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Cardinal Wuerl's name vandalized on Catholic high school sign

Pittsburgh, Pa., Aug 21, 2018 / 04:28 pm (CNA).- A Catholic high school named after Cardinal Donald Wuerl was vandalized Monday, following continued criticism of the cardinal’s handling of sex abuse allegations during his time as bishop of Pittsburgh.

Red spray paint covered the cardinal’s name on the sign for Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School on Monday morning.

Police said they received a call at 7 a.m. on August 20 about the Pittsburgh-area school’s entrance sign, which had been painted over on both sides, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Students at Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School returned for the first day of classes to find someone had spray-painted over Wuerl&#39;s name on a sign outside the school. <a href="https://t.co/P9E8plLeOv">https://t.co/P9E8plLeOv</a> <a href="https://t.co/MYAwhL810p">pic.twitter.com/MYAwhL810p</a></p>&mdash; KDKA (@KDKA) <a href="https://twitter.com/KDKA/status/1031707501044133888?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">August 21, 2018</a></blockquote>
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The vandalism took place amid a call for the school to change its name, removing Cardinal Wuerl from the title. A petition calling for a name change has received more than 7,000 signatures.

The Diocese of Pittsburgh has not decided if the school’s name will change, but North Catholic Principal Luke Crawford said an executive session will be held to consider it. Recommendations for a new name would be forwarded to a group overseeing the diocese’s Catholic schools and ultimately decided by Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh.

The vandalism followed an 884-page report released on August 14, concluding an 18-month investigation into clerical sex abuse within six dioceses of Pennsylvania. The report found that some 300 priests had allegedly abused more than 1000 victims in a span of seven decades.

The report raised serious questions about Wuerl’s handling of abuse cases during his tenure as Bishop of Pittsburgh from 1988 to 2006. In one case, Wuerl authorized the transfer and continued ministry of a priest who had been accused of committing acts of sexual abuse decades earlier.

Wuerl, who now heads the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., has denied having had knowledge of the allegations at the time he authorized the transfer, but questions remain unanswered regarding his management of that case and others.

The cardinal has also recently faced questions related to what he might have known about the alleged sexually coercive behavior of his predecessor as Archbishop of Washington, former cardinal Theodore McCarrick. In recent months, McCarrick has faced allegations that he serially sexually abused two adolescent boys, and spent decades committing acts of sexual assault and coercion toward seminarians and young priests. In 2005 and 2007, two New Jersey dioceses reached settlements with alleged victims of McCarrick.

Wuerl, who succeeded McCarrick as Archbishop of Washington in 2006, reports having had no knowledge of those settlements, or of any complaints about sexually abusive behavior on the part of McCarrick, who continued to live and minister in the Archdiocese of Washington subsequent to his retirement.

 

After religious liberty win, judge orders payment to Catholic Benefits Association

Denver, Colo., Aug 21, 2018 / 03:56 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A federal judge has ordered that $718,000 in compensation be paid to the Catholic Benefits Association after its successful religious freedom legal fight against mandated health care coverage that would have violated Catholic beliefs.

“We are proud of a result which will benefit so many in coming years,” Doug Wilson, CEO of the Denver-based Catholic Benefits Association, said Aug. 20.

“In addition to our current and future members, Americans of all faiths will benefit from the legal precedents we have achieved and from the court’s affirmation of (the Religious Freedom Restoration Act).”

The payment goes to the group’s legal fees and litigation costs.

Dating back to 2012 under President Barack Obama, the Department of Health and Human Services has tried to mandate health plan coverage of sterilization and contraceptives, including some drugs that can cause abortion. The Catholic Benefits Association objected to this, as well as to a counseling mandate, on the grounds it would require the association and its employer members to violate their religious beliefs.

The Catholic Benefits Association was among the plaintiffs who challenged the regulation under the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which bars substantial burdens upon religious freedom.

The health coverage mandates “had attempted to force CBA members to violate Catholic moral teaching by covering contraceptives, abortifacients, and sterilization procedures in employee health plans,” the association said. “Failure to comply with these morally objectionable mandates carried crushing fines which, in the case of CBA’s membership, were estimated to be as much as $19 billion.”

The association has more than 1,000 Catholic employer members including hospitals, colleges, religious orders, privately-owned Catholic businesses, 60 local Churches, and about 4,000 parishes. These employers have over 88,000 employees combined.

It filed lawsuits in 2013 and 2014 on behalf of its membership. The association was the largest plaintiff in the challenge, with more religious employers than the 100 other similar lawsuits combined.

In March U.S. District Court Judge David Russell agreed with the association’s case and issued a permanent injunction to prevent the federal government from enforcing the mandate upon it. Russell also ruled that this mandate had violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act by attempting to force employers to provide contraception and sterilization against their sincerely held religious beliefs.

