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Planned Parenthood asked to prove fetal tissue was not sold for profit

Oakland, Calif., Jul 21, 2018 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- Attorneys for David Daleiden, a pro-life advocate and journalist who released videos on Planned Parenthood’s fetal tissue procurement, have asked the abortion provider to prove it has not sold fetal tissue for commercial gain.

Daleiden was the project head for the pro-life group Center for Medical Progress, which in 2015 released several videos of conversations with Planned Parenthood executives. The videos alleged that Planned Parenthood affiliates were illegally selling fetal body parts for profit. Those accusations have since been dropped.

The recent legal action is part of Planned Parenthood Federation of America v Center for Medical Progress, in which a court ruled last August that the videos had been obtained illegally.

At a July 19 hearing at U.S. District Court in Oakland California, Daleiden’s defense team, including attorneys from the non-profit Thomas More Society, asked the court to compel Planned Parenthood to prove that its affiliates have not profited from fetal tissue transactions.

The attorneys have specifically asked for documented invoices.

Planned Parenthood has said previously it followed federal laws that forbid entities to “acquire, receive, or otherwise transfer any human fetal tissue for valuable consideration.”

“We invite them to prove it,” said Peter Breen of the non-profit Thomas More Society, and a member of Daleiden’s legal team.

“The law is simple. If the payments received for fetal body tissue exceeded the allowable costs, then Planned Parenthood and its affiliates were first, engaged in criminal conduct, and next, making a profit off of selling aborted baby parts,” Breen said in a press release Thursday.

Planned Parenthood said questions about the invoices have “zero bearing” in the case.

Daleiden’s videos appeared to show numerous Planned Parenthood and StemExpress employees discussing the procurement and sell fetal body parts.

In 2014 and 2015, Deleiden posed as an employee of Biomax Procurement Services, a false-front biomedical research company. The National Abortion Federation filed a suit in 2015, stating the videos had been obtained illegally. In a court ruling last August, Deleiden and the Center for Medical Progress were barred from releasing more videos.

“Planned Parenthood is suing Mr. Daleiden because they claim that his investigative videos are ‘misleading’ and ‘broke the law,’” said Breen.  

“Now they are being asking to prove their ludicrous accusations. The idea that this huge profiteer thinks that they can just say something without having to produce relevant evidence is preposterous.”

 

Human trafficking in developed countries more common than previously thought

Washington D.C., Jul 21, 2018 / 04:06 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As many as 1 in 800 Americans is currently a victim of human trafficking, according to a new global report which found much higher rates of modern-day slavery in developed nations than previously believed.

Andrew Forrest, founder of the Global Slavery Index, called the report “a huge wakeup call.”

“The pressure to respond to this appalling human crime must shift from poorer countries to richer nations that have the resources and institutions to do much better,” he said in a July 19 statement.

“It’s widely accepted that most crimes go unreported and unrecorded, because the victims are marginalised and vulnerable,” Forrest said. “This report demonstrates, straight from the mouths of some of the 40.3 million victims of modern slavery, that these deplorable crimes continue happening out of sight, and at a tragic scale.”

“We cannot sit back while millions of women, girls, men and boys around the world are having their lives destroyed and their potential extinguished by criminals seeking a quick profit.”

Published each year by the Walk Free Foundation, the Global Slavery Index compiles data to estimate the number of people being trafficked globally.

The index defines modern-day slavery as any exploitative situation that an individual cannot leave “because of threats, violence, coercion, abuse of power, or deception.” This includes sexual exploitation, forced labor, and child labor.

It also includes forced marriages, the report said, noting that women make up 71 percent of people trapped in modern-day slavery today.

More data sources – including surveys and face-to-face interviews – in this year’s report resulted in significant increases in the estimates of people being trafficked in many developed nations.

The report identified North Korea as having the highest prevalence of modern slavery – with about one in 10 people classified as modern-day slaves – followed by Eritrea, Burundi, and the Central African Republic.

However, developed nations in the West, including the U.S. and UK, also have much higher rates of human trafficking than previously thought, it said.

The 2018 report estimated that some 403,000 people are trapped in modern slavery in the U.S. – seven times higher than previous figures. In the UK, that figure is estimated at 136,000, nearly 12 times higher than earlier estimates.

Last month, the U.S. State Department released its 2018 Trafficking in Persons report, which assesses countries around the world based on how their governments work to prevent and respond to trafficking.

In presenting the report, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo emphasized that the problem of trafficking is one that is found much closer to home than many people realize.

“Human trafficking is a global problem, but it’s a local one too,” he said June 28. “Human trafficking can be found in a favorite restaurant, a hotel, downtown, a farm, or in their neighbor’s home.”

The fight against human trafficking has been a priority for Pope Francis. In December 2013, he told a group of ambassadors that the issue worries him greatly, saying “it is a disgrace” that persons “are treated as objects, deceived, assaulted, often sold many times for different purposes and, in the end, killed or, in any case, physically and mentally harmed, ending up discarded and abandoned.”

