Browsing News Entries

Browsing News Entries

Five bishops, 220 priests have died from Covid in Mexico

The Cathedral of the Assumption of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven in Mexico City, Mexico / Eduardo Berdejo/CNA

Mexico City, Mexico, May 12, 2021 / 11:01 am (CNA).

According to a May 11 report from the Catholic Multimedia Center eight women religious, six men religious, and 12 deacons have also died from the coronavirus in the country.

A total of 24 bishops have come down with COVID-19, with 19 making favorable progress and recovering from the disease. Five bishops in the older age bracket have publicly shared they have received the COVID-19 vaccine.

The diocese hardest hit has been the Archdiocese of Guadalajara with 24 priests dying from the virus, followed by the Archdiocese of Mexico with 21 priests and one of its auxiliary bishops, Francisco Daniel Rivera Sánchez.

According to the latest CMC report, the increase in deaths compared to its previous report was four priests, one male religious and one deacon. There were no new deaths of bishops or women religious.

The CMC noted that the decrease in cases among Catholics and the figures recorded by the Mexican government have made it possible to allow Masses with limited attendance, with a gradual increase.

Although no bishop has announced the end of the dispensation of the obligation to attend Sunday Mass, the Archbishop of Guadalajara,Francisco  Cardinal Robles Ortega, has called on the faithful once again to participate in the Eucharist.

The Catholic Multimedia Catholic Center renewed its call for diocesan officials and parishioners who have solid information on COVID-19 cases in the Church to share this data with its Research Unit.

German foreign minister welcomes day of same-sex blessings ahead of papal audience

Pope Francis receives German foreign minister Heiko Mass in a private audience at the Vatican, May 12, 2021. / Vatican Media.

CNA Staff, May 12, 2021 / 09:00 am (CNA).

Ahead of an audience with Pope Francis on Wednesday, Germany’s foreign minister welcomed a day of same-sex blessings held in defiance of the Vatican.

Speaking before he met with the pope on May 12, Heiko Maas backed the blessing ceremonies held in around 80 German cities on Monday in protest at the Vatican’s “no” to same-sex blessings.

“At least I see that there is a great deal of openness in parts of the Catholic Church to social developments that one cannot ignore,” he said, according to the newspaper Die Welt.

“I very much welcome the fact that these discussions are being initiated again and conducted in more depth.”

Talking to reporters after his private audience with the pope, Maas said that the two men discussed the coronavirus pandemic, the future of Europe, violence in Jerusalem, Latin America, and the clerical abuse crisis.

The 54-year-old member of Germany’s Social Democratic Party is a baptized Catholic who was an altar server in his youth.

German media reported that he was the first German foreign minister in almost 20 years to secure a private papal audience.

The audience took place just two days after a nationwide protest against the Vatican’s declaration that the Church does not have the power to bless same-sex unions.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) issued its pronouncement on March 15 in a document known as a “Responsum ad dubium” (response to a question).

In reply to the query, “does the Church have the power to give the blessing to unions of persons of the same sex?” the CDF answered, “Negative.” The congregation outlined its reasoning in an explanatory note and accompanying commentary.

The Vatican statement, issued with the approval of Pope Francis, sparked protests in the German-speaking Catholic world. Several bishops expressed support for blessings of same-sex couples, while churches displayed LGBT pride flags, and a group of more than 200 theology professors signed a statement criticizing the Vatican.

The exact scale of Monday’s day of protest remains unclear. According to the organizers, ceremonies known as “Segnungsgottesdienste für Liebende,” or “blessing services for lovers,” were held in around 100 churches, mainly in northern and western Germany.

CNA Deutsch reported that this would amount to less than 1% of the total number of churches in Germany.

Observers in Cologne, Munich, Würzburg, and other places told CNA’s German-language news partner that in many places a “modest number” of people attended the ceremonies, promoted using the hashtag “#liebegewinnt” (“love wins”).

Some blessings took place after the public ceremonies. In the Augustinian Church in Würzburg, for example, all couples -- expressly including same-sex couples -- were invited to “come and get” the individual blessing in a backroom, after the service.

One participant reported from Cologne that a total of six couples were blessed in the chapel of the local Catholic university community and a total of 23 people were present.

The participant told CNA Deutsch that the ceremony resembled a “political event.” The ceremony was led by a female pastoral counselor in liturgical robes, who explained that she had already quit her service with the church.

After some political statements, the Gospel was read aloud, followed by a speech. Finally, the song “Imagine” by John Lennon was played.

Writing in the Catholic weekly newspaper Die Tagepost, Regina Einig criticized pastors who appeared in the media promoting the event.

“Some pastors were not even deterred by the meager demand for same-sex couples willing to be blessed in their parishes from verbose self-promotion in the media,” she wrote.

“In this sense, the initiative ‘Love Wins’ was a highly clericalistic action and at the same time an image of the self-referential Church against which Pope Francis urgently warns.”

The backlash against the Vatican prompted bishops in other countries to express fears that the German Church was heading for a breach with Rome. They included English Bishop Philip Egan, Australian Cardinal George Pell, and Italian Cardinal Camillo Ruini.

