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Mobile clinic to offer ultrasounds outside Utah Planned Parenthood 

Thomas Andreas/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., May 11, 2021 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

The group Pro-Life Utah will park a mobile ultrasound clinic outside one of the largest abortion clinics in the state, it announced this week. 

The “Pregnancy Choice Utah Mobile Ultrasound Clinic” will be parked outside of Planned Parenthood Metro in Salt Lake City, the group said on its website. The “bright pink mobile clinic” will offer women free pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, and options counseling about pregnancy, parenting, and adoption resources. The mobile clinic’s ultrasound machine was donated by the Knights of Columbus.

In a video promoting its mobile clinic, the group said its services are offered by “licensed medical staff and trained client advocates.” 

“Pregnant women will have the opportunity to actually see their own baby and hear the heartbeat,” the Pro-Life Utah website stated. “

“Statistics show that up to 80% of abortion-minded women experience a change of heart and choose to keep their baby upon seeing the ultrasound. The ‘clump of cells’ lie is exposed, and women who view their ultrasound can realize that this is a baby!” the group said.

Mary Taylor, president of Pro-Life Utah, said in the group’s video that the ultrasound for the mobile clinic was donated by the Knights of Columbus. 

“I have to take a minute and thank the Knights of Columbus,” Taylor said. “They’ve raised money and donated ultrasound machines to pregnancy resource centers across the state and across the country. We are so grateful to be a recipient of this project.” 

Through its initiative that began in 2009, the Knights of Columbus has donated ultrasound machines to pregnancy centers around the world. State and local Knights councils raise 50% of the cost of the machine while the Knights of Columbus Supreme Council provides the other 50%. In the case of a mobile medical unit, the Supreme Council provides 100% of the cost of the ultrasound machine.

The 1,000th machine donated under the initiative was given to an abortion clinic-turned-medical clinic, the Mother of Mercy Free Medical Clinic in Manassas, Virginia.

Karrie Galloway, President & CEO of Planned Parenthood Association of Utah - the affiliate that operates the Planned Parenthood Metro clinic in Salt Lake City - said in a statement provided to CNA that "We acknowledge first amendment rights to publicly gather and disagree with our mission.”  

“At Planned Parenthood, our patients are always our number one priority, and we do all we can to ensure each person has the information they need to make health care decisions that are best for them. That includes providing ultrasounds to every patient who comes to us for abortion care,” Galloway added.  

Blessing same-sex couples a diabolical and sacrilegious act, priest affirms

A blessing service at St. Augustin Catholic church in Würzburg, Germany, for couples, including those of the same-sex, May 10, 2021. / Gehrig/CNA Deutsch.

Mexico City, Mexico, May 11, 2021 / 14:19 pm (CNA).

Fr. Hugo Valdemar, canon penitentiary of the Archdiocese of Mexico, said that the blessing that priests and pastoral workers gave May 10 to homosexual couples in Germany "is a truly sacrilegious act" and a "diabolical act of pride and immorality."

The blessing of homosexual couples in Germany "is not only an act of indiscipline and rebellion against the pope and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), it is a truly sacrilegious act,” said Valdemar.

Priests and pastoral workers of the Church in Germany blessed homosexual couples in a May 10 event called "Love Wins," held in more than 100 locations throughout the country with the support of several bishops, including the president of the German Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Georg Bätzing of Limburg.

The event was in open rebellion to the explicit prohibition by the CDF, which said March 15 that the Church hasn’t the power to bless same-sex unions.

The CDF issued a “Responsum ad dubium” replying to the question, “does the Church have the power to give the blessing to unions of persons of the same sex?” The doctrinal congregation answered, “Negative”, explaining its reasoning in an “explanatory note” and accompanying commentary.

Valdemar explained that “persons can always be blessed, even if they are sinners, but that which is in itself a serious sin and offensive to God, such as homosexual acts, cannot be blessed.”

The priest warned that the blessing of homosexual couples "is more than an act of indiscipline, it’s an actual defiance of God and his natural law, a contempt for Sacred Scripture that considers these acts as grave sin and an abomination, and  profound contempt for the perennial teaching of the Church on this grave sin.”

"In short, it is a truly diabolical act of pride and immorality," the priest said.