In March 2014, Pope Francis signed an ecumenical agreement with Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby, by which the Church and the Anglican Communion agreed to support an anti-slavery, anti-human trafficking initiative, the Global Freedom Network.

The following year, the pope focused on the theme in his World Day of Peace message. He appealed to “all men and women of good will” and to “the highest levels of civil institutions” who witness “the scourge of contemporary slavery.” He urged them “not to become accomplices to this evil, not to turn away from the sufferings of our brothers and sisters, our fellow human beings, who are deprived of their freedom and dignity.”

At a June 2016 summit, the Pope emphasized the importance of listening to victims of trafficking.

He reiterated that message earlier this year, telling young people that they are in “a privileged place to encounter the survivors of human trafficking.”

“Go to your parishes, to an association close to home, meet them, listen to them,” he said.

The Vatican has organized numerous conferences on human trafficking, focused on both raising awareness and discussing means of fighting modern-day slavery and helping victims reintegrate into society.  


 

 

Why some Polish priests are on a pilgrimage 'relay' this summer

Czestochowa, Poland, Jul 21, 2018 / 12:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- There are 900 priests and almost 100 seminarians in the Archdiocese of Czestochowa. But the people of this Polish diocese are praying that more young men will answer a call to the priesthood. This summer, their priests have taken those prayers to the streets.

“The prayer of priestly hearts and feet for vocations” is a prayer pilgrimage chain- a kind of pilgrimage relay- through the parishes of the archdiocese, begun on July 16, and concluding August 20. Each day of the pilgrimage chain, priests from one deanery, or region, of the archdiocese will walk from parish to parish, while praying the rosary and fasting for vocations to the priests.

Each day’s journey is a walk of between 12 and 25 miles, according to the archdiocese, during which a priest carries a wooden cross inscribed “Jesus, I am looking for you,” along with relics of Pope St. John Paul II or St. Therese of the Child Jesus.

Lay Catholics have joined those priests who have already completed a day’s journey, walking along between towns and joining in the recitation of the rosary.

Bishop Andrzej Prsvbylski, an auxiliary bishop of the archdiocese, spent July 19 walking and praying for vocations.

“This is a humble pilgrimage for vocations,” the bishop said. “We want to go from Church to Church and pray for vocations.”

The image of Our Lady of Czestochowa, also called the “Black Madonna,” is greatly revered by Poles and is a pilgrimage site for Catholics from across Europe.

In 1717, Our Lady of Czestochowa was crowned Queen and Protector of Poland by Clement XI.

Archbishop Waclaw Depo of Czestochowa has offered a daily blessing to the pilgrimage, according to the archdiocese.

 

Nicaraguan priest appeals for intervention to prevent massacre of protesters

Managua, Nicaragua, Jul 20, 2018 / 06:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A Nicaraguan priest has called on the international community to intervene to prevent the massacre of protesters by the country's government and its paramilitary supporters.

Protests against president Daniel Ortega which began April 18 have resulted in more than 300 deaths, according to local human rights groups. The country's bishops have mediated on-again, off-again peace talks between the government and opposition groups.

Fr. Augusto Gutierrez, a parish priest in the Monimbó neighborhood of Masaya, fewer than 20 miles southeast of Managua, was recently interviewed by the Spanish radio network COPE. Masaya has been at the center of the country's protests.

Due to government pressure, the priest is in hiding since he has received numerous threats.

“We've gotten death threats because they say we're the ringleaders of this situation, but we have been out in public because what the government of Daniel Ortega is doing is unjust. This is a genocide because there's no other name for it,” Fr. Gutierrez said.

The priest appealed: “Don't let us die. Please, intervene, do something.”

On July 17 the indigenous neighborhood of Monimbó was attacked by paramilitaries with ties to president Daniel Ortega.

In the interview, the priest said that the paramilitaries carried out a four hour attack in Monimbó: “with heavy military weapons, they're desecrating churches and destroying lives.”

The priest explained that the Monimbó neighborhood is made up of simple people and that “for three months the government has lashed out against the population all over Nicaragua, including Monimbó, which has remained steadfast with great courage. But now they're killing us.”

With regards to statements made by the Archbishop of Managua, Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes, during another interview with the COPE radio network, Fr. Augusto said that “he supports everything that the Church and the bishops are saying. But they (Ortega's government) no longer want to listen to  reason, so there has to be international support to intervene and save the country.”

“This is not war because the people are defending themselves with what they can, roadblocks, stones, makeshift mortars. They (the government) are determined to celebrate July 19 over the blood of the people. And they can't keep on governing over the dead and ordering to kill,” he stated.

July 19 marked the 39th anniversary of the ouster of the Somoza dictatorship by the Sandinista National Liberation Front, of which Ortega is the leader.

