Catholic News Agency

ACI Prensa's latest initiative is the Catholic News Agency (CNA), aimed at serving the English-speaking Catholic audience. ACI Prensa (www.aciprensa.com) is currently the largest provider of Catholic news in Spanish and Portuguese.
  1. CNA Staff, Jul 11, 2020 / 12:40 pm (CNA).- A massive fire devastated an 18th century mission church in San Gabriel, in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, July 11. Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles called the fire at San Gabriel Mission church, founded by St. Junipero Serra, “devastating.”

    The fire began early Saturday morning around 4 a.m. and destroyed the roof and interior of the 249-year-old structure. Local firefighters said they responded to an initial alarm at 4:24. By the time they arrived, smoke and flames were visible from outside the church – which is a California Historical Landmark.

    Battling the four-alarm fire eventually involved 50 firefighters, according to the Los Angeles Times. Local fire department spokesman Captain Antonio Negrete called the damage “heartbreaking.”

    “The roof of the mission is completely gone and the interior up to the altar is completely destroyed,” Negrete said, noting that it was not yet possible to establish the cause of the fire because of concerns over the building’s structural integrity.

    “We’re going to have building engineers come in and see if we can shore up some walls to make it as safe as possible for the investigators to go in and start investigating this fire,” he said, according to the Times.

    Adrian Marquez Alarcon, spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, said that because of renovations underway at the church ahead of its 250th anniversary, historic paintings and artifacts had been removed and were not in the building at the time of the fire.

    Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez visited the church Saturday morning, saying on Facebook that “[he] woke up before dawn this morning to news that our beloved San Gabriel Mission, founded by St. Junípero Serra in 1771, was burning.”

    “Thank God no one is hurt,” Gomez said. “I’m here to pray with the people. The roof is destroyed and there is much damage in the old church. St. Junípero, pray for this city, this state, and this country that you helped to found.”

    The San Gabriel mission was the fourth mission founded by St. Junípero Serra, a Franciscan priest who founded a trail of missions across California. Serra helped to convert thousands of native Californians to Christianity, and taught them new agricultural technologies.

    Many of Serra’s missions form the cores of what are today the state’s biggest cities— such as San Diego, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

    An advocate for native people and a champion of human rights, Serra was often at odds with Spanish authorities over the treatment of native people, from whom there was an outpouring of grief at his death in 1784.

    Serra was canonized by Pope Francis during a visit to the United States in 2015.

    “Junípero sought to defend the dignity of the native community, to protect it from those who had mistreated and abused it,” the pope said in his homily at the Mass of canonization. 

    Despite Serra’s record defending indigenous peoples, statues of the saint have become focal points for protests and demonstrations across California in recent weeks, with images of the saint being torn down or vandalized in protest of California’s colonial past.

    Rioters pulled down a statue of St. Serra in the state capital of Sacramento on July 4, during which one man burned the face of the statue with an ignited spray can, before a crowd pulled the statue from its base and struck it with a sledgehammer and other objects, dancing and jumping upon it.

    Another statue of the saint was torn down in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, on June 19 by a crowd of about 100 people. The following week the San Juan Capistrano Mission and its neighboring church removed statues of Serra from their outside displays to preserve them from being targeted.

  2. CNA Staff, Jul 11, 2020 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis on Saturday recognized the heroic virtue of the life of a 17th century Italian Jesuit missionary who evangelized – and mapped – much of what is now northern Mexico and the southwestern United States.

    On July 11, the pope formally recognized the life of Servant of God Eusebio Kino, S.J., as one of heroic virtue. Kino, an explorer and missionary, took part in numerous expeditions through the American Southwest and is widely considered an apostle to the native population of Arizona, and defender of their rights.

    Bishop James Wall of the Diocese of Gallup, New Mexico, welcomed the announcement on Saturday.

    “Growing up in Arizona, I first learned of Padre Kino in elementary school,” Wall told CNA.

    “The example of the life of the ‘Padre on Horseback’ has played a large part in strengthening my own Catholic faith – especially the love, care, and sensitivity he showed to the indigenous people of Arizona.”

    Born in 1645 in the Tyrol region of northern Italy and ordained in 1677, Kino was sent to Mexico, arriving in 1681. While there, Kino made numerous journeys through what is now the Sonora region of Mexico, and the states of Arizona and California.

    Participating in more than 50 expeditions through northern Mexico to the southwestern United States, he is credited with baptizing more than 4,000 people, and covering more than 50,000 square miles by horse while announcing the Gospel and mapping the Pimería Alta territory of modern Arizona.

    A capable cartographer, Kino personally mapped an area 200 miles long by 250 miles wide, and paving the way for a network of missions and roads connecting previously inaccessible parts of the region.

    One of the main thoroughfares in Tuscon is named the Kino Parkway in his honor and a statue of him overlooks the road.

    A statue of Kino was placed in the National Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., by Arizona in 1965.

    Kino is also credited with teaching advanced agricultural and ranching techniques to the local people, delivering new crops and improving the quality of life. Kino founded 19 ranching villages to supply food for the region, and schools for the education of the local children.

