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Youth to meet with Pope Francis during October synod

Vatican City, Sep 18, 2018 / 10:21 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Synod of Bishops announced Tuesday that the upcoming assembly of bishops will include a meeting of young people with Pope Francis and the Synod Fathers in the Vatican’s Pope Paul VI hall.

Taking place starting at 5:00 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 6, the encounter is intended to allow “young people to offer concrete experiences about their life in study and work, their feelings, their future and their vocational choice,” a press release stated.

Pope Francis will be present for the entirety of the encounter, which follows a pre-synod gathering that was held at the Vatican in March, with around 300 youth participants. The press statement noted that Pope Francis wants to meet young people again with the Synod Fathers to listen to them and to consider their proposals for the final document of the synod.

The gathering will include testimonies from young people interspersed with musical and artistic performances and will focus on three themes: the search for identity, relationships, and life as service and gift.

“Young people are particularly invited, and we hope they will be numerous in order to make their voice and their warmth heard by the Synod Assembly,” the statement read.

Called “NOI PER – Unici, solidali, creativi,” the meeting can be attended with a ticket requested from the Congregation for Catholic Education, which is organizing the event.

The Extraordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops will take place Oct. 3-28. According to its preparatory document, the synod’s purpose is to reflect on the Church’s call “to accompany all young people, without exception, towards the joy of love.”

Pope Francis approves new constitution for Synod of Bishops

Vatican City, Sep 18, 2018 / 08:30 am (CNA).- In a new apostolic constitution, Pope Francis has reformed the Synod of Bishops, creating a mechanism for the assembly’s final document to be included in official Church teaching.

Episcopalis Communio, promulgated by the pope on Sept. 15, establishes that the final document of a synod assembly, drafted and approved by a special commission, can be considered part of the ordinary magisterium – that is, the official teaching of the Church – if it receives a particular level of papal approval.

The constitution does not require the publication of a post-synodal papal document to make its conclusions authoritative, though these have traditionally followed synodal sessions.

The most recent synod, which was held on the theme of the family, was followed by the 2015 post-synodal apostolic exhortation Amoris laetitia.

Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, General Secretary of the Synod of Bishops, presented the new constitution on Sept. 18.

Baldisseri told journalists Tuesday that the pope may wish to publish a document of his own following October’s synod on young people, but that the new norms allow him to forego it in favor of adopting the synod’s final document as his own.

Should Francis decide to adopt the final synodal document, it would be published with his signature and those of the members of the synod.

The norms provide for a process similar to that followed during the 2015 synod on the family – by which a commission creates the final synodal document, before it is put before the members of the synod for a vote.

This commission is composed of the relator general and general secretary of the particular session of the synod, the secretary general of the synod’s permanent secretariat - currently Cardinal Baldisseri -  and other members elected by the synod itself. To these, the pope may also add his own personal appointees

Regarding how the final document is to be approved by the membership, Episcopalis Communio refers back to the current “particular law.” Accordingly, individual provisions to be adopted in the final document will still require the approval of two-thirds of the synod’s members, while a simple majority suffices to reject an item.

The new constitution does, however, urge the synod fathers to seek “moral unanimity” whenever possible.

Once the final document has been prepared and voted on, it is presented to the Holy Father for his approval and publication. At this point, the pope can choose to grant a particular kind of approval to the document, called “in forma specifica” in canon law, by which it would become an act of the pope and part of the ordinary papal magisterium.

Speaking at a press conference in Rome, Cardinal Baldisseri said that the process of receiving this specific papal approval does not require a strictly judicial standard, or depend upon a particular margin of approval by the synod fathers. 

Quoting St. John Paul II, the new constitution says that while the synod “normally has a merely consultative function,” this “does not diminish its importance.” Rather, the vote of the synod fathers "if morally unanimous, has an ecclesial quality that overcomes the merely formal aspect of the consultative vote.” This, Baldisseri explained, is more important that a specific margin of voting.

Other sections of the constitution substantially affirm recent synodal processes and regulations, including on the synod’s composition and structure, which members have voting rights, and the three distinct synodal phases of preparation, assembly, and implementation.