La Vanguardia news reported July 20 that at a pro-government celebration attended by thousands of supporters that day, Ortega charged the Nicaraguan Bishops' Conference with complicity in a coup attempt. He based his accusation on the bishops' proposal that he hold early presidential elections in March 2019.

The president challenged the Organization of American States and called on his followers to “not let down your guard” and to exercise“self-defense” in the midst of the grave crisis rocking the country.

Ortega said that he is the victim of “a conspiracy armed and financed by internal and external forces,” and disqualified the bishops as mediators in the crisis because they have “taken sides.”

In a July 14 statement, the Nicaraguan Bishops' Conference denounced “the lack of political will by the government to dialogue” and seek real processes that would lead the country to a true democracy.

Finally, Fr. Gutierrez stated that Nicaragua is “in a state of emergency,” and that an “anti-terrorist” law was recently passed such that “all those who support the men at the roadblocks, or according to [the government] are collaborating against them, they're going to put on trial.”

Barricades and roadblocks are now found throughout Nicaragua, and clashes frequently turn lethal. Bishops and priests across the country have worked to separate protesters and security forces, and have been threatened and shot.

Nicaragua's crisis began after Ortega announced social security and pension reforms. The changes were soon abandoned in the face of widespread, vocal opposition, but protests only intensified after more than 40 protestors were killed by security forces initially.

Anti-government protesters have been attacked by “combined forces” made up of regular police, riot police, paramilitaries, and pro-government vigilantes.

The Nicaraguan government has suggested that protestors are killing their own supporters so as to destabilize Ortega's administration.

The Church in Nicaragua was quick to acknowledge the protestors' complaints.

The pension reforms which triggered the unrest were modest, but protests quickly turned to Ortega's authoritarian bent.

Ortega has been president of Nicaragua since 2007, and oversaw the abolition of presidential term limits in 2014. He was also leader of Nicaragua from 1979 to 1990.

Bishop Pineda’s resignation, what it means and what happens next

Washington D.C., Jul 20, 2018 / 06:00 pm (CNA).- The resignation of Bishop Juan José Pineda Fasquelle on Friday morning is the latest in a series of episcopal scandals breaking across the Church. He is accused of multiple counts of sexual and financial misconduct, and how his case is handled will be closely watched.

Pineda is alleged to have made repeated and unwanted sexual advances on seminarians. Other allegations include traveling on expensive holidays with “male companions” and even allowing a “companion” to reside in a purpose-built apartment using church resources. He is also accused of misappropriating more than $1 million in government funds intended for charitable projects.

As auxiliary bishop of the Honduran diocese of Tegucigalpa, Pineda was effectively in charge, acting in place of Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodriguez Maradiaga. Cardinal Maradiaga, himself the subject of allegations of financial impropriety, has been largely absent from his diocese over the last five years while serving as the head of the C9 Council of Cardinals, appointed by Pope Francis to look at overhauling the governance of the universal Church. More recently, the cardinal has been receiving treatment for cancer.

Many of the allegations have been publicly circulating since December of last year and have apparently been common knowledge in the diocese for longer. In a statement, Pineda claims he submitted his resignation “several months ago.” But the timing of its acceptance by Pope Francis, and the renewed scrutiny it brings to Cardinal Maradiaga, arrives in the middle of an unfolding series of sexual abuse allegations against Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.

The still-breaking McCarrick scandal itself comes as Pope Francis struggles to resolve the national crisis of sexual abuse and cover-ups by Chilean bishops, five of whom have now left office.

Many had hoped that Church was seeing an end to the litany of sexual abuse scandals which rocked it during the first ten years of the millennium. Instead, there seems to be a new generation of scandals, in which abuse of adults, especially seminarians, and financial impropriety are the main offenses.

But perhaps the most important difference between today’s scandals and those of the early 2000s is that they concern bishops and cardinals, not priests. The differences between how these cases are handled, and their impact on the Church, is considerable.

Following the clerical abuse scandals of the previous decade, new and robust procedures were instituted in many places, especially the United States. Following the adoption of the Dallas Charter in 2002, and changes to canon law under Pope Benedict XVI, the procedures for dealing with an accusation against a priest were clear.

Today, if an allegation of abuse is made against a priest, diocesan authorities are usually swift to act, often suspending the priest from his parish and publicly announcing the nature of the allegations so that other potential victims can come forward. A formal investigation is held and, if it concerns a serious crime, the results are sent to Rome where it is determined how to proceed.

Yet no such procedure exists, at the practical level, for handling accusations against a bishop.

Victims, especially seminarians, with a complaint to make against a bishop have little reason to hope action will be taken. A disturbingly common thread running through recent allegations has been the extent to which abusive behavior was widely known but never acted on by Church authorities.