    The Jesuit was also a noted defender of the rights and dignity of the indigenous people, strongly opposing the Spanish conscription of the local Sonoran Indians to work in silver mines. He died in 1711, aged 65, having fallen ill during a Mass to dedicate the church of St. Francis Xavier in present day Magdalena de Kino, in Sonora, Mexico, where his shrine is a national monument.

    “Kino was a true son of the Church, and model of the New Evangelization for our modern day,” Bishop Wall said. “I am grateful to the Holy Father for recognizing the heroic virtue of this great man.”

    The Vatican’s recognition of Kino’s life as one of heroic virtue follows the recent vandalism and destruction of several statues of another missionary central to the history of the region. In recent weeks, demonstrators have attacked statues of St. Junipero Serra, who founded a string of missions across California and was known as a vigorous defender of rights of indigenous peoples.

    The recognition of Kino’s heroic virtue was made Saturday morning in Rome, when Pope Francis advanced the causes of five possible candidates for sainthood.

  3. CNA Staff, Jul 11, 2020 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- When the government permitted churches in England to resume public Masses July 4, Fr. Rick McGrath faced a difficult dilemma. 

    The pastor of St. Wilfrid’s, Burgess Hill, in the county of West Sussex, realized that in order to comply with social distancing requirements, numbers at weekend Masses would be severely limited. He decided that rather than turn people away, he would only offer public Masses on weekdays.  

    “It was just a judgment call because I couldn’t bear the idea of shutting the doors in the face of people,” he told CNA July 9. 

    McGrath, a native of Minnesota, explained that normally more than 400 people attend Mass on a Saturday evening and Sunday at St. Wilfrid’s, one of four locations where Mass is celebrated within the parish. But under the strict new regulations to prevent the spread of coronavirus, only 50-60 people would be permitted to attend each of the weekend Masses. 

    While other parishes introduced online booking systems, McGrath felt that would discriminate against older parishioners with limited internet access. 

    “I just couldn’t see any fair way of doing it,” he said. “The secretary is overworked already and doesn’t have time to be fielding phone calls and checking lists to see if you were there last week and therefore can’t come this week.”

    “So I made the decision that we would try to provide daily Masses Monday through Saturday. A total of about 16, I think, we will have at various places during the week, but then have no Saturday evening or Sunday Masses at all until the situation has clarified itself.”

    McGrath is not alone: other priests are struggling to resume public Masses, particularly in smaller churches away from England’s big cities. 

    It is difficult to assess the scale of the problem: there are no centrally collected statistics showing how many of the country’s Catholic churches have reopened for public Masses. 

    A spokesman for the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales told CNA: “The decision on which parishes to open and which to remain closed for public worship is down to each diocese. Each bishop will make his own decision, largely based on size, geographical spread, among other local reasons.”

    The bishops’ conference has issued detailed guidance on the resumption of public Masses, in line with principles set out by the government. Mass-goers must stand more than three feet apart and wear face coverings. Parishes are required to post a sign at the church door indicating “maximum safe operating capacity.” 

    Church authorities emphasize that the restrictions are necessary in order to prevent outbreaks of COVID-19, which has claimed the lives of 44,735 people in the U.K. as of July 11, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center -- the third highest recorded figure in the world after those of the United States and Brazil.

    But while the national picture is unclear, one English diocese has offered a glimpse of how churches are faring following the easing of lockdown rules. 

    “More than a third of the churches in the diocese have opened for Mass and about three quarters of them are open for prayer,” a spokesman for the Diocese of Shrewsbury, in western England, told CNA July 9.

    Fr. Alexander Lucie-Smith, pastor of St. Peter’s, Hove, a seaside town in East Sussex, has resumed public Sunday Masses. But he said that he understood why other parishes were unable to.

    “One of the things that made the guidelines very hard to activate was the fact that you have to have two stewards on duty at any one time and neither of them can be over 70. Now, most of our volunteers are over 70,” he told CNA.

    “We were very lucky in our church because we have quite a lot of people on furlough who volunteered to do it. But those people on furlough are now going back to work. As a result, it’s getting harder to find people to do it. Our church used to be open from dawn to dusk and now it can’t be.”

    “But it’s quite understandable that quite a few churches didn’t have anybody to do this work for them.”

    Lucie-Smith said that his parish had not been obliged to turn anyone away from its weekend Masses.

    “At our place we’re taking a strict interpretation of the rules,” he said. “We are allowing 100 people in. We did not get anywhere like 100 people for any of the Masses. In fact, over four Masses we got 120 people. So we’ve not had people queuing outside the door.”

    McGrath said he was monitoring the situation to see whether the regulations will change. He is also in discussion with priests in neighboring parishes.

    “I know some people have started Sunday Mass with a ticketing system or to just shut the door after the number is in. And fair enough: there’s nothing wrong with that,” he said.

    “But I do know a few priests who are doing as I am -- that is, having a daily Mass and not the Sunday Mass, pretty much for the same reasons.”

  4. Vatican City, Jul 11, 2020 / 05:30 am (CNA).- The Vatican announced Saturday that Pope Francis has recognized the heroic virtues of a 14-year-old Italian boy who died in 1963.

