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Government cancels controversial FDA contract for aborted remains

Washington D.C., Sep 25, 2018 / 02:45 pm (CNA).- The Department of Health and Human Services has announced the termination of a contract between the Food and Drug Administration and Advanced Bioscience Resources, Inc. The news comes after members of Congress and pro-life advocates expressed concern about the research goals of the experiment.

The announcement was made Sept. 24 in a statement posted on the HHS departmental website.

“After a recent review of a contract between Advanced Bioscience Resources, Inc. and the Food and Drug Administration to provide human fetal tissue to develop testing protocols, HHS was not sufficiently assured that the contract included the appropriate protections applicable to fetal tissue research or met all other procurement requirements,” the statement read.

“As a result, that contract has been terminated, and HHS is now conducting an audit of all acquisitions involving human fetal tissue to ensure conformity with procurement and human fetal tissue research laws and regulations.”

The department also announced a “comprehensive review” of any research involving fetal tissue, and that it will be seeking “adequate alternatives” to avoid the use of human fetal tissue altogether.

HHS will, the statement said, “ensure that efforts to develop such alternatives are funded and accelerated.”

In July, the Food and Drug Administration signed a $15,900 contract with Advanced Bioscience Resources, Inc. (ABR) to procure fetal tissues obtained from elective abortions. The tissue was to be used in the creation of “humanized mice.” The mice would be injected with the tissues, causing them to develop an immune system similar to that of a human for the purposes of clinical testing. This is called a “chimeric animal.”

After news of the deal was reported, several members of Congress spoke out in a letter requesting that the FDA terminate the contract. The letter raised concerns that ABR may have violated federal law concerning the sale of fetal remains.

In 2016, the House Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives and the Senate Judiciary Committee both investigated ABR as part of a larger inquiery into the fetal tissue industry.

ABR admitted to “upselling” certain fetal parts for a larger fee.

“In light of the serious unresolved questions uncovered by the investigative work of both the House and Senate panels, we are alarmed that the FDA has continued to award contracts to ABR for the procurement of human fetal tissue,” the legislators wrote.

The letter also called for an end to the use of fetal remains in scientific research.

"The practice of conducting research using the body parts of children whose lives have been violently ended by abortion is abhorrent.”

March for Life President Jeanne Mancini said in a statement Tuesday that, while she is thankful that HHS had ended the “horrific” contract with ABR, the move was “just a first step” and that the federal government continued to use fetal remains in experiments.

Speaking to CNA, Mancini said she was “grateful to Secretary Azar and HHS for terminating this unconscionable government contract," but stressed that there was more to be done.

"The majority of the controversy and taxpayer money is focused on National Institutes of Health, where the director, Frances Collins, has voiced support for this inhumane experimentation," she told CNA.

"Despite videos from Center for Medical Progress unmasking the illicit baby parts trade, this grisly industry continues to be propped up by massive amounts of federal money. All of it should be redirected toward successful and life-affirming alternatives.”

Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser was grateful that this particular contract had been canceled, but said it was a “completely inadequate” response to the larger scandal of aborted remains being purchased with public money.

"Secretary Azar must put an immediate moratorium on funding for research using aborted baby organs and tissue purchased from the abortion industry,” said Dannenfelser, who called for tax dollars to be diverted to “ethical alternatives” that have produced successful results in patients.

Pro-life leaders welcome UK decision to reject abortion clinic buffer zones

London, England, Sep 25, 2018 / 01:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Catholic leaders and pro-life advocates in England and Wales are praising the government’s decision not to impose buffer zones around abortion clinics throughout the territory, allowing peaceful protests to continue.

British Home Secretary Sajid Javid rejected proposals for buffer zones around abortion clinics throughout England and Wales as disproportionate in a Sept. 13 decision, after finding that most abortion protests are peaceful and passive. He added that there were “relatively few” reports of “aggressive activities”, and noted that in 2017, only 36 of the 363 hospitals and clinics in England and Wales that offer abortions have experienced pro-life demonstrations near their facilities.

Auxiliary Bishop John Sherrington of Westminster praised the Home Office’s “proportionate” decision in a Sept. 17 statement.

“It should not be necessary to limit the freedom of individuals or groups to express opinions except when they could cause grave harm to others or a threat to public order,” Bishop Sherrington said.

“The freedom to assemble and express concern for both the good of the mother and the unborn person is an aspect of the furthering of the common good which involves the care for the unborn, whom we believe must be protected from harm.”