Cardinal Joseph Zen, the former bishop of Hong Kong, added his name to an appeal, launched in Portugal, asking Rome to take action to stop a “schism” in Germany.

George Weigel, the biographer of St. John Paul II, and Fr. Thomas Weinandy, a Capuchin Franciscan theologian, also expressed concern about the direction of the German Church.

German Catholics were among those criticizing the day of blessings. The group “Maria 1.0” urged the country’s bishops to unite with Rome in face of the protests.

The Pontifex Initiative, a network of young German Catholics, called on the local Church not to pursue an exceptionalist path.

“With today’s actions, the ministers involved are hurting the people of God. Let us not forget that our faith is Roman Catholic. This attribute is not an ornamental accessory. It is the core of our identity,” it said in a May 10 statement.

Helmut Hoping, a professor of dogmatic theology at the University of Freiburg, told CNA Deutsch that some of the priests conducting blessings “also openly advocate opening the sacrament of marriage to same-sex couples in the medium term.”

Fr. Gero Weishaupt, a judicial vicar in Cologne archdiocese and a scholar of canon law, noted in an interview with CNA Deutsch that former Vatican doctrinal chief Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller and other theologians have spoken for some of a possible schism in Germany.

“And one can ask oneself whether it is not already latently realized,” Weishaupt commented.

Several German bishops have previously spoken in favor of blessings for homosexual unions, including German bishops’ conference chairman Georg Bätzing (Limburg), Franz-Josef Overbeck (Essen), Helmut Dieser (Aachen), Reinhard Marx (Munich and Freising), Franz-Josef Bode (Osnabrück), Peter Kohlgraf (Mainz), and Heinrich Timmerevers (Dresden-Meissen).

But other German bishops have welcomed the CDF’s intervention. Among them are Rainer Maria Woelki (Cologne), Stephan Burger (Freiburg), Ulrich Neymeyr (Erfurt), Gregor Maria Hanke (Eichstätt), Wolfgang Ipolt (Görlitz), Stefan Oster (Passau), and Rudolf Voderholzer (Regensburg).

Bishop Bätzing, elected leader of the German bishops’ conference last year, said last month that the day of protest was not a “helpful sign.”

He added that blessing services were “not suitable as an instrument for Church-political demonstrations or protest actions.”

Former Michigan school teacher donates $1.1 million to local Catholic schools

Wuttichai jantarak/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., May 12, 2021 / 08:30 am (CNA).

A former Catholic school teacher in Michigan donated $1.1 million to create an endowment for local Catholic schools, the Jackson Catholic Schools district announced on May 6. 

Donna Ambs, a 1958 graduate of St. Mary Star of the Sea grade school in Jackson, Michigan and longtime teacher for Jackson Catholic Schools, made the donation, the district announced. The district is comprised of four Jackson-area Catholic schools: Lumen Christi Catholic School, St. Mary Star of the Sea Elementary, St. John the Evangelist Elementary, and Queen of the Miraculous Medal Elementary.

“This is a very clear message to our students, teachers, parents and the Jackson Catholic community that Catholic education is important and here to stay in the Jackson community,” Tim Dewitt, executive director of Jackson Catholic Schools, told CNA.

Dewitt told CNA that Ambs’ donation will have a direct impact on the district’s teaching staff, supporting efforts to retain and recruit teachers.  

“The fund will be invested in the Catholic Foundation as an endowment.  Once a year there will be a determined amount of distribution that will then be allocated to all schools to help underwrite teacher salaries,” said Dewitt. 

Ambs was part of the the founding group of teachers at Lumen Christi High school in Summit Township, when it opened in 1968, the district said. She retired from teaching in 1997.

“As a former Jackson Catholic School teacher, Donna was happy to give back to the very place that helped enrich her life for so many years,” Lumen Christi Catholic School said in a May 6 press release.

“She believed the role of teacher was one of the noblest and most relevant professions in the world, and that it is vital that institutions like Jackson Catholic School be a welcome place for educators to build their careers and influence young lives,” the press release said. 

“This endowed gift will go on in perpetuity to ensure we have the very best Catholic teachers,” he said.

In March, the school district received another gift of $1 million as part of the school’s Illuminate the Future Capital fundraising Campaign. The campaign has a goal of raising $7 million for operational improvements.

The school system has secured $5.5 million in pledges, Dewitt told CNA.

Pope Francis accepts resignation of Polish bishop after ‘Vos estis’ investigation

Polish Bishop Jan Tyrawa. / Krzysztof Mizera via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0).

Rome Newsroom, May 12, 2021 / 06:30 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Wednesday accepted the resignation of Polish Bishop Jan Tyrawa, who was investigated for negligence in handling cases of sexual abuse by priests in his diocese.

According to a statement by the apostolic nunciature in Poland May 12, the 72-year-old bishop submitted his letter of resignation to the pope at the end of a Vatican-led investigation into accusations that he had failed to properly handle cases of sexual abuse against minors by priests in his diocese.