In the preparatory phase, information on the announced theme of the synod is gathered through study commissions, local consultations conducted through the diocesan bishops, and a pre-synod meeting - if one is convoked. The new norms also provide the option for such pre-synodal meetings to be held at a regional level.

The second phase is the actual assembly of the synodal fathers and other members, while the third phase is the implementation of the synod’s conclusions in the particular Churches.

Episcopalis Communio underlines the importance of bishops listening to the voice of lay Catholics, saying that “the Synod of Bishops must increasingly become a privileged instrument for listening to the People of God.”

“Although in its composition [the Synod] appears as an essentially episcopal organism, the Synod does not therefore live separate from the rest of the faithful. On the contrary, it is a suitable instrument to give voice to the whole People of God precisely through the Bishops, constituted by God as ‘authentic guardians, interpreters and witnesses of the faith of the whole Church,’” the document states.

This principle is recognized in the canonical norms of the constitution itself. Article 7 of Episcopalis Communio states that the right of the faithful to send their own contributions for the synod directly to the secretary general “remains integral” to the process.

The Synod of Bishops acts as a temporary and occasional advisory body to the pope on issues of pastoral importance to the Catholic Church. It was established by Bl. Pope Paul VI with the motu proprio Apostolica sollicitudo in 1965.

While the synod itself is a temporary body called into being by the pope, it has a permanent general secretariat in the Roman Curia.

There are three types of synod assemblies a pope can call: ordinary, extraordinary, and special. Next month’s meeting will be an extraordinary assembly, as was 2014’s synod on the family.

A special assembly is usually convoked to discuss an issue related to a particular geographical region, such as the upcoming special assembly on the Amazon, which will take place in October 2019.

This 87-year-old woman feeds the homeless in Chile every week  

Santiago, Chile, Sep 18, 2018 / 12:06 am (ACI Prensa).- Every Wednesday night, 87-year-old Elena Donaire goes out onto the streets of Santiago, Chile, to meet the homeless and attend to their needs.

For 40 years, Donaire has taken part in the “Street Route” of the Hogar de Cristo (Christ's Home), an organization that includes numerous outreach programs and facilities to help the poor.

Donaire starts her evening by fixing sandwiches, boiling water and organizing the warm clothing that she will give to the people she encounters on the streets. When everything is ready, the volunteers leave in their van.

Donaire is often the first to get out of the van to begin serving. Many of the homeless people on the streets of Santiago know her and greet her by the affectionate title “Dear Mama.” The other volunteers call her by the nickname “Grandma.”

In an interview with the Archdiocese of Santiago's communications office, Donaire explained that her mission has its origin in her friendship with Saint Alberto Hurtado.

Known in Chile as Padre Hurtado, the Jesuit priest, author and lawyer founded Christ’s Home, a network of homeless shelters that also included trade schools, rehabilitation centers, and other facilities to serve the poor.

He was beatified in 1994 by Pope John Paul II and canonized in 2005 by Pope Benedict XVI.

Before Hurtado died in 1952, Donaire said she had “promised him to continue serving the people just as he did.”

“That's the biggest reason I have to continue helping – it's a joy for me,” Donaire said. “I am going out on the street until he calls me from above. I know that if he were alive, he would be here on the street helping along with me, I would like to be at his side.”

Remembering the Jesuit saint, Donaire said that “he didn't smile a lot, but when it was an occasion for smiling, he was always there with us. He enjoyed sharing with the people, especially the children, he treated them with such love and affection that it still moves me to this day to remember those moments. I have never met a person as good and committed as he was.”

For Donaire, who lives alone in a small house and works selling clothes in a street market, “It doesn't matter if it's raining, or cold, there are no excuses for not going out on Wednesdays.”

“I anxiously wait for [the other volunteers] to come and pick me up for the simple reason that I want to be with these people. I like them and they make me happy. I know their stories and they tell me them.”

She acknowledged that she sometimes feels bad that she cannot do more to help the homeless people she encounters on the streets.