Bishop Sherrington also acknowledged Javid’s point that while “peaceful, dignified” protest is to be commended and makes up the great majority of what takes place, the forceful harassment of women outside clinics must end.

“It is an unacceptable situation if any people harass or intimidate women visiting clinics, even if such situations are rare,” the bishop said. “It is clearly not the case that all action is of this nature, and the distinctions between persons and groups should be examined further.”

Dr. John Edwards of Nottingham 40 Days for Life, a pro-life group in the East Midlands, echoed Bishop Sherrington’s sentiments. Edwards was issued a court injunction by the Nottingham City Council ahead of a planned protest in March, which was subsequently thrown out by a judge.

"As Sajid Javed pointed out, the police already have powers to prevent any abusive behaviour,” Edwards told the Nottingham Post Sept. 23. “Nottingham police have consistently confirmed that our prayer vigil has always been completely peaceful and respectful.”

The decision to reject nationwide buffer zones comes after the High Court of England and Wales upheld a buffer zone imposed by Ealing Council, in west London, around a Marie Stopes abortion clinic. The zone prevents any pro-life gathering or speech, including prayer, within about 330 feet of the clinic. The Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) governing the zone is temporary and must be renewed in three year’s time, with a review to be held after six months.

Two pro-life London women are working to have the decision appealed, including Alina Dulgheriu, who chose to forgo an abortion at the Ealing clinic in question after being offered pro-life support.

Catholics in DR Congo continue to press for credible elections

Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sep 25, 2018 / 12:44 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- As the Democratic Republic of the Congo prepares to hold a general election in December, after a two-year delay, Catholics in the capital continue to be activists to encourage a peaceful transition of power.

Last month president Joseph Kabila announced he would step down after 17 years in power. The announcement follows years of protests, supported by Catholics bishops, against the delaying of elections.

Kabila has been ruling in defiance of term limits, remaining president two years after he was required to leave office in 2016.

General elections have been scheduled for Dec. 23.

A Mass was held in Kinshasa's Our Lady of the Congo Cathedral Sept. 19 to commemorate those who died in protests against Kabila in 2016.

The Catholic Lay Committee, a group of lay Catholic activists, organized three protests calling for Kabila to step down after an earlier cancellation of general elections.

Isidor Ndaywel, a member of the group, told La Croix earlier this month that “Kabila’s decision not to stand for a third term was, without doubt, influenced by the church.”

Hesitations about the legitimacy of the scheduled elections remain. The Congolese bishops wrote to the UN Security Council last month with concerns, including the electoral commission's decision not to allow some opposition parties' candidates to stand; irregularities of electoral rolls; and the reliability of electronic voting machines.

In early August, security forces fired on opposition protesters with live ammunition and teargas during candidate registration.

The bishops have also appealed to the South African Development Community to help ensure free elections.

Jonas Tshiombela, a spokesman for the Catholic Lay Committee, said that “we want the pre-electoral environment to be safe enough before going to the December vote,” Voice of America reported Sept. 23.

“For now, it is not the case. The contest is filled with uncertainties and irregularities and under such conditions a credible and fair election can’t be held. This the main point of our fight

The Congolese government has accused both the bishops and western governments for interfering in domestic politics.

Both the bishops and lay people alike have been very outspoken critics of Congolese political corruption. The Catholic leadership previously negotiated agreements between Kabila and the opposition, and then actively supported the protests against Kabila when he broke the agreement’s terms.

The Catholic Church is well-respected in the DRC and Catholics make up about 40 percent of the country’s population. Catholic clergy in the Congo are known for courageously standing up to corrupt leaders, such as Mobutu Sese Seko, the DRC’s military dictator from 1965 to 1997.

An estimated five million people were killed between 1997 and 2003 in ethnic violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo under Joseph Kabila’s father, Laurent Kabila, who violently overthrew Mobutu. Joseph Kabila took power in 2001 at age of 29 after the assassination of his father.

Chicago priest removed 'temporarily' following rainbow flag burning

Chicago, Ill., Sep 25, 2018 / 07:15 am (CNA).- The Archdiocese of Chicago has confirmed the temporary removal of the parish priest at the center of a controversy over the burning of a rainbow banner. According to the archdiocese, Fr. Paul Kalchik has “left willingly” from his Chicago parish “to receive pastoral care.”

In a letter released Sept. 21, Cardinal Blase Cupich told parishioners that the decision was “not taken lightly” but that he had “become increasingly concerned about a number of issues at Resurrection Parish” over a period of several weeks.

In the same letter, Cupich appointed a temporary administrator for the parish, while an archdiocesan spokesperson told CNA that Kalchik officially remains the pastor. 