Valdemar emphasized that "the Church does not discriminate against people with homosexual tendencies, on the contrary, the Catechism and various ecclesial documents call for deep respect and authentic pastoral charity towards them."

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that homosexuals “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.”

The priest stressed that “what is unacceptable for the Church is the sin of lust, whether between heterosexual or homosexual people. Some ill-intentioned people try to make the Church's rejection of sin the same as rejecting the sinner, which isn't true.”

"For the sinner, whatever his sin may be, the doors of mercy will always be open, but the requirement for repentance and conversion will always be there," he added.

Valdemar stressed that it’s important for Catholics in Latin America to be attentive to this situation in Germany "so as not to allow ourselves to be enveloped by this perverse mentality of gender ideology that is slowly permeating society."

"In addition to being vigilant, we must call for the unity of the Church, which is undoubtedly at risk because what is happening in Germany is in fact already a lamentable schism," he concluded.

Local Catholic association supports physicians in their vocation

Dr. Saad Jazrawi, president of the Portland Catholic Physicians Guild, holds daughter Samar, age 7 months, during a dinner following the annual White Mass for Catholic health care workers in 2019. “If I combine my faith and my work, I’m a better Catholic and a better physician,” said Jazrawi. / Ed Langlois/Catholic Sentinel

Portland, Ore., May 11, 2021 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

As a committed Catholic and newly minted medical doctor, Saad Jazrawi was clear about his mission: treat patients with Christlike compassion.

He also knew distractions would abound, from the allure of a bigger house or fancier car to the stress of navigating insurance companies and administrative demands. And he’d encounter an array of moral issues — if not regularly in his own work, in his interactions with colleagues — abortion, medically assisted suicide and new views on gender.

“If I combine my faith and my work, I’m a better Catholic and a better physician,” said Jazrawi, a gastroenterologist who deals with digestive diseases and abdominal cancer. “I wanted to make sure that the two would not be in conflict, and I needed support.”

When Jazrawi moved to Oregon, he found the spiritual and practical encouragement he sought in the Portland Catholic Physicians Guild.

“It’s a small community of morally sound physicians who have been so helpful,” said Jazrawi, who was named guild president seven years ago. “I’ve become more comfortable not being distracted by things and can focus on what’s important — caring for patients with respect for the whole human person.”

Medical residents, including Temilola Yvonne Abdul (center), pose during the 2018 Catholic Medical Association conference, held in Dallas. / Courtesy Catholic Medical Association/Catholic Sentinel
Medical residents, including Temilola Yvonne Abdul (center), pose during the 2018 Catholic Medical Association conference, held in Dallas. / Courtesy Catholic Medical Association/Catholic Sentinel

The Portland guild is a chapter of the Catholic Medical Association and one of about 110 such organizations nationwide. It aims to uphold principles of Catholic morality in medicine, communicate Catholic medical ethics to the broader community, and fortify medical professionals in their faith.

The local guild began in the early 1950s as a loose affiliation of Catholic doctors. Most were parishioners of St. Elizabeth of Hungary Church in Southwest Portland and lived near “Pill Hill,” so dubbed for its proximity to Oregon Health and Science University.

The group grew more active in the 1960s, and members gave talks on natural family planning at Oregon parishes. The guild essentially dissolved for a time, but in the 1990s Dr. Thomas Pitre and his wife, Dr. Lynne Bissonnette-Pitre, revitalized it.

Physician-assisted suicide was gaining support locally, and within a few years Oregon would become the first state in the nation to legalize lethal prescriptions.

Dr. Thomas Pitre and wife, Dr. Lynne Bissonnette-Pitre, helped revitalize the Portland Catholic Physicians Guild in the 1990s. / Courtesy of Dr. Thomas Pitre/Catholic Sentinel
Dr. Thomas Pitre and wife, Dr. Lynne Bissonnette-Pitre, helped revitalize the Portland Catholic Physicians Guild in the 1990s. / Courtesy of Dr. Thomas Pitre/Catholic Sentinel

“We felt the need as Catholic physicians to get Catholic doctors together to preserve our ethic that the Catholic faith is not incompatible with being a physician” and to address new practices that violated core tenants of the faith, said Pitre, who retired last year after 45 years in urology. He and Bissonnette-Pitre, a psychiatrist, are converts.

