Monday, September 26, 2022

Church opens canonical investigation into Bishop Saunders

 Catholic Bishop of Broome Christopher Saunders will not be prosecuted over  allegations of sexual misconduct : r/australia

The Holy See has initiated a canonical investigation into former Broome Bishop Christopher Saunders, with Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge appointed to oversee the investigation.

Bishop Saunders stood aside as Bishop of Broome in March 2020 after media reports that Western Australia Police had begun an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct. He strongly denies the allegations.

At the conclusion of its investigation, Western Australia Police confirmed that no charges would be brought against Bishop Saunders.

Bishop Saunders later tendered his resignation to Pope Francis, which was accepted in August 2021.

A letter being read at Masses in the Diocese of Broome this weekend, signed by Apostolic Administrator Bishop Michael Morrisey and Archbishop Coleridge, says the Church investigation “could not happen” until the police inquiries ended.

“The investigation is now underway,” the letter states, before indicating it is not known how long the investigation will take.

However, the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith “has granted an extension beyond the normal three months for such an investigation”, the letter explains.

Archbishop Coleridge, who has appointed a group of qualified persons to conduct the investigation, has also issued a decree stipulating that Bishop Saunders is to reside outside the Diocese of Broome “for the duration of the investigation”.

The public announcement of the investigation coincides with the time when the first Masses celebrated this weekend in the Diocese of Broome would commence.

“The Church’s protocols, particularly those enshrined in Pope Francis’ document Vos Estis Lux Mundi, mean the outcome of a police investigation does not prevent the Church from conducting its own inquiry,” Archbishop Coleridge said.

Pope Francis appoints Vatican’s new culture, education chief


Pope Francis on Sept. 26 named Portuguese Cardinal José Tolentino de Mendonça to head the newly formed Dicastery for Culture and Education. His nomination is the first major appointment since the Vatican's new constitution took effect in June, likely setting into motion a series of forthcoming leadership changes in the Vatican's central bureaucracy.

Tolentino, 56, will lead the recently established office, formed as the result of a merger between the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Congregation for Catholic Education. He succeeds Italian Cardinals Gianfranco Ravasi, 79, who has led the Vatican's culture office since 2007; and Giuseppe Versaldi, 79, who has led the Vatican's education office since 2015. 

The Portuguese cardinal, who is both a poet and theologian, had been the head of the Vatican Library since 2018. He was made a cardinal by Francis in 2019.

Previously, he served as the first director of the National Secretariat of the Pastoral Care of Culture from 2004 to 2014, a program of the Portuguese Catholic bishops' conference. From 2011 to 2018, Tolentino was a consultor to the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Culture, and in February 2020, he became a full member. 

In July, he was also named as a member of the Dicastery for Bishops, the Vatican office tasked with advising the pontiff on which Catholic priests to appoint as bishops across the world. 

Italian Msgr. Giovanni Cesare Pagazzi, a professor at the John Paul II Pontifical Theological Institute for Marriage and Family Sciences in Rome, will serve as his deputy. Pagazzi, 57, is also consultor to the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith. 

In June 2019, the Vatican's education office released a controversial document during Pride month that blasted modern gender theory, claiming that it seeks to "annihilate the concept of 'nature'" and questioned the intentions of those who identify as intersex and transgender.

Archbishop Angelo Vincenzo Zani, who previously served as secretary of the Congregation for Education, will succeed Tolentino as head of the Vatican archives and library. 

Zani, a 72-year-old Italian prelate, has also served in the Roman curia as consultors to the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Dicastery for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. 

Several other major Vatican departments are led by individuals over the traditional retirement age of 75 and have served past their 5-year mandates, including Spanish Cardinal Luis Ladaria of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith and Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet of the Dicastery for Bishops. 

Francis met with both Ladaria and Ouellet on Sept. 26, but no personnel changes have yet been announced for their respective offices.

British and Irish Passionists reunite after 1920s split

 Passionists - Ireland and Scotland - Home | Facebook

British and Irish Passionist priests and brothers, whose original London-based Anglo-Hibernian province was split in 1927, have reunited but with headquarters in Dublin this time.

A General Synod of the worldwide congregation approved the merger in Rome on 16 September. The sudden death of the English provincial Fr John Kearns CP last year triggered London’s request to join the Dublin-based province.

Passionists on both sides of the Irish Sea have dwindled due to the lack of vocations, but the London-based St. Joseph’s province has been hit harder. It has only a dozen men in England and Wales while St Patrick’s province has 42 in Ireland and Scotland.

