, the court found that states could regulate abortion pre-viability, but could not pose an “undue burden” on a woman’s right to an abortion.

On Tuesday, a majority on the Sixth Circuit ruled that the law did not impose an “undue burden” on women seeking an abortion.

“We hold that the restrictions imposed, or burdens created, by H.B. 214 do not create a substantial obstacle to a woman’s ability to choose or obtain an abortion. Moreover, those restrictions are reasonably related to, and further, Ohio’s legitimate interests,” the majority opinion stated.

Dannenfelser said that the Supreme Court should rule on the matter. 

“Now that a circuit split has occurred on the issue of whether states may prohibit the eugenic practice of discrimination abortion, the Supreme Court has even more reason to weigh in on this important matter and declare these laws as constitutional,” she said. 

Other “discrimination abortion” bans have been passed by states, outlawing abortions conducted for reasons of the baby’s sex, race, or fetal anomaly.

“Discriminatory abortions based on sex, race and disability are no less than modern-day eugenics, and must swiftly come to an end,” Dannenfelser stated. 

Two Ohio Planned Parenthood affiliates were among the organizations that sued over Ohio’s law. Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement, “This abortion ban inserts politicians between patients and their doctors, denying services to those who need it.”

Former auxiliary bishop who mishandled reports of misconduct named pastor in Cincinnati archdiocese

Saint Peter in Chains Cathedral on W 8th Street in Cincinnati, Ohio. / Nagel photography/Shutterstock

Cincinnati, Ohio, Apr 13, 2021 / 16:01 pm (CNA).

A Catholic bishop who resigned last year as an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati amid controversy for failure to report to his archbishop and to the archdiocese’s personnel board a priest's alleged innapropriate behavior with a minor has been named pastor of a two-church pastoral region.

Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Joseph Binzer was named pastor of the Corpus Christi and St. John Neumann Pastoral Region, which includes two Catholic churches in Hamilton County, the television station Fox19 reports.

An archdiocese spokesperson said Bishop Binzer would continue his roles as the program coordinator for senior clergy services; director of Health and Hospital Ministries; and chaplain for the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, Cincinnati.

In May 2020 the Holy See Press Office announced that Pope Francis had accepted the then-65-year-old bishop’s resignation as an auxiliary bishop of the Cincinnati archdiocese. The statement gave no reason for the decision.

At the time, Bishop Binzer apologized for his response to reports of misconduct by Father Geoff Drew, who will soon go to trial for raping a 10-year-old after pleading not guilty. The bishop said he was “deeply sorry for my role in addressing the concerns raised about Father Drew, which has had a negative impact on the trust and faith of the people of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.”

Archbishop Dennis Schnurr of Cincinnati removed Bishop Binzer from his position as head of priest personnel in August 2019, after CNA presented officials with its investigation into claims that Bishop Binzer failed to pass on reports that Fr. Drew had engaged in inappropriate behavior with teenage boys.

Bishop Binzer later resigned as a member of the U.S. bishops’ conference committee for the protection of children and young people.

Fr. Kyle Schnippel, the outgoing pastor of the Corpus Christi and St. John Neumann Pastoral Region, said he was “surprised” to be nominated for another assignment. The priest said the transition planning has already begun for Bishop Binzer.

Fr. Schnippel recounted his conversation with the bishop in a letter to parishioners at the St. John Neumann’s website.

“As I spoke to (the) bishop shortly after the announcements were made, he assured me of his excitement and joy at coming here,” Fr. Schnippel said. “The first thing he wanted me to pass along to everyone here is that he is already praying for us, for you: the parishioners of these two parishes. He has some connections here already. An aunt and uncle were parishioners at Corpus Christi for a time and he has celebrated Mass here a number of times as well. He is looking forward to getting to know you all better over the coming years.”

At the time of Bishop Binzer’s resignation, Archbishop Schnurr said the bishop would continue to serve in the archdiocese, as determined in conversations among the archbishop, the archbishop, and the priest personnel board.