Kalchik received considerable media attention following an announcement that he would publicly burn a rainbow banner belonging to the parish.

In a Sept. 2 notice in the parish newsletter, Kalchik said that he would burn the banner, which he believed to symbolize a homosexual agenda contrary to Church teaching, in front of the church building. The event was scheduled to be held Sept. 29, the Feast of the Archangels.

The banner had previously been displayed in the parish church, beginning in 1991, but had been in storage for a number of years. According to a Resurrection Parish newsletter distributed Sept. 23, it was found “just when the news of the gay predation of Cardinal McCarrick broke.”

The newsletter said that its previous display had been “sacrilegious.” 

When news of the announcement spread the following week, the archdiocese contacted Kalchik and instructed him to cancel the event.

A spokesperson for the archdiocese told CNA that the archdiocesan vicar for clergy telephoned Kalchik, instructing him not to proceed, and the two had “mutually agreed that the event would not take place.”

While Kalchik told the Chicago Sun-Times Sept. 18 that the archdiocese threatened him with “canonical penalties,” the archdiocese told CNA that there was no discussion of potential consequences for burning the flag because Kalchik voluntarily agreed to comply with the instruction.

Despite this apparent agreement, the banner was burned Sept. 14 in the fire pit ordinarily used by the parish during the Easter Vigil liturgy. While the event was reportedly attended by Kalchik and only a handful of parishioners, images of the flag burning were circulated on the internet and generated strong reactions.

Some groups labeled Kalchik as homophobic and said the burning was a deliberately provocative act. A group called the Northwest Side Coalition Against Racism and Hate organized a demonstration Sept. 19 condemning the priest’s action.

Others have treated the priest’s apparent act of defiance as a stand against what they see as pro-homosexual agenda in some parts of the Church.

Kalchik told NBC News last week that he had disposed of the banner “in a quiet way” but insisted that the banner belonged to the parish, and that the parish had the “full right to destroy it.” 

Kalchik said that it had been done “privately because the archdiocese was breathing on our back.”

Fr. Thomas Petri, OP, academic dean of the Dominican-run Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., told CNA that it is common for church decorations, vestments, and altar cloths to be burned when they became “worn, old, or simply artifacts from a bygone era in terms of style and taste,” but he stressed that they must be disposed of reverently.

“The usual method is to burn these items, or to bury them in a place where they will not be disturbed,” Petri said. 

“Items dedicated for the worship of God cannot be used for any other use. This is why they are burned or buried; they are given to God completely and so rendered unusable to us. I presume the same is true for banners and hangings used in the sanctuary of a Church but I don’t know that this has ever been stated.”

In this case, it is not clear if the Archdiocese of Chicago objected to the burning itself, or to the public nature of the action and the apparent symbolism it was intended to convey.

In an interview after the flag was burned, Fr. Kalchik appeared to criticize openly his archbishop, Cardinal Cupich, whom he accused of downplaying the Church’s teaching on homosexuality and of rejecting a link between homosexuality and sexual abuse by clergy.

“I can’t sit well with people like Cardinal Cupich, who minimizes all of this,” he told the Chicago Sun-Times. “Excuse me, but almost all of the [abuse] cases are, with respect to priests, bishops and whatnot, taking and using other young men sexually. It’s definitely a gay thing.”

Some Church commentators have suggested that Kalchik was right to go against Cupich’s instruction. But Petri said priestly obedience to his bishop is not a light matter. 

“We priests promise obedience to the bishop when we are ordained,” he said.

“Clearly, no bishop could command a priest to do something against the divine law, but, short of that, every priest, in my view, needs to give his bishop the benefit of the doubt and be obedient upon first request.”

Petri also pointed out that in serious cases, if the matter in grave and the priest disagrees, he should reason with his bishop about the request and, if necessary, appeal to the Holy See.

He told CNA that while the banner itself may have symbolized a wider agenda to some, it was important to consider both the potential effects of making the burning a public event, and the discernment of the bishop - in this case Cardinal Cupich.

“I think it’s sad that the rainbow has become the symbol of a movement and a lifestyle that very much flaunts a disordered sexuality and is opposed to the virtue of chastity,” Petri said.

“Yet, I know there are many homosexual men and women living a secular gay lifestyle, who wave the rainbow flag and identify with it, but who are, at the same time, already questioning the so-called gay scene, the pitfalls of the gay culture, and who are open, by the grace of God, to the healing and virtue that the Church can offer them.”