“Following formal reports, the Holy See -- acting in accordance with the motu proprio Vos estis lux mundi -- conducted proceedings concerning the reported negligence of the Bishop of Bydgoszcz Jan Tyrawa,” the statement said.

“After completing this procedure, taking into account also other difficulties in managing the diocese, the bishop of Bydgoszcz resigned from his ministry, accepted today by the Holy Father,” it concluded.

Tyrawa, bishop of the Diocese of Bydgoszcz, in northern Poland, since 2004, was accused in February of last year of knowing about the abusive tendencies of one of his priests and yet of having transferred him from parish to parish, rather than removing him from situations with minors.

The complaint was made by a former altar boy who said he was sexually abused by a priest in the Diocese of Bydgoszcz. Bishop Tyrawa testified in court during a settlement hearing. The victim was awarded compensation of over $80,000 to be paid by the diocese together with the Archdiocese of Wrocław.

Poland’s apostolic nunciature also announced May 12 that Pope Francis had appointed Bishop Wiesław Śmigiel of the Diocese of Toruń to oversee the Diocese of Bydgoszcz as apostolic administrator sede vacante, following Tyrawa’s resignation.

Tyrawa was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Wrocław in 1973. In 1988, he was named an auxiliary bishop of the archdiocese, where he served until his appointment to lead the Bydgoszcz diocese in 2004.

Tyrawa is the latest in a series of Polish bishops to have faced investigations under the Vos estis norms for handling sex abuse cases, issued by Pope Francis in 2019 for an experimental period of three years.

The apostolic nunciature in Poland announced in March that the Vatican had sanctioned two retired bishops after canonical inquiries into accusations that they were negligent in their handling of sexual abuse of minors by clergy.

Archbishop Sławoj Leszek Głódź, archbishop of Gdańsk from 2008 to 2020, and Bishop Edward Janiak, who led the Diocese of Kalisz from 2012 to 2020, were ordered by the Holy See to live outside their former dioceses and told they cannot participate in public liturgies or non-religious gatherings within the territory of the dioceses.

Another Polish bishop investigated under Vos estis for alleged negligence is Bishop Tadeusz Rakoczy.

On Oct. 9, the archdiocese of Kraków said that the pope had authorized Archbishop Marek Jędraszewski of Kraków to conduct an inquiry into negligence claims against Rakoczy, concerning abuse cases involving two priests in Bielsko-Żywiec diocese.

Rakoczy, 82, served as bishop of Bielsko–Żywiec from 1992 until his retirement in 2013.

In 2019, the Polish bishops’ conference issued a report which concluded that 382 clergy sexually abused a total of 624 victims between 1990 and 2018.

Maine Catholic schools to observe Fatima anniversary

Oct. 13, 2017: Statue of Our Lady of Fatima at the Via Conciliazione in Rome, Italy on the 100th anniversary of the Marian apparition. / CNA

Washington D.C., May 12, 2021 / 06:05 am (CNA).

Children at Maine’s Catholic schools will participate in a series of Marian devotions on Thursday, to honor the Blessed Mother on the anniversary of the Fatima apparition.

School children at six Maine Catholic elementary and middle schools will be praying the rosary and participating in a “May Crowning” ceremony, among other Marian devotions. The children will pray for Mary’s intercession and the protection of the world. The month of May is traditionally dedicated to the Virgin Mary. 

“The events fall on the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord, during which we celebrate Christ's bodily ascension into heaven in the presence of his apostles,” said a press release from the Diocese of Portland. 

“Because Christ ascended, we, as members of the Body of Christ, also look forward to ascending into heaven after our bodily resurrection. On the solemnity, we are also reminded of our evangelizing mission. Before Christ ascends, he gives his disciples final instructions, telling them to await the arrival of the Holy Spirit and then ‘go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature’,” the diocese said. 

Although in some U.S. dioceses the solemnity has been transferred from its traditional date - 10 days before Pentecost - to the following Sunday, other provinces have maintained observance of Ascension Thursday. The Portland diocese, which includes the entire state of Maine, is part of the ecclesiastical province of Boston which observes Ascension Thursday.

In addition to the Solemnity of the Ascension, May 13 also marks the optional memorial of Our Lady of Fatima. On May 13, 1917, Mary appeared for the first time to a group of three Portuguese children in Fatima, Portugal. Over a series of six months, the Blessed Mother appeared to the children in the same location on the 13th of the month - except for when the children were briefly kidnapped by local authorities on August 13, after which Mary privately appeared to them several days later. 

The final visit, October 13, has come to be known as the “Miracle of the Sun,” or “the day the sun danced.” Around 70,000 people traveled to the location of Mary’s apparitions, and various accounts reported supernatural phenomena where the sun appeared to spin, twirl, and veer toward earth before returning to its place in the sky. 

The two youngest Fatima visionaries, siblings Francisco and Jacinta Marto, were canonized on May 13, 2017. The other visionary, their cousin Lucia dos Santos, died in 2005 and has since been declared a servant of God. 

Pope Francis at the general audience: ‘Prayer works miracles’

Pope Francis’ general audience in the San Damaso Courtyard of the Apostolic Palace, May 12, 2021. / Daniel Ibañez/CNA.