A chilling culture of silence regarding allegations of sexual misconduct in the Church has been exposed. In addition to the well-attested fear and shame felt by victims, both accusers and authorities who should have helped them often keep silent for fear of scandal. The hesitation to “hurt the Church” by making allegations public has led in many places to a culture of winking tolerance of sexual misconduct by senior clerics. By allowing more victims to be hurt in the meantime, this silence leads to the eventual scandal being all the more grave.

The lessons of recent history indicate that high profile media attention is the only guarantee of a serious response to an allegation against a bishop.

In 2013, Cardinal Keith O’Brien resigned as Archbishop of St. Andrews & Edinburgh following allegations that he made repeated sexual advances on clergy and seminarians in the archdiocese. The complaint was presented by three priests and a former priest. While the allegations were formally made to the Apostolic Nuncio in London, which appears to be the closest thing there is to an existing procedure in the Church, the speed with which he left office was widely credited to the men informing the nuncio of their intention to speak to the national press.

The allegations against Bishop Juan Barros, whose appointment to a small Chilean diocese marked the beginning of the crisis in that country, were known in Rome at the time of his appointment, and, as local outcry mounted, Cardinal Séan O’Malley is said to have personally delivered a letter from victims to the pope.

Yet it was only the backlash to Pope Francis’ apparent dismissal of the victims, despite their persistence and credibility, during a papal visit to Chile which finally prompted action.

In the case of Cardinal McCarrick, his predatory behavior towards seminarians was apparently legendary. But despite what everyone seems to have known, no formal action (apart from the out-of-court settlements) was ever taken by Church authorities until an allegation was made by a former altar server in New York.

In the case of Bishop Pineda, despite the seriousness of the allegations and the considerable local scandal, it seems it was only the publicity arising from his close association with Cardinal Maradiaga which prompted Vatican action.

Pineda’s resignation provokes a series of further questions which will test the Holy See’s resolve in seeing episcopal allegations through to the end.

Other prominent accused bishops, like Cardinal McCarrick, have been past, or near to retirement age. Given his advanced age and removal from public ministry, there is little to compel Vatican authorities to take further action. Indelicately put, it is not unknown for the Vatican to simply delay action against elderly bishops, counting on death to precede a process. This will not be an option with Pineda.

In a statement released on Friday, Pineda declared “I continue as a son of the Church; I continue forward as consecrated [a bishop]; I continue as minister of the Church; I continue forward at the disposition of my superiors.” Aged only 58, an indefinite hiatus from active ministry is not likely to be seen as workable solution. Rome will have to decide how to bring the allegations against him to a resolution, possibly through a canonical trial, and how to formally punish him if necessary.

What form such sanctions could take, and following what process, remains unclear.

Despite creating a new legal mechanism for canonical trials for bishops, officials in Rome have indicated that Pope Francis has reserved all abuse complaints against bishops to himself, personally. There is no obvious pattern for dealing with these cases to follow, and what results can be expected are hard to predict. 

While there are understandable calls for abuser-clerics to be laicized, this very unlikely in the case of a bishop.

While laicization clearly expels a bishop from the hierarchy, it effectively ends any oversight church authorities have over him. Contrary to popular conception, a laicized bishop does not cease being a bishop, sacramentally speaking. Once conferred, sacraments like baptism, ordination, and episcopal consecration cannot be undone. If Pineda were laicized and he went on to seek ministry in unauthorized settings, sacraments he administered, including priestly ordinations, would still be valid. The potential damage and confusion which could be done by a rogue bishop, outside of church control, is enough to make laicization highly unlikely.

Bishop Emmanuel Milingo, for example stepped down from the leadership of a Zambian diocese in 1983, at the age of 53, after which time he illicitly but validly consecrated several married men as bishops. He was eventually laicized in 2009, but by that time he had been conducting unauthorized ministry for decades.

If the allegations against Pineda are proven, the most likely outcome is he would be removed from public ministry and assigned to live somewhere away from public view. There is some precedent for this course.

Perhaps the most likely example that could be followed is that of Kieran Conry, who was forced to resign as bishop of the English diocese of Arundel and Brighton at the age of 63 in 2013. Conry’s resignation was prompted by a string of inappropriate relationships with women, which were also common knowledge among the English hierarchy at the time of his appointment. Since then, he has been living in a church-owned house in southern England and out of public ministry. Cardinal O’Brien lived in similar conditions until his death in March of this year; while he resigned the “rights and privileges” of a cardinal, he was allowed to keep the title.

In the meantime, Pineda’s situation remains unclear.

There has been no formal announcement that he has been removed from public ministry - only his office as auxiliary of the diocese - and there has been no indication that he has left the diocese. How formally and transparently his situation is resolved will be telling.

Decisive and public action against Pineda seems called for, but it would set a standard against which other cases would be judged. It would also open the door to further questions about Cardinal Maradiaga’s complicity in, or at least awareness of Pineda’s actions.