    The pope advanced the cause of Angiolino Bonetta, along with four others, following a July 10 meeting with Cardinal Angelo Becciu, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. 

    Bonetta was born on Sept. 18, 1948, in Cigole, northern Italy. A lively but virtuous boy, he excelled at school as well as at sports. 

    When a pain developed in his knee, he attributed it to his athletic activities. But when he began to lose weight, his mother took him to hospital, where he was diagnosed with bone cancer, at the age of 12. He underwent chemotherapy and his leg was amputated. 

    According to an account of his life in “Saints for the Sick,” a 2010 book by Joan Carroll Cruz, Bonetta remained cheerful and his acceptance of his illness inspired conversions. When a nun suggested that he should offer up his sufferings, he replied: “I have already offered all to Jesus for the conversion of sinners. I am not afraid; Jesus always comes to help me.”

    To a woman who expressed sympathy on seeing him walking painfully on crutches, he said: “But don’t you know that at every step I could save a soul?”

    When the cancer metastasized, increasing his agony, he turned for comfort to the Virgin Mary and received the Eucharist daily. He held tight to a crucifix and other holy objects, including a relic of St. Bernadette of Lourdes. He spent his nights praying the rosary for other patients who were sick in mind and body.

    A photo from this time depicts him lying in bed, with his parents beside him. His hand is extended affectionately to caress his mother’s cheek.

    “Saints for the Sick” reports that the day before his death, on Jan. 28, 1963, he told his mother: “I have made a pact with the Madonna. When the hour arrives, she will come to take me. I have asked her to permit me to make my purgatory on this earth, not in the other world. When I die, I will immediately fly to heaven.”

    At the moment of his death, in the early hours, he was holding his crucifix and St. Bernadette relic, with his head turned towards a statue of Mary. 

    Bonetta’s sainthood cause opened May 19, 1998. The diocesan phase of the process ended May 6, 2000. Following the decree announced July 11 Bonetta’s title will change from “Servant of God” to “the Venerable.”

    Pope Francis also authorized decrees concerning four other causes during his meeting with Becciu Friday.

    He recognized a miracle attributed to the intercession of the Venerable Mariantonia Samà (1875-1953), a southern Italian laywoman who died following a life of great hardship, including 60 years of confinement to her bed. The move paves the way for her beatification.

    He acknowledged the heroic virtues of the Servant of God Eusebio Kino (1645-1711), an Italian Jesuit explorer and cartographer who died in Mexico after extensive travels, including to present-day California and Arizona. He established 24 missions and visiting stations, and opposed the forced labor in silver mines imposed on Indigenous peoples by the Spanish. 

    The pope also recognized the heroic virtues of the Servant of God Mariano José de Ibargüengoitia y Zuloaga (1815-1888), a Spanish priest who co-founded the Institute of the Servants of Jesus, and the Servant of God Maria Félix Torres (1907-2001), founder of the Company of the Savior.

  5. Reggio Calabria, Italy, Jul 11, 2020 / 04:00 am (CNA).- The imprisonment of St. Paul in Rome, and his eventual martyrdom, are well-known. But days before the apostle set foot in the capital of the Roman Empire, he landed on another city’s shores -- and in one miraculous night he established the Christian community on the Italian peninsula. 

    Reggio Calabria, a city on the southernmost tip of Italy, preserves the relic -- and the legend -- of St. Paul and the burning column.

    In its final chapters, the Acts of the Apostles recounts the harrowing journey of St. Paul from Ceasarea to Rome in A.D. 61.

    After three months on the island of Malta following a shipwreck, St. Paul and those traveling with him again “set sail,” first stopping for three days at Syracuse -- a city in modern-day Sicily -- “and from there we sailed round the coast and arrived at Rhegium,” Acts 28:13 states.

    Scripture does not elaborate on what happened during St. Paul’s one day in the ancient city of Rhegium, now Reggio Calabria, before he set sail again for Puteoli, and finally, Rome.

    But the Catholic Church in Reggio Calabria has preserved and transmitted the story of what happened on the apostle’s single day and night in the ancient Greek city.

    “St. Paul was a prisoner, so he was brought here on a ship,” Catholic layman and retired architect, Renato Laganà, told CNA. “He arrived in early morning in Reggio and at a certain point, the people were curious that he was there.”



    There is evidence Rhegium, or Regiu, was inhabited by Etruscans, who worshipped the Greek gods. According to Laganà, there was a temple to Artemis nearby and people were celebrating the feast of the goddess.

    “St. Paul asked the Roman soldiers if he could speak to the people,” Laganà recounted. “So he began to speak and at a certain point they interrupted him and he said, 'I will tell you something, now that it is becoming evening, let’s put a torch on this column, and I will preach until the torch burns out.’”

    The apostle continued to preach as more and more people gathered to hear him. But when the torch burned out, the flame continued. The marble column on which the torch sat, a fragment of a temple, continued to burn, allowing St. Paul to preach about the Gospel of Jesus Christ until dawn.

    “And this [story] was transmitted to us over the course of centuries. The most prestigious historians, scholars of Church history reported it as the ‘Miracle of the Burning Column,’” Laganà said.