The couple added additional events to the guild’s calendar and restarted a White Mass, held for medical professionals on the feast day of St. Luke. The saint was both Gospel writer and physician.

Cardinal Francis George, former head of the Portland Archdiocese, spoke at several functions and encouraged Lynne and Thomas’ efforts. He also connected them with the Catholic Medical Association.

In 2005, the Portland guild hosted the association’s annual conference, drawing more than 300 medical professionals to the city for a gathering that included talks and daily Mass. The following year Pitre began a term as president of the national association.

The local guild’s most notable achievement is Holy Family Catholic Clinic, founded by three guild members and opened last year in West Linn, a suburb of Portland.

“They are doing marvelous work there at the medical clinic,” said Msgr. Gerard O’Connor, guild chaplain. The monsignor is director of the Portland archdiocesan Office of Divine Worship and recently was named rector of St. Mary Cathedral.

“Holy Family is a great resource for me now as a parish priest,” Msgr. O’Connor said. “I can send young couples who are planning to marry to the clinic to learn about natural family planning.”

Membership in the Portland guild has fluctuated over the past few decades, but it currently has about 25 core members, with many others attending special events such as the White Mass and annual dinner. There are meetings the first Saturday of the month, occasional social gatherings and retreats.

Dr. William Toffler, a member of the Portland Catholic Physicians Guild, speaks during a 2016 Catholic Medical Association event in Mundelein, Illinois. The doctor is one of three co-founders of Holy Family Catholic Clinic, the Portland guild’s most significant achievement. / Courtesy Marc Salvatore/Catholic Sentinel
Dr. William Toffler, a member of the Portland Catholic Physicians Guild, speaks during a 2016 Catholic Medical Association event in Mundelein, Illinois. The doctor is one of three co-founders of Holy Family Catholic Clinic, the Portland guild’s most significant achievement. / Courtesy Marc Salvatore/Catholic Sentinel

“It’s been a tremendous comfort to know there are other like-minded physicians in a culture that is increasingly at odds with what we believe,” said Pitre, echoing fellow members.

Periodically multiple guilds convene to learn about issues or upcoming legislation with ethical or religious liberty implications. Members also have engaged in advocacy, testifying at the Oregon state Capitol against euthanasia and collecting signatures for various respect-life measures. The guild sometimes collaborates with other Christian associations on issues.

In November of last year, the Portland group sent a letter to Oregon Gov. Kate Brown conveying concerns about pandemic-related restrictions on communal worship. They were most worried about how the rules would impact psychological well-being. The physicians praised Brown for responding to an uptick in COVID-19 infections but asked her to consider each church’s capacity, an approach backed by science. Archbishop Alexander Sample also sent a letter to the governor, who eventually reworked the guidelines.

Archbishop Alexander Sample offers encouragement to medical professionals following a 2019 Mass in their honor. / Courtesy Saad Jazrawi/Catholic Sentinel
Archbishop Alexander Sample offers encouragement to medical professionals following a 2019 Mass in their honor. / Courtesy Saad Jazrawi/Catholic Sentinel

Archbishop Sample has been a champion of the Portland guild, as have previous archbishops. “We’ve also been fortunate to have many great chaplains,” said Pitre, noting Benedictine Father Bernard Sander, Msgr. Richard Huneger and Father Eric Andersen.

The current chaplain expressed his immense respect for guild members.

They work within a culture that’s not pro-life and even encounter hostility to Catholic teaching at some Catholic hospitals, said Msgr. O’Connor.

The camaraderie the guild affords, plus the support from the national organization, “allows men and women of faith to share with courage and knowledge church teaching in the world,” he said. “That’s a beautiful thing.”

This article was first published by the Catholic Sentinel and is reprinted with permission.

Revered icon of Our Lady unscathed after Belarus church fire

The icon of Our Lady of Budslau. / Vitaly Polinevsky/

CNA Staff, May 11, 2021 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

A Marian icon revered by Catholics in Belarus was recovered undamaged on Tuesday following a fire at a church in the village where it has been venerated for centuries.

The icon of Our Lady of Budslau was found unscathed on the morning of May 11 amid the blaze at the Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the village of Budslau, about 90 miles north of the capital, Minsk., the website of the Catholic Church in Belarus, reported that minutes after smoke was seen billowing from the roof, pastor Fr. Dmitry Dubovik and volunteers entered the church and removed the icon and the Blessed Sacrament.