Indeed, the great scandal, which remains unaddressed in all these cases - Pineda, McCarrick, Barros, O’Brien, Conry - is the extent to which other bishops were aware of the allegations against them and did nothing. Expressions of surprise, sorrow, and sympathy for the victims seem almost robotic at this point. Until such time as bishops who ignore misconduct among their peers are held to account for their effective complicity, there seems little hope that the cycle of scandals will be broken.

Sterilization device removed from sale with lawsuit pending

Washington D.C., Jul 20, 2018 / 05:30 pm (CNA).- The Essure sterilization device is being withdrawn from sale, the pharmaceutical company Bayer announced today. This comes after more than 10,000 women filed a lawsuit saying they were seriously harmed by the device, and about three months after the FDA restricted sales and required patients be given additional information about risks.

The FDA added a “black box” warning to Essure in November of 2016, after numerous patient complaints about complications, such as abdominal pain and uterine perforation. 

Essure will be taken off the market in the United States as of December 31, 2018. Sales in every other country ceased as of September of last year, due to poor sales figures. The device was first approved for use in 2002.

The device is described as a “non-surgical permanent birth control,” and consists of a pair of metal and polyester coils that are inserted into the fallopian tubes. These coils cause scarring in the tubes, blocking eggs from reaching the uterus. Bayer claims to have sold about 750,000 of these devices around the world. The device was preferred by some women as it purportedly had a much faster healing time than other sterilization techniques.

In a statement, Bayer said the decision to pull the device was was “based on a decline in U.S. sales of Essure in recent years and the conclusion that the Essure business is no longer sustainable,” but that they “continue to stand behind the product’s safety and efficacy.”

The Food and Drug Administration has been monitoring Essure since September of 2015, after an “increase in adverse events” submitted to its official database.

The public outcry against Essure was in part driven by social media, which was able to bring women suffering similar symptoms together in one place.

In 2011, a Facebook group called “Essure Problems” was created for women to discuss various adverse reactions they had to the device. In some instances, women were required to have emergency hysterectomies after the devices broke and migrated throughout their bodies. Other suffered extreme allergic reactions to the metals in the device, developed headaches and mood disorders, and some even experienced ectopic pregnancies.

At least one woman was killed as a result of Essure, after her reproductive organs developed necrosis, and the device was blamed for at least 300 fetal deaths and stillbirths.

The Essure Problems group, which has grown to nearly 37,000 women, was responsible for some of the widespread media coverage about the device’s dangers.

Responding to Friday’s announcement, administrators of the Essure Problems group told CNA that “seven long years of fighting to get Essure removed from the United States market has finally paid off” and that the announcement “brought us to our knees in gratitude, relief and celebration.”

“Women will not be harmed by this device any more. We have won, we have finally won!”

The FDA released a statement saying that they will continue to “remain vigilant in protecting patients” who have been implanted with Essure, and will work alongside Bayer to “best determine how to move forward to answer the critical questions we posed” regarding complications with the device.

Michigan AG seeks to dissolve priest-assistance charity over lack of governance

Lansing, Mich., Jul 20, 2018 / 04:58 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Michigan attorney general filed Thursday a cease and desist order against Opus Bono Sacerdotii, a charity which raises money to assist priests facing difficulties, citing a lack of oversight and other violations of state law.

The attorney general, Bill Schuette, filed a notice of intended action July 19.

“Before bringing a civil action, the Attorney General will consider accepting an assurance of discontinuance or other appropriate settlement agreement,” the notice stated.

A former employee of Opus Bono Sacerdotii complained to Schuette's office in February 2017, “claiming that the charity was violating its nonprofit status and was being used for the personal benefit of its officers Joe Maher and Peter Ferrara.”

On reviewing tax forms, the attorney general's office “found irregularities and lack of details that lent support to the complaint,” and differing lists of board members, which led to an investigation which lasted until at least May 2018.

The investigation found a lack of board governance, no controls over expenses, unauthorized and excessive compensation, diversion of assets, breach of fiduciary duties, and deceptive solicitations.

“OBS President Joe Maher and Treasurer Peter Ferrara operated OBS without any meaningful oversight from its board of directors,” according to the attorney general's filing.

The OBS board did not hold formal board meetings, and when they did, minutes were not kept.

Maher and Ferrara are two of the six members of the board of directors; another member, Fr. Eduard Perrone, said, “he never viewed himself as a director and had no knowledge of Opus Bono’s organizational structure; he considered himself a spiritual adviser to the group”. Paul Barron, another board member, said that “the board did not supervise Maher’s and Ferrara’s activities and that the annual meetings were informal,” the attorney general reported.

This lack of governance allowed the “possible diversion and illicit use” of OSB's charitable assets by Maher and Ferrara, the attorney general wrote. “The pattern of OBS expenses, transfers, and withdrawals suggest regular personal benefit to Maher and Ferrara from OBS assets.”

Neither of the men had a compensation agreement with OBS: “Neither Maher nor Ferrara were paid in regular amounts at regular intervals. Instead, without authorization, at their discretion, both Maher and Ferrara withdrew and transferred OBS assets to themselves or expended them for their own personal benefit.”