Fr James Sweeney CP, St Patrick’s Scottish-born provincial, will head the expanded province. Adding the Passionist province in the Netherlands to the new structure is under discussion.

“We’re one of several orders in this process,” Fr Sweeney told The Tablet. “Some orders even larger than ours, for example the Franciscans, have already done this.”

As he wrote in the province bulletin, “the hope we must have is for a renewed as well as integrated province as we now move ahead together”.

The first Passionist in England, Italian-born Fr Dominic Barberi CP, arrived in Folkestone on Guy Fawkes Day in 1840 and fellow Passionists established the London-based St Joseph’s Province ten years later. 

Ireland provided this Anglo-Hibernian unit with more priests while England had more funds. Passionists traditionally live in monasteries and preach and lead retreats outside, but local bishops often insisted they establish  parishes if they wanted to open a house somewhere.

The order expanded quickly in the British Isles to become the third-largest province worldwide. Current-day Passionists assume the 1927 split was in response to Ireland’s independence in 1922, but this growth apparently also played a part.

To help the Irish financially, Scotland was included in the new St Patrick’s province, leaving England and Wales in St Joseph’s province.  

At the General Synod, Australian Provincial Fr Tom McDonagh CP thanked both provinces for establishing the congregation in Australia and New Zealand. British and Irish Passionists were also active expanding in Africa and South America. In addition they run St Joseph’s parish in Paris.

Cuba holds unusual vote on law allowing same-sex marriage

Cuba's government urges citizens to approve same-sex marriage

Cuba held a rare referendum Sunday on an unusually contentious law — a government-backed “family law” code that would allow same-sex couples to marry and adopt, as well as outlining the rights of children and grandparents.

Cuba holds parliamentary elections every two years, though no party other than the Communist is allowed, but seldom has it held referendums on specific laws.

And seldom has an officially backed measure met as much open criticism as the family law of more than 400 articles, which has been questioned by many members of the island’s increasingly vocal evangelical community.

The sweeping code also would allow surrogate pregnancies, broader rights for grandparents in regard to grandchildren, protection of the elderly and measures against gender violence.

President Miguel Díaz-Canel, who has promoted the law acknowledged resistance as he voted on Sunday.

“Most of our people will vote in favor of the code, but it still has issues that our society as a whole does not understand,” he said. Results of the referendum are expected on Monday.

Sixty-four-year-old market vender Miguel Alberto Galindo said he had voted for the measure: “It’s time that homosexuals have the same rights as everyone else,” he said.

But Alejandro Rodríguez, a 33-year-old hardware store worker, said he’d voted against the measure, saying, “Some things in the code are good but others are bad.” He said he did not agree with giving gay couples the same rights as “normal” families.

The measure was approved by Cuba’s Parliament, the National Assembly, following a thousands of government-organized information sessions this year in neighborhoods across the country.

A major supporter of the measure is Mariela Castro, director of the National Center for Sex Education, a promoter of rights for same-sex couples, daughter of former President Raul Castro and niece of his brother Fidel.

But there’s a strong strain of social conservatism in Cuba, where evangelical churches have been growing. Several religious leaders have expressed concern or opposition to the law, worrying it could weaken nuclear families.

While Cuba was officially — and often militantly — atheist for decades after the 1959 revolution led by Fidel Castro — Raul’s brother — it has become more tolerant of religions over the past quarter century. That has meant a greater opening not only the once-dominant Catholic Church, but also to Afro-Cuban religions, protestants and Muslims.

Some of those churches took advantage of the opening in 2018 and 2019 to campaign against another plebiscite which would have rewritten the constitution in a way to allow gay marriage.

The opposition was strong enough that the government at that time backed away.

Archdiocese of Bombay enacts action plan to help Tribal migrants

 Catholic Church | Archdiocese of Bombay | Mumbai

Catholics around the world marked the World Day of Migrants and Refugees on Sept. 25, and the Archdiocese of Bombay used the occasion to recommit itself to helping Tribal migrants within greater Mumbai.

Most migrants in India come from other parts of the country, but differences in language, religion, and culture mean they face many of the same issues that hit people who cross international borders. This is especially true for day laborers, who often come from India’s marginalized Tribal and Dalit communities.

Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay told Crux that in the archdiocesan synodal process – conducted ahead of next year’s Synod of Bishops’ meeting – “we spoke of the necessity of the church being more inclusive, and the Archdiocese of Bombay can give the lead and respond to the signs of the times.”