Belsat TV reported that the church’s roof was destroyed in the blaze which firefighters battled for more than four hours. The cause of the fire is currently unknown. said that the icon is being kept at a safe location and would soon be available for veneration again.

/ Vitaly Polinevsky/
/ Vitaly Polinevsky/

The bishops of Belarus appealed to Catholics May 11, following a visit to the site, to support the reconstruction of the late Baroque church, also known as the National Sanctuary of the Mother of God of Budslau.

They said: “We, the Catholic bishops of Belarus, call on all the faithful to join together in prayer and possible assistance in the restoration of the shrine in Budslau, built by our ancestors with great love for God and His Blessed Mother.”

“May the Mother of God of Budslau help us to restore her house in Budslau as soon as possible. May our Blessed Mother and Patroness of Belarus continue to take care of our homeland, the Church in Belarus, and all of us, may she save and protect from all evil and lead to her Son.”

Catholics are the second-largest religious community after Orthodox Christians in Belarus, a country of 9.6 million people bordering Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia.

An annual celebration in honor of Our Lady of Budslau was inscribed on UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2018.

In its citation, the United Nations’ cultural agency said: “Since the 17th century, every year on the first weekend of July tens of thousands of pilgrims from all over Belarus and other countries have come to Budslau to participate in the celebrations in honor of the Budslau icon of Our Lady, with some making the pilgrimage on foot.”

“The icon, the patroness of Belarusian people, is known for many miracles and Budslau is recognized as the place where, according to legend, Our Lady appeared to believers in July 1588.”

“Elements of the celebration include priests welcoming the pilgrims, Masses, a night procession with the icon and candles, a youth prayer vigil, and hours of prayer to the Mother of God.”

Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem says violence requires ‘an urgent intervention’

The Old City of Jerusalem. / Aleksandar Todorovic / Shutterstock.

Rome Newsroom, May 11, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem is calling for justice and peace amid an escalation of violence in the city.

“Our Church has been clear that peace requires justice. Insofar as far as the rights of everyone, Israelis and Palestinians, are not upheld and respected, there will be no justice and therefore no peace in the city,” it said in a statement published May 10.

“It is our duty not to ignore injustice nor any aggression against human dignity regardless of who is committing them.”

Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa has served as the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem since November and governs the Latin Catholics in Israel and the Palestinian territories in that role.

The patriarchate said that the recent violence in East Jerusalem at the Al-Aqsa Mosque and in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood had violated the “sanctity of the people of Jerusalem and of Jerusalem as the City of Peace and require of an urgent intervention.”

The Al-Aqsa Mosque, or Al-Aqsa Compound, in the Old City of Jerusalem was built on top of the Temple Mount, a location venerated as a holy site in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

Violence broke out at the site on the night of May 7, the last Friday of Ramadan, between Israeli police and thousands of Palestinians gathered at the complex. More than 150 Palestinians and six Israeli police officers were injured, according to the BBC.

The Latin Patriarchate said that “the violence used against the worshippers undermines their safety and their rights to have access to the Holy Places and worship freely.”

“Palestinian worshippers have been denied access to Al-Aqsa Mosque during this month of Ramadan. These demonstrations of strength wound the spirit and soul of the Holy City, whose vocation is to be open and welcoming; to be a home for all believers, with equal rights and dignity and duties,” it said.

Since the patriarchate issued the statement, the situation has escalated further.

Hamas, the Islamic militant group that rules Gaza, fired rockets at Jerusalem on May 10. The attack was followed by Israeli military airstrikes that Palestinian authorities say killed 20 people.

The Patriarchs and Heads of Local Churches in Jerusalem issued a joint statement published May 10 calling on the international community to intervene to put an end to “provocative actions” and urging prayers for peace.

“The growing tension, backed mainly by right-wing radical groups, endangers the already fragile reality in and around Jerusalem,” it said.

The Catholic and Orthodox leaders appealed for “all parties to preserve the already sensitive situation in the Holy City of Jerusalem.”

The Latin Patriarchate pointed to the forced evictions of Palestinians from Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood as “a main flashpoint amid rising tensions in Jerusalem in general.”