“I do not see how a priest who openly burns the symbol of a secular gay culture can hope to minister to or reach out to those men and women,” Petri told CNA. Instead, he said, the emphasis should remain on pastoral concern, not alienation. 

“Regardless of intent, when publicly announced it cannot but be viewed as a provocative and acrimonious gesture.”

“I suspect this is why the Archbishop of Chicago requested Fr. Kalchik not burn the banner publicly himself or be present when parishioners did so. It creates a spectacle that makes the priest an enemy of people he may one day need to shepherd.”

Despite the ongoing controversy, the Archdiocese of Chicago told CNA that Kalchik’s removal from the parish was not a direct consequence of his decision to go ahead with burning the banner, or his subsequent comments to the media.

Instead, the archdiocese reiterated that the cardinal had been concerned about “several issues in the parish” and that Kalchik’s break from ministry had “been in the works” prior to the emergence of the flag issue.

The archdiocese declined to comment on what issues specifically had drawn the cardinal’s attention to the parish, or what prompted him to decide that the pastor be asked to step aside.  

Fr. Kalchik has spoken publicly about his personal experience as a victim of sexual abuse, first as a child at the hands of a neighbor, and also by a priest when he was a young man and seminarian.

At least some parishioners at Resurrection suggested that his recent actions and statements should be viewed in that context, even if they did not agree with them personally. The most recent parish newsletter asked that those objecting to Kalchik’s actions  to “at least ask yourself what the banner represented to him as a victim [of sexual abuse].”

Fr. Petri added that Kalchik’s status as a victim merited concern and prayer, as does all abuse survivors.

“I understand that Fr. Kalchik was abused. I’ll pray for him as my brother priest who is also a victim. I do not stand in judgment and cannot presume to comment on his intentions or motivations.”

The circumstances of Kalchik’s absence from the parish remain unclear and have been the subject of considerable speculation, along with his current whereabouts.

Newsweek cited reports that there had been a heated exchange between Kalchik and two archdiocesan representatives, who allegedly threatened to have him sent to the St. Luke’s Institute in Silver Spring, Maryland, a mental health care facility. 

The archdiocese declined to comment on the report that Kalchik was instructed to present himself at the St. Luke’s Institute for psychiatric evaluation.

The archdiocese also declined to comment on a Chicago Sun-Times report that Cupich has blocked a recent request from Kalchik to move to a diocese in Michigan in order to be closer to his family.

Several questions about the temporary removal of Fr. Kalchik from the parish also remain unanswered.

Despite assurances from the Archdiocese of Chicago that Kalchik’s break from ministry was by mutual agreement, accounts have surfaced that chancery representatives threatened to call the police if he refused to leave the parish. When asked about this report specifically, a spokesperson for the Archdiocese would only repeat that “Fr. Kalchik left willingly to receive pastoral support.”

Although the archdiocese  insists that it was unrelated to the controversy surrounding the banner, no indication has been given to local parishioners - many of whom say they support Kalchik - as to exactly why their pastor was removed.

An archdiocesan spokesman did tell CNA that Kalchik was now “working with the vicar for clergy to get the support he needs.”

Pope: The Church hears the outrage of young people at scandal

Tallinn, Estonia, Sep 25, 2018 / 06:51 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis said in Estonia Tuesday he is aware of the negative feelings many young people have toward the Catholic Church and their disappointment in a lack of clear denunciation of sexual scandals.

Young people are outraged “by sexual and economic scandals that do not meet with clear condemnation,” he said Sept. 25, and by the Church’s “unpreparedness to really appreciate the lives and sensibilities of the young,” assigning them passive roles.

Addressing youth at an ecumenical gathering in Kaarli Lutheran Church in Tallinn, he said the Church knows “that many young people do not turn to us for anything because they don’t feel we have anything meaningful to say to them.”

He pointed to the Instrumentum Laboris of the upcoming Synod and what it says young people want from the Church. He said the Church has heard these complaints and wants to be a “transparent, welcoming, honest” community.

Francis met youth on the final day of a four-day trip to the three Baltic states. In Estonia, more than 50 percent of the population of 1.3 million identify as non-religious. Eastern Orthodox make up about 16 percent and the Lutheran church 10 percent. According to recent estimates, there are only around 5,000 Catholics in Estonia.

Every religion at times finds it easier to talk than to listen and be challenged by what young people are experiencing, he said. “Today, I am here to tell you that we want to mourn with you when you mourn, to accompany and support you, to share in your joys, and to help you to be followers of the Lord.”