Earlier this year, the Archdiocesan Migrant Commission (AMC) launched the AMC Crisis Outreach to provide temporary shelter to migrant women and girls faced with physical, sexual or emotional abuse at work, or who have been forced out of their jobs.

Sister Sarita Kerketta, a member of the Tribal community from Odisha, works with the AMC, and also helps with the Redemptorists Migrant Ministry Outreach (PAHUNCH) in the upscale Chembur suburb of Mumbai, where many Tribal migrants work in domestic service.

“This help line is given to render service to the Chotanagpur Tribal Migrants and to provide them immediate shelter in times of distress of any kind. Additionally, two equipped counsellors and two legal experts will offer assistance,” she told Crux.

“We have already helped two Tribal young migrants in distress and in a vulnerable situation. They were working as domestic workers in Mumbai and both were thrown out of their jobs and houses without prior notice. One was dismissed from her job, for demanding a fair and just wage, and the other Tribal was thrown out of the house on baseless allegations of her being unfit for housework,” she said.

“They were both stranded and stayed at the city’s main railway station. Police noticed them and told them to leave the station, and we gave them shelter for two weeks and got them relocated employment in other families,” she said.

Gracias said the situation with Tribal migrants in the archdiocese “has been one of my primary pastoral cares from the beginning, and I have organized many initiatives to make it a welcoming and safe and inclusive place for them.”

The cardinal noted that in 2016, he outlined an “action plan” for Tribal migrants.

This included taking care of their pastoral needs, including more liturgies in the Hindi language, which is spoken by most Tribal migrants (the main language in Mumbai is Marathi), and sacramental formation.

In addition, the archdiocese organizes social events, such as feasts associated with Tribal cultural milestones such as harvest festivals, as well as sporting events.

The archdiocese has also worked to register Tribal migrants, noting their parish and diocese of origin, as well as their current address and occupation, so the church can better communicate with them.

“Currently, there are more than 10 million Tribals from Chota Nagpur [the eastern part of Maharashtra state]: Post-COVID, many more have arrived in the city. they left their homes because of a lack of employment and sources of livelihood also due to poverty. As a large number have only basic levels of literacy, they usually work as domestic labor in cities,” Gracias explained.

It is estimated that Tribal people – from other parts of Maharashtra as well as other states – make up nearly 10 percent of Greater Mumbai’s population of 20 million.

Maria Gomes, a member of the AMC, said the archdiocese will now be able “to attend more effectively to the migrants’ spiritual needs and give them greater visibility and acknowledgment in our churches, small Christian communities and educational institutions.”

Founder of Catholic apostolate charged with assaulting abortion clinic escort

 Discussion with Mark Houck – The King's Men | The New Emangelization

A Catholic speaker and author who regularly prays the rosary outside an abortion clinic in Philadelphia was charged Friday with physically assaulting a Planned Parenthood clinic escort last year.

Mark Houck, 48, of Kintnersville, Pennsylvania, is the co-founder and president of the Catholic ministry The King’s Men, which aims to give spiritual formation to Catholic men.

News of Houck’s arrest on Friday morning was widely shared on social media after another well-known Catholic speaker, Chris Stefanick, posted about it online. Houck’s wife, Ryan-Marie Houck, told CNA about the arrest Friday.

“A SWAT team of about 25 came to my house with about 15 vehicles and started pounding on our door,” Ryan-Marie Houck said. “They said they were going to break in if he didn’t open it. And then they had about five guns pointed at my husband, myself, and basically at my kids,” she added.

She said that multiple agencies were present at the arrest and that she was handed a warrant after she requested to see it.

The FBI confirmed to CNA Friday that Houck was arrested outside his residence Friday morning “without incident.” In a press release, the U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania said that Houck is being charged with a violation of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, more commonly referred to as the FACE Act.

The federal indictment says that Houck twice assaulted a 72-year-old man who was a patient escort at a Planned Parenthood clinic at 1144 Locust St. in Philadelphia on Oct. 13, 2021. First, Houck shoved the escort, identified only with the initials B.L., to the ground as B.L was attempting to escort two patients, the indictment says. Houck also “verbally confronted” and “forcefully shoved” B.L. to the ground in front of Planned Parenthood the same day, the indictment says. The indictment says that B.L. was injured and needed medical attention.

If he is convicted, Houck could face up to 11 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of up to $350,000, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

The FACE Act “prohibits violent, threatening, damaging and obstructive conduct intended to injure, intimidate, or interfere with the right to seek, obtain or provide reproductive health services,” according to the Department of Justice (DOJ).