    The Reggio local is a member of the archdiocese’s commissions for sacred art and the Cathedral Basilica of Reggio Calabria, which now holds the remaining relic of the “burning column,” as it is called.

    Laganà told CNA he has had a fascination with the column since his childhood, when he attended a Mass at the cathedral for the 19th centenary of the coming of St. Paul, celebrated in 1961.



    When St. Paul departed from Reggio, he left behind Stephen of Nicea as the first bishop of the brand-new Christian community. It is believed St. Stephen of Nicea was martyred during the persecution of Christians by Emperor Nero.

    “With the persecution by the Romans in that period, it was not very easy to carry on the Church in Reggio,” Laganà said. He explained that the foundation of an ancient temple became the first Christian church, and St. Stephen of Nicea was first buried there. 

    Later, however, the saint’s remains were brought to a place outside the city, now unknown, to protect them from desecration, he said.

    Over the many centuries, different churches were built and destroyed, both by violence and earthquakes, and the miraculous column was carried from place to place. Existing documents from the 18th century onward trace its movements and the construction of the city's various cathedrals.

    The section of stone column has been in a chapel on the right side of the nave of the cathedral basilica since the church was rebuilt after a devastating earthquake razed the city in 1908.

    The marble relic was also damaged in one of the 24 Allied air raids carried out on Reggio Calabria in 1943. When the cathedral was hit by bombs, a fire started which left the column with visible black marks.

    The city's archbishop at the time, Enrico Montalbetti, was also killed in one of the raids.

    Laganà said through all this, the city’s devotion to St. Paul never waned. One of Reggio Calabria’s traditional annual processions, in which an image of Our Lady of Consolation is carried through the city, always includes a moment of prayer at the spot believed to be where St. Paul preached. 

    The legend has also been the subject of many paintings and sculptures which can be found in the city's churches.

    These recurring images are a sign that “the miracle of the burning column is really part of the structure of the faith of Reggio Calabria," Laganà said.

    “And, naturally, St. Paul is the patron of the Archdiocese of Reggio Calabria,” he added.

    “So, it is an attention which remains...” he continued. “Even if many people do not understand, it is our task to help them understand, to explain, to carry forward this part of the tradition, which can help increase the faith in our population.”

    He noted that “clearly Rome, with the martyrdom of Saints Peter and Paul, became the center of Christianity,” but added that “Reggio, with the miracle of St. Paul, has tried to call just a little attention to the establishment [of Christianity] and continue what is at the core of the message St. Paul had.”

    Photo credits: Hannah Brockhaus/CNA.

  6. CNA Staff, Jul 10, 2020 / 10:35 pm (CNA).-  

    The U.S. bishops on Friday defended the use of the federal Paycheck Protection Program by Catholic parishes, hospitals, schools, dioceses, and social service agencies, after a report from the Associated Press said the government had given “special consideration” to faith groups in the loan program and characterized Catholic participation in the coronavirus relief program as an “aggressive pursuit of funds.”

    “The Paycheck Protection Program was designed to protect the jobs of Americans from all walks of life, regardless of whether they work for for-profit or non-profit employers, faith-based or secular,” Archbishop Paul Coakley, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ conference committee on domestic justice and human development said in a July 10 statement.

    “The Catholic Church is the largest non-governmental supplier of social services in the United States. Each year, our parishes, schools and ministries serve millions of people in need, regardless of race, ethnicity or religion. The novel coronavirus only intensified the needs of the people we serve and the demand for our ministries. The loans we applied for enabled our essential ministries to continue to function in a time of national emergency.”

    “In addition, shutdown orders and economic fallout associated with the virus have affected everyone, including the thousands of Catholic ministries -- churches, schools, healthcare and social services -- that employ about 1 million people in the United States,” Coakley added.

    “These loans have been an essential lifeline to keep hundreds of thousands of employees on payroll, ensure families maintain their health insurance, and enable lay workers to continue serving their brothers and sisters during this crisis.”

    The federal loan program is a $669-billion initiative that allows entities to obtain low-interest loans that can be forgiven if the money goes mostly to cover payroll expenses, and to keep people employed who are in danger of losing their jobs. While more than 4.9 million loans have been approved to date, more than $130 billion remains available to potential borrowers.

    Earlier this week, data was released by the government that revealed the identities of many, but not all loan participants. Loan recipients included Planned Parenthood affiliates, numerous firms owned by state and federal lawmakers, the publisher of the National Enquirer, the libertarian Ayn Rand Institute, and other organizations that have raised eyebrows or been subject to criticism.

    Still, officials with the federal Small Business Association said that the program was designed to keep people employed, regardless of their industry or employer, and that the SBA will exercise oversight to ensure funds were not borrowed under false pretenses.

    If borrowers can’t demonstrate that at least 60 percent of borrowed funds were used for payroll-related expenses, then the terms of the loans will require their repayment.

    The July 9 Associated Press report said that Catholic organizations borrowed between $1.4 and $3.5 billion, and noted that at least 407,900 jobs were saved through those loans. At the high end of the Associated Press estimate, Catholic institutional borrowing would represent .5% of funds allocated to the loan program. And if $3.5 billion was in fact borrowed, the cost for each job saved through the loans would amount to $8580.