He urged young people to be fearless and to not believe the messages that say love is dead. “Jesus is still the reason for our being here,” he stated. “We know no greater peace of mind can be found than by letting Jesus carry our burdens.”

“We are united by our faith in Jesus, and he is waiting for us to bring him to all those young people whose lives are no longer meaningful. Let us accept together that newness that God brings to our life, that newness that impels us to set out anew to all those places where humanity is most wounded,” he encouraged.

Before meeting with youth, Francis addressed Estonia’s president, civil authorities, and diplomatic corps, highlighting the fact that in the Middle Ages, the area was called the “Terra Mariana,” or “Land of Mary.”

This name, he said, is “not simply a part of your history, but also part of your culture,” and like Mary, the land recalls ideas of memory and fruitfulness.

The pope also reflected on the use of technology and warned against placing too much “trust” in technological progress, which can erode the capacity for “interpersonal, intergenerational and intercultural bonds.”

Consequently, building these bonds is one of the most important obligations; and for those who have power in the political, social, educational, and religious spheres, there is a responsibility to combat alienation and foster community and a sense of belonging, he said.

“In this effort, dear friends, I wish to assure you that you can count always on the support and help of Catholic Church, a small community in your midst, yet one most desirous of contributing to the fruitfulness of this land.”

Next step toward artificial reproduction violates human fundamentals, ethicist warns

Washington D.C., Sep 25, 2018 / 03:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Artificial human reproduction appears to be on the horizon with Japanese scientists’ claim to have created immature human eggs from stem cells, but the technique could result in power that would cross the bounds of ethics and serve as a “profound violation” of marriage and marital love, a bioethicist has warned.

John Brehany, a Catholic bioethicist and director of institutional relations at the National Catholic Bioethics Center, told CNA that stem cell research has its positives.

“Such knowledge and power could be used for good ends, achieved with ethical means. For example, scientists could build on this sophisticated expertise in stem cell science to create human organs for transplantation or to cure major diseases or injuries,” he said.

“However, given the significance of the human desire for procreation, (and) the lust for power, it appears likely that scientists will try to use this technology to engage in truly artificial human reproduction.”

The reported development is “evidence of a major advance in biotechnology prowess” and show the potential for scientists “to exert control over the most fundamental and complex building blocks of biology and life,” he said.

The team of Japanese scientists used a common method to transform adult human blood cells into induced pluripotent stem cells, which have the capacity to become other human cells, National Public Radio reports. They then placed these cells into miniature ovaries created in the lab from mouse embryonic cells. As reported in the journal Science, this triggered the human stem cells’ transformation into immature human egg cells.

The scientists said they next plan to make mature human eggs and produce human sperm using this method.

“It’s the beginning of a paradigm change,” Kyle Orwig, a professor in the department of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, told NPR.

Brehany thought it correct that the technique might change how humans reproduce.

“This would be a major change even if practiced only by a small group of individuals. In principle, this would be a profound violation of marriage and marital love,” he said.

The technique might be a choice for those who are infertile, NPR reported. It might allow babies to be conceived from the cells of children, grandmothers, the deceased, or cells stolen from unwitting celebrities. It could make DNA scanning of human embryos routine.

According to Brehany, it is important to note that the proposed techniques’ use for infertile couples or individuals is not a cure for infertility, just as surrogacy is not. “Rather, it would allow people to procreate through other means,” he added.

He suggested that news reports on the new development do not sufficiently acknowledge how many human embryos would be “killed by being discarded or would be subject to additional assaults on their dignity by being made the subject of lab testing.”

Dartmouth bioethicist Ronald Green told NPR there are “some very weird possibilities emerging,” such as babies conceived using cells from the blood, hair, or skin cells of children, grandmothers or the deceased. Unwitting celebrities could have their cells stolen from a used soda can or hair clippings at the salon, from which egg or sperm cells could in theory be cultivated and used to conceive babies.

“A woman might want to have George Clooney’s baby,” Green said. “And his hairdresser could start selling his hair follicles online. So we suddenly could see many, many progeny of George Clooney without his consent.”

Hank Greeley, a Stanford bioethicist, said that making human eggs and sperm from stem cells “opens up an enormous number of possibilities for changing how humans reproduce.”

Brehany said Catholic teaching holds that the “greatest goods” of human persons, like marriage, marital love, and procreation, must be “treated with the greatest respect.”

“How we respect such goods is a matter of significant principle,” he said. “Once we violate or misuse them, then it is harder to treat them as they deserve, and the negative impacts on the innocent human beings are immense.”

