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Catholic Charities in Texas criticizes state order restricting immigration work

August 17, 2017 - A volunteer at the Catholic Charities Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen helps a Central American refugee family take a bus to go stay with U.S. family / Vic Hinterlang/Shutterstock

Denver Newsroom, Jul 30, 2021 / 14:02 pm (CNA).

Catholic entities helping migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border responded this week after the Texas governor restricted who could transport migrants following their release from federal custody. 

On Wednesday, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) issued an order restricting transportation of migrants to law enforcement personnel only. While the order will not prevent law enforcement officers from transporting migrants, it will affect volunteers’ ability to give migrants rides to and from shelters and quarantine sites.

Abbott, who is Catholic, cited pandemic-related concerns as the basis for his order.

Catholic Charities Rio Grande Valley said in response that their precautions against COVID-19 are rigorous, and that the new order will make it harder for people of good will to help migrants “who have been given permission to be in the United States.”

The order, which Abbott issued July 28, mandates that “no person, other than a federal, state, or local law-enforcement official, shall provide ground transportation to a group of migrants who have been detained by [Customs and Border Protection] for crossing the border illegally.” 

Abbott ordered the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) to stop or impound “any vehicle upon reasonable suspicion of such violation and reroute such vehicles back to its point of origin or a port of entry.”

Abbott said he issued the order out of concern for the coronavirus pandemic. He wrote that “busloads of migrants, an unknown number of whom are infected with COVID-l9, are being transported to communities across the State of Texas.”

Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director of Catholic Charities Rio Grande Valley in McAllen, said the new order gave her “great sadness,” and urged its reversal. 

Located on the Mexican-U.S. border, McAllen is a hub for immigrants, and concerns have been expressed by locals about the transient population of asylum seekers and other immigrants in the town. 

Federal law enforcement officers drop migrants off at Catholic Charities’ downtown McAllen facility, where they are tested for COVID-19. The respite center, which is staffed by volunteers, mainly offers food, showers, and basic necessities; it has changed locations several times since 2014.

Pimentel noted that migrants who test positive for COVID-19, as well as their families, are placed in local hotels at Catholic Charities’ expense to recover in isolation.

“All this has been done to protect our communities from COVID while simultaneously protecting and caring for the [migrant] family, who needs assistance,” she wrote. 

“At no time have the COVID positive immigrant families been walking around exposing others in the community. They are kept in isolation until they test negative.”

In his order, Abbott specifically mentioned a recent incident in La Joya, Texas. Local police had been called in response to a migrant family who were eating in a local restaurant and who “appeared to be sick,” MyRGV News reported. The migrant family told the police they were quarantining at a nearby hotel after testing positive for COVID-19. 

Pimentel called the La Joya incident “an isolated case” that has led to “a great deal of misinformation.”

Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville on Wednesday contested the governor’s characterization of the migrants helped by local Catholic Charities as “illegal.”

“Catholic Charities RGV assists families who are referred to us by Border Patrol, a Federal entity,” he noted on Twitter.

“How can the Governor’s order identify them as ‘illegal’ and how does looking for them not constitute racial profiling of persons legally in the US?” he asked.

Governor Abbott has declined to aid the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in its effort to house thousands of migrant children amid a surge at the border. 

In a letter to HHS director Xavier Becerra, Abbott cited hastily-erected emergency federal facilities as justification for withdrawing state support of the federal effort to house migrant children. Abbott has also pledged to continue building a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Confidential data obtained by the Associated Press shows the number of migrant children in government custody more than doubled from April to May of 2021. In April, border authorities encountered 18,890 unaccompanied minors - an all-time high. 

Abbott plans to revoke the licenses of any shelter in the state that houses migrant children beginning Aug. 31, Politico reported. The May 31 declaration is set to strip the licenses of at least six Catholic Charities agencies, including CCRGV, meaning they may have to close. 

If the state’s Catholic Charities agencies lose their license and are forced to close, two of the state’s bishops have said that hundreds of Texas-born children will be transferred to the state’s foster care system which is already stressed. 

In a video published on April 6, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones - known for falsely claiming the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting was a hoax - alleged that a man driving a car with migrant children outside a Catholic Charities humanitarian center in McAllen, Texas, was “smuggling” the children. 

In response, Catholic Charities Rio Grande Valley said the video was “inaccurate and unauthorized,” stating the video in fact shows “families and children peacefully entering the Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen.”

Knights of Columbus fundraise to replace vandalized statues at NYC parish

Remains of the statues vandalized at Our Lady of Mercy parish in New York City, July17, 2021. Credit: Diocese of Brooklyn.

New York City, N.Y., Jul 30, 2021 / 11:33 am (CNA).

A Knights of Columbus fundraiser for the replacement of vandalized statues of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Therese of Lisieux at a New York City church has raised over $21,000 as of Friday, July 30. 

The statues were smashed July 17 at Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church in Queens by a woman who was seen on security cameras. The vandalism is being investigated by the New York City Police Department Hate Crimes Unit and the 112th Precinct.