“In this difficult and unfortunate time, please keep Bishop Binzer and all the people of the archdiocese in your prayers,” Archbishop Schnurr said in May 2020.

The bishop’s appointment as a pastor has drawn media attention and criticism because of his handling of misconduct reports against a priest.

In August 2019 CNA reported that Binzer was told in 2013 about allegations concerning Fr. Drew, and failed to disclose them to Archbishop Schnurr and other archdiocesan officials.

While the archdiocesan victims’ assistance coordinator, who reported to Bishop Binzer, was aware of the allegation, the information was not made known to the diocesan priest personnel board or Archbishop Schnurr.

In 2015, similar allegations were again made against Fr. Drew. The matter was forwarded to Butler County officials, who determined that the activity was not criminal. Again, Bishop Binzer reported neither the complaints nor the investigation to the archbishop or informed the priest personnel board.

Sources in the archdiocesan chancery told CNA in August 2019 that Bishop Binzer met with Fr. Drew twice, was assured by him that he would reform his conduct, and the bishop considered this sufficient.

In early 2018, Fr. Drew applied for a transfer to St. Ignatius of Loyola Parish in Green Township, which is attached to the largest Catholic school in the archdiocese.

As head of priest personnel, Bishop Binzer was in charge of the process that considers requests and proposals for reassignment, in conjunction with the priest personnel board.

Neither the board nor the archbishop were made aware of the multiple complaints against Fr. Drew, and the transfer was approved.

The allegations were also reportedly not recorded by Bishop Binzer in the priest’s personnel file that would have been available to the archdiocesan personnel board as part of the process.

A month after Fr. Drew’s arrival at St. Ignatius, a parishioner at Drew’s former parish resubmitted the 2015 complaints about the priest, but this time it was also brought to the attention of Archbishop Schnurr.

Also in 2018, Bishop Binzer received an additional complaint of similarly inappropriate contact by Fr. Drew, dating to his time as a high school music teacher, before his ordination as a priest.

Following a diocesan investigation, Fr. Drew was ordered to attend counselling with a psychologist.

On July 23, Fr. Drew was removed from ministry, when it emerged that he had sent a series of inappropriate text messages to a 17-year-old.

Fr. Drew, who is now 59 years old, is scheduled to go to trial April 26 on 9 counts of rape or enter a plea. He has pleaded not guilty, but could face life in prison if he is convicted. He is accused of raping a 10-year-old student multiple times from 1988-1991 as a music minister at a Catholic school, before he became a priest.

Former auxiliary bishop who mishandled reports of misconduct named pastor in Cincinnati archdiocese

Saint Peter in Chains Cathedral on W 8th Street in Cincinnati, Ohio. / Nagel photography/Shutterstock

Cincinnati, Ohio, Apr 13, 2021 / 16:01 pm (CNA).

A Catholic bishop who resigned last year as an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati amid controversy for failure to report to his archbishop and to the archdiocese’s personnel board a priest's alleged innapropriate behavior with a minor has been named pastor of a two-church pastoral region.

Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Joseph Binzer was named pastor of the Corpus Christi and St. John Neumann Pastoral Region, which includes two Catholic churches in Hamilton County, the television station Fox19 reports.

An archdiocese spokesperson said Bishop Binzer would continue his roles as the program coordinator for senior clergy services; director of Health and Hospital Ministries; and chaplain for the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, Cincinnati.

In May 2020 the Holy See Press Office announced that Pope Francis had accepted the then-65-year-old bishop’s resignation as an auxiliary bishop of the Cincinnati archdiocese. The statement gave no reason for the decision.

At the time, Bishop Binzer apologized for his response to reports of misconduct by Father Geoff Drew, who will soon go to trial for raping a 10-year-old after pleading not guilty. The bishop said he was “deeply sorry for my role in addressing the concerns raised about Father Drew, which has had a negative impact on the trust and faith of the people of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.”

Archbishop Dennis Schnurr of Cincinnati removed Bishop Binzer from his position as head of priest personnel in August 2019, after CNA presented officials with its investigation into claims that Bishop Binzer failed to pass on reports that Fr. Drew had engaged in inappropriate behavior with teenage boys.