The companies that make up the CBA had collectively accrued $6.9 billion in fines, which were eliminated by the March ruling.

Wilson, the benefits association CEO, suggested that more religious freedom cases could be on the horizon.

“While it is gratifying to reach a successful conclusion to this issue, there is so very much more to be addressed,” he said. Wilson cited the use of other federal regulations to attempt to coerce immoral actions by religious employers, such as transgender services. There are efforts to mandate insurance coverage for clinical trials involving embryonic stem cells, while state-level healthcare mandates lack sufficient religious freedom protections.

He said his organization would continue to defend religious freedom.

“Established as an association of Catholic employers, we can engage wherever we have a member,” Wilson said. “That now includes almost every state and a growing membership. We are here for as long as it takes.”

The association’s Aug. 20 statement said it is “committed to ensuring the right of Catholic employers to provide life-affirming health coverage consistent with Catholic teaching.”

The ruling in the benefit association’s favor follows the Supreme Court’s 2014 decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. that closely-held corporations with religious employers opposed to the mandate cannot be forced to comply with it. Hobby Lobby is a craft store owned by Christians who were opposed to certain abortion-causing drugs included in the mandate.

The Little Sisters of the Poor, a group of Catholic women religious who operate nursing homes for the elderly poor, also filed against the mandate. The Little Sisters of the Poor were granted an exemption from the mandate, but were back in court in November 2017 to argue their case again.

'Natural cycles' fertility app gets FDA approval to prevent pregnancy

Washington D.C., Aug 21, 2018 / 01:14 pm (CNA).- The FDA has approved a fertility-tracking app that boasts a lower unintended pregnancy rate than the pill, without the side effects of hormonal contraception.

The Natural Cycles app was developed by a Swedish nuclear physicist Elina Berglund and her husband Raoul Scherwizl. They created the app as a way to go “beyond contraception,” and to “get to know your body and unique cycles,” according to their website.

Berglund told Business Insider last year that the goal of the app is use scientific research to empower women with knowledge about their body, and to replace medication with technology.

In approving the app for use to prevent pregnancy, the FDA noted that its expected failure rate is 6.5 percent – lower than the 9 percent expected failure rate of the contraceptive pill, and 18 percent expected failure rate of condoms.

“Consumers are increasingly using digital health technologies to inform their everyday health decisions, and this new app can provide an effective method of contraception if it’s used carefully and correctly,” said Dr. Terri Cornelison, assistant director for the health of women in the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, in a Aug. 10 statement.

Users of the Natural Cycles app record their temperature each morning with an extra-sensitive thermometer. This data is combined with information about the woman’s menstrual cycle into an algorithm that can help determine when a woman is ovulating. A woman’s body temperature rises slightly when she is fertile, allowing her track her fertility day-to-day.

The app had already been approved by German inspection and certification agency Tüv Süd.

As of last year, the app reported having more than 150,000 users in over 160 countries around the world.

While the Catholic Church teaches that the use of contraception is immoral, because it intentionally separates procreation from the sexual act, it does approve of fertility mapping methods like natural family planning, which helps married couples achieve pregnancy – or avoid it, if there is a just reason to do so – by tracking a woman’s natural fertility.  

While fertility-awareness methods are sometimes conflated with the decades-old rhythm method – which assumes a standard 28-day cycle and has high failure rates – modern methods track specific changes in an individual woman’s body that indicate fertility, including temperature, cervical mucus, and hormone levels.
 

 

Cardinal O’Malley apologizes for missed letter on McCarrick allegations

Boston, Mass., Aug 21, 2018 / 12:48 pm (CNA).- Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston has issued an apology for not seeing a 2015 letter to his office, which detailed accusations of former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s sexual misconduct and abuse of diocesan seminarians.

The apology came after media reports revealed that New York priest Father Boniface Ramsey had tried to warn church officials about McCarrick multiple times, including in the 2015 letter, which he sent to O’Malley because of his role as President of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

O’Malley said his secretary Father Robert Kickham received the letter and responded to Ramsey himself, saying that the accusations fell outside of the jurisdiction of O’Malley’s office, as they did not involve minors. O’Malley said he only found out about Ramsey’s letter after the recent media reports.

“In retrospect it is now clear to Fr. Kickham and to me that I should have seen that letter precisely because it made assertions about the behavior of an Archbishop in the Church,” O’Malley said in his apology, posted on the Archdiocese of Boston’s website.

“I take responsibility for the procedures followed in my office and I also am prepared to modify those procedures in light of this experience.”

O’Malley’s lack of knowledge of the 2015 letter comes as a surprise from someone widely considered to be a “zero-tolerance” bishop on matters of sexual abuse.