“Will you please consider helping us restore these proud symbols of our parish?” Knight of Columbus Brian Allen wrote on a GoFundMe page for the effort.

The two statues had been on display at the parish since 1937. 

The fundraiser, launched July 21, is being run by the Our lady of Mercy Knights of Columbus Council and Our Lady of Mercy Academy. 

The Our Lady of Mercy Council said that artisans inspecting the damage have determined that the statues are beyond repair and will have to be replaced. 

The parish told CNA July 30 that they are collecting the information and estimates they need in order to find the best way to put the new statues in, and how to keep them protected.

The night before the statues were smashed, a perpetrator, who has not been identified, toppled both the statues over, the parish said. 

The night of the vandalism, pastor Fr. Frank Schwarz was on his phone with police in response to the incident. The parish said at 3:30 in the morning Monsignor John McGuirl heard the vandalism taking place and yelled at the perpetrator out the window to stop. 

The perpetrator “told him in no uncertain terms to shut up.” At that point, the perpetrator was already fleeing the scene and when police arrived, they were gone. 

The Diocese of Brooklyn said July 17 that “the statues were dragged 180 feet across 70th Avenue, where they were smashed with a hammer. Earlier this week on Wednesday evening, both of these statues were toppled over but were not damaged. The individual involved in both acts of vandalism is believed to be the same person.”

The parish told CNA on Friday that parishioners were devastated by the vandalism. While waiting for new statues to come to the church, a parishioner had taken the initiative to put a small statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary statue in place of the vandalized statues.

“It is heartbreaking, but sadly it is becoming more and more common these days. I pray that this recent rash of attacks against Catholic churches and all houses of worship will end, and religious tolerance may become more a part of our society,” Fr. Schwarz said in the diocesan statement.

Two weeks after Pope Francis' Traditional Latin Mass restrictions, US bishops continue to respond

Thoom/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Jul 30, 2021 / 10:15 am (CNA).

Two weeks after Pope Francis issued his motu proprio restricting the use of traditional liturgies, bishops throughout the United States have continued to address the impact the letter will have on their respective dioceses.

Many bishops, such as Bishop Michael Fisher of Buffalo, have chosen to grant their priests temporary permission to continue celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass while they themselves take time to study the document, Traditiones Custodes.

“At this time,” Fisher wrote in his July 21 statement, “I grant temporary permission for those priests competent in celebrating the Eucharist according to the 1962 Missal to continue to do so at the times and places that, as of July 16, 2021, have publicly scheduled these Masses.”

In other episcopal sees, bishops have allowed Traditional Latin Masses to continue at some parishes, while prohibiting them or restricting them at other parish churches. 

In the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, Archbishop Joseph Naumann told priests in a July 27 statement that he had already allowed two locations - St. John Vianney Latin Mass Community in Maple Hill and the St. Rose Philippine Duchesne Parish in Mission Woods - to continue offering the Traditional Latin Mass. The two communities are served by the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, a community dedicated to the Traditional Latin Mass. 

At other parish churches, however, Mass according to the 1962 Roman Missal cannot be regularly scheduled on Sundays and holy days, he said. Proposals to celebrate the extraordinary form require discussion with him or his delegate “well in advance,” Naumann said. 

For priests of the archdiocese who “at times” wish to celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass, they “may continue to do so for the present,” Archbishop Naumann said, adding that they must contact him by Oct. 1, 2021 for continued permission to do so.

The papal document, issued on July 16 and effective immediately, recognized the “exclusive competence” of individual bishops to authorize the use of the 1962 Roman Missal in their respective dioceses.

One of the provisions of the papal document - Article 3, § 2 - says that bishops should designate a location for Latin Mass communities that is not a “parochial church.” Some U.S. bishops have already issued canonical dispensations from this provision for parish churches already offering the Traditional Latin Mass.

Bishop Carl Kemme of the Diocese of Wichita joined the dioceses of San Bernardino, Springfield in Illinois, Biloxi, Toledo, Knoxville, and San Angelo in granting priests a canonical dispensation from Art. 3, § 2 of the motu proprio.

Elsewhere, some dioceses have communicated internally with their priests on Traditiones custodes, but have not yet issued public statements. 

In the Diocese of Austin, Fr. Daniel Liu, rector of St. Mary Cathedral, posted on the Facebook page of the St. Joseph Latin Mass Society that Bishop Joe Vásquez allowed his parish to continue offering the extraordinary form of the Mass. The bishop gave his approval “as he continues to gather information and discern how the motu proprio Traditionis custodes will be applied,” Fr. Liu wrote.

The St. Joseph Latin Mass Society, meanwhile, told CNA that Vasquez has allowed the extraordinary form to continue throughout the whole diocese.

CNA reached out to the dioceses of Green Bay and Santa Rosa to confirm that their respective bishops had issued guidance on the Holy Father’s motu proprio. 

The Diocese of Green Bay told CNA that Bishop David Ricken had given private guidance to priests on the motu proprio, and the Santa Rosa diocese said that Bishop Robert Vasa “may have” communicated with priests. Neither diocese would share that guidance publicly with CNA. 

Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington D.C., who had allowed celebrations of the Traditional Latin Mass to continue while he reviewed Traditionis custodes, this week withdrew his permission for the celebration of a solemn pontifical Mass that was to be offered Aug. 14 in D.C.

The Mass, scheduled to be at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, was organized by the Paulus Institute, a group dedicated to promoting the sacred liturgy. 

Donna Bethell of the Paulus Institute said in a statement to CNA on Tuesday that Cardinal Gregory "cited Traditionis custodes as the reason” for his decision, “without further specificity."

US bishops condemn abortion funding in House-passed spending bill

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Washington D.C., Jul 30, 2021 / 09:00 am (CNA).

Leading U.S. bishops on Thursday opposed the House passage of appropriations bills that fund abortions and exclude some existing conscience protections in health care.

“Funding the destruction of innocent unborn human lives, and forcing people to kill in violation of their consciences, are grave abuses of human rights,” said Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York and Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas on Thursday in a joint statement. Cardinal Dolan is the chair of the U.S. bishops’ religious liberty committee, while Archbishop Naumann chairs the bishops’ pro-life committee.

On Thursday afternoon, the U.S. House passed a package of appropriations bills that would provide funding of various government agencies and programs, by a vote of 219-208. No Democrats voted against the legislation, and no Republicans voted for it. Four members did not vote.

Leadership omitted a number of customary pro-life provisions from the bills, allowing for funding of elective abortions and abortion coverage without including provisions that protect some health care workers and groups with conscientious objections to abortion.

Notably missing from the legislation was the Hyde Amendment, first passed by Congress in 1976. The policy, normally enacted as part of federal spending bills, prohibits federal funding of elective abortions in Medicaid.

“Without it, millions of poor women in desperate circumstances will make the irrevocable decision to take the government up on its offer to end the life of their child,” Cardinal Dolan and Archbishop Naumann stated of the amendment.

The bills also did not include the Weldon, Kemp-Kasten, Dornan, and Smith amendments, a series of policies similar to the Hyde amendment which restrict funding of abortion or abortion coverage in other areas of spending.

In particular, pro-life leaders recognized the Weldon Amendment as an important means of enforcing conscience protections for health care workers and groups opposed to abortion. The policy places conditions on funding of federal programs and state and local governments; the funded entities cannot discriminate against individuals or organizations for refusing to perform, participate in, pay for, or cover abortions.

“The injustice in HR 4502 extends to removing conscience protections and exemptions for healthcare providers who believe abortion is wrong, or whose faith drives them to serve and heal lives, instead of taking them,” the bishops stated on Thursday.

The current Secretary of Health and Human Services, Xavier Becerra, was in 2020 found to be in violation of the Weldon Amendment by the Trump administration while he was still attorney general of California. Becerra had defended California’s mandate that employers provide abortion coverage in employee health plans; the mandate extended to a group of Catholic religious, the Missionary Guadalupanas of the Holy Spirit.

The spending bills do contain good provisions, the bishops said on Thursday, but their funding of abortions is inexcusable.

“To be certain, this bill includes provisions that help vulnerable people, including pregnant moms. As we have said before, ‘being “right” in such matters can never excuse a wrong choice regarding direct attacks on innocent human life,’” they stated.

Pro-life leaders also warned that the appropriations bills would coerce health care providers on the matter of abortion. The legislation forbids Medicare Advantage funding of health care providers and institutions that refuse to provide, pay for, cover, or refer for abortions –if the HHS Secretary denies them participation in the program for that reason.

In the bill’s section on the Title X federal family planning program, it requires clinics receiving Title X funds to provide pregnant women with information on abortion, as well as information on other options such as prenatal care and adoption. Under the bill, Title X recipients must refer for abortions upon request.

Earlier in the week, the House passed an appropriations bill for the State Department and international programs that allows direct funding of international abortions and pro-abortion groups.

It would permanently repeal the Mexico City Policy, executive policy that forbids funding of international pro-abortion NGOs in U.S. global health assistance.

Catholic health care giant Ascension to mandate coronavirus vaccines for employees

Ball Lunla/Shutterstock

Denver Newsroom, Jul 29, 2021 / 18:29 pm (CNA).

The Catholic health care network Ascension will mandate coronavirus vaccination for its employees, physicians, volunteers, and vendors. It cited a need for more action to overcome the Covid-19 pandemic and promised some exemptions to the mandate for people with health problems or religious exemptions.

“Like many health systems across the country, including in many of our markets, we are moving to require our associates to be vaccinated against COVID-19,” Ascension said July 27.

“Ascension conducted a thorough moral and ethical analysis as part of the decision-making process,” it added. “As a healthcare provider and as a Catholic ministry, ensuring we have a culture of safety for our associates, patients and communities is foundational to our work.”

Tens of thousands of its employees have already been vaccinated, said Ascension, which added: “But we must do more to overcome this pandemic as we provide safe environments for those we serve.”