“The issue today is not a matter of a real-estate dispute between private parties. It is rather an attempt driven by an extremist ideology which denies the right of existence of a person in his own home,” it said.

Pope Francis appealed for peace in Jerusalem after praying the Regina Coeli from the window of the Apostolic Palace on May 9.

“With particular concern, I am following the events that are happening in Jerusalem. I pray that it may be a place of encounter and not of violent clashes, a place of prayer and peace,” the pope said.

“I invite everyone to seek shared solutions so that the multi-religious and multi-cultural identity of the Holy City is respected and brotherhood prevails. Violence begets violence. Enough with the clashes.”

N.D. governor vetoes parts of pro-life funding bill

Glynnis Jones/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., May 11, 2021 / 11:15 am (CNA).

North Dakota’s governor last week partially vetoed a bill penalizing state universities for conducting business with abortion providers.

The state’s legislature had passed SB 2030, which prohibited challenge grant money from going to universities that partner with organizations that provide or support abortion. The legislature passed the bill to sanction North Dakota State University for its continued refusal to stop funding Planned Parenthood.

The bill also set up penalties for university partnerships with abortion providers, mandating operating budget cuts to the schools in violation and fines and jail time for school officials. Gov. Doug Burgum (R) vetoed those provisions, however, saying they were “void of due process” and that the penalty was “egregious in its amount.” 

In his veto letter, the governor affirmed his administration’s pro-life record.

“In the end, it’s a win,” Christopher Dodson, executive director of the North Dakota Catholic Conference (NDCC), told CNA. “The bill doesn’t have the higher penalties, but it still says if those universities want the matching grants to help their students, all they have to do is not do business with Planned Parenthood. It’s that simple.”

For every two dollars raised by state colleges and universities for scholarships and academic initiatives, the state matches one dollar, under North Dakota’s challenge grant program.

Because of the challenge grants statute, Dodson called it “a pro-life victory.”  He also said it is good for students because the matching grants are still available.

He said the state Catholic conference has not taken a stance on supporting an override of the veto.

Burgum had vetoed provisions including a 2.5% operating budget cut penalty for universities in violation of the legislation. School officials signing agreements with abortion providers would be subject to jail time and a $1500 fine.

North Dakota State University (NDSU) would have been penalized $2.8 million as a result of the original language in the bill.

For over eight years, NDSU has been accepting a federal grant for a “PREP: Making Healthy Choices” sex education program. The grant comes from the Department of Health and Human Services.

Since accepting the grant in 2012, NDSU has given over $1.5 million to Planned Parenthood for its sex education program.

“Two years ago, 90 legislators wrote to NDSU’s president saying, this has got to stop,” Dodson told CNA. “And basically, the university thumbed their nose as they renewed their grant, and that’s why the legislators said enough is enough and put this language on the existing bill.”

No federal or state money going through universities was used for abortions, Dodson mentioned. “That was never the issue,” he said. “The issue was that the state should not partner with an abortion provider on anything, even if abortion is not involved.”

NDSU’s federal grant expires in September 2021. The university said they will not be renewing the grant, the AP reported.

“The bill is not saying what you can teach, how to teach, or how to research,” Dodson said. “All its saying is don’t do it with an abortion provider. Because in our view, you don’t partner with someone with so much death on their hands.”

In April, Gov. Burgum vetoed a bill that prohibited biological males identifying as transgender females from participating in girls’ public elementary and secondary sports.

Louisiana legislature recognizes anniversary of Roe v. Wade as ‘Day of Tears’

Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., May 11, 2021 / 10:00 am (CNA).

The Louisiana state legislature last week passed a resolution recognizing Jan. 22, 2022, the 49th anniversary of legalized abortion throughout the United States, as a “Day of Tears.” 

“This week we passed a resolution calling for a Day of Tears in Louisiana,” state Sen. Beth Mizell (R), who introduced the resolution, said May 10 in a statement provided to CNA. 

The May 4 passing of the resolution recognizes Jan. 22, 2022, as a “Day of Tears” in the state, and citizens are encouraged to lower their flags to half-staff on that day to mourn unborn children who have lost their lives from abortion.

"As a pro-life state we must continue to bring attention to the loss of innocent lives from abortions yearly.  Let us work together to demonstrate that we value life and strive to protect the unborn,” Mizell said.