CNA Staff, May 12, 2021 / 05:25 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said Wednesday that persistent prayer can lead to miracles “because prayer goes directly to the heart of the tenderness of God.”

Speaking at his first general audience with members of the public for six months, the pope recounted the story of a father of a nine-year-old Argentine girl who was told that his hospitalized daughter would not survive the night.

He said: “He left his wife there with the child in the hospital, he took the train and he traveled 70 kilometers [around 45 miles] towards the Basilica of Our Lady of Luján, Patroness of Argentina. And there -- the basilica was already closed, it was almost 10 o’clock at night, in the evening -- he clung to the gates of the basilica and spent all night praying to Our Lady, fighting for his daughter’s health.”

“This is not a figment of the imagination: I saw him! I saw him myself. That man there, fighting.”

He continued: “At the end, at six o’clock in the morning, the church opened, he entered to salute Our Lady, and returned home. And he thought: ‘She has left us. No, Our Lady cannot do this to me.’”

“Then he went to see [his wife], and she was smiling, saying: ‘I don’t know what happened. The doctors said that something changed, and now she is cured.’”

/ Daniel Ibañez/CNA.
/ Daniel Ibañez/CNA.

The pope, who devoted his May 12 address to “spiritual combat,” offered the man as an example of the fruits of tenacious prayer.

He said: “That man, fighting with prayer, received the grace of Our Lady. Our Lady listened to him. And I saw this: prayer works miracles, because prayer goes directly to the heart of the tenderness of God, who cares for us like a father.”

“And when He does not grant us a grace, He will grant us another which in time we will see. But always, combat in prayer to ask for grace.”

“Yes, at times we ask for grace we are not in need of, but we ask for it without truly wanting it, without fighting… We do not ask for serious things in this way. Prayer is combat, and the Lord is always with us.”

/ Vatican Media.
/ Vatican Media.

The pope was speaking in the San Damaso Courtyard of the Apostolic Palace in his first Wednesday audience with the public since Oct. 28, 2020. The elegant courtyard has a capacity of around 500 socially distanced and masked pilgrims.

The address was the 33rd reflection in his cycle of catechesis on prayer, which he launched in May 2020 and resumed in October following nine addresses on healing the world after the pandemic.

He began by expressing his delight at once again meeting pilgrims “face-to-face.” He explained that it was “not nice to speak in front of nothing, to a camera,” after the Vatican decided to move the audiences behind closed doors last fall as a precaution against the spread of COVID-19.

He told those taking their seats in the courtyard that “seeing each one of you pleases me as we are all brothers and sisters in the Lord, and looking at each other helps us to pray for each other.”

He added: “Thank you for your presence and your visit. Take the pope’s message to everyone. The pope’s message is that I pray for everyone, and I ask you to pray for me, united in prayer.”

/ Vatican Media.
/ Vatican Media.

The pope acknowledged that Christian prayer was not a “walk in the park.”

“None of the great people of prayer we meet in the Bible and in the history of the Church found prayer “comfortable”. Yes, one can pray like a parrot -- blah, blah, blah, blah, blah -- but that is not prayer. Prayer certainly gives great peace, but through inner struggle, at times hard, which can accompany even long periods of life. Praying is not something easy, and this is why we flee from it.”

“Every time we want to pray, we are immediately reminded of many other activities, which at that moment seem more important and more urgent.”

“This happens to me too! It happens to me. I go to pray a little… and no, I must do this and that… We flee from prayer, I don’t know why, but that is how it is. Almost always, after putting off prayer, we realize that those things were not essential at all, and that we may have wasted time. This is how the Enemy deceives us.”

He acknowledged that throughout the ages saintly people have described prayer not only as joyful but also as tedious and tiring. Nevertheless, they persisted in prayer despite not finding satisfaction in it.

/ Daniel Ibañez/CNA.
/ Daniel Ibañez/CNA.

He said: “Silence, prayer, and concentration are difficult exercises, and sometimes human nature rebels. We would rather be anywhere else in the world, but not there, in that church pew, praying.”

“Those who want to pray must remember that faith is not easy, and sometimes it moves forward in almost total darkness, without points of reference.”

“There are moments in the life of faith that are dark, and therefore some saints call this ‘the dark night,’ because we hear nothing. But I continue to pray.”

/ Daniel Ibañez/CNA.
/ Daniel Ibañez/CNA.

The pope observed that the Catechism of the Catholic Church lists the “enemies of prayer.” The worst enemies, he said, were “found within us.”

He advised people afflicted by these internal enemies to turn to “the masters of the soul” who personally discovered ways to overcome them.

Francis, the first Jesuit pope, recommended reading the “Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola,” which he described as “a short book of great wisdom that teaches how to put one’s life in order.”

He explained: “It makes us understand that the Christian vocation is militancy, it is the decision to stand beneath the standard of Jesus Christ and not under that of the devil, trying to do good even when it becomes difficult.”