The mandate applies to all employees regardless of whether they provide direct patient care or whether they work remotely. It also applies to employees of subsidiaries and partners; physicians and advanced practiced providers, including those who are independent; and volunteers and vendors who enter Ascension facilities.

“Together, we will put this pandemic behind us so that we can continue to focus on meeting the needs of those who come to us for care,” Ascension said.

The health network aims to fulfil this mandate by Nov. 12, aligned with its annual influenza vaccination requirement. There will be an exemption process similar to that used for its influenza vaccine process for those unable to be vaccinated because of a medical condition or a strongly held religious belief. Ascension said it is implementing the mandate in line with collective bargaining agreements.

According to the Alabama-based NBC15 News, an email sent to Ascension employees this week said fewer than 50% of its employees in Florida and the Gulf Coast are vaccinated.

Some employees have objected that the mandate violates their medical freedom and personal choice.

According to Ascension’s website, as of 2020 it has over 160,000 associates, 40,000 aligned health care providers and 9,000 employed providers. It has more than 2,600 health care facilities in 19 states and the District of Columbia, including 145 hospitals and over 40 senior care facilities.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has addressed concerns about the use of vaccines with a remote connection to abortion. The use of these vaccines that have used cell lines from aborted fetuses in their research and production process is acceptable “when ethically irreproachable Covid-19 vaccines are not available,” it said in a December 2020 note.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, in a March 2 statement, said that the mRNA vaccines available from Pfizer and Moderna have “the least connection to abortion-derived cell lines should be chosen” and should be preferred to the vaccine from Johnson & Johnson.

In a July 2 statement, the National Catholic Bioethics Center discussed vaccine mandates. Any mandates should provide “robust, transparent, and readily accessible exemptions for medical, religious, and conscience reasons.” This safeguards the rights of conscience, establishes trust, and avoids “undue pressure,” the bioethics center said. Mandates can exert severe pressure if employment is threatened, and the current vaccines are approved only under an emergency use authorization.

“Recognizing the importance of public health, institutions that grant an exemption may require that recipients restrict their interpersonal interactions, but these restrictions should be the least burdensome possible,” the statement continued.

The National Catholic Bioethics Center said there is “no universal moral obligation” to accept or reject vaccines.

“Catholic institutions, in particular, should respect the decisions of people to decline use of vaccines dependent on abortion-derived cell lines,” said the center. “This is especially relevant when there are other means of mitigating risk.”

The novel coronavirus has killed over 612,000 people and hospitalized many more in the U.S. While the arrival of vaccines has significantly reduced the spread of the disease, there are concern that failures to vaccinate and the arrival of new viral variants could still cause significant harm.

A June survey from the Public Religion Research Institute, published July 27, reported that about 80% of Catholics would accept a coronavirus vaccine. Hispanic Catholics’ vaccine acceptance has particularly increased in recent months.

About 67% of Americans told the survey they had received at least one dose of the vaccine and another 4% said they aimed to get vaccinated as soon as possible. Overall, under 15% of Americans are hesitant. Concerns about possible long-term effects of vaccines appear to be decreasing.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association recommend vaccine mandates for all employees in health care and long-term care, the Detroit Free Press reports. California and New York have also required government workers to vaccinate or submit to regular testing.

President Joe Biden on Thursday announced a similar mandate for all civilian federal workers.

Traditional Latin Mass restrictions leave ‘a lot of unanswered questions,’ says Providence bishop

Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence / Diocese of Providence

Washington D.C., Jul 29, 2021 / 17:10 pm (CNA).

The bishop of Providence says patience and reflection are necessary while bishops study Pope Francis’ motu proprio that restricted traditional liturgies.

Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence told CNA in a phone interview this week that while he had heard rumors of liturgical changes coming from the Vatican, he was surprised when Pope Francis’ letter Traditionis custodes was released on July 16. The document, he says, is “very broad” and leaves “a lot of unanswered questions.”

The document restricted the use of traditional liturgies that preexisted the 1970 liturgical reforms. Most notably, it recognized the “exclusive competence” of bishops to authorize the Latin Mass according to the 1962 Roman Missal in their respective dioceses. It further instructed bishops to delegate locations for the Traditional Latin Mass, stipulating that the locations could not be at “parochial churches.”

Tobin said he initially found the motu proprio to be “a challenge and an opportunity.” Now, he thinks that the document was “very broad.” 

“(Traditionis custodes) seemed to put all the Catholics who favor the traditional Latin Mass into one category, more or less,” said Tobin. “And there were still many questions that linger after the document.”

“I think at some point, if we get more direction, more information to answer those questions, I think it will be helpful.” 

The bishop explained that he believes the pope’s letter provides an opportunity for an examination of conscience for the entire Church. 

For Catholics who prefer the extraordinary form of the Roman rite, he said Pope Francis’ letter should prompt reflection on whether their preference for the Latin Mass separates them from the Church. 

For Catholics who prefer the ordinary form of the Mass, Tobin said they must consider if they treat Mass “with a total respect and reverence that the Mass deserves and demands.”