Bishop Binzer later resigned as a member of the U.S. bishops’ conference committee for the protection of children and young people.

Fr. Kyle Schnippel, the outgoing pastor of the Corpus Christi and St. John Neumann Pastoral Region, said he was “surprised” to be nominated for another assignment. The priest said the transition planning has already begun for Bishop Binzer.

Fr. Schnippel recounted his conversation with the bishop in a letter to parishioners at the St. John Neumann’s website.

“As I spoke to (the) bishop shortly after the announcements were made, he assured me of his excitement and joy at coming here,” Fr. Schnippel said. “The first thing he wanted me to pass along to everyone here is that he is already praying for us, for you: the parishioners of these two parishes. He has some connections here already. An aunt and uncle were parishioners at Corpus Christi for a time and he has celebrated Mass here a number of times as well. He is looking forward to getting to know you all better over the coming years.”

At the time of Bishop Binzer’s resignation, Archbishop Schnurr said the bishop would continue to serve in the archdiocese, as determined in conversations among the archbishop, the archbishop, and the priest personnel board.

“In this difficult and unfortunate time, please keep Bishop Binzer and all the people of the archdiocese in your prayers,” Archbishop Schnurr said in May 2020.

The bishop’s appointment as a pastor has drawn media attention and criticism because of his handling of misconduct reports against a priest.

In August 2019 CNA reported that Binzer was told in 2013 about allegations concerning Fr. Drew, and failed to disclose them to Archbishop Schnurr and other archdiocesan officials.

While the archdiocesan victims’ assistance coordinator, who reported to Bishop Binzer, was aware of the allegation, the information was not made known to the diocesan priest personnel board or Archbishop Schnurr.

In 2015, similar allegations were again made against Fr. Drew. The matter was forwarded to Butler County officials, who determined that the activity was not criminal. Again, Bishop Binzer reported neither the complaints nor the investigation to the archbishop or informed the priest personnel board.

Sources in the archdiocesan chancery told CNA in August 2019 that Bishop Binzer met with Fr. Drew twice, was assured by him that he would reform his conduct, and the bishop considered this sufficient.

In early 2018, Fr. Drew applied for a transfer to St. Ignatius of Loyola Parish in Green Township, which is attached to the largest Catholic school in the archdiocese.

As head of priest personnel, Bishop Binzer was in charge of the process that considers requests and proposals for reassignment, in conjunction with the priest personnel board.

Neither the board nor the archbishop were made aware of the multiple complaints against Fr. Drew, and the transfer was approved.

The allegations were also reportedly not recorded by Bishop Binzer in the priest’s personnel file that would have been available to the archdiocesan personnel board as part of the process.

A month after Fr. Drew’s arrival at St. Ignatius, a parishioner at Drew’s former parish resubmitted the 2015 complaints about the priest, but this time it was also brought to the attention of Archbishop Schnurr.

Also in 2018, Bishop Binzer received an additional complaint of similarly inappropriate contact by Fr. Drew, dating to his time as a high school music teacher, before his ordination as a priest.

Following a diocesan investigation, Fr. Drew was ordered to attend counselling with a psychologist.

On July 23, Fr. Drew was removed from ministry, when it emerged that he had sent a series of inappropriate text messages to a 17-year-old.

Fr. Drew, who is now 59 years old, is scheduled to go to trial April 26 on 9 counts of rape or enter a plea. He has pleaded not guilty, but could face life in prison if he is convicted. He is accused of raping a 10-year-old student multiple times from 1988-1991 as a music minister at a Catholic school, before he became a priest.

Abuse commission of Church in Germany defends citing Michel Foucault

The Square Michel Foucault in Paris. Credit: J. Maughn via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0).

Rome Newsroom, Apr 13, 2021 / 15:15 pm (CNA).

The abuse commission of the Catholic Church in Germany has defended its citation of French philosopher Michel Foucault in a position paper drafted earlier this year.