The attorney general also stated that “Maher’s and Ferrara’s personal use of funds and unauthorized compensation diverted OBS assets from its mission of helping priests.”

After the investigation began, OBS held a board meeting in which it had “a fiduciary duty to preserve OBS assets and to itself investigate OBS’s finances to ensure that OBS assets were being used—and had been used in the past—as intended,” according to Schuette.

“Instead of investigating and recovering personal expenses charged by Maher and Ferrara and excessive compensation taken by Maher and Ferrara, OBS’s board passed a resolution purporting to authorize Maher’s and Ferrara’s past actions, including tens of thousands of possible personal expenses for meals, auto, and travel … In so doing, the OBS board breached its fiduciary duties to OBS.”

Finally, the investigation found that solicitations for donations sent by OBS “generally told donors that Maher just received a letter from a priest that OBS had helped; the mailing then included a lengthy direct quote purportedly from the priest telling his story.”

“But OBS has admitted that the letters were not direct quotes and were a 'composition of multiple letters.'”

The attorney general instructed OBS to cease “all unlawful solicitations as described in the above violations and all unauthorized or excessive compensation or personal expenses,” and said that violation “may result in a civil action for restitution, civil fines, litigation costs, and injunctive relief.”

OBS was founded in 2002 to “facilitate care for Catholic priests who are experiencing difficulties in their personal life and priestly ministry,” the organization states. “A vital component of this urgent care is in providing monies to priests who are in dire need of the basic necessities of life, especially when they have no other available options for financial support.”

The charitable tax-exempt organization bears a “2017 Top-Rated” logo from GreatNonprofits on its website.

Sec. Pompeo speaks ahead of first ever Ministerial on religious freedom

Washington D.C., Jul 20, 2018 / 03:30 pm (CNA).- The U.S. State Department is set to host the largest and highest-level global meeting on religious liberty next week. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told EWTN he is prepared to talk with countries with whom the U.S. government has “deep disagreements.”

The Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom will be held on July 24-26 and include foreign ministers, religious leaders, and civil society representatives to discuss concrete ways to combat religious persecution in different parts of the world. A Ministerial is a high-level international gathering of senior-rank government officials and experts.

“It’s truly historic. It’s the first time the State Department has led such a discussion. We’ll have over 80 delegations from countries around the world, many, many religious organizations, NGOs,” Secretary Pompeo told Lauren Ashburn of EWTN News Nightly on Thursday.

During the three-day event, survivors of religious persecution will share their stories, senior U.S. government officials will provide an overview of religious freedom policy goals, and foreign delegations will announce new initiatives to promote freedom of religion.

The State Department announced earlier this week that U.S. Vice President Mike Pence will address attendees on the importance of international religious freedom on July 26.

Ahead of the ministerial, some have criticized Secretary Pompeo’s prior announcement that the event will be a meeting of “like-minded” countries.

“When I said like-minded, I meant those countries that are prepared to begin their walk towards the religious freedom that we have enshrined in our Constitution and that our nation so values and cherishes,” Pompeo told Ashburn.

“I’m sure there’ll be countries here that we have deep disagreements with,” said Pompeo.

Lebanon’s Foreign Minister, Gebran Bassil, is expected to attend the ministerial. On July 19, the American Mideast Coalition for Democracy wrote to the U.S. secretary of state urging him to confront Bassil over the arrest and interrogation of two Maronite Christians in Lebanon earlier this month. AMCD reports that the Maronite Christians were targeted for their contacts with Israeli Christians made at an American conference on reviving the Aramaic language and culture.

Pompeo, who met with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un earlier this year, has said repeatedly that he raises the issue of human rights when meeting with so-called bad actors, although sometimes privately.

“The State Department takes this issue of religious freedom very seriously. In conversations with countries that don’t live up to the standards of religious freedom that they ought to have, we raise that issue, sometimes privately if we think that’s the most effective way to achieve the change that we’re looking for, and sometimes publicly if we think that will accomplish our goal,” Pompeo told EWTN.

When asked about religious liberty issues within the U.S., Pompeo responded, “My faith teaches me that imperfection is all around us, and when it comes to government that’s certainly the case as well. I think the United States stands as an enormous beacon of religious freedom. I’m confident that we can always do better.”

“But we stand strong here in the United States for religious tolerance and freedom, and I think that’s an important demonstration to the world of how valuable that fundamental human right can be to a strong and successful nation,” he continued.

The State Department currently designates 10 “countries of particular concern” for religious freedom: Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Since becoming Secretary of State in April, Pompeo has led major U.S. foreign policy shifts towards several of these countries, most notably North Korea and Iran.

A state department official has said that Pompeo plans to address the persecution of religious groups in Iran during a speech on Sunday at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in southern California.