Brehany cited the 1987 Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith document Donum vitae, which criticizes the separation of the desire to procreate from the conjugal act between married spouses. He suggested that such a violation results in decreased respect for “the dignity of the human persons brought into being this way” and for their suffering “as they struggle to know their own identity and dignity.”

The 2008 CDF document Dignitas personae also addresses bioethical questions related to human life and procreation. It said: “The origin of human life has its authentic context in marriage and in the family, where it is generated through an act which expresses the reciprocal love between a man and a woman… human procreation is a personal act of a husband and wife, which is not capable of substitution.”

While recognizing the legitimacy of the desire for a child, and voicing understanding for the suffering of infertile couples, the document adds “such a desire, however, should not override the dignity of every human life to the point of absolute supremacy.”

Cardinal calls for respect for bodies found stored in trailers

Guadalajara, Mexico, Sep 25, 2018 / 12:00 am (CNA).- The president of the Mexican bishops’ conference has demanded that the dignity of human bodies be respected, after two trailers were found in Mexico’s Jalisco state, containing 157 corpses.

In a statement published Sept. 21, Cardinal Francisco Robles Ortega responded to the discovery, which he said “has caused outrage in society.”

On Sept. 18, locals in the municipality of Tlajomulco alerted authorities to the presence of a trailer emitting foul odors. The trailer contained corpses reported to be murder victims connected to organized crime, which apparently could not be kept in a morgue due to lack of space.

The former director of the Jalisco Forensic Sciences Institute, Luis Octavio Cotero Bernal, is presumably responsible for the scandal. He was dismissed from his position shortly after the bodies were discovered. There has not yet been an official statement on the discovery of the bodies.

The bodies from the trailer and a second one are now in a warehouse belonging to the Jalisco state prosecutor's office.

In his statement, Cardinall Robles said that believing in the “resurrection of the dead is to affirm something essential to the Christian faith.”

“Human existence does not come to an end  with the years lived in this world, since Jesus Christ by rising has made us sharers in eternity,” he added.

For this reason, the cardinal emphasized, “the dignity of every individual is not lost even after death, human remains require the respect due to those who in life were persons, made in the 'image and likeness of God,' who await, through the merits of Jesus Christ, to be redeemed and saved for eternal life.”

“Death is not the end, the annihilation,  the elimination, much less the extinction of a human person,” the archbishop said.

Burying the dead, he continued, “is a way of expressing faith in the Resurrection, since by so doing it is understood that the person reposes with the firm hope of one day being awakened by the eternal light of Heaven.”

“Besides belonging to a very ancient tradition of burying the dead, we know that it has been considered a corporal work of mercy. Societies of all times and cultures have set aside suitable places for the interment of their deceased, places that express compassion, respect and veneration toward those who shared our same pilgrim journey.”

Robles lamented undignified storage of human corpses, and explained that it “makes evident a process of the lamentable and gradual dehumanization of our society which has been permeating us and makes us deduce that government institutions have been overrun.”

“With the lack of care and attention to the bodies that have not been identified, the discouragement of people hoping to find their loved ones grows,” he wrote.

Robles, who is Archbishop of Guadalajara wrote that “for social, humanitarian, religious and public health reasons, it is urgent to follow the proper procedures to obtain and carefully archive genetic information which could lead in the future to the identification of the remains of those who now remain in anonymity.”

“We call then for the respect due honor due to human beings in whatever their circumstances, from the most vulnerable and defenseless to the most obscure and ignored. Any human breath is a sign of the goodness of the Creator,” he concluded.

Mexican officials are now seeking a long-term solution to the body storage problem presented by the victims of organized crime.

The BBC reported that in 2017 Mexico experienced its most violent year with more that 25,000 murders, according to official figures.

Since 1990 one cardinal, 47 priests, one deacon, four men religious, nine laypersons and one Catholic journalist have been killed in Mexico according to a report by the Catholic Multimedia Center of Mexico.

It is also estimated that since 2000, 105 journalists have been murdered in Mexico.

 

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

 

What Catholics learned at V Encuentro, and what they hope their bishops heard

Fort Worth, Texas, Sep 24, 2018 / 05:19 pm (CNA).- It’s a difficult time for the Catholic Church, a fact much-discussed at the National V Encuentro conference, a gathering of Hispanic and Latino Catholics from throughout the U.S. that took place Sept. 20-23 in Grapevine, Texas.

The bishops have failed their people and ask for forgiveness, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Houston and president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, said in his address at the V Encuentro.