As numerous McCarrick allegations continued to surface in late July, O’Malley issued a statement saying that the Church needed “more than apologies” to sexual misconduct cases.

He proposed that future allegations against bishops needed to be handled as a matter of highest priority; that a new system be put in place to handle complaints against bishops; and that these reforms be clearly announced, so there can be no doubt about how such cases should be handled in the future.

Ramsey told CBS News that accusations of sexual misconduct and abuse against McCarrick first came to his attention in 1986, and he was under the impression that “virtually everyone knew” about them, including many bishops.

"Archbishop McCarrick was inviting seminarians to his beach house...There were five beds...and there were six people. Archbishop McCarrick arranged it in such a way that somebody would join him in his bed," Ramsey told CBS.

He said that the 2015 letter contained not just rumors about McCarrick, but first-hand accounts of abuse from seminarians who had encountered McCarrick.

“I apologize to Fr. Ramsey for not having responded to him in an appropriate way and appreciate the effort that he undertook in seeking to bring his concerns about Archbishop McCarrick’s behavior to my attention,” O’Malley noted. “I also apologize to anyone whose concerns were reflected in Fr. Ramsey’s letter.”

O’Malley said that he recognized that his apology and lack of knowledge of the 2015 letter was probably still insufficient “given the way the Church has eroded the trust of our people.”

However, he said his hope is “that we can repair the trust and faith of all Catholics and the wider community by virtue of our actions and accountability in how we respond to this crisis.”

He added that the U.S. bishops are all “anxious to understand” how McCarrick became a bishop, archbishop, and cardinal if there were known allegations against him, given the vetting process that bishops have to go through before they are appointed to such positions.

“That is why the Bishops Conference are requesting an investigation by the Holy See with the participation of lay people,” O’Malley said.

O’Malley closed his apology by quoting an Aug. 20 his own letter of apology to sex abuse victims from Pope Francis: “Let us beg forgiveness for our own sins and the sins of others. An awareness of sins helps us to acknowledge the errors, the crimes and the wounds caused in the past and allows us, in the present, to be more open and committed along a journey of renewed conversion.”

Schools resume their mission to graduate scholars heaven-bound

Families who choose to send their child to a Catholic school have extra partners in their quest to save their child’s soul for eternal life.

Pope says he’s excited to return to Ireland to celebrate families

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — As he prepared to travel to Ireland for the World Meeting of Families, Pope Francis said he hoped his visit would “remind us all of the essential place of the family in the life of society and in the building of a better future for today’s young people.”

Louisiana university to be a hub for causes of African-American Catholics

NEW ORLEANS (CNS) — Reynold Verret, president of Xavier University of Louisiana, announced July 31 that the university and its Institute for Black Catholic Studies will become the new hub for the advancement of sainthood causes of African-American Catholics.

Cardinal Tobin denies knowledge of 'gay subculture' in Newark

Newark, N.J., Aug 20, 2018 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- In an Aug. 17 letter to the priests of Newark, Cardinal Joseph Tobin has said he has not been told by priests about a “gay sub-culture” in the Archdiocese of Newark.

The letter was written in response to a CNA report published the same day, in which Newark priests described their experience in seminary and ministry in the archdiocese. Tobin’s letter specifically addressed allegations, included in CNA’s report, of sexual misconduct on the part of two priests.

CNA's article included testimony about homosexual activity in the Archdiocese of Newark, from six priests who spoke to CNA on the condition of anonymity. The priests’ experience spanned across several decades under the leadership of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick and Archbishop John J. Myers.

CNA reported that, in 2014, Fr. Mark O’Malley was – according to multiple sources – removed from his position as rector of the archdiocesan college seminary, and placed on medical leave following an incident in which he was accused of hiding a camera in the bedroom of a young priest.

Cardinal Tobin’s letter, which surfaced on the internet over the weekend, addressed the matter directly.

“In April 2014, Father Mark O’Malley, who was serving at St. Andrew’s College, experienced a serious personal crisis for which he received a psychological evaluation and subsequent therapy. In April 2015, he was deemed fit for priestly ministry. He hopes to serve as a hospital chaplain.”

CNA also reported last week that Fr. James Weiner, currently pastor of the parish of St. Andrew’s in Westwood, NJ, was under renewed investigation by archdiocesan authorities. Weiner was identified as the previously unnamed man referred to in the allegations of sexual assault made by Fr. Desmond Rossi, now a priest of the Diocese of Albany, NY.

Rossi has alleged that, in 1988, he was sexually assaulted by two transitional deacons. In 2004, Rossi received an out-of-court settlement of approximately $35,000.

Recently, Rossi said that his allegation was found “credible” by an archdiocesan review board but that no action was taken.

Tobin’s letter confirmed that Weiner’s case had been examined by a review board in 2003 “even though it did not involve an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor.” The cardinal also confirmed that he had ordered the matter reopened earlier this month because of “new information and out of an abundance of caution in these most difficult times.”