Pope Francis’ general audience in the San Damaso Courtyard of the Apostolic Palace, May 12, 2021. / Daniel Ibañez/CNA.
Pope Francis’ general audience in the San Damaso Courtyard of the Apostolic Palace, May 12, 2021. / Daniel Ibañez/CNA.

Above all, he said, we should remember in times of trouble that we are not alone.

He told a story from the life of St. Anthony the Great, who helped to spread Christian monasticism in the fourth century.

He said: “His biographer, St. Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, recounts one of the worst episodes in the life of the hermit saint when he was about the age of 35, a time of middle age that for many people involves a crisis.”

“Anthony was disturbed by the ordeal, but resisted. When he finally became serene again, he turned to his Lord with an almost reproachful tone: ‘But Lord, where were you? Why did you not come immediately to put an end to my suffering?’ And Jesus answered: ‘Anthony, I was there. But I was waiting to see you fight.’”

Concluding his address, the pope said: “If in a moment of blindness we cannot see His presence, we will in the future. We will also end up repeating the same sentence that the patriarch Jacob said one day: ‘Surely the Lord is in this place; and I did not know it’ (Genesis 28:16).”

“At the end of our lives, looking back, we too will be able to say: ‘I thought I was alone, but no, I was not: Jesus was with me.’ We will all be able to say this.”

A precis of the pope’s catechesis was then read out in several languages. After the summaries, he offered a greeting to members of the various language groups.

Addressing Portuguese-speaking pilgrims, he noted that May 13 is the feast of Our Lady of Fatima.

“Tomorrow let us remember Our Lady of Fatima with great veneration! Let us place ourselves with confidence under her maternal protection, especially when we find difficulties in our prayer life,” he said.

To Polish-speaking pilgrims, he said: “Tomorrow is the liturgical memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Fatima and the 40th anniversary of the assassination attempt on St. John Paul II.”

“He himself emphasized with conviction that he owed his life to the Lady of Fatima. This event makes us aware that our lives and the history of the world are in God’s hands.”

“To the Immaculate Heart of Mary we entrust the Church, ourselves, and the whole world. We ask in prayer for peace, an end to the pandemic, a spirit of penance, and our conversion.”

Speaking to Italian pilgrims, he said: ”During this month of May, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, I invoke Our Lady’s heavenly protection on each one of you and on your respective families.”

He added: “Have frequent recourse to Mary, Mother of believers! The various forms of Marian devotion, and especially the recitation of the holy rosary, will help you to live out your journey of faith and Christian witness.”

The general audience ended with the recitation of the Our Father and the Apostolic Blessing.

Italian broker for Vatican’s London property arrested in UK

London, England. / Daniel Gale/Shutterstock.

Rome Newsroom, May 12, 2021 / 03:30 am (CNA).

Gianluigi Torzi, the Italian businessman who brokered the final part of the Secretariat of State’s purchase of a London investment property, has been arrested in the United Kingdom.

The arrest, which took place May 11 in London, was requested by an Italian judge in Rome in April.

A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police Service said: “Officers from the National Extradition Unit attended an address on Campden Hill Road, W8, on Tuesday, May 11.”

“Gianluigi Torzi, 42 (16.01.79), was identified and arrested on a Trade and Cooperation Act (TACA) warrant issued in Italy on Wednesday, May 5 and certified by the National Crime Agency on Thursday, May 6.”

“He is accused in Italy of money laundering and fraud offenses.”

“Mr. Torzi appeared before Westminster Magistrates’ Court for an initial extradition hearing where he was remanded in custody. His next appearance is on Tuesday, May 18.”

Torzi, who has denied wrongdoing, is being investigated by Italian authorities for suspected fraudulent billing, money laundering, and other financial crimes in collaboration with three of his associates.

He is also under investigation by the Vatican for his role in facilitating the Secretariat of State’s purchase of a London property on 60 Sloane Avenue in 2018. The Vatican alleges that in doing so, Torzi was part of a conspiracy to defraud the secretariat of millions of euros.

Based on the investigation, Vatican prosecutors had requested the seizure of Torzi’s U.K.-based bank accounts earlier this year. In March, a British judge reversed the action, stating that Vatican prosecutors withheld and misrepresented information in their request to the U.K. court.

Torzi was also arrested by the Vatican last summer and held in custody for a little more than a week on charges of two counts of embezzlement, two counts of fraud, extortion, and money laundering.

At the center of the Vatican’s investigation is the scandal involving the London property at 60 Sloane Avenue, which the Secretariat of State bought in stages between 2014 and 2018 from businessman Raffaele Mincione. Torzi brokered the sale, earning millions of euros for his role in the final stage of the deal.

Torzi sold the secretariat the 30,000 majority shares in Gutt SA, the holding company through which the London property was purchased, while he retained the 1,000 shares with voting rights.

The Vatican claims that Torzi was “secretive and dishonest” when he retained the voting shares, while Torzi argues that everything was transparent and communicated to Vatican officials in conversation and in documents signed by them.

In his ruling, British judge Tony Baumgartner of Southwark Crown Court sided with Torzi, saying that the claim that the broker was “secretive and dishonest” was not supported by the evidence before him and was a “misrepresentation” by Vatican prosecutors.