The spokesperson of the German bishops’ conference told CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner, that “Foucault’s position was cited as an example of the discussion of the relationship between sexuality and power in the philosophical field.”

“This is not an exclusive Foucault position. In the event that his work would have to be reevaluated, it will be necessary to name a different reference,” spokesman Matthias Kopp said.

The Federal Conference of Prevention Commissioners of the German Dioceses, which is made up of the abuse prevention officers of each of the German dioceses, published a position paper online last week after voting to adopt the paper in January.

The document is intended to explain the “mutual relationship between prevention of sexual violence and sex education and training” and was previously presented internally during the Synodal Way in the Synodal Forum “Living in Successful Relationships.”

Foucault, who died in 1984 at age 57, was a prominent 20th century philosopher, writer, and political activist known for his controversial theories about power, madness, and sexuality.

In his book “The History of Sexuality,” Foucault argued that sexual morality is culturally relative; he also publically claimed children under the age of 15 can give consent for sexual relations with adults.

French-American writer Guy Sorman has claimed Foucault sexually abused minor boys in Tunisia in the late 1960s. The allegation was made public in the media at the end of March.

The German bishops’ spokesperson said the abuse commission’s position paper was written in January 2021, before allegations of abuse against Foucault came to light.

In response to questions from CNA Deutsch, the spokesperson said, “it is simply wrong to assume that the prevention concept would be based on statements by Foucault. He has been given as an example.”

He added that there is no plan to revise the paper: “Based on the current discussion, the further course of the investigation against Foucault will be closely monitored and responded accordingly if a result is available.”

“Should it be necessary to revise the paper to make it clear that one must distance oneself from Foucault’s position, this will not damage either the content reference or the human science framework of the concept as a whole,” he said.

With the publication of the position paper, Bishop Stephan Ackermann of Trier, the representative of the German bishops’ conference for questions of youth protection in the Church, welcomed the request “to stimulate a deeper debate on the relationship between sexual education and prevention work.”

Ann-Kathrin Kahle, who is from the working group which drafted the paper, said, “we have worked out the interface between prevention and sexual education. We are using this to describe the interaction between the two departments, from which both should benefit.”

Successful prevention must equally include the “right to sexuality” and “protection from sexual violence,” Kahle said.

Christian leaders in N. Ireland call for ‘unified’ negotiations, peaceful solutions

Nationalists attack police on April 8, 2021 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. / Charles McQuillan/Getty Images.

CNA Staff, Apr 13, 2021 / 14:10 pm (CNA).

The Catholic archbishop of Northern Ireland on Tuesday joined with other Christian leaders in calling for a “unified” response to recent unrest and street riots, and highlighting the importance of preserving Northern Ireland’s “fragile peace.”

“Church representatives and other community leaders working on the ground in affected communities have spoken to us of their frustration at seeing another generation of young people risk their lives and their futures because repeated warnings about the need to treat our fragile peace with care went unheeded,” the April 13 letter reads. 


The signers included Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh, Primate of All Ireland. The letter was addressed to Northern Irish ministers, the British and Irish governments, and to the European Union.

The current unrest in Northern Ireland began in late March, and has taken the form mainly of young people throwing bricks, fireworks, and other projectiles at police. 

According to the BBC, the unrest largely erupted as a result of police in March choosing not to prosecute members of the left-leaning Sinn Fein party for violating coronavirus restrictions last year, as well as continued tensions over a new sea border between Northern Ireland and Ireland imposed as a result of Brexit. 

Nearly a dozen people have been arrested and at least 90 police officers have been injured so far in the riots, though recent nights have been quieter, likely because of the April 9 death of Prince Philip. Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom. 

Though the conflict in Northern Ireland dates back centuries, the Good Friday Agreement of April 10, 1998— 23 years ago this month— largely brokered peace on the island. 

The faith leaders in their letter noted the importance of negotiating agreements that serve the common good. 