Violating the FACE Act is a federal crime and protects “all patients, providers, and facilities that provide reproductive health services, including pro-life pregnancy counseling services and any other pregnancy support facility providing reproductive health care,” according to the DOJ.

Ryan-Marie Houck told CNA that her husband prays the rosary outside one of two different Planned Parenthood’s every Wednesday and hands out literature to anyone who wants it. She said that praying outside the clinic is part of The King’s Men ministry.

“This was a gross over-reach from the ‘justice’ department with excessive use of force and trumped up allegations and our story needs to be told truthfully,” Ryan-Marie Houck said in a text. “These are false allegations.”

She said that he had his first appearance before a judge and was subsequently released on Friday. Her husband declined to comment, she said.

In a statement Jacqueline Romero, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania said that there is no tolerance for violating the FACE Act.

“Assault is always a serious offense, and under the FACE Act, if the victim is targeted because of their association with a reproductive healthcare clinic, it is a federal crime,” she said in the press release.

“Our Office and the Department of Justice are committed to prosecuting crimes which threaten the safety and rights of all individuals,” she added.

Spanish bishop to Belgian bishops: The Church doesn’t have authority to bless gay unions

 José Ignacio Munilla Aguirre - Wikidata

The bishop of Orihuela-Alicante in Spain, José Ignacio Munilla, reminded the Belgian bishops that the blessing of gay unions goes against the teaching of the Catholic Church.

“It’s not that the Church doesn’t love. It’s that she has no authority to do such a thing,” he cautioned.

The prelate underscored in his Sixth Continent program on Radio Maria in Spain that the Belgian bishops’ prayers for the blessing of gay unions are “clearly not compatible” with the declaration of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on this issue that was published March 15, 2021.

Munilla stressed that this incompatibility is manifest “no matter how much they’ve tried to force (the meaning of) words to the maximum,” calling the Belgian bishops’ initiative a “moment for prayer.”

In this respect, the spokesman for the Belgian Bishops’ Conference, Jesuit Father Tommy Scholtes, defended the blessing of same-sex couples since “it has nothing to do with marriage.”

In a statement to the Associated Press, Scholtes said that it’s “an opportunity for homosexual couples to pray together and for others to pray for them as well.”

Munilla noted that the Belgian bishops’ blessing includes “expressions of commitment” between the homosexual persons who receive it and the commitment of ecclesial community to them.

“Let’s not play with words,” the bishop reiterated, pointing out that “we must be sincere and transparent and say that it absolutely contradicts” what was affirmed by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Munilla emphasized that what the Vatican dicastery has stated “is not that the Church doesn’t love. It’s that she has no authority to do such a thing” as bless homosexual unions.

Blessings are sacramentals

The Church has no such authority because a blessing is a sacramental. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 1667, sacramentals “are sacred signs which bear a resemblance to the sacraments. They signify effects, particularly of a spiritual nature, which are obtained through the intercession of the Church.”

The text continues: “By them men are disposed to receive the chief effect of the sacraments, and various occasions in life are rendered holy.”

The Spanish bishop explained that blessings, therefore, “must be objectively and positively ordered to the will of God” and that “the good will of those who receive them is not enough.”

There is no ‘unjust discrimination’

Thus, “it’s not lawful to impart a blessing on these relationships, even if they are stable, because they imply a sexual relationship outside of marriage,” the bishop explained, in line with what was stated by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

For example, Munilla pointed out that the Church cannot bless the union between a man and a woman living in adultery.

Thus, it’s not about “unjust discrimination” against people with homosexual inclinations, but about reclaiming “the truth of the liturgical act.”

“You can bless people with homosexual inclinations, but not a union that is not in accordance with the design of nature and God’s design,” the prelate stressed, because “it’s one thing to bless the sinner and another thing to bless the sin.”

Munilla said that, unlike the sacraments, sacramentals “can be received without being in the state of grace, but they call for conversion.”

India’s top court seeks details of ‘fraud’ conversions

 Supreme Court of India Begins Translating Judgments Into Indian Languages -  Slator

India’s top court has sought the federal government’s response on a plea seeking stricter action to curb fraudulent religious conversion allegedly by “intimidation, threatening” and “luring through gifts and monetary benefits.”

The Supreme Court of India on Sept. 23 asked the federal government and the federal ministries of home affairs, and law and justice, among others to file their responses before Nov 14.

The top court was hearing a petition filed by advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay. The petition wanted the court to direct the federal and provincial governments to take stringent steps to control fraudulent religious conversions, which he called “a nationwide problem.”