Torzi is one of several figures under investigation by Vatican City State prosecutors in connection with multiple financial scandals involving the Secretariat of State.

The mishandling of funds in the secretariat in recent past years has led Pope Francis to issue financial reforms for the Roman Curia, including moving investment funds from the control of the secretariat to APSA, the Vatican's central bank.

Biden administration reconsiders abortion pill regulations

Ivanko80/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., May 11, 2021 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

Pro-abortion groups last week praised the Biden administration for reconsidering federal safety regulations of the abortion pill regimen.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) on Friday said it was “thrilled” that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was reviewing restrictions on the regimen that have been in place since the year 2000. The FDA has long required the abortion pill regimen to be dispensed in-person in a health clinic setting, but pro-abortion groups have recently pushed for the pill to be prescribed remotely and dispensed through the mail.

In its statement on Twitter, ACOG supported the FDA’s “evidence-based review” of the “burdensome” and “unnecessary” regulations.

“We are confident that due to the FDA's commitment to regulatory decision-making that reflects science and patient-centered care, the needless restrictions on #mifepristone will soon end and patients will have less restrictive access to medication abortion & miscarriage care,” ACOG stated on Twitter.

The American Civil Liberties Union called the review “long overdue, but a major move forward.” The group, on behalf of ACOG and other pro-abortion groups, sued the Trump administration last year for leaving the abortion pill regulations in place during the pandemic.

Since it approved the abortion pill regimen in 2000, the FDA has listed the protocol on its “REMS” list, reserved for higher-risk procedures. Under the classification, the abortion pill regimen must be prescribed by a certified health provider and dispensed in-person in a health clinic setting.

The regimen involves women taking mifepristone, which blocks nutrients to the unborn child, up until 70 days gestation. That is followed by a dose of misoprostol 24 to 48 hours later, which expels the deceased unborn child.

A federal judge last year sided with the pro-abortion groups, blocking the FDA’s in-person dispensing requirements during the pandemic. The U.S. Supreme Court ultimately sided with the Trump administration, allowing them to continue with their restrictions on chemical abortions.

In April, the acting FDA commissioner said that the agency would allow for remote dispensing of the abortion pill during the pandemic by not enforcing its regulations.

Now, however, the agency is reviewing its regulations with the prospect of altering them beyond the pandemic.

On Friday, both the Biden administration and groups challenging the FDA regulations jointly filed for a stay on the case until Dec. 1, due to the FDA’s ongoing review of its regulations.

“The Parties jointly seek a stay of this matter in light of Defendant U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (‘FDA’) current review of the risk evaluation and mitigation strategy (‘REMS’) at issue in this case,” the motion stated.

The parties cited the FDA’s recent “review of the in-person dispensing requirement” for the abortion pill regimen “in the context of the COVID-19 public health emergency.” The motion noted that “the outcome of FDA’s review of the REMS could have a material effect on the issues before this Court.”

The new Secretary of Health and Human Services, Xavier Becerra, has said he not only supports lifting the regulations during the pandemic, but added at his confirmation hearing that he favors increased use of telemedicine, in response to a question about the abortion pill regimen.

Calif. bill targets university healthcare links to Catholic hospitals, demands further moral compromise

Chaikom/Shutterstock.

Denver Newsroom, May 11, 2021 / 17:08 pm (CNA).

A bill threatens to ban University of California health systems from partnering with institutions that follow Catholic ethics, prompting concern ideological motives on abortion and LGBT issues will damage longtime partnerships and limit medical care access.

 

An organization of Catholic hospitals has defended its efforts to adhere to Catholic ethics, but also defend the partnership on the ground that they or their network hospitals provide some procedures related to gender transitioning and have won recognition from major LGBT groups.

 

“Currently there are many, many, many, contracts with the University of California and Catholic healthcare,” Edward Dolejsi, interim executive director of the California Catholic Conference, told CNA. “Primarily because we provide services in a variety of underserved communities, and the University of California wants access to those communities and wants to train their physicians in those communities.”

 

Dolejsi said Catholic institutions are “proud” to partner with the university system.

 

“But as always if you’re working at one of our facilities, we follow the (Catholic bishops’) ethical and religious directives,” he said. “We do not allow abortions, elective sterilizations, transgender surgeries etc. in those healthcare facilities.”

 

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ethical and Religious Directives, last revised in 2018, aim to ensure ethical treatment at Catholic hospitals.

 

However, prospective state legislation called the Equitable and Inclusive University of California Healthcare Act would require the University of California health system to renegotiate agreements with Catholic hospitals. The hospitals would be forced to allow its staff to provide all care they deem medically necessary or to end its links to the state university medical system. The proposal, numbered Senate Bill 379, is under consideration in the California Senate.

 

A spokesman for bill sponsor Sen. Scott Weiner, D-San Francisco, told an LGBT California publication that partnering with institutions like Catholic ones violates California standards.