“We are conscious too that Churches are only a small part of the wider civic leadership in our society, and that all civic leaders have a responsibility to support our elected representatives as they seek to negotiate difficult compromises and find new accommodations for the common good,” they wrote. 

“At the same time, we have a responsibility to hold them to account, and the persistent levels of socio-economic inequality in the areas worst impacted by violence, over two decades after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, demand more sustained attention and meaningful intervention by political leaders.”

Various political leaders in Northern Ireland have condemned the current violence but have disagreed about its causes and solutions. 

The Northern Ireland Protocol, which came into force in January, requires certain goods such as meat and eggs coming from Britain to be inspected at Northern Irish ports, the implementation of which has caused some disruption to food supplies. Unionist groups in Northern Ireland oppose the inspections because they do not want Northern Ireland to be treated differently than the rest of the UK. 

The UK is now negotiating with the EU over the dispute. 

The faith leaders encouraged Northern Ireland’s leaders, as well as those of the UK government, to present a unified front, especially in negotiations with the European Union. 

“As Christian Church leaders from across the island of Ireland, we appeal to our political leaders to come together in a unified response to the heartbreaking scenes witnessed on our streets last week and renew their commitment to peace, reconciliation and the protection of the most vulnerable,” they wrote. 

They also urged support for the police in the face of the violence directed against them. 

“All of us in Northern Ireland have created a society in which even-handed policing requires the wisdom of Solomon combined with the patience of Job...It is vital that we address concerns in a way that strengthens our democratic processes rather than undermining them,” they wrote. 

The conflict’s 20th century framework was set in 1921-22 with a treaty that partitioned the island of Ireland into the six counties of Northern Ireland and the 26 counties of the Irish Free State. Irish nationalists were themselves riven by bitter civil war after the treaty and the partitioning, though the 26 counties later became fully independent in the late 1940s as the Republic of Ireland.

In Northern Ireland, differences between nationalists who backed a unified Ireland and unionists who supported the United Kingdom split strongly along religious lines, and Protestants tended occupy a place of social and economic privilege. In the 1960s, Catholics began to push strongly for civil rights, voting rights, police reform, and an end to discrimination. Tensions turned violent in 1968, after civil rights demonstrators faced violent opposition from their opponents and police inaction.

The period known as The Troubles featured riots, violent attacks, bombings and retaliation from Protestant and Catholic paramilitary groups, as well as involvement from the Royal Ulster Constabulary police, intervention from the British military, and mass internment of civilians.


Along with controversy surrounding treatment of Northern Ireland amid Brexit, in recent years the UK parliament has sought to impose largely unpopular legislation on Northern Ireland, including measures to legalize abortion and same-sex marriage.

Following Supreme Court ruling, California lifts capacity limits on religious gatherings

Our Lady Queen of Angels Catholic Church, Los Angeles / Leonid Andronov/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Apr 13, 2021 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

California lifted all capacity restrictions on religious gatherings on Monday, following the Supreme Court’s ruling over the weekend that the state’s restrictions were too harsh. 

“In response to recent judicial rulings, effective immediately, location and capacity limits on places of worship are not mandatory but are strongly recommended,” the state announced on Monday.

The state’s guidelines still recommend that worship services be held outside in counties with the most severe spread of COVID-19. For other counties at lesser risk of COVID-19 transmission, the state recommends that indoor religious services be limited to 25% capacity or 50% capacity. 

Other health restrictions, such as masking and social distancing, still apply to gatherings. Singing and chanting is permitted, but performers are subject to mask and distancing restrictions; the severity of the restrictions depends on the local level of COVID-19 risk.

According to California’s color-coding system for COVID-19 risk in counties, “purple” counties are determined to be at “widespread” risk of the virus; “red” counties are at “substantial” risk, “orange” counties at “moderate” risk, and “yellow” counties at “minimal” risk. Two counties are coded purple and two are yellow, with 22 counties labeled red and 32 counties labeled orange. 

The California Department of Public Health guidance on preventing virus transmission at gatherings, updated in November 2020, now adds that “limits will not be enforced to the extent that they have been enjoined by a court.”