The “Day of Tears” resolution is a campaign for states to officially recognize the tragedy of legalized abortion in America. The Day of Tears, Inc. is a national pro-life organization that aims to introduce and enact resolutions similar to Louisiana’s in states around the country.

“Louisiana joins Arkansas, Mississippi and Alabama in recognizing January 22nd as the Day of Tears,” wrote the organization, Day of Tears in a May 5 press release. “Similar Resolutions have been introduced in the US Senate and the US House of Representatives,” they said. Earlier this year, legislatures in both Arkansas and Alabama passed “Day of Tears” resolutions.

The Louisiana resolution said that the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide, “erroneously ruled that abortion was a right secured by the Constitution of the United States of America.” 

“Since that ill-fated day,” the resolution said, “over sixty-one million pre-born children in the 9 United States have perished.”

The legislation comes amid what one pro-life leaders calls an “unprecedented surge” of pro-life bills at the state level.

According to a report published April 30 by the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute, 536 pro-life bills have been introduced in 46 states in the year 2021, with 61 new pro-life laws.

“The unprecedented surge of pro-life activity in state legislatures this year proves life is winning in America,” Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, stated following the report. She said that the state bills include bans on abortions after five months of pregnancy and bans on abortions conducted solely because of prenatal diagnoses such as Down syndrome.

Vatican responds to bishops’ call to amend Church law on crimes against minors

The dome of St. Peter's Basilica. / Luxerendering/Shutterstock.

CNA Staff, May 11, 2021 / 09:00 am (CNA).

The Vatican has told the bishops of England and Wales that it is amending the Code of Canon Law so that “crimes against minors are considered under a different title than crimes against the obligations of celibacy on the part of clerics.”

The Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts shared the information in a letter dated April 19, responding to the English and Welsh bishops’ request for adjustments to canon law concerning clerical sexual abuse.

In the letter, addressed to bishops’ conference president Cardinal Vincent Nichols, it said: “After review of the information and recommendation Your Eminence submitted to this Pontifical Council, I am pleased to inform you that the concerns you have expressed have already been taken into consideration in the revision of Book VI of the 1983 CIC [Code of Canon Law], which is currently in process.”

“In the revised Book VI of the 1983 CIC, crimes against minors are considered under a different title than crimes against the obligations of celibacy on the part of clerics. The revised title will be ‘Crimes against the life, dignity and freedom of man’ and will include a canon that is specific to crimes against minors.”

The letter, received by Nichols on April 23, was signed by the Pontifical Council’s president Archbishop Filippo Iannone and secretary Bishop Juan Ignacio Arrieta.

The English and Welsh bishops made their request to the Vatican in a letter dated March 15.

The correspondence between the bishops and the Vatican was published on the bishops’ website on May 9. It was included in a 21-page document detailing how the Catholic Church has responded to the seven recommendations of a highly critical independent report on child abuse within the Church in England and Wales.

In the report, published on Nov. 10, 2020, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) urged the bishops to “request that the Holy See redraft the canonical crimes relating to child sexual abuse as crimes against the child.”

The recommendation related to Canon 1395 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law.

Under the subheading “Delicts against special obligations,” the second part of the canon says: “A cleric who in another way has committed an offense against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue, if the delict was committed by force or threats or publicly or with a minor below the age of sixteen years, is to be punished with just penalties, not excluding dismissal from the clerical state if the case so warrants.”

The English and Welsh bishops raised detailed concerns about the phrase “against the sixth commandment” -- “contra sextum” in Latin -- in their letter to the Vatican.

The letter, signed by Cardinal Nichols and bishops’ conference general secretary Canon Christopher Thomas, said that while the term “contra sextum” was part of canonical tradition, “it is no longer adequate to meet the demands of a contemporary canonical approach to sexual offenses against minors and their equivalent in law.”

The bishops suggested that the term was difficult to reconcile with other aspects of canon law, was only recently used by the Eastern Catholic Churches, and was a source of confusion for civil authorities.

Referring to a vademecum “on certain points of procedure in treating cases of sexual abuse of minors committed by clerics,” issued by the Vatican last year, the letter said: “It seems reasonable that the categories delineated in Section I of the Vademecum of 16 July 2020 could be used to formulate a delict [a crime in canon law] without making use of the term ‘contra sextum.’”