 

“It is unacceptable to subject patients to discriminatory and harmful restrictions on the types of care they can receive, including reproductive and LGBTQ-inclusive care,” the spokesman said. “California law recognizes reproductive healthcare, including abortion, as basic healthcare. California state law restricts public health entities from preferring one pregnancy outcome over another, and prohibits discrimination against transgender patients seeking gender-affirming care. Despite existing law, people in California are still being denied these very critical healthcare services.”

 

Co-sponsors of the legislation include the ACLU of California, NARAL Pro-Choice California, and Equality California.

 

Dolejsi said the controversy is “primary ideological.” Passage of the bill would end up limiting medical access for many Californians, particularly the poor and struggling. It would also limit physicians’ abilities to practice or train.

 

“That’s always the challenge here: do you want to provide services and resources in a quality way for all the people of California or do you want to expand an ideology?” Dolejsi asked. He suggested that Catholic health care  systems are “probably one of the larger providers of medical services in California.”

 

“It’s going to be interesting to see how it moves forward,” he said, adding that legislators are “trying to require us to allow physicians to do whatever they wish to do within our facilities.”

 

In February Weiner’s office said the university system’s agreements “explicitly prevent (University of California) doctors and students from providing reproductive and LGBTQ inclusive care, including: contraception, sterilization, abortion, gender-affirming care, and urgent care, such as treatment for miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy.”

 

In a May 3 letter to Sen. Anthony Portantino, chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, the Alliance of Catholic Health Care made its case against the bill. Critics of Catholic healthcare have made allegations with “numerous inaccuracies,” the alliance letter said. It stressed that Catholic hospitals’ services are “provided to all, without discrimination.” Resident physicians trained at Catholic hospitals are not arbitrarily assigned, but choose their training.

 

“Catholic hospitals agree to uphold Catholic values, and therefore we do not provide elective abortion or procedures for the primary purpose of sterilization such as tubal ligations, hysterectomies (when no pathology is present), vasectomies and in-vitro fertilization (the latter two services are not typically performed in hospitals regardless of religious affiliation). Catholic hospitals do not limit availability of emergency or medically-necessary pregnancy care,” the letter said.

 

The alliance said Catholic hospitals “provide the standard of care for women with pregnancy complications, miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies.” They always provide “urgent and emergent care”  to the mother, “even if it results in the foreseen, but unintended, death of the fetus.”

 

“Our health facilities provide compassionate and comprehensive care to victims of sexual assault, including the provision of emergency contraception,” the alliance said, adding, “More than 10 Catholic-affiliated facilities are designated as the comprehensive rape treatment center or are the sexual assault response team.

 

Catholic ethics forbid direct abortion and direct sterilization. The U.S. bishops’ ethical and religious directives allow medication to sex assault victims to prevent conception if there is no evidence conception has already taken place. The directives add: “it is not permissible, however, to initiate or to recommend treatments that have as their purpose or direct effect the removal, destruction, or interference with the implantation of a fertilized ovum.”

 

The Catholic alliance letter described intra-uterine devices, which prevent implantation, as a “multi-purpose device.” If the appropriate care for a patient is “elective sterilizations,’ the letter said, “we expect the physician to ensure that care is provided in a facility that provides that service.”

 

The alliance’s health systems include 51 acute care hospitals, nearly 15% of all hospitals and 16% of hospital beds in California. Affiliations with the University of California health system are “essential to ensuring and expanding access to quality health care services across our State – especially so for underserved communities,” the alliance’s letter said. University of California Health has estimated the bill would cost millions of dollars in lost revenue currently generated through partnership agreements.

 

In some parts of California, University of California health care is reliant on its Catholic partners.

 

The alliance said its health systems played an important role in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, providing “scarce front-line medical, bed-capacity, PPE, testing and vaccine resources.”

 

The alliance letter added that its hospitals offer primary, specialty, and urgent care for LGBTQ persons. It added: “specifically for transgender patients, we provide hormone therapy, breast augmentation or reduction, and facial feminization or masculinization”

 

CNA asked the Alliance of Catholic Health Care why its hospitals provided transgender-specific drugs and procedures. Lori Capello Dangberg, vice president at the alliance, told CNA May 10 that “numerous states in which Catholic hospitals operate have statutes that prohibit discrimination against patients on the basis of sex and gender identity, among other things.”

 

“Should the hospitals decline to provide a service to one protected class of people that they can morally provide to another class of people, they will be in violation of these statutes. Such a practice cannot be defended on the basis of religious freedom, as the courts will hold that it’s first and foremost a matter of discrimination against a protected class of people.”

 

Dangberg did not address the question of legislation, but there are concerns that proposals like the federal Equality Act and other decisions advocated by the Biden Administration could further mandate the provision of drugs and procedures which violate Catholic ethics while also stripping religious freedom protections. While Catholic institutions have some protections under existing federal rules and laws such as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, California has fewer religious protections at the state level.

 

The letter to the Senate appropriations committee chairman also mentions non-Catholic hospitals under the Alliance for Catholic Health Care umbrella that provide specialty transgender care.