This year marks the twentieth anniversary of the enactment of the International Religious Freedom Act in 1998 -- the passage of which created the position of ambassador-at-large for religious freedom and other government offices dedicated to the issue.

Ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback will launch the week’s activities with a delegation of survivors of contemporary religious persecution in China, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Sudan, and elsewhere at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Many other religious freedom events will be held in Washington throughout the week of the ministerial. The Religious Freedom Institute will host U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See Callista Gingrich who will speak on a Vatican perspective on religious freedom on July 24, and the Pew Research center will present their data on global religious restrictions and nationalism in Europe.

“It should be a great gathering where we will make the point that religious freedom is a human right and that every individual ought to have their right to practice their particular religion, or if they have no faith, to not be punished for that either,” said Pompeo.
 

Canons of St John Cantius founder relocating to St Louis

Chicago, Ill., Jul 20, 2018 / 03:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Fr. C. Frank Phillips, former pastor of St. John Cantius Parish in Chicago, has been asked by his religious superior to move to St. Louis, the priest informed his supporters Wednesday.

Phillips, 68, has been accused of misconduct involving adult men. He was removed as pastor of St. John Cantius March 16, and prohibited from public ministry in the Archdiocese of Chicago by Cardinal Blase Cupich.

In 1998, Phillips founded the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius, with the approval of Cardinal Francis George of Chicago and of the Resurrectionists.

“From the founding of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius, I have instructed the men how to live the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. One of those vows, obedience, may especially challenge Religious because it is difficult to submit your will to a superior,” Fr. Phillips wrote July 18 to Protect Our Priests, a group formed to support and assist him.

“As you know, the Canons are requested not to have contact with me, which is difficult for them and for me as their Founder. Also, I have been asked by my superior to relocate to St. Louis. I am requested to do this not under formal obedience but willingly in the virtue of obedience. Is this difficult? Yes, it is,” he wrote.

The saints “were always obedient to their superiors, and their examples help to sustain me now,” Fr. Phillips wrote. “We need only look to St. Padre Pio to see the extent of his lived obedience. If I could not or would not listen to my superior, how could I then expect the Canons, as their Founder, to be obedient to their superior?”

He said he is uncertain of what the future holds for him, and that “time will tell” what it holds for the Canons.

“I feel confident that they will be blessed with vocations for their dedication to the restoration of the sacred in obedience,” he added.

“I thank everyone who has supported the Protect Our Priests initiative with prayers, sacrifices, Masses, and contributions. May St. John Cantius, our heavenly patron, extend his blessing to all of you.”

The Archdiocese of Chicago forwarded unspecified allegations against Fr. Phillips to the Resurrectionists in March.

The allegations were investigated by an independent review board organized by the Resurrectionists, and by provincial leaders. The results of that investigation were forwarded to the Archdiocese of Chicago by Fr. Gene Szarek, superior of the USA province of the Resurrectionists, along with his own proposal for a resolution.

Szarek sent on May 21 a “votum”- an official opinion- to the Archdiocese of Chicago, in response to the findings of the review board.

Citing “a certain amount of ambiguity between the allegations of the accusers and the testimony of witnesses, including Fr. Phillips himself,” Szarek said he would instruct Fr. Phillips to undergo a psychological evaluation, “and possible sensitivity training in the very near future.”

Fr. Szarek said further that Fr. Phillips should not return to St. John Cantius Parish as its pastor, considering both his age “and out of respect for the Cardinal's own preference.”

The superior also wrote that it “seems fair and just to restore the canonical faculties of Fr. Phillips” because “no civil or ecclesiastical crime had been established.”

He noted that Fr. Phillips' accusers “thought that his removal from the parish was all that they desired.”

Fr. Szarek also wrote that since Fr. Phillips is founder of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius, “the ideal would be his restoration as their superior general.”

The Canons Regular are incardinated in the Chicago archdiocese, and their assignments are made by the Archbishop of Chicago, Fr. Szarek noted, so “there is no fear that Fr. Phillips could possibly interfere in some way” with the archbishop's decisions.

“The historical reality of his being the Founder and his ongoing provision of spiritual leadership would be salutary for all,” Fr. Szarek stated, adding that Fr. Phillips “would obviously not reside” at St. John Cantius Parish.

“If the above recommendation is unfeasible, then at least he and the Canons should not be prevented from communication.” A prohibition on communication between Phillips and the Canons Regular had not previously been reported.

Despite Fr. Szarek's proposal, Cardinal Cupich declined to allow Fr. Phillips to minister publicly. Ordinarily, a priest prohibited from public ministry is able to celebrate Mass only in private, and is not able to hear confessions or celebrate other sacraments, unless a person is in immediate danger of death.

“We accept the Archdiocese's decision that Fr. Phillips' faculties for public ministry will remain withdrawn and that he not return as pastor of St John Cantius and as Superior of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius,” Fr. Szarek wrote in a June 24 letter to the parishioners of St. John Cantius parish.