“I think that a good question for people on both sides of the issue to ask is 'what's my attitude towards other Catholics?'” said Tobin. “And why would we be threatened by Catholics who prefer different liturgical styles?” 

Tobin said that while the document was addressed to the global Church, he did not believe that the situation described in Traditionis custodes is true for everywhere in the world. 

“And it does leave a lot of unanswered questions that I think we're all grasping for,” he said. 

The Diocese of Providence, the territory of which comprises the entire state of Rhode Island, is home to one parish administered by the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, as well as to several other locations for Latin Masses. 

While the bishop himself never learned to celebrate the traditional Mass, he told CNA that one of his priorities as bishop is for the diocese to continue to respect liturgical preferences. 

“At least for the time being, I don’t see any imminent threat to changing the status quo regarding the Latin Mass and the celebration of the Latin Mass in the diocese,” he said. 

He said the process of implementing the motu proprio will involve writing to his priests, and asking them to explain when and where they wish to celebrate the Latin Mass.

“And that will be the beginning of a dialogue; certainly not the end of the process, but I think that's the most beneficial aspect,” said Tobin. “And the key aspect of the Pope's directives is it does give the bishop some oversight, some authority, over the celebration of the Mass according to the Missal of 1962.”

Tobin said that this authority is “very appropriate and very helpful” when it comes to meeting the spiritual needs of his flock.

The motu proprio, coupled with the proposed “Eucharistic revival” discussions of the U.S. bishops, provides the ideal opportunity for self-reflection for all the Catholic faithful, said Tobin. 

The two issues “converge very nicely to raise up the centrality of the Eucharist, the importance of the Mass in the life of the Church,” said Tobin. 

“So it is providential. I'm sure it wasn't planned that way, but they come together very nicely,” he said. “And I hope everybody would just relax a little bit, and take in that peaceful and prayerful way.”

Tobin said that he viewed the various liturgical rites in the Catholic Church as a “mosaic.” 

“A mosaic comes together beautifully to form a beautiful picture,” he said. “So I hope that's what our liturgy throughout the Church does as well.”

House passes spending bills without restrictions on abortion funding

Nicole Glass Photography/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Jul 29, 2021 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

The House this week passed spending bills that would allow funding of abortions both in the United States and abroad.  

On Thursday afternoon, the House voted 219-208 to pass a large spending bill without customary prohibitions on federal funding of most elective abortions. The bill – H.R. 4502 – provides appropriations for a number of federal agencies and programs, but excludes the Hyde Amendment, federal policy since 1976 which bars funding of most elective abortions in Medicaid.

The legislation also omitted other prohibitions on funding of abortions and abortion coverage, and excluded the Weldon Amendment which conditions federal funding on state and local governments upholding conscience protections in health care. Pro-life leaders criticized the omission of these "riders" from the spending bills.

“The Knights of Columbus is extremely disappointed in this week’s actions by the House of Representatives to remove longstanding, bipartisan taxpayer and conscience protections including the Hyde Amendment,” stated Patrick Kelly, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, on Thursday. “The House vote to make taxpayers pay for abortions is both an assault on the dignity of life and contrary to the wishes of most Americans.”

“These important provisions protect the American public from funding or providing abortions against their will,” Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, stated on Thursday. “No one should be forced to compromise their values, but especially not on this life-or-death issue." 

The Hyde Amendment was a “bipartisan compact” in Congress for decades, Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) said on Tuesday on the House Floor, while the legislation was being considered. “Now it’s gone.”

Members of both parties each year have voted for spending bills with the Hyde Amendment included. In 1993, some Democrats tried to remove the amendment from the budget process, with President Bill Clinton submitting his budget request to Congress without the policy. An amended version of Hyde – including exceptions for cases of rape, incest, and when the life of the mother is in danger – was later included in the congressional budget process. The spending bill that year was signed into law by Clinton.

Current president Joe Biden once supported the Hyde Amendment as U.S. senator, even outlining his reasons for doing so in a 1994 letter to a constituent. In 2019, while he was running for president, Biden reversed his support and pledged to repeal the Hyde Amendment. In May 2021, he submitted his budget request to Congress without the policy included.

Pro-abortion groups applauded the passage of the bill on Thursday without the abortion funding prohibitions.

“This is #AbortionJustice in action,” the group All* Above All tweeted of the House vote on Thursday.

“This is a victory for progress: the new spending bill finally leaves out harmful abortion coverage bans like the Hyde amendment and sets up critical investments into sexual and reproductive health programs, including Title X,” the Twitter account of Planned Parenthood Action stated.

On Wednesday, the House also passed a State and Foreign Operations budget bill for the 2022 fiscal year that excluded the Helms Amendment. The 50-year-old federal policy bars funding of international abortions in U.S. foreign assistance.

Pro-abortion groups celebrated the news, with an official at Planned Parenthood Global, as well as the group Planned Parenthood Action, praising the legislation.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) said in a statement on Wednesday that she was “especially proud” her bill removed “restrictions that have prohibited safe abortion and health care services for people in low-income countries for decades.”