“I know I am going home to a house, I'm going to get a good night's sleep, and I see that these people aren't going to,” she said.

Still, she stressed the importance of doing what one can to help those in need.

“Help your brothers on the street,” she encouraged. “Many times, it's enough just to talk with them, to listen to them, to find out how they are doing. I assure you that [they] feel happier just to share their troubles with someone. We all have commitments or things to do, but making an effort doesn't cost anything.”

 

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Director of Courage releases letter on Penn. abuse report

Washington D.C., Sep 17, 2018 / 06:02 pm (CNA).- Courage International, an apostolate to support people with same sex-attraction in leading chaste lives, has issued a statement on three priests mentioned as credibly accused of sexual abuse in the Pennsylvania grand jury report.

Released last month, the report found more than 1,000 allegations of abuse at the hands of some 300 clergy members in six dioceses in the state. It also found a pattern of cover up by senior Church officials.

“The horror of these crimes of sexual abuse and harassment is amplified by the failure of some bishops and diocesan officials to take corrective action against the offenders, and to communicate honestly with the faithful about what has happened and how they are responding,” said Father Philip Bochanski, executive director of Courage, in a Sept. 15 statement.

“I am writing to you to share some information regarding connections between the Grand Jury Report and Courage International, as well as to discuss some other issues related to the apostolate and how we handle allegations of sexual abuse.”

Father Bochanski said no reports of sexual abuse of minors had been made to him or his staff during his time in the Courage Office.

However, he noted three priests named in the Grand Jury report who have connections to the apostolate.

Fr. Michael Lawrence was assigned by the Diocese of Allentown as a Courage chaplain for two years before his 2002 retirement. Lawrence had been accused of an incident of abuse in 1982, was reported to the diocese, sent for treatment and returned to ministry. In 2009, another accusation was made against him, with the time of alleged abuse being unspecified in the report. Lawrence died in 2015.

Fr. Martin Boylan of Scranton was among 24 priests recommended in 1989 by the Scranton vicar general to meet with Courage founder Fr. John Harvey about establishing a diocesan chapter of the apostolate. Bochanski said it is not clear whether such a meeting ever took place and noted that no further connection between Boylan and Courage has been documented. Boylan was later accused of several incidents of sexual misconduct.

Fr. David Soderlund of Allentown admitted in 1980 to sexually abusing three minor boys. According to the grand jury report, he was placed under the spiritual care of Fr. Harvey.

Bochanski said Harvey was “well-known for providing pastoral care and spiritual direction to priests and religious brothers who experienced same sex attractions and were striving to live chaste celibate lives,” and that this included some ministry to priests who had been sent to treatment after being credibly accused of sexual misconduct.

Harvey worked within the psychology of the time, Bochanski said that Harvey was "a keen student of moral theology and psychology, and by all accounts his pastoral care was consistent with the advice given by professionals at the time."

"Clearly, thanks to major advances in their understanding of the nature of pedophilia and ephebophilia in the last two decades, psychiatrists and psychologists today make much different assessments of, and propose much different treatment for, sexual abusers than those working 30 or 40 years ago. Given Father Harvey’s evident interest in staying up-to-date with advances in psychology, as well as his faithful, loving concern for the good of the Church, I am confident to say that, were he working today, he would take the advice of these professionals very seriously and shape his pastoral approach accordingly."

No other sexual abuse or misconduct allegations involving Courage chaplains have been made in recent years, Bochanski said, however there has been one instance of inappropriate behavior involving a priest who is not a Courage chaplain in an online Facebook group.

The priest had made sexual remarks and sent inappropriate photos in a private Facebook Messenger account to a lay man whom he had met in a “Courage on Call” Facebook group, which is not officially run or monitored by Courage International, Bochanski said.

The lay man informed Bochanski of the interaction, and Bochanski contacted the priest’s diocese. The priest was subsequently removed from ministry.

Reiterating a commitment to transparency, Bochanski urged Catholics to not withhold any information about admitted or suspected sexual abuse.

“If you suspect or become aware that anyone has abused or is abusing a minor or a vulnerable person, I urge you to report it to law enforcement and child protection authorities immediately.  If the abuser is a member of the clergy, you should also report it to his diocese or archdiocese.”