 

“We are proud to offer the only specialty transgender care center in San Francisco, the Gender Institute at Saint Francis Memorial Hospital,” the letter said. The institute has been established “to deliver compassionate, high-quality, affordable health services to transgender patients and their families.”

 

The letter noted that St. Mary’s Medical Center in Long Beach is the first in the Dignity Health System to be recognized with health equity leader status by the Human Rights Campaign, an influential LGBT advocacy group.

 

The Human Rights Campaign has been effective at recruiting major companies to advocate for compliance to LGBT policies and political demands, including for a federal Equality Act stripped of religious freedom protections. It has asked the Biden administration to create accreditation regulations of religious schools that would enforce the recognition of same-sex unions as marriages and other LGBT causes.

 

In 2014, the campaign launched a lobbying effort linked with the Catholic Church’s Synod on the Family, targeting leading Catholic bishops it said have been “most outspoken in their rejection of LGBT Catholics, their civil rights, and their rightful place in the Church.”

 

Another proposed California bill, S.B. 642, purports to defend medical staff’s clinical judgement from hospital administration’s “non-clinical” standards, including ethical standards, that hinder a doctor from providing a particular medical treatment. Such treatment could include legal abortion and legal assisted suicide. The legislation would significantly impact the ability for Catholic hospitals to require staff to follow Catholic ethical directives.

 

“Catholic healthcare is fighting on two fronts here in California,” Dolejsi told CNA.

Joe Bukuras contributed to this report.

Biden will not address Notre Dame commencement, was invited by the university

University of Notre Dame / CNA

Washington D.C., May 11, 2021 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

In a break with recent tradition, President Joe Biden will not be delivering the commencement address at the University of Notre Dame this year - although he was invited by the university to do so.

On Tuesday, the university announced that its May 23 commencement speaker will be Jimmy Dunne, a finance executive and trustee of the university. During the last three presidential administrations, U.S. presidents or vice presidents have addressed the university's commencement in their first year in office, but that trend will not continue in 2021. 

Although a university spokesman told CNA that, as a policy, “we do not discuss who may or may not have been approached to address our graduates,” sources from the White House confirmed to CNA that Biden had indeed been invited by the university but could not attend due to scheduling. 

The White House expressed its hope that Biden would appear at a future commencement ceremony of the university, during his first term. 

U.S. presidents have customarily been invited to address graduates at Notre Dame’s commencement ceremonies. Both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama addressed the university’s commencement in their first year in office, while other presidents have appeared later on in their presidential terms. 

In 2017, Vice President Mike Pence - a Catholic who now identifies as simply a “Christian” - addressed Notre Dame’s commencement ceremony. The university would not say if it invited President Trump to speak. 

“Neither President Trump nor President Clinton, we understand, was invited,” stated an open letter to Fr. Jenkins asking him not to invite Biden. The letter, signed by more than 4,300 “members of the Notre Dame community,” cited Biden’s “pro-abortion and anti-religious liberty agenda” as reasons not to invite him to address the commencement.

A university spokesman said on Tuesday, “While Notre Dame has had more presidents serve as commencement speakers than any university other than the military academies, we have not always hosted a president in his first year in office--or at all."

Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and George H.W. Bush each addressed Notre Dame’s commencement in their last year in office, Brown noted. Presidents Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter each addressed the commencement in their first year in office. President Gerald Ford did speak on campus, but the event was an academic convocation on St. Patrick’s day.

Presidents John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton, and Donald Trump did not address Notre Dame’s commencement at all. 

Obama’s address in 2009 drew controversy due to his ardent support of legal abortion. Bishop Thomas Olmstead of Phoenix sent a letter to Notre Dame’s president Fr. John Jenkins, CSC, saying that the invitation of Obama to speak and receive an honorary law degree at Notre Dame’s commencement is a violation of the USCCB’s 2004 statement “Catholics in Political Life.”

Bishop John M. D’Arcy, who served as the bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend until his retirement in November 2009, issued a statement at the time that Jenkins gave a “flawed justification” for the university’s commencement invitation to President Obama, and should have consulted with his bishop before extending the invitation. 

Biden is just the second Catholic president in U.S. history. While he has mentioned his faith on the campaign trail and has attended Sunday Mass while in office, he has supported taxpayer-funded abortion and pushed for the passage of the Equality Act in defiance of the U.S. bishops’ conference. 

His administration has begun rolling back restrictions on public funding of abortion providers, and is fighting in court to keep a mandate in place that doctors provide gender-transition surgeries upon referral, regardless of their medical or conscientious beliefs.

While Biden will not be speaking at Notre Dame’s commencement this year, he has spoken at the university in the past. 

In 2016, Biden appeared at the Notre Dame commencement with former House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio); the two were given the Laetare Medal, the highest honor given by the school. 

“By honoring Biden, Notre Dame would make a bad situation worse,” the open letter in protest of Biden's invite stated.

“The University would be seen as little troubled by Biden’s actions, the voice of a more ‘progressive’ Catholic Church. Catholics – including especially Catholic politicians — and others who share Biden’s views would be confirmed in their ruinous error while others would be newly led astray,” the letter stated.

This article was updated on May 12.