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Church in Australia should not be tax exempt, former government official says

Canberra, Australia, Aug 13, 2018 / 06:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A former tax official has said Australia should revoke the non-profit tax status of the Catholic Church in the country, due to widespread clerical sex abuse, which was detailed in an extensive report released last year.

Former assistant taxation commissioner Terry Hamilton expressed his concern about the charity tax status to the Australian Taxation Office and the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC), according to the Guardian Australia.

Hamilton argued that the hundreds of cases of clerical sex abuse against minors, as well as failures to report such abuse, constituted crimes that broke the laws of Australia which would disqualify the Catholic Church for the tax exempt status.

For churches to qualify for tax breaks in Australia, they must be established religious institutions that reflect a religious character and do not break Australian laws.

“These institutions attract significant financial benefits particularly through tax exemptions and charity status,” Hamilton said, according to the Guardian Australia.

“The associated crimes in these cases breach the taxation law obligations that must result in a forfeit of tax exemptions and the registration of tax-exempt charities. I notified the prime minister and the treasurer of these breaches, in particular those relating to the Catholic church.”

The ACNC, which is responsible for deciding which entities do and do not qualify for tax exempt statuses, told the Guardian that Hamilton would need to fill out a separate form for each charity with which he had concerns, rather than filing a concern against the Catholic Church as a whole. The ACNC can revoke tax exempt statuses, issue formal warnings, or suspend responsible parties of charities that are found in violation of their standards.

The ACNC told the Guardian that it was unable to comment further on the cases raised by Hamilton due to privacy provisions, but that they were focusing on “ensuring charities have appropriate governance in place to safeguard vulnerable people, particularly children.”

In a wide-ranging report released in December 2017, Australia’s royal commission found serious failings in the protection of children from abuse in the Catholic Church and other major institutions.

Church officials in Australia apologized for the suffering caused and pledged their commitment to ensuring justice, while also noting the impossibility of violating the secrecy of sacramental confession.

The report was the result of an investigation in which the commission reviewed thousands of accounts of child abuse from figures in major institutions. The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse was established in 2013 to investigate the handling of child sex abuse allegations by religious groups, schools, government organizations, and sporting associations.

Of the institutions examined, the most accusations were brought against the Catholic Church, in which more than 4,000 cases of child abuse reportedly occurred, making up 61.8 percent of all reported child abuse cases from religious entities.

In a previously released portion of the report, the commission found that seven percent of Catholic priests in Australia serving between 1950 and 2009 have been accused of child sex crimes.

There have been multiple calls to revoke the Church’s charity tax status since the release of the grand jury report, including from members of the Australian Sex Party and from Care Leavers Australasia Network.

Costa Rican bishops deplore ruling legalizing gay marriage

San José, Costa Rica, Aug 13, 2018 / 05:34 pm (ACI Prensa).- The Costa Rican Bishops' Conference lamented a ruling by the Constitutional Chamber of the nation's Supreme Court which mandated legal same-sex marriage in the country.

“In a democratic and pluralistic society like ours, legal recognition can be given to persons of the same sex that live together,” the bishops said. However, they continued, it would be “unjust if such recognition would claim to equate same sex unions with marriage.”

“Wanting to not discriminate against homosexual people does not authorize the State to confound the natural order of marriage and the family,” the bishops warned.

In a 6-1 vote on August 8, Chamber IV of the Costa Rican Supreme Court struck down a provision prohibiting marriage “between persons of the same sex” and gave the National Assembly 18 months to adopt legislation recognizing same-sex unions.

The decision was issued in response to a legal petition challenging the constitutionality of Article 14, Subsection 6 in the Code on the Family. The legal challenge was filed by the former president of the Diversity Movement, Marco Castillo, and by the lesbian couple Laura Flores-Eztrada Pimentel and Jazmín Elizondo.

“We reiterate our respect for the Costa Rican legal order, but we deplore that the Constitutional Chamber did not dismiss the petition…thus calling into question the origin and natural function of the family,” the bishops' conference said in an Aug. 9 statement.

The Costa Rican bishops' conference recalled the words of Pope Francis, who said in his apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, “Same sex unions may not simply be equated with marriage. No union that is temporary or closed to the transmission of life can ensure the future of society.”