Rep. Fortenberry, meanwhile, said the United States would be exporting abortion at the taxpayers’ expense.

“We are about to export our most divisive cultural issue – our pain, our woundedness – onto the poor of the world. Pope Francis has called this ‘ideological colonization.’ It’s unfair, it’s wrong, and it smacks of arrogance and elitism,” Fortenberry said on the House Floor on Tuesday while the bill was under consideration.

Lee’s bill would also permanently repeal the Mexico City Policy, dubbed by abortion supporters as the “global gag rule.” The executive policy can be instituted or repealed by a president’s administration and is not permanent law. It bars funding of foreign NGOs that provide or promote abortions as a method of family planning.

Before the final House vote to pass the funding bill on Thursday, Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) offered a Motion to Recommit which would have reinstated pro-life provisions removed from the legislation. His effort failed by a vote of 208-217. Cole’s motion included language forbidding funding of abortion and abortion coverage, as well as restricting funding of abortion in the District of Columbia.

“Taxpayers should not be forced to pay for child dismemberment,” said Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), co-chair of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, on Wednesday. “Rather than funding the death of a baby, I believe we must increase access to maternal and prenatal care and ensure access to safe blood and better nutrition.”

The legislation passed by the House on Wednesday and Thursday not only omitted the Hyde and Helms amendments, but also excluded other pro-life policies included each year in budget bills.

The Weldon, Kemp-Kasten, Smith, and Dornan amendments all restrict funding of abortions or pro-abortion causes. Normally included as part of government funding bills, none of the policies were included in the bills that passed the House this week.

The Weldon Amendment prohibits federal funding of state and local governments that discriminate against health care workers or providers who refuse to participate in, pay for, or cover abortions. The Kemp-Kasten Amendment restricts funding of international groups complicit in forced sterilizations and forced abortions. The Smith Amendment restricts funding of abortion coverage in federal employee health plans, and the Dornan Amendment bars federal funding of abortions in the District of Columbia.

Priests of Buffalo diocese continue to face sex abuse accusations

St. Joseph Cathedral in Buffalo, N.Y. / CiEll/Shutterstock

Buffalo, N.Y., Jul 29, 2021 / 14:52 pm (CNA).

Since June more than 90 sex abuse lawsuits involving the Diocese of Buffalo have been filed under New York’s Child Victims Act.

A July 27 statement from Stacey Benson, an attorney at Jeff Anderson & Associates, called on Bishop Michael Fisher “to publicly identify all perpetrators of child sexual abuse in the Diocese of Buffalo before the August 13, Child Victims Act deadline because we know there are more names the Diocese has yet to release.” 

The statement includes the names of 24 alleged abusers. It said 13 are believed to be deceased, and that the whereabouts of the remaining 11 are unconfirmed.

The Buffalo diocese declared bankruptcy in February 2020 after more than 250 clergy abuse lawsuits were filed against it under the Child Victims Act. The 2019 law opened a “lookback” window, which closes Aug. 14, allowing child sex abuse victims to file abuse lawsuits long after their statute of limitations had ended.

A federal bankruptcy judge on March 31 ruled that 36 abuse lawsuits against Buffalo Catholic parishes and schools would remain on hold until Oct. 1, 2021, so as not to interfere with settlement payouts that were a part of the bankruptcy process.

The diocese and its former bishops are also facing a lawsuit from the state of New York.

In November 2020, the state’s attorney general, Letitia James, sued the diocese in the state supreme court; Bishop Emeritus Richard Malone, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Edward Grosz, and Buffalo’s then-apostolic administrator, Bishop Edward Scharfenberger of Albany, were all named in the lawsuit.

The state alleged that the diocese, Bishop Malone, and Bishop Grosz, all failed properly to investigate claims of clergy sex abuse, to monitor priests with credible abuse accusations, and to take action against priests credibly accused.

In addition, the state is seeking restitution from Bishop Malone and Bishop Grosz, and a ban on their serving “a secular fiduciary role in a nonprofit or charitable organization” in the state.


A judge ruled in February that Bishop Malone and Bishop Grosz must pay their own legal fees, but may still have the right to seek reimbursement from the diocese’s insurers for their legal costs, the Buffalo News reported.

Former cardinal Theodore McCarrick charged with sexual assault of a minor

Theodore McCarrick before his laicization / Copyright Mazur_catholicchurch.org.uk

Washington D.C., Jul 29, 2021 / 12:11 pm (CNA).

Former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick is facing charges of sexually assaulting a teenage boy in Massachusetts in the 1970s, marking the first time the disgraced ex-prelate has been criminally charged since accusations of longstanding sexual misconduct by him first came to light three years ago.

McCarrick, now 91, is charged with three counts of indecent assault and battery on a person over the age of 14, according to court documents filed July 28 in District Court in Dedham, MA. McCarrick has not been arrested, the court documents show, and is scheduled to appear in court Aug. 26 for his arraignment to formally answer the charges. Each of the three criminal charges carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

The charges were first reported Thursday by the Boston Globe. Neither McCarrick nor his lawyer could be reached for comment Thursday.