    In May, CBS News reported that 12,000-13,000 of the 17,000 Catholic parishes in the U.S. had applied for the loans, and 9,000 had already received them.

    The July 9 Associated Press story said that the Catholic Church in the U.S. used an “exemption from federal rules” in order to “amass at least $1.4 billion in taxpayer-backed coronavirus aid” through its participation in the federal program.

    The report said that Catholic entities gained this “exception” to the Small Business Association’s eligibility rules through lobbying efforts, citing an April report from Catholic News Service.

    That Catholic News Service report said that Catholic lobbyists worked, in the week the legislation creating the program was actually passed, to ensure that as rules were devised by Department of Treasury officials, that Catholic entities civilly distinct from each other would not be regarded as one entity, which might place the consolidated entities above a 500-employee eligibility cap.

    In the Church’s canon law, parishes are distinct legal entities from each other and from dioceses, and while diocesan bishops exercise legislative and judicial authority over parishes, parishes do not constitute subsidiaries of dioceses. Nor do affiliated entities like Catholic Charities, Catholic schools and universities, or Catholic hospitals, which are ordinarily overseen by lay boards on which bishops often have only ordinary voting membership, if that.

    The Catholic Church is a web of organizations connected by faith, mission, sacraments, and oversight, but those organizations are not uniformly administered as subsidiaries or under the direct control of local bishops.

    While parishes generally pay annual fees to dioceses, the funds of distinct canonical entities may not be permissibly commingled, and canon law requires that the civil structures of parishes, dioceses, and other Catholic entities reflect their canonical reality.

    Nevertheless, the complex organizational structure of the Catholic Church made it possible that several Catholic entities in the same place might be regarded by the SBA as one entity. The effort of the USCCB lobbyists was to ensure that wouldn’t be the case, the Catholic News Service report explained.

    That effort was successful.

    An April 3 FAQ document from the SBA explained that the general loan rules provided that if faith-based organizations had an affiliation related to “religious beliefs about church authority or internal constitution, or because the legal, financial, or other structural relationships between your organization and other organizations reflect an expression of such beliefs,” they would qualify for an exemption to rules that would ordinarily count “affiliated” organizations as one entity for purposes eligibility determination.

    However, faith-based organizations “affiliated with other organizations solely for non-religious reasons, such as administrative convenience...would be subject to the affiliation rules,” the SBA explained.

    In the United States, both parishes and dioceses are facing serious financial shortfalls and in Rome, the Vatican has run sizeable budget deficits for years. While the Catholic Church has assets of artistic, cultural, and historic value, those are not easily liquidated, and with few exceptions, Catholic entities around the world have been facing a serious cash crunch for years.

    In his statement, Coakley acknowledged that “more than 100 Catholic schools have announced that they plan to close, with hundreds more facing an uncertain future. Businesses, hospitals, schools, and churches all across the country are facing many of the exact same problems.“

    “We will continue advocating for everyone negatively affected by this terrible pandemic, praying for all the sick, for all who have died and are in mourning, and especially the poor and vulnerable at this time of great need.”

     

  7. CNA Staff, Jul 10, 2020 / 05:34 pm (CNA).- A federal judge ruled against an Indiana law requiring medical providers to inform the state if they treat any complications connected to a prior abortion.

    U.S. District Judge Richard Young ruled Wednesday that the law was “unconstitutionally vague.” He said the legislation was unclear about how and when doctors should report potential complications, as well as what criteria should be used to determine whether a later condition is tied a previous abortion.

    “The indeterminacy of the statute’s requirements denies fair notice to physicians and invites arbitrary enforcement by prosecutors,” Young wrote.

    “The language of the statute does not make clear whether the duty to report covers conditions exclusively caused by the abortion procedure, conditions that are only slightly caused or exacerbated by the abortion procedure, or something in between.”

    Under the law, there are 26 physical or psychological abortion-related conditions, ranging from depression to future pregnancy complications, that would require a report from doctors to the state. Failure to comply would be punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a $1000 fine.

    In 2018 court documents, Attorney General Curtis Hill said the requirement “serves the public interest by collecting comprehensive data on the complications that may result from abortion and the frequency of those complications,” the New York Times reported.

    Hill defended the law in a statement on Thursday, calling the legislation a “commonsense” regulation to safeguard women’s health.

    “The Indiana General Assembly has a record of passing legislation that safeguards women’s health and protects the lives of unborn children,” Hill said. “I will always consider it an honor to vigorously defend state laws aimed at such essential objectives.”

    At the same time, Young upheld another part of the law requiring abortion clinics to undergo annual inspections.

    Planned Parenthood has objected to the law as unfair, since hospitals and surgical centers do not face the same yearly inspections.

    However, Young pointed to the misconduct by abortionist Dr. Ulrich Klopfer, whose property was discovered after his death in 2019 to house more than 2,000 aborted fetuses. Klopfer operated several abortion clinics before losing his license in 2015.

    Young ruled that “the state has offered a rational reason for the decision to subject abortion clinics to stricter inspection requirements.”