“No one can think that the weakening of the family as that natural society founded on marriage will prove beneficial to society as a whole. The contrary is true: it poses a threat to the mature growth of individuals, the cultivation of community values and the moral progress of cities and countries,” the pope said in that document.  

In their statement, the bishops noted that “the Church maintains her conviction that the family continues to be, and always will be, the basic cell of society because in it the future citizens of all of society are procreated and brought up.”

“The family possesses a specific and original social dimension as a primary place of interpersonal relationships, the primary and vital cell of society: it is a natural institution, the foundation of people's lives and the prototype of every social organization,” they stated.

Therefore, the bishops concluded, “it is clear in the natural order of things, that family, the basic cell of society, is founded on monogamous and heterosexual marriage from whose conjugal love are generated children, and therefore deserves the protection of the State.”

 

Workshop teaches how to teach Gregorian chant to children, teens

San Francisco, Calif., Aug 13, 2018 / 04:42 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Parish music directors, teachers, priests, and religious sisters gathered near San Francisco last week for a workshop helping them learn how to teach children and teens how to sing Gregorian chant.

The Benedict XVI Institute for Sacred Music and Divine Worship held a Teaching Children's Chant Camp Workshop in Menlo Park, about 30 miles south of San Francisco, Aug. 9-12.

Among those participating were three religious sisters of the Marian Sisters of Santa Rosa.

“Our mission at the Marian Sisters of Santa Rosa is to teach joyfully the truth, goodness and beauty of our faith; we work with a lot of children and teens in Catholic schools,” Mother Teresa Christe explained, “So we are very grateful for this Benedict XVI Institute workshop.”

The Marian Sisters were founded by Bishop Robert Vasa of Santa Rosa in 2012. The community has a focus on teaching and evangelizing in parishes and schools.

Two Missionaries of Charity also attended the workshop. One of them, Sister Maximiliana, said they were participating because of their after school program “which prepares the children we work with from poor families for consecration to Mary. We want to learn how to teach children so they can sing beautifully for the Mass.”

Before the workshop, 25 Missionaries of Charity from across the San Francisco bay area had attended another event organized by the Benedict XVI Institute to learn how to chant more beautifully.

The workshop was directed by Mary Ann Carr-Wilson, who has helped pioneer chant camps for children.

Carr-Wilson emphasized the importance of respecting children as you teach them: “Give them a high aim. Let them know what they are doing in helping sing the Mass: praying not performing, with all the angels and saints. They respond.”

Rather than focusing solely on performance techniques, the institute incorporates catechesis and works to help participants deepen their understanding of the Mass, including their ability to offer intentions for their participation in the liturgy.

The workshop aims to help both teachers with experience with music generally, or with chant in particular.

Aaron Fidler teaches music at Kolbe Academy and Trinity Prep, a Catholic classical school in Napa. A violinist with extensive teaching experience, he expressed appreciation for help with his new task of preparing the school's choir to chant at Mass.

And Mary Castaneda, a music director from Washington state, said she has long taught chant to adules, but is “now teaching chant to children and teens. It’s really useful to get a sense from Mary Ann what she does that young people respond to.”

The Benedict XVI Institute was founded by Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco in 2014.

It aims to form the Catholic imagination through beauty, and to promote the vision of the Second Vatican Council, whose constitution on the liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, said that Gregorian chant is “specially suited to the Roman liturgy” and that “therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services.”

With inmate's fate unclear, Florida bishops pray to end death penalty

Tallahassee, Fla., Aug 13, 2018 / 04:41 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Catholic bishops of Florida have asked for continued prayers for an end to the death penalty following the stay of an inmate’s execution. They had previously asked Gov. Rick Scott to commute the inmate’s death sentence and cited Pope Francis’ new catechism revisions on the death penalty.

“Please continue to pray for victims of crime, those on death row, and for an end to the use of the death penalty,” the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops said Friday afternoon.

Jose Antonio Jimenez, now 54 years old, was convicted of the 1992 murder of Phyllis Minas, a 63-year-old woman. He had been scheduled to be executed at 6 p.m. Aug. 14.

On Aug. 10 the Florida Supreme Court unanimously granted a request to grant the stay, without stating a reason, the Florida News Service reports.