Long a powerful and high-profile Catholic leader in the United States with an impressive international resume, McCarrick was dismissed from the clerical state by Pope Francis in 2019, after the Vatican conducted an expedited canonical investigation and found McCarrick guilty of “solicitation in the Sacrament of Confession, and sins against the Sixth Commandment with minors and with adults, with the aggravating factor of the abuse of power.”

You can read the full text of the criminal complaint below. Out of privacy and safety concerns, CNA has redacted McCarrick's Social Security Number and phone number, which were left unredacted in the criminal complaint. Warning: These documents describe incidents of alleged sexual assaults in graphic detail.

The criminal complaint was signed Wednesday by a Wellesley, MA police detective in Massachusetts' Dedham District Court. The criminal investigation appears to have been set in motion by a letter sent to the Middlesex District Attorney by the Boston-based attorney, Mitchell Garabedian, representing McCarrick's alleged victim, who is now in his 60s, court records show.

Documents accompanying the criminal complaint refer to "various incidents of abuse by McCarrick, most of which took place outside of Massachusetts," in New Jersey, New York and California.

The criminal charges stem from a series of sexual assaults alleged to have to have taken place on June 8, 1974 during the wedding reception of the alleged victim's brother. The alleged victim was 16 at the time, court records show.

The wedding and the reception were held at Wellesley College, where the brother’s new wife had attended school, according to court documents.

McCarrick is described in court documents as a close friend of the alleged victim's family at the time who took "trips with his family" and presided over the family's baptisms, weddings and funerals. The alleged victim told authorities that his uncle had attended Fordham Prep with McCarrick and had introduced the gregarious priest to the family.

According to the court documents, the alleged victim was approached by McCarrick while the wedding reception was going on, ostensibly at the boy's father’s request, because he was skipping Mass and being “mischievous.”

“We need to go outside and have a conversation,” McCarrick said, according to court documents.

During a walk around the campus, the alleged victim stopped to urinate in the bushes, and while he was doing so McCarrick allegedly came over to the boy, stating, "Here, let me help you with that," and then placing his hand on the boy's genitals, according to court documents.

When McCarrick and the boy returned to the reception, McCarrick allegedly took him into a small coat room and told the boy that he needed to go to confession, court documents state. McCarrick allegedly instructed the boy to pull down his pants and allegedly sexually assaulted him again, telling the boy afterward to "say three our fathers and a hail Mary or it was one our father and three hail Mary's, so god can redeem you of your sins," according to notes of the alleged victim's interview with authorities included in the court documents.

The alleged victim told authorities that at the time of that assault he “knew what was going to happen” next but “didn’t want to make a scene at his brother’s wedding and disturb everything because he had more respect for his mother, father and brother than himself at the time," according to court documents.

McCarrick was ordained a priest in 1958 and became auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of New York in 1977. He became in 1981 Bishop of Metuchen, New Jersey, then Archbishop of Newark in 1986, and then in 2001 Archbishop of Washington, DC, where he retired in 2006.

He became a cardinal in 2001, but resigned from the College of Cardinals after it emerged in June 2018 that he had been credibly accused of sexually assaulting a minor. Allegations of serial sexual abuse of minors, seminarians, and priests soon followed, and McCarrick was dismissed from the clerical state in February 2019.

The criminal complaint lists McCarrick's address as a location in Dittmer, MO, which is the site of the Vianney Renewal Center. The center is a treatment facility run by the Servants of the Paraclete, which, according to its website, provides "a safe and supportive environment for the rehabilitation and reconciliation of priests and religious brothers." The Servants of the Paraclete have long operated centers for the treatment of priests and religious with problems of sexual or substance abuse.

McCarrick lived in the St. Fidelis Friary of the Capuchin Franciscans in Victoria, Kan., from shortly after he was publicly accused of abuse in 2018, until the opening days of 2020. At that time, senior Church officials told CNA he had moved to a residential community of priests who have been removed from ministry.

The former cardinal himself made the decision to leave the Kansas friary over the Christmas 2019 period, sources said, adding that his continued presence in the friary had become a strain on the Capuchin community that was hosting him.

According to Jeffrey Anderson, a prominent attorney for sex abuse victims, McCarrick resided in the rectory of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York at the time of the alleged abuse in 1974.

As CNA previously reported, in 1971 McCarrick became secretary to New York’s Cardinal Terence Cooke and lived in the rectory attached to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. He also grew close with several large Catholic families in the area in the years that followed. He called teenage children in these families “nieces” and “nephews” while accepting the nickname “Uncle Ted,” and traveled regularly with teenagers he befriended, including on overnight trips.

"Former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick's history of prolific sex crimes has been ignored by the highest-ranking Catholic officials for decades," Anderson said Thursday. "For too long Catholic institutions have been self-policing while making pledges and promises without action. McCarrick should be behind bars for his crimes."