In February, the Supreme Court ruled against the state’s near-total ban on indoor religious services, saying that the state could at most limit such services to 25% capacity.

Previously, the state limited indoor gatherings at homes to a maximum of three households. After residents sued to overturn the capacity limits for private Bible studies, the Supreme Court ruled on April 9 that the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court should have granted an injunction blocking the policy. 

The court majority noted in an unsigned order that the state’s “three households” rule did not apply as strictly to secular indoor gatherings - such as indoor shopping or businesses such as nail salons - as it did to private religious gatherings at homes.

“Where the government permits other activities to proceed with precautions, it must show that the religious exercise at issue is more dangerous than those activities even when the same precautions are applied,” said the court’s majority opinion in the 5-4 decision. “Otherwise, precautions that suffice for other activities suffice for religious exercise too.”

Chief Justice John Roberts, along with Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor, dissented from the majority opinion. 

Justice Kagan, writing a dissenting opinion joined by Justices Breyer and Sotomayor, stated that the state had treated religious and secular gatherings fairly.

“California limits religious gatherings in homes to three households. If the State also limits all secular gatherings in homes to three households, it has complied with the First Amendment,” Kagan said. “And the State does exactly that: It has adopted a blanket restriction on at-home gatherings of all kinds, religious and secular alike.”

Following Supreme Court ruling, California lifts capacity limits on religious gatherings

Our Lady Queen of Angels Catholic Church, Los Angeles / Leonid Andronov/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Apr 13, 2021 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

California lifted all capacity restrictions on religious gatherings on Monday, following the Supreme Court’s ruling over the weekend that the state’s restrictions were too harsh. 

“In response to recent judicial rulings, effective immediately, location and capacity limits on places of worship are not mandatory but are strongly recommended,” the state announced on Monday.

The state’s guidelines still recommend that worship services be held outside in counties with the most severe spread of COVID-19. For other counties at lesser risk of COVID-19 transmission, the state recommends that indoor religious services be limited to 25% capacity or 50% capacity. 

Other health restrictions, such as masking and social distancing, still apply to gatherings. Singing and chanting is permitted, but performers are subject to mask and distancing restrictions; the severity of the restrictions depends on the local level of COVID-19 risk.

According to California’s color-coding system for COVID-19 risk in counties, “purple” counties are determined to be at “widespread” risk of the virus; “red” counties are at “substantial” risk, “orange” counties at “moderate” risk, and “yellow” counties at “minimal” risk. Two counties are coded purple and two are yellow, with 22 counties labeled red and 32 counties labeled orange. 

The California Department of Public Health guidance on preventing virus transmission at gatherings, updated in November 2020, now adds that “limits will not be enforced to the extent that they have been enjoined by a court.”

In February, the Supreme Court ruled against the state’s near-total ban on indoor religious services, saying that the state could at most limit such services to 25% capacity.

Previously, the state limited indoor gatherings at homes to a maximum of three households. After residents sued to overturn the capacity limits for private Bible studies, the Supreme Court ruled on April 9 that the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court should have granted an injunction blocking the policy. 

The court majority noted in an unsigned order that the state’s “three households” rule did not apply as strictly to secular indoor gatherings - such as indoor shopping or businesses such as nail salons - as it did to private religious gatherings at homes.

“Where the government permits other activities to proceed with precautions, it must show that the religious exercise at issue is more dangerous than those activities even when the same precautions are applied,” said the court’s majority opinion in the 5-4 decision. “Otherwise, precautions that suffice for other activities suffice for religious exercise too.”

Chief Justice John Roberts, along with Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor, dissented from the majority opinion. 

Justice Kagan, writing a dissenting opinion joined by Justices Breyer and Sotomayor, stated that the state had treated religious and secular gatherings fairly.

“California limits religious gatherings in homes to three households. If the State also limits all secular gatherings in homes to three households, it has complied with the First Amendment,” Kagan said. “And the State does exactly that: It has adopted a blanket restriction on at-home gatherings of all kinds, religious and secular alike.”