The director said this abuse has understandably provoked anger and sadness among the members of the Church. He said his letter may especially stir up painful feelings for abuse victims and encouraged concerned individuals to bring their questions to Courage International.

“Should you have questions or concerns about this letter, or should it cause hurt that I can help to heal, please do not hesitate to contact me,” he said.

“I intend to continue to communicate with you, through the Courage and EnCourage Newsletter and in other forums, about the crisis the Church is facing and how we, as individuals and as an apostolate, can respond with charity in a spirit of service and witness.”

Chilean priest guilty of abuse dismissed from clerical state

Santiago, Chile, Sep 17, 2018 / 05:01 pm (ACI Prensa).- Pope Francis has decreed, without recourse to appeal, the dismissal from the clerical state of Cristián Precht Bañados, who was found guilty of abuse of minors in 2012.

The Santiago archdiocese stated Sept. 15 that Cardinal Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctine of the Faith, had notified the archdiocese that day of the Sept. 12 laicization.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had found Precht guilty of abuse in 2012.

After Precht was found guilty, he was prohibited from “exercising priestly public ministry for a period of five years, leaving to the bishop the power to extend the indicated period for the time he considers appropriate,” according to a December 2012 statement of the Archdiocese of Santiago.

At that time, Precht was also put under a “prohibition from administering the sacrament of confession and giving spiritual direction young people and minors,” and was ordered to “live a life of prayer and penance.”

He was also required to obtain a place of residence approved by Church authorities and had to request permission to travel abroad. Failure to adhere to the norms could bring further sanctions, the archdiocese stated at the time.

The accusations against Precht, who is now in his late 70s, were made in 2011.

The result of the penal process established “the verification of the mentioned abusive conduct and agreement with the request to repeal the prescription, in consideration of the gravity of the reported incidents.”

Precht defended human rights during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinchot. He was one of the founders of the Vicariate for Solidarity, an institution created to aid victims of the regime.

He was also one of the founders, in 1991, of the youth ministry organization Vicariate of Hope for Youths.

Chilean officials have in recent months been raiding offices of Catholic institutions as part of an investigation into sexual crimes against minors committed by members of the Church.

 

This article was originally published by our Spanish language sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Congressmen object to FDA's 'barbaric' research method using human fetal tissue

Washington D.C., Sep 17, 2018 / 04:56 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The purchasing of aborted fetal tissue for use in research is ‘abhorrent’ and must stop, said 85 members of the United States House of Representatives in a letter to the Food and Drug Administration.

The FDA in July gave a $15,900 contract to Advanced Bioscience Resources (ABR) for “fresh human fetal tissue,” which would be transplanted into mice in order to create human-like immune systems for research purposes. It is the eighth contract between the FDA and the company since 2012, and seven of the contracts appear to relate to the same or similar programs.

Federal law prohibits the sale of human fetal tissue for “valuable consideration.” Furthermore, the letter states, Congress investigated ABR in 2016 as a part of their investigation into the fetal tissue procurement and late term abortion industries, and found ABR’s practices to be unethical and possibly illegal.

The 2016 investigation was spurred after David Daleiden, a pro-life advocate and a journalist with the Center for Medical Progress, released a series of videos which called into question the fetal tissue procurement and sales practices of Planned Parenthood.

“ABR plainly admitted to Congress that it obtained tissue by collecting human fetal remains from abortion clinics, paying $60 per ‘singe aborted fetus’ - and then upselling the child’s body parts separately to researchers at fees of $325 per ‘specimen’ - brain, eyes, liver, thymus and lungs,” the letter states.

Congress referred ABR to the Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the District Attorney of Riverside County, California for further investigation.

Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., said Sept. 17 that the FDA is using taxpayer dollars “to fund a barbaric research method that treats babies like research guinea pigs.”

More ethical methods of research exist, Smith said, such as developing human-like immune systems from human bone marrow or umbilical cord blood instead of obtaining tissue “through the destruction of unborn children.”

Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo., who was part of the House investigation into ABR in 2016, said that she was “alarmed” that the FDA would partner with a ABR, which has a “checkered history of purchasing the remains of aborted children and reselling the babies.”

“While our letter calls on the FDA to cancel its contract with ABR, I would go the next step and call on all federal agencies including the National Institute of Health (NIH) to cease and desist in furthering the abhorrent and highly unethical practice of using aborted babies as research specimens. This is a grisly, disturbing, and unnecessary business,” she added.

Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C., said that companies such as ABR “have suffered no consequences” despite the findings of Congress’ 2016 investigation.

“Considering President Trump’s pro-life promises, the FDA should immediately cease all government business with ABR and no longer use any aborted fetal cells for future research,” he added.

On Sept. 10, Daleiden said of the contract that it is “unconscionable that the United States government is still paying top-dollar in taxpayer money for the freshest, most high-quality dismembered baby hearts, lungs, livers, and brains.”

Judge rules lawsuit against faith-based adoption agencies can continue

Detroit, Mich., Sep 17, 2018 / 04:15 pm (CNA).- A lawsuit seeking to end state support for faith-based adoption agencies in Michigan will continue, a judge ruled on Friday.

Federal Judge Paul D. Borman of the Eastern District Court of Michigan denied a motion to dismiss the case Dumont v. Lyon, which challenges state funding for religious agencies which will not work with same-sex couples.

The case was filed in September of 2017 by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of two lesbian couples who were turned away by a faith-based agency, as well as a former foster child. The ACLU argues that the state is violating the First Amendment’s establishment clause by providing funding to faith-based agencies who do place children with same-sex couples.

The motion to dismiss was filed in July by the state as well as St. Vincent Catholic Charities, located in Lansing, Michigan. St. Vincent is one of the organizations named in the suit.

Rejecting the motion to dismiss, Borman wrote that the two couples, Kristy and Dana Dumont and Erin and Rebecca Busk-Sutton, experienced “stigmatic and practical harm” when they were turned away by faith-based agencies in Michigan.

Mark Rienzi, president of the Becket Fund, which is providing counsel for the state in this case, said that “Friday’s court ruling allows the ACLU’s lawsuit to proceed---a lawsuit aimed at forbidding the state from working with faith-based adoption agencies to help children in need.”

Rienzi warned that if this were to happen, it would be “much harder for thousands of children to find the loving home they each deserve.”

Friday’s ruling was “just one step along the journey in this case,” said Rienzi.

While some adoption and foster care agencies in Michigan have a religious affiliation, there are many secular agencies operating in the state as well. According to the Becket Fund website, in this case four such agencies - all of which do work with same-sex couples - were located closer to the plaintiffs than the adoption agencies cited in the suit.

“Instead of going to these agencies, [the ACLU] have spent years targeting St. Vincent and trying to shut down their programs,” said a statement on the Becket Fund website. In the past, same-sex couples working through other agencies in Michigan have adopted children being cared for by St. Vincent Catholic Charities.

Dumont v. Lyon is one of several recent cases involving Catholic and other faith-based adoption agencies and their inability to work with same-sex couples.

Other states, such as Massachusetts and California, have seen Catholic Charities shut down their adoption divisions following state attempts to mandate that the agencies work with same-sex couples in violation of their religious beliefs.

Earlier this year, the city of Philadelphia announced that it would no longer work with Catholic Social Services for foster placements, citing the refusal of Catholic Social Services to facilitate foster placements with same-sex couples.

Following the Philadelphia decision, one foster mother filed suit against the city in response.

While many foster homes affiliated with Catholic Social Services are now empty, the city of Philadelphia is seeking to recruit additional foster parents to meet a growing number of children in need of care, a rise linked to the opioid addiction crisis. Catholic Social Services operated in Philadelphia for over a century with no complaints from a same-sex couple.

Penn. class action lawsuit seeks release of all sex abuse allegation records

Harrisburg, Pa., Sep 17, 2018 / 01:22 pm (CNA).- A class action lawsuit filed Sept. 17 is seeking to require the Catholic dioceses of Pennsylvania to release all records involving allegations of child sexual abuse in the last 70 years.