McCarrick’s public disgrace in 2018 and dismissal from the clerical state a year later shocked Catholics in the United States and around the world, and triggered an international crisis of credibility for the Church’s hierarchy, leading to Pope Francis calling an unprecedented meeting of the world’s bishops in 2019 to address issues of sexual abuse and accountability in the Church.

The fallout of the 2018 allegations against McCarrick, and reports that Church leaders knew for years about possible instances of misconduct but failed to act, also contributed to Pope Francis’ promulgation of Vos estis lux mundi, a new provision in canon law allowing for the investigation and trial of bishops for the failure to act on allegations.

Made in His Image founder writes book on trauma, forgiveness, and healing

Maura Preszler, author of 'Choosing to See Beauty'. Credit: Hannah Quintana Photography.

Denver Newsroom, Jul 29, 2021 / 10:54 am (CNA).

Maura Preszler grew up in an abusive household, despite the family’s outward Catholic appearance. They went to Mass on Sundays, prayed the rosary together and celebrated the saints’ feast days, but her home was filled with domestic violence behind closed doors. She learned how to keep secrets, she said, and to internalize her feelings, which resulted in a debilitating eating disorder and depression in early adolescence.

Preszler shares the challenges she faced, as well as her journey to recovery in her forthcoming book Choosing to See Beauty, available for pre-order from CatholicPsych Press. The book is scheduled to ship by Aug. 15. 

In 8th grade, Preszler overheard a couple high school girls when they were gossiping about the weight of one of her field hockey teammates. This was the moment she began to associate beauty with a certain weight, she said. Preszler stopped eating and started running more, fueled by the attention she received for losing weight on her already small figure. 

Her eating disorder required medical intervention after her body weight dropped to a dangerously low number. With her pulse severely impacted, she was not able to do the activities she enjoyed, like dancing or running, until she put the weight back on.

“Even after I returned to my normal weight, I had these burning questions like ‘Who am I?’ ‘What am I made for?’ ‘Does God love me?’ ‘Why is this happening to me?’” Preszler said. “I had this yearning to be known and seen.”

After finishing high school, she attended Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey, where she was a Division I runner. Preszler began dating a man who later revealed that he had a sexual addiction and ended their relationship. She found herself starting to spiral again, with many of the same questions unanswered.

“It was devastating for me and I felt so rejected,” she said. “But it was what I needed to be cracked open.”

Pursued by a determined FOCUS missionary, Preszler joined a Varsity Catholic Bible study, and, later, learned about FOCUS’ mission trips. She applied to go to Kolkata for six weeks between her junior and senior year. 

“It was the most life-changing experience,” said Preszler, who worked at Mother Teresa’s Kalighat Home for the Dying. “It was our mission to show them God’s love.” 

While in India, Preszler prayed a Holy Hour before the Eucharist every day. Each night, the FOCUS missionaries led a prayer or reflection, one of which on God’s love was especially meaningful for Preszler. 

“God showed up in such a radical way,” said Preszler. “It all came to a head, all these walls I had built up fell down, and I thought, ‘This is what I’m actually searching for.’ I felt at home and at peace.”

The trip launched an intense journey of recovery for Preszler, who committed to a daily Holy Hour upon returning to the U.S. She also went through a full psychological evaluation and was diagnosed with chronic depression, chronic post-traumatic stress disorder, and a borderline personality disorder. 

“On one hand, I was so frustrated that I had these labels on me, but on the other hand, it was so freeing to know that this is why I can’t concentrate, this is why I have horrible nightmares,” she said. “Part of me was really reluctant to get help, but the other part of me was determined to not turn out like my parents.”

Preszler sought out a Catholic psychologist and moved to Nashville to begin two years of intense therapy, including medication and frequent counseling sessions. 

“It was the hardest, but most beautiful thing,” she said. “It dug up so much from the past, but he [the psychologist] was just the person I needed. The therapy was so healing, so hard, so good.”

The therapist suggested Preszler channel her suffering into something to help other people. She started a blog, Made in His Image, which became a nonprofit organization to help women overcome trauma, abuse, eating disorders, and violence. 

Choosing to See Beauty is the next step in her journey, Preszler said. 

“This has helped me live in gratitude for what I’ve been given,” she said. “If I hadn’t had the experience with counseling and therapy, I don’t think I would be married. I wouldn’t be able to be in a stable relationship. I wouldn’t be able to be a mom.”

One of Preszler’s goals, she said, is to break the stigma and shame of therapy and mental health.

“A lot of people think you have to pray more or you have to do more,” Preszler said. “No, you don’t have to ‘do more.’ You have to let yourself be healed. A result of the way I grew up was that my brain wasn’t functioning normally and I needed help to fix that.”

The only way to heal, Preszler said, was to work through the difficulties and acquire the tools to break the cycle of abuse, noting that abuse repeats generation after generation without intervention. 

“We have to step towards the pain,” she said. “The only way is through. If we look at the Cross, if we look at Jesus, the only way to Easter is to die on the Cross. The only way to the Resurrection is Good Friday, and we need to find that Good Friday in our life. Jesus is going to bring so much beauty out of it.”