But even at the close of this ‘summer of scandals’, the 3,000-some Hispanic and Latino Catholics present for the gathering seemed to relish their time with and attention from the leaders of the Church.

Selfies were snapped, hugs were exchanged, and chants of “We Love You!” were signs of support and appreciation shown to the bishops present for the conference.

Ruby Fuentes, a young adult delegate from the Diocese of Brownsville “in deep south Texas, right above the Mexican border,” said she especially appreciated the bishops’ dinner and encounter night with young people, where a bishop sat at every table to listen to the needs and concerns of the young delegates.

The issues discussed varied from table to table, Fuentes said, but her particular concerns included suicide and mental health in young people, and immigration issues.

“I thought it was a really good way to be transparent within the Church and try to understand what young people are thinking about, what their concerns are,” Fuentes told CNA.

“It was really a pleasant surprise to see that bishops were the ones organizing the dinner and wanted to talk to us and see what we had to say, because oftentimes as young folks we’re cast aside, we’re not really taken seriously,” she said.

Sr. Mary Johanna of the Nashville Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia told CNA that the closeness of the bishops was the thing most-remarked on by the delegates in her group.

“It’s been great to have so many Hispanics and Anglos here together, and it’s beautiful to see so many bishops here with us and to see the attention that they’re giving, how deeply they’re listening, and just coming together as a Church,” she said.

Besides DiNardo, some of the bishops at the V Encuentro included Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller, M.Sp.S. of the Archdiocese of San Antonio, Archbishop José H. Gomez of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Archbishop William E. Lori of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Archbishop Wilton Gregory of the Archdiocese of Atlanta, Cardinal Blase Cupich of the Archdiocese of Chicago, and Cardinal Sean O’Malley, O.F.M. Cap, of the Archdiocese of Boston.

Alfredo Portillo, a delegate from Las Vegas, told CNA that the Encuentro was a “heartwarming” experience and “for the bishops to reunite us, to bring us together, to celebrate our Hispanic inheritances, I think it’s really great, I’m really proud to be here.”

Guadalupe Alba, a delegate from St. Martha’s Catholic Church in Huntington Park, California, told CNA that it was encouraging for him to see Catholic leaders, including bishops and non-Hispanic Catholics, attending the conference and listening to what the delegates had to say.

“Even though there’s a lot of Hispanics in the United States, we’re still a minority, you know?” he told CNA.

What the bishops are communicating to Hispanic and Latino Catholics through the Encuentro is that “we know that you’re here, we accept you, and we’re on the same team. Everything in the faith,” Alba said.

Juan Carlos Reyes, a delegate from the Archdiocese of Denver, told CNA that hoped that the bishops have a renewal of a pastoral rather than a political spirit following the Encuentro.

“I feel like many times our Church, the conversation gets framed by the political aspects in the nation, and I think many of our bishops are worried about saying the right thing, being on the right side of things, they’re worried about the politics and they are detached from the people,” he said.

“And they are not congressmen, they’re pastors, so if they could take from this a renewal of a pastoral approach that would be wonderful,” he said. Another concern of Reyes was that there be a more holistic approach within the pro-life movement to the issue of immigration.

“The pro-life movement is all about the abortion issue, and that is urgent and continues to be needed,” he said. “But we march and we pray outside of abortion clinics, but we don’t march and we don’t pray outside of detention centers.”

Evangelization and bridging the cultural divide that exists in some parishes between Hispanic and Anglo Catholics were other frequently-discussed topics of conversation at the V Encuentro.

“We are failing our Church ourselves because we are not bringing people in,” Carlos Mendez from Huntington Park, California told CNA. “But first we have to go and be taught by others how to do it, we have to find the love within us and go with the Holy Spirit and take charge and be there for the ones who feel marginalized.”

Joanne Reinhardt, a delegate from Toledo Ohio, said she was leaving Encuentro with a renewed desire to “build bridges” between Hispanic and Anglo Catholics.

She said some things that her parish has done to help bridge the cultural divide is to host bilingual Masses, celebrations for Our Lady of Guadalupe’s feast day, and food and diaper drives for immigrants in the parish.

“Sometimes we want to separate ourselves,” she said. “But we’re one people and when we come together, things will happen.”

Former priest pleads not guilty to abuse charges in NM after extradition

Santa Fe, N.M., Sep 24, 2018 / 05:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A former priest is back in the United States after he fled to Morocco in 1992 to escape accusations of sexual abuse.

Arthur Perrault, 80, is accused of sexually abusing a child in the early 1990s and was extradited to New Mexico to face charges Sept. 21.