Jimenez’s lawyer Marty McClain had requested the stay, citing several issues. These included a pending Supreme Court decision that could affect Florida’s lethal injection protocol.

McClain also said he had discovered that the North Miami Police Department had not previously provided to Jimenez’s lawyers the 80 pages of records related to the investigation of the murder.

McClain told the Florida News Service that the records include handwritten notes by investigators who interviewed Jimenez after his arrest that contradict their testimony. He contended that they show the investigators were willing to give “false and/or misleading deposition testimony” in order to facilitate Jimenez’s conviction.

Catholic prayer vigils had been scheduled across the state to pray for the victim, the aggressor, their families and society, as well as to pray for the end of the death penalty.

After the stay was announced, many of these vigils were set to continue in the dioceses of St. Petersburg, Orlando, Pensacola-Tallahassee and Venice.

However, organizers canceled some Catholic prayer vigils that had been scheduled in the Archdiocese of Miami and the dioceses of St. Augustine, Pensacola-Tallahassee, and Palm Beach.

“We pray for Ms. Minas and for consolation for her loved ones. All of us are called to stand with victims in their hurt as they seek healing and justice,” Michael Sheedy, executive director of the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops, said in an Aug. 9 letter. “We invite people across Florida to join in this prayer. Both victims of crime and offenders are children of God and members of the same human family.”

Sheedy, speaking on behalf of the state’s Catholic bishops, said Gov. Scott has a “difficult task as governor” but still asked him to commute Jimenez’s death sentence and all death sentences to life without possibility of parole.

The letter to the governor cited Pope Francis’ revision of the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the death penalty.

The Florida bishops’ conference further commented in an Aug. 10 statement.

“Given the development of doctrine involving the death penalty, the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s treatment of the topic was revised earlier this month,” the bishops’ conference said.

The relevant section of the Catechism now reads “the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person.” It calls for the Church “to work with determination for its abolition worldwide,” the bishops’ conference said.

Drawing from the Catechism, Sheedy told the governor that the change “reflects the growing awareness that the dignity of the person is not lost even after the commission of great crimes and that more effective forms of detention have been developed to ensure the due protection of citizens without definitively depriving the guilty of the possibility of redemption.”

In addition to prayers for Minas, her family and her friends, Sheedy voiced prayers for Jimenez and “all those facing execution.”

 

Veritatis splendor to be theme of Courage conference

Hartford, Conn., Aug 13, 2018 / 03:31 pm (CNA).- An upcoming conference in Connecticut will offers Catholic leaders in medicine and ministry the practical and pastoral tools to reach out to people with same-sex attraction while upholding Church teaching.

The 2018 Truth and Love Conference will be held at St Thomas Seminary Conference Center October 22-24 in Bloomfield, Connecticut. At the center of the formation event will be the encyclical Veritatis splendor, written 25 years ago this August by Pope John Paul II.

The theme of the event will be “Proclaiming the splendor of truth with love.” The gathering will look to answer questions about sexual identity and instruct pastoral leaders and medical professionals to care for people with same-sex attraction.

The fourth event of its kind, the conference is an initiative of Courage International, a Catholic apostolate that offers support for people with same-sex attraction who have chosen to pursue a chaste lifestyle. As part of the same organization, EnCourage supports family members and friends of people with same-sex attraction, aiding them in encountering their loved ones with compassion.

Speakers for the event will include experts on natural law, psychology, and Christian anthropology. Participants will be given practical resources to compassionately communicate the Church’s teaching on homosexuality.

Presenters at the conference will include Father Philip Bochanski, executive director of Courage International; Dr. John Grabowski, theological advisor to U.S. bishops’ Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family, and Youth; and Dr. Michael Horne, director of clinical services for Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington.

Testimonies of people with same-sex attraction will also be shared, witnessing to the importance of the Church and friendships that have led them to grow in chastity and sanctity. Testimonies will be heard from Daniel Mattson, Catholic author of the book “Why I Don't Call Myself Gay,” and Courage members Paul Darrow and Rilene Simpson, featured in the documentary Desire of the Everlasting Hills.

The first Courage meeting was held in 1980, and the initial group developed the five foundational goals of Courage – chastity, prayer and dedication, fellowship, support, and good role models.