“The injury caused to the citizens is extremely large because there is not even one district which is free of religious conversion by 'hook and crook',” Upadhyay submitted.

The petitioner claimed that incidents of fraudulent conversions were reported every week throughout the country and involved various unlawful means including the use of black magic, superstitions and miracles, besides threats and allurements.

Upadhyay urged the court to issue a direction to the federal government and the Law Commission of India to draft a national law to restrain religious conversion.

He had in the past also approached the Supreme Court with a similar demand but was rebuked by a bench led by Justice Rohinton F. Nariman, who asked why a person above 18 years can’t choose his religion.

The apex court then upheld the inviolability of the right to privacy that is directly related to the life, dignity and liberty of the person while emphasizing that the choice of religion and marriage will continue to be left to the individual’s choice.

Christian leaders feel they’re being unnecessarily targeted in the name of religious conversions.

The apex court is also hearing a petition by a group of Christians on curbing attacks on members of the minority religion and their institutions including places of worship.

In a Sept. 1 ruling, the Supreme Court has directed eight states to provide information such as preliminary police reports, the status of investigations, arrests made and charges filed in the cases of attacks on Christians and their institutions.

The petition cited incidents from 22 states but details from eight states that reported more than 20 incidents were sought by the court.

The apex court also directed the petitioners to provide details of incidents mentioned in their petition to the office of the federal government’s Solicitor General Tushar Mehta within four weeks.

Christians make up 2.3 percent of the 1.3 billion people in India of which about 80 percent are Hindus.

Korean Catholic nuns live 'Laudato Si'

 South Korea ~ Incheon » Congregation of the Sisters of Notre Dame

The Notre Dame Eco-Spirituality Center in Gyeyang-gu district of South Korea’s Incheon city has become an embodiment of love and care for the earth that Pope Francis called for in his environmental encyclical Laudato Si, thanks to a group of nuns.

Since last year, the Sisters of Notre Dame here have adopted organic farming methods and an eco-friendly lifestyle to protect the environment from pollution and attain ecological spirituality, the Catholic Times of Korea reported.

The center gets power from a solar power plant and the nuns use organic compost generated from food waste and animal excrement for the plants in the garden.

Its buildings are made of eco-friendly raw materials like soil and rice straw, which in the event of its future demolition will create zero residual waste.

Besides, the nuns harvest rainwater and use the water for consumption after filtering.

All these activities are part of Laudato Si 7-Year Journey Action Plan adopted by the Catholic Church in Korea to implement the spirit of the pope’s ground-breaking apostolic letter of 2015.

Sister Moon Jeom-suk, in charge of education at the center, said that coexistence with God’s creations is inevitable and part of ecological spirituality.

“We confess that we cannot live without the creatures that were created before the human beings created on the last day, and that without God we are nothing,” she said.

She also added that prayer is a particularly important “action” because “life and prayer are not separated.”

Apart from the apostolate based on contemplative prayers, the nuns have used ecological practices to transform their environment. Agriculture takes up a large chunk of the nuns’ efforts to live a sustainable eco-friendly life.

The nuns ensure no waste is generated that can cause pollution. The leftover food is given to domestic animals. The excrement from humans and animals is turned into compost fertilizer to be used in agricultural fields.

They consider waste as “resources” that are recycled in the resource recycling center.  

While the nuns use organic compost, they have also avoided any kind of pesticides for the crops and have used natural deterrents to keep any insects away.

“The first thing we need is ecological repentance"

Sister Moon said that the excessive worms that harm the plants are collected and fed to the chickens at the facility.

The nuns have been also conducting an ecological education program for young people to promote an ecological lifestyle.

There are also other religious groups that promote eco-spirituality like Notre Dame nuns.

Father Myung-Hwan Ho from the Franciscan Spirituality Center at Ganghwa says that individuals need to reconnect with creation and God.

“To find the lost spirituality, I must restore the severed relationship between me and myself, me and my neighbor, me and creation, and between me and God,” he said, Catholic Times of Korea reported.

Father Jae-don Lee, director of the Institute of Ecological Spirituality of the Archdiocese of Seoul stressed the need for ecological repentance.

“The first thing we need is ecological repentance, an inner repentance that comes from the depths of your heart,” he said.

In 2021, the Korean Catholic bishops vowed to work at various levels of each diocese, including individuals and institutions, to care for the creation and to relieve the suffering of the poor.

The dioceses have been running regular campaigns to raise ecological awareness and transform public perceptions about the environment based on a range of themes.

The campaigns’ focus areas are sustainable management of transport, energy, water, trees, garbage, and soil.