This weekend, the bulletin at Fr. Weiner’s parish carried a notice that Cardinal Tobin’s office had indefinitely delayed the ceremony formally installing Weiner as pastor of the parish because of a scheduling conflict. Tobin had been scheduled to install Weiner in the post on Sept. 15.

Addressing reports of harassment and active sexual behavior by some priests, both in the seminary and in the archdiocesan presbyterate, Cardinal Tobin said that “no one – including the anonymous ‘sources’ cited in the article – has ever spoken to me about a gay subculture in the Archdiocese of Newark.”

Tobin began his letter by acknowledging the ongoing scandal of sexual abuse in the Church, following the allegations against Archbishop McCarrick and the release of the Pennsylvania grand jury report. The cardinal said that these events “have shaken and saddened the bishops and priests of the Archdiocese of Newark.”

Turning to the CNA report, Tobin said that while there was “much more to communicate about these open wounds,” he was writing the letter in response to “allegations of misconduct” against the two priests of the archdiocese, Weiner and O’Malley.

The cardinal closed his letter by expressing his hope that CNA’s sources were not actually priests of the archdiocese. However, CNA confirms that the sources for the story were priests of the Newark archdiocese, along with one priest member of a religious order.

The Archdiocese of Newark declined to offer comment or respond to questions from CNA regarding the letter.

Tobin’s letter concluded by encouraging priests to refer media inquiries to the archdiocesan director of communications.

Added Cardinal Tobin, “I repeat my willingness to meet with any brother who wishes to share his concerns regarding allegations in the press or personal experience in our local Church.”

Welcoming pope's letter on abuse, head of US bishops pledges action

Washington D.C., Aug 20, 2018 / 04:57 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, has welcomed Pope Francis’ letter to all the faithful addressing the recent sex abuse crises in the Church.

“I am grateful to the Holy Father for his Letter to the People of God, responding to the Pennsylvania grand jury investigation and other revelations that have surfaced,” DiNardo said in a statement released by the bishops’ conference.

“The very fact that he opens the letter with the words of Saint Paul: ‘If one part suffers, all parts suffer with it’ (1 Cor 12:25), shows that he is writing to all of us as a pastor, a pastor who knows how deeply sin destroys lives.”

In his letter, Pope Francis called the universal Church to “a penitential exercise of prayer and fasting.”

Responding to the call, Cardinal DiNardo said, “I find these words of the Holy Father particularly helpful: ‘penance and prayer will help us to open our eyes and our hearts to other people’s sufferings and to overcome the thirst for power and possessions that are so often the root of those evils.’ These words must provoke action – especially by the bishops.  We bishops need to – and we must – practice with all humility such prayer and penance.”

Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said that the Pope’s letter was not just about recent scandals in the Church in America.

“This is about Ireland, this is about the United States, and this is about Chile, but not only [those places],” he told reporters. “Pope Francis has written to the People of God, and that means everyone.”

Burke said that it was especially significant that the pope referred to abuse as “a crime, not only a sin” and that, while asking for forgiveness, he acknowledged that “no effort to repair the damage done will ever be sufficient for victims and survivors” and that the “wounds from abuse never disappear.”

Pope Francis wrote that “with shame and repentance, we acknowledge as an ecclesial community that we were not where we should have been, that we did not act in a timely manner, realizing the magnitude and the gravity of the damage done to so many lives. We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them.”

Cardinal DiNardo acknowledged the need for a sincere and spiritually committed response to the abuse crisis.

“The Holy Father is also inviting, and I am asking this as well, that all the faithful join in prayer and fasting as a way to help foster conversion and genuine change of life wherever it is needed, even in the shepherds of the Church. Jesus remarked once, ‘This kind can only come out through prayer and fasting’; a humble reminder that such acts of faith can move mountains and can even bring about true healing and conversion,” DiNardo said.

The pope also wrote that “no effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent such situations from happening, but also to prevent the possibility of their being covered up and perpetuated.”

This, Burke told journalists, meant “greater accountability is urgently needed - not only for those who committed these crimes, but also for those who covered them up, which in many cases means bishops.”  

Cardinal DiNardo said that the bishops of the United States accept the urgent need for accountability, and pledged an unflinching approach to addressing past crimes.

“On behalf of my brother bishops, I offer that only by confronting our own failure in the face of crimes against those we are charged to protect can the Church resurrect a culture of life where the culture of death has prevailed.”

 

Pope: Abuse victims’ outcry more powerful than efforts to silence them

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — “No effort must be spared” to prevent future cases of clerical sexual abuse and “to prevent the possibility of their being covered up,” Pope Francis said in a letter addressed “to the people of God.”