     

  8. CNA Staff, Jul 10, 2020 / 05:22 pm (CNA).-  

    The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis said Thursday it has received new allegations of misconduct on the part of composer David Haas, and that Haas will be prohibited from giving concerts and workshops in the archdiocese, and that his music will be prohibited at archdiocesan liturgies.

    The archdiocese said it had in recent weeks “received additional reports from women in different parts of the country alleging that David Haas engaged in inappropriate conduct with them in the 1980s, when the women were young adults. The conduct described in these new, independent reports is similar in nature to the conduct described in previous allegations. Haas has denied any wrongdoing,” in a July 8 statement from safe environment director Tim O’Malley.

    “We are sharing this information in the interest of accountability and transparency and believe that it may assist others, as it has assisted us, in making informed decisions. Survivors of sexual harassment and abuse deserve support and understanding.”

    “Indeed, our community as a whole has suffered much from those who have used positions of power or privilege to harm others. We have a responsibility to be mindful of this and do what we can to prevent further injury to those who have already suffered harm.”

    “Archbishop Hebda has decided that David Haas may not give presentations at workshops, concerts, or similar events hosted by the Archdiocese, parishes, Catholic schools, or other Catholic institutions in the Archdiocese. Likewise, the Archdiocese will not use Haas’ compositions at Archdiocesan Masses and other Archdiocesan events.”

    “Also, the Archbishop has encouraged pastors, principals, and leaders of other Catholic institutions to consider the sensitivities involved with using Haas’ music in liturgies or other parish or school events, and to take appropriate steps to fully support those who have been harmed by sexual assault or abuse.”

    Allegations of sexual misconduct against Haas surfaced in early June, when a group called Into Account sent a letter to some Catholic organizations and media outlets, addressing allegations against Haas.

    The letter, obtained by CNA June 14, said the group had “received reports from multiple individuals reporting sexually predatory actions from the composer David Haas.”

    Haas told CNA he denies those charges.

    On June 16, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis released a statement saying that it had “received two reports from another diocese that David Haas acted inappropriately with two adult women at an event in another state. Both women complained that Haas’ conduct made them feel uncomfortable. The Archdiocese had received an earlier complaint, in 1987, that Haas had made unwanted sexual advances toward a young adult woman. In each instance, Haas denied that he engaged in inappropriate conduct.”

    The archdiocese said that in 2018, it informed Haas it would no longer provide letters of recommendation for his ministry in other dioceses, and that he would not be allowed to perform the St. Paul archdiocese “without disclosure of these complaints.”

    The composer, a layman, is a central figure in the “contemporary liturgical music” movement that began in the 1970s. Among Haas’ songs are some contemporary standards: “Glory to God,” “You are Mine,” “We are Called,” and “Blest are They,” among others.

    Several of Haas’ publishers have suspended or dropped their relationships with the musician since the allegations were made public.

    CNA has spoken with an alleged victim of sexual assault by Haas, and with a woman who offered a picture of her experience with Haas in the 1980s.

    Maria* told CNA that Haas invited her to dinner in the fall of 1980, ostensibly to discuss music ministry. She had recently attended a music workshop that he had put on in St. Paul, and he had reached out to her directly by phone, she says.

    She says during the evening Haas professed love for her, and that while he was driving after dinner, he refused to bring her back to her dormitory when she asked him to repeatedly, taking her instead to a second restaurant for dessert, despite her continued requests to be taken home.

    Maria alleges that Haas tried to hold her back when she eventually did get out of his car, insisting on a kiss goodnight.

    In later weeks, she says Haas pursued her with love notes and tried to meet with her one-on-one, even while he knew she was dating a man she eventually married. She says she rebuked his advances, "but it could have gone bad fast if I hadn't seen the writing on the wall," Maria told CNA.

    When the Into Account allegations came to light in May, Maria says she began to reassess what had happened to her. He had taken her out under false pretenses— using his position as a music minister to get her to agree to meet him— and would not allow her to leave the situation, she said.

    Maria also remembers hearing rumors that other members of the choir in which she participated in college— which Haas helped to lead— had experienced similar “dates” with Haas.

    She said she hopes her story might inspire other women from that choir to come forward with their own allegations.

    *Maria asked for anonymity to avoid potential retaliation from Haas, professionally, and from the public.

     

  9. Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jul 10, 2020 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- The Holy See is facing a perfect storm of a massive income shortfall, months of financial scandal, and a looming international banking inspection. As it prepares to weather the second half of 2020, a range of measures have been taken to shore up its finances and reputation. But will they be enough, or could they end up making matters even more complicated?

    According to an apparently leaked internal memo published on Monday, all curial departments of the Vatican have been asked to move all their cash deposits to the Holy See’s central bank. The move signals the depths of the current liquidity crisis facing the Vatican, and raises a number of questions about its ability to mitigate it.

    On July 7, Vatican journalist Marco Tosatti published the text of a letter supposedly sent to the heads of all curial dicasteries on May 8. Fr. Juan A. Guerrero, S.J., prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, said in the letter that the decision was taken after a May 4 meeting, led by Pope Francis, to respond to “this particularly negative economic juncture.”