Perrault served in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe from 1973 to 1992, and the alleged abuse occurred while Perrault was serving as a military chaplain in Albuquerque. He is charged with seven counts of aggravated sexual abuse and abusive sexual contact with a minor under the age of 12.

The former priest has pled not guilty to all seven counts against him.

The Archdiocese of Santa Fe stated that “over the past year” it has “fully cooperated with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI during the federal grand jury investigation which ultimately led to these criminal indictments against Perrault.”

“The archdiocese has cooperated fully with all law enforcement agencies investigating the allegations and will continue to support the judicial process as it runs its course. We ask all to cooperate and respect the legal proceedings and for prayers for all victims and those affected by these very serious charges.”

Perrault had been in the custody of Moroccan authorities since October of last year, after the Department of Justice filed an indictment against him Sept. 21, 2017. U.S. Attorney John Anderson for the District of New Mexico stated that Perrault could face a maximum sentence of life in prison for the aggravated sexual abuse charge and a maximum of 10 years for the abusive sexual contact charge.

Only one alleged victim is mentioned in the indictment, but a motion filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Mexico alleges that Perrault is a “serial child molester who abused numerous victims” during his priesthood. The Albuquerque Journal reports that nearly 40 of Perrault’s alleged victims in New Mexico have come forward, as well as the mother of one young man who claims her son committed suicide following abuse.

Perrault had been sent to a treatment center for sexually abusive priests in 1965 after being accused of molesting young men in Connecticut. The center, located in Jemez Springs, N.M., was run by the Servants of the Paraclete. In 1966, a psychologist contracting with the order recommended him for a teaching position at St. Pius X High School.

The Journal also reports that court records suggest that several priests and diocesan leaders were alerted to Perrault’s conduct during his 26 year priesthood in Albuquerque.

By 1992, after two victims reported abuse to the Albuquerque police, the then-archbishop suspended Perrault’s priestly faculties and reported the accusations to Albuquerque civil authorities. The accused priest disappeared from his Albuquerque parish in 1992, just days before an attorney filed two lawsuits against the archdiocese.

CRS sells fair trade coffee, supporting Mexican farmers and land

Baltimore, Md., Sep 24, 2018 / 04:07 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Catholic Relief Services is now offering fair trade coffee beans that will benefit local farming communities in Mexico and foster better agricultural practices.

“So many of us love coffee, and this is just a really easy way to live out your faith and support the people who work really hard to create the products that we love,” said Meghan Gilbert, communications officer for CRS.

“As Catholics, we have to uphold the dignity of everyone and one really great way to do that is to make sure workers are treated fairly and that they are paid a fair price for what they produce,” she told CNA.

The project is called Mama Tierra, or Mother Earth, and is a joint effort of CRS and Equal Exchange, a fair trade company that looks to provide a just relationship between consumers and producers.

For every bag of coffee sold at retail price, $2 will be given to CRS. If a unit of five bags are sold at wholesale price, then $5 will be donated. CRS will use the money to help educate farmers on practices to improve quantity and reduce waste.  

The coffee sales also support members of a democratically-run cooperative of farmers in Oaxaca. The cooperative is called CEPCO and involves 4,300 farmers. The group provides a fair price for the product and educates farmers to improve cultivation.

Because coffee produces a lot of waste, a major focus of the project is to instruct farmers in environmentally-friendly agriculture, with measures such as reducing water contamination and improving soil quality, said Gilbert.

“We also work with them on how to grow this coffee so it actually puts more nutrients into the soil so it reduces the harm to the land and actually increases their yield,” she said.

“It’s about not just caring for the worker, it’s caring for the environment as well. Because if we don’t care for the environment, these workers won’t be able to produce coffee or some of the other agricultural goods.”

CRS has worked with Equal Exchange for more than 10 years, and this project has been in the works for the past few years, said Gilbert. Since the product is fair trade, the workers and farmers receive a just return on their product, she said, noting this is important because many farmers are not paid justly.

“You look around the world and you hear all these stories – workers getting paid very, very little for the amount of work they do,” she said. “When you make sure that they are paid a fair wage, then workers are treated better and they are able to produce and increase their business.”

Gilbert said fair trade is also important because it cultivates a culture that appreciates the workers on the other side of the products – items which people may take advantage of without recognizing the poor treatment those workers receive.

“I think that is really what ethical trade at CRS and fair trade over all is really trying to get people to think about who is on the other end of that product and who is creating it and making sure that they are treated well, that they are paid a fair wage.”