The lawsuit, filed in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court, claims that the dioceses failed to meet their mandatory reporting obligations, the Tribune Review reports.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of abuse survivors and Catholic school students and parents, according to Pittsburgh’s Action News 4.

Monday’s suit comes after last month’s release of a Pennsylvania grand jury report which found more than 1,000 allegations of abuse at the hands of some 300 clergy members in six dioceses in the state. It also found a pattern of cover up by senior Church officials.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court had ordered a redacted version of the report to be released after numerous individuals named in the report cited concerns of due process and reputational rights guaranteed by the state constitution.

All six dioceses in the report have released the names of clerics with credible allegations of misconduct, or said that they plan to do so.

 

Half of Dutch bishops in late 20th century linked to abuse, report claims

Amsterdam, Netherlands, Sep 17, 2018 / 12:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A report published Saturday by a Dutch daily claims that just over half of the Netherland's bishops between 1945 and 2010 were either child abusers or allowed the transfer of abusive priests.

NRC Handelsblad said Sept. 15 that in that time, four bishops abused children, and 16 others “allowed the transfer of paedophile priests who could have caused new victims in other parishes.” There were in that time period 39 bishops in the country.

The Church in the Netherlands said that “bishops did not act with sufficient care” in transferring priests.

A Church spokeswoman told AFP that most of the clerics accused in the report are now dead, and that the statute of limitations has expired in all cases.

The report was based on a 2011 independent report commissioned by the Church in the Netherlands, as well as victims' testimony to an inquiry commission, and research by NRC.

The independent report had said that as many as 20,000 minors were sexually abused at Catholic institutions in the country during the 45-year span, by about 800 clerics, religious, and laity.

The Dutch report comes on the heels of a similar report in Germany, and amid clerical sex abuse scandals in the US, Chile, Ireland, and Australia.

Kavanaugh says misconduct allegation is 'completely false'

Washington D.C., Sep 17, 2018 / 10:45 am (CNA).- Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has denied allegations made against him by Christine Blasey Ford. Ford authored a letter accusing Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct when the two were high school students.

The accusations first surfaced last week, when Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) announced she was in possession of the letter but would not release the name of the accuser due to privacy concerns. Ford came forward in a Sept. 16 interview with the Washington Post.

Feinstein had been in possession of the letter since July, but did not question Kavanaugh about its contents before or during his appearances before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Instead, the senator forwarded the letter to the FBI late last week. The FBI have said they will not be investigating the matter.

Ford alleges that when she was in high school, a “stumbling drunk” Kavanaugh pinned her down in a bedroom at a house party, groped her over her clothing, and attempted to remove her clothes. She says that Kavanaugh covered her mouth when she attempted to cry out. The encounter ended when another man, named as Mike Judge, jumped on the two of them and she was able to leave the bedroom.

Ford says she was afraid Kavanaugh could have accidentally killed her.

Mr. Judge has said the incident never happened.

Kavanaugh has also denied the allegations, both before and after Ford came forward publicly. On Sept. 17, Kavanaugh released a statement in which he called it a “completely false allegation” and that he had “never done anything like what the accuser describes -- to her or to anyone.”

“Because this never happened, I had no idea who was making this accusation until she identified herself yesterday,” he said.

Kavanaugh also said that he is willing to defend himself in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee “in any way the Committee deems appropriate.”

On Monday afternoon, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) tweeted that she believed both Kavanaugh and Ford should testify under oath before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Sen. Collins is considered to be a potential swing vote in the Senate and has not yet said if she intends to support Kavanaugh’s nomination.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is currently scheduled to vote Sept. 20 on whether to recommend Kavanaugh for confirmation to the Supreme Court. If the majority-Republican committee votes in Kavanaugh’s favor, his nomination will then be put to a vote of the whole Senate.

If either President Trump or Kavanaugh himself were to withdraw his nomination, it is unlikely that a new nominee would be confirmed prior to this November’s midterm elections.

The next session of the Supreme Court opens on October 1.