    According to the text of the letter, every Vatican department has been asked to move all their external cash deposits to APSA, which functions as the Holy See treasury, sovereign wealth manager, and administers payroll and operating expenses for Vatican City.

    CNA asked the Holy See to confirm or comment on the leaked letter but received no response.

    The instruction to move all curial funds to APSA is a dramatic step, exceeding previous attempts at financial centralization under Guerrero’s predecessor, Cardinal George Pell. It points to an acute cash crunch for the Holy See, and raises the possibility that it may already be struggling to meet daily operating expenses, including payroll.

    In May, Guerrero said that in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the Vatican is forecasting a reduction in income between 30%-80% for the next fiscal year. While dismissing suggestions that this could lead to a default by the Holy See, Guerrero did say “that doesn't mean that we are not naming the crisis for what it is. We're certainly facing difficult years.”

    Despite the loss of income, some Vatican departments maintain large investment and asset portfolios, most notably the Secretariat of State and the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples (Propaganda Fide).

    But while moving all cash reserves and deposits held at external banks to APSA could provide a short-term liquidity bridge for the Holy See, it could also create fresh regulatory headaches for the Vatican, and will likely be difficult to achieve.

    As CNA has previously reported, the Secretariat of State has maintained large cash balances with several external banks, including in Switzerland. However, transferring the balance of those funds could prove a far from straightforward process.

    As reported previously, secretariat funds on deposit were used as security against a $200 million line of credit extended by two banks, Credit Suisse and BSI. The loaned funds were used, in part, to fund the secretariat’s controversial investment in a London building at 60 Sloane Avenue, which has led to the suspension of several curia officials and the arrest of Italian businessman Gianluigi Torzi.

    In recent months, Swiss financial authorities have confirmed that several bank accounts, with balances totalling tens of millions of euros, have been frozen as part of an ongoing investigation into the London deal, led by Vatican prosecutors, making them likely hard to transfer.

    It is also not clear if the arrangement of using cash deposits as collateral to secure loans to fund investments remains an ongoing practice for the secretariat with other banks. If it does, transferring those deposits to APSA could trigger the banks to call in their loans, adding a credit crunch to a cash shortage for the Vatican.

    The text of the leaked letter from Guerrero appears to acknowledge some potential difficulties for different curial departments in complying with his “request,” noting that “where it is necessary to maintain a deposit with IOR or other banks for operational needs, I am kindly asking you to communicate this to this Secretariat [for the Economy] as soon as possible.”

    Even if the Secretariat for the Economy is able to have all curial cash moved to APSA without serious financial penalties or complications, and even if this is sufficient to provide for the Holy See’s short-term liquidity needs, the move could still create other unexpected difficulties for the Vatican.

    In September, Moneyval, the Council of Europe’s anti-money laundering watchdog, is set to conduct a two-week onsite inspection of the Holy See and Vatican City – the first since 2012.

    The president of the Vatican’s Financial Information Authority, Carmelo Barbagallo has described the inspection as “especially important.” “Its outcome may determine how the jurisdiction [of the Vatican] is perceived by the financial community,” he said on July 3.

    Moneyval is expected to arrive with its own list of concerns and questions following months of reporting on Vatican financial scandals. A key item on its agenda is likely to be the role of APSA.

    Following the last onsite inspection in 2012, APSA agreed to stop providing services to individuals or taking part in commercial transactions, with these functions being transferred to the Institute for Religious Works (IOR), often referred to as the Vatican Bank, which maintains accounts for Vatican employees, individuals and religious groups. APSA was to be limited to administering the sovereign assets of the Holy See, meeting payroll and operational costs, and functioning as the national reserve bank of the Vatican.

    In exchange for agreeing to step back from commercial activity, APSA was exempted from annual inspections by the Vatican’s Financial Intelligence Authority (AIF), whose efforts are in turn assessed by Moneyval.

    In 2014, Pope Francis issued new norms, transferring oversight and control of APSA’s remaining investment functions to the Prefecture for the Economy, then headed by Cardinal George Pell.

    The AIF’s 2015 annual report concluded that since it is no longer an “entity that carries out financial activities on a professional basis,” “APSA stopped being a part of AIF’s jurisdiction at the end of 2015.”

    The 2015 AIF report which exempted APSA from further scrutiny said that “If APSA were to carry out financial activities on a professional basis, it would fall again under the jurisdiction of AIF which… must publish and update the list of subjects who must comply with the requirements set forth in [relevant law].”

    But last year, Bishop Nunzio Galantino, head of APSA, acknowledged that it had loaned 50 million euros to finance the purchase of an Italian hospital, the Istituto Dermopatico dell’Immacolata (IDI), in 2015, even though APSA is prohibited from making loans that finance commercial transactions.

    APSA was forced to write off30 million of the 50 million euro loan, wiping out APSA’s profits for the 2018 financial year.

    The acknowledgement by Galantino that APSA was in 2015 engaged in prohibited lending activity will likely have attracted the attention of European financial watchdogs, who will want to discuss it in September.