Paula Waters, a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Chicago, told the Chicago Tribune June 25 that though Fr. Phillips had not been found to have violated civil or canon law, there was other information that justified barring him from exercising public ministry.

“There are standards for behavior,” Waters told the Tribune.

Stating that the review board recommended that Fr. Phillips not return to St. John Cantius as pastor “and on other factors, the cardinal decided that his faculties to minister would remain withdrawn,” she said.

When asked about the removal of Fr. Phillips' faculties, a Chicago archdiocese spokeswoman told CNA June 26 only that “it was recommended that Fr. Phillips not return to ministry at St. John Cantius” in the Resurrectionists' investigation report.

In his letter informing the St. John Cantius community of Cardinal Cupich's decision, Fr. Szarek wrote: “While we know this news will disappoint some of Fr. Phillips' supporters, we hope everyone will come to understand that this process was conducted with prayerful deliberation and sincere compassion.”

In a June 29 statement Fr. Szarek said that reports “the Independent Review Board exonerated Fr. Phillips are without foundation.”

Fr. Szarek added that he has offered his support to those accusing Fr. Phillips of misconduct and has "assure[d] them of appropriate pastoral care." He said this "is surely a difficult time for those who have suffered in any way, and I entrust their care to your prayers."

Africa’s Catholic leadership group turns 50—and calls for Christian renewal

Kampala, Uganda, Jul 20, 2018 / 01:20 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The potential for Christian engagement and renewal will be a focus for the 50th anniversary commemoration of the leadership organization for Catholic bishops’ conferences in Africa.
 
The Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar’s Golden Jubilee celebration is intended “to celebrate in thanksgiving God’s wondrous deeds, His gift of baptism and of the Church; to reflect on the progress made so far, with the aim of deepening our faith, rooted in Christ, and to resolutely engage ourselves in the mission of proclaiming the gospel in words and actions.”
 
The five-day event, hosted by the Ugandan episcopal conference, will take place July 26-30 in the area of Uganda’s capital Kampala at Speke Resort Hotel and Conference Centre, Munyonyo, reported the Catholic News Agency for Africa [unrelated to CNA]. SECAM was launched in Uganda 50 years ago.
 
The golden jubilee’s working document invites every Christian in Africa and Madagascar to let the call to the Christian message “resonate in him or her and respond to it with zeal.”
 
When SECAM was established in 1969, the symposium said, “Pope Paul VI came and confirmed the Church in Africa in her faith, and declared: you Africans, you are now your own missionaries; you can and ought to have an African Christianity.”
 
The symposium grew out of the desires of the African bishops at the Second Vatican Council to speak with one voice. SECAM’s stated mission, according to its website, is to “to promote its role as a sign and instrument of salvation and to build the Church as a Family of God in Africa,” while also preserving and fostering communion and collaboration among its member episcopal conferences.
 
 The SECAM secretariat is headquartered in Accra, Ghana.
 
Planned activities for the jubilee launch in Uganda include prayer sessions, a series of workshops on the working document, a meeting of SECAM officials and general secretaries, an extraordinary meeting of the SECAM Standing Committee, and a meeting of SECAM staff and others.
 
The jubilee event will open with Sunday Mass July 29 at St. Mary’s Cathedral, Rubanga. Its theme is “Church-Family of God in Africa, Celebrate your Jubilee, Proclaim Jesus Christ your Savior.”
 
There will be Sunday evening prayers for attendees at the Uganda Martyrs’ Shrine at Namugongo.
 
Among the goals of the jubilee’s working document are efforts to give thanks for the Church as the family of God; for Christians’ identity as baptized people and their mission to witness to the gospel; the gift of the Eucharist; and the pastoral and social work of the Church for those in need.
 
The jubilee plans aim to identify various initiatives and activities of the Church in Africa at all levels from the personal to the continental and to consider their success, failures, joys and difficulties. Specifically, the working document asks Christians to consider how they acknowledge the progress of the Church, the family, and God. It asks what measures have been taken to promote justice, reconciliation, peace and development and to help internalize and testify the truth that Christians are the family of God. It asks how Christians offer mutual support and how they use their spiritual and material resources.
 
Also recommended are reflections on how to advance repentance and conversion, including awareness of “our shortcomings and negligence in acknowledging and developing the immense human and natural resources of Africa in favor of our populations.”
 
The document advocates renewed commitment to bearing witness in Christ. This includes “recognizing and promoting the roots and cultural values of Africa to meet the major challenges for her transformation.”
 
Among its recommendations for renewal are strengthening the sense of personal responsibility among laity, religious and clergy; organizing formation in Christ and the gospel; identifying socio-cultural and economic barriers to the Christian mission; and rethinking and promoting the involvement of Christians in public life.
 
The document recognizes the importance of institutions of Christian formation like universities, seminaries, novitiates and associations.
 
Pastoral care of the needy and for children and youth are also emphasized.