    In 2016, Pope Francis partially reversed some of the 2014 reforms, returning control of its investment activity to APSA from the Prefecture for the Economy

    That APSA is engaged in financial activity that requires oversight was underlined when, in June this year, Pope Francis moved the office of the Vatican’s financial records database from APSA back under the management of the Secretariat for the Economy -- a move explicitly made to emphasise the need for external oversight.

    When Moneyval arrive in September, they are likely to push for a renewed look at the role of APSA and its exemption from AIF and Moneyval’s vigilance - all the more so if it becomes the home for all curial assets.

    Some Vatican departments, most notably the Secretariat of State, remain engaged in commercial investments as part of their ongoing financial activities. If, as Guerrero’s May 8 letter indicates, all, or even most, liquid curial assets are now being banked with APSA, it will raise serious questions about how those commercial ventures are being maintained, and if APSA can still credibly claim to play no part in commercial activity.

    2020 has become an incredibly high-stakes year for the Vatican, on the line is its ability to continue daily operations and remain a respectable member of the financial community.

    Returning to financial health and international credibility are, in many ways, tied together for the Vatican. But after years of regulatory chaos and dubious financial conduct, it remains to be seen if 2020 is a crisis year that makes those efforts come good at last – or finally breaks the bank.

  10. Denver Newsroom, Jul 10, 2020 / 02:30 pm (CNA).-  

    After reports that sailors and their families could be barred from attending church services, the U.S Navy has clarified that its personnel may attend indoor religious services, provided that religious services take approved measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Archdiocese for Military Services has welcomed the change.

    “The revision of the U.S. Navy’s orders to allow for the participation by Navy personnel in indoor religious services, provided that the appropriate guidelines are met, is most welcome,” Broglio told CNA July 10. “The change recognizes that worship is a part of the exercise of religious liberty and helps to ensure the readiness of the forces who defend us.”

    “It is clear that the Catholic Church has taken to heart the CDC measures and organized the celebration of the sacraments in ways that ensure the safety of participants, good order, and the dignity of the rites. I am sure that other religious groups will do the same,” the archbishop said.

    “I am grateful to the Department of the Navy and everyone else who contributed to this timely revision.”

    In late March, the Navy imposed restrictions on attending off-base religious services.

    Gregory Slavonic, acting assistant secretary of defense for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, said on Wednesday that Navy orders should not “restrict attendance at places of worship where attendees are able to appropriately apply COVID-19 transmission mitigation measures, specifically social distancing and use of face covering.“

    The new guidance came late Wednesday in a memo from Slavonic to Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Mike Gilday, the news website Military.com reports.

    Capt. Sarah Self-Kyler, public affairs officer for U.S. Fleet Forces Command, said all service members assigned to Navy units “must continue to follow force health protection protocols, such as maintaining social distance and use of face coverings, should they choose to participate in religious services or visit places of worship.”

    U.S. Air Force Major Daniel Schultz, who is currently assigned to a Navy command, on June 29 sought a religious accommodation. Schultz, who leads worship at his church, said a new order allowed house parties and protests but banned attendance at indoor church services.

    Mike Berry, general counsel for the First Liberty Institute, had sent a letter on behalf of Schultz. He told Fox News the change was a “major victory” for the Constitution and religious freedom.

    “This memo means tens of thousands of our brave service members will be able to safely and freely exercise their religious beliefs,” he said.

    U.S. Reps. Doug Collins, R-Ga., and Doug Lamborn, R-Colo. Had written to U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper objecting to the Navy's policy.

    Collins welcomed the new clarification but called for further changes.

    "For too long, the Pentagon has turned a blind eye as our military leaders have completely disregarded their obligation to protect the religious freedom of its service members," Collins said Thursday. "I look forward to sitting down with Secretary Esper and leaders at the Department of Defense to further discuss how we can protect religious freedom across all branches of our military.”

    On July 5, Broglio criticized the orders and lamented that they also discouraged “civilian personnel, including families” from attending indoor church services.

    Broglio called the Navy’s original order “particularly odious to Catholics,” because, he said, frequently there is no longer a Catholic program on naval installations due to budgetary constraints, or many installation chapels simply are still closed.

    “Participation in the Sunday Eucharist is life blood for Catholics. It is the source and summit of our lives and allows us to receive the Body and Blood of the Lord,” he said.

    Given the great efforts of Catholic churches to adjust seating, the reception of Holy Communion, and the liturgy to avoid contagion, Broglio had said, “I wonder why the Navy has decided to prohibit the faithful from something which even the Commander in Chief has called an essential service.”

    Broglio's archdiocese serves some 1.8 million Catholics worldwide, including service members, civilian federal employees, and their families. About 25% of the military is Catholic, though only 6% of military chaplains are. There are under 500 ordained priests doing ministry work for the archdiocese, about 184 of whom are active-duty chaplains who are also commissioned officers.

    While some news reports have highlighted dangers of contagion at religious services, other experts have emphasized that religious services are no more dangerous than similar events that take precautions recommended by health authorities.

    A recent New York Times report linked religious facilities to more than 650 cases of Covid-19 infections contracted at nearly 40 churches and religious events since the epidemic arrived in the U.S. However, these make up a minuscule percentage of the more than 3.1 million confirmed cases in the country.