“The Bishops’ Conference feels that this would be a significant step to rectifying the very real problems and consequent misunderstandings that its officers are faced with when engaging with colleagues in the civil authorities.”

The English and Welsh bishops also asked that the “reformulated delict” be placed “into a discrete category of offenses against minors, and their equivalents in law, and their dignity.”

In the 21-page document, the Catholic Church in England and Wales also outlined how it was responding to IICSA’s six other recommendations, which included mandatory safeguarding training for those working with children or abuse victims and the publication of a national complaints policy related to safeguarding cases.

The document, dated April 30, was prepared by the Catholic Council for the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse.

In an introduction to the text, council chair Nuala O’Loan, wrote: “The Catholic Church is committed to this work and will continue to develop its structures and processes so that the Church is a safe place for all who worship in, or engage in any way with, it.”

“This report marks a significant step on the continuous journey of improvement.”

What is the new ministry of catechist? A CNA explainer

Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst and Archbishop Rino Fisichella present the apostolic letter 'Antiquum ministerium' at the Vatican, May 11, 2021. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

Vatican City, May 11, 2021 / 08:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Tuesday instituted the new lay ministry of catechist, with the apostolic letter Antiquum ministerium (“Ancient ministry”).

You might have questions about what this ministry is and who it is for. In this explainer, CNA answers your burning questions about this new (or is it?) ministry in the Church.

What is the instituted ministry of catechist?

An instituted ministry is a type of formal, vocational service within the Catholic Church. It can be either lay, such as lector or acolyte, or ordained, such as deacon or priest.

The newly instituted ministry of catechist is for lay people who have a particular call to serve the Catholic Church as a teacher of the faith.

The ministry is “stable,” meaning it lasts for the entirety of life, independent of whether the person is actively carrying out that activity during every part of his or her life.

But catechists already exist. How is this different?

Many catechists today serve the Church at the parish level, but the instituted ministry of catechist will be tied to the diocese and be at the disposal of the diocesan bishop.

Archbishop Rino Fisichella explained at a Vatican press conference May 11 that “the institution of a ministry by the Church is confirmation that the person invested with that charism is performing an authentic ecclesial service to the community.”

Fisichella is president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, which oversees the Church’s instituted ministries.

The institution of this ministry, together with the lay ministries of lector and acolyte, “will make it possible to have a laity that is better prepared in the transmission of the faith,” the archbishop said.

He also emphasized that the instituted catechist is dedicated to the transmission of the faith through proclamation and instruction -- he or she does not have any kind of liturgical responsibility.

The catechist collaborates with the local bishop and priests in the teaching of the faith to the local community. And it can be a benefit in places where priests are scarce.

Pope Francis “is well aware of how many areas of Latin America and Africa today still have catechists at the head of the community,” Fisichella said. He stressed the unique nature of each ministry, noting that they are not interchangeable.

“At stake here is much of what is new in this ministry,” he said. “Men and women are called to express their baptismal vocation in the best possible way, not as substitutes for priests or consecrated persons, but as authentic laymen and laywomen who, in the distinctive nature of their ministry, are able to experience the full of extent of their baptismal vocation of witness and effective service in the community and the world.”

Who is qualified to be instituted into the ministry of catechist?

Pope Francis’ letter said that a lay person called to be instituted in the ministry of catechist should have “deep faith and human maturity,” be an active participant in the life of the Christian community, and “capable of welcoming others, being generous and living a life of fraternal communion.”

Bishops’ conferences will be responsible for deciding the “necessary process of formation and the normative criteria for admission” to the new ministry.

Individual bishops are tasked with determining appropriate candidates in their own territories, and ensuring they have been properly prepared through “suitable biblical, theological, pastoral and pedagogical formation.”

Prior experience of catechesis is also a prerequisite.

Archbishop Fisichella said that “it is obvious that not everyone who is a catechist today will have access to the ministry of Catechist.”

“Of primary importance is the vocational dimension which implies a willingness to serve the Church where the bishop considers it most beneficial,” he explained. “Ministries are not conferred for personal gratification, but for service to be rendered to the local Church where the bishop deems the presence of the catechist necessary.”

The Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments will publish a Rite of Institution of the new lay ministry of catechist. It will be ready “in a short time,” according to Fisichella.

Where did the idea of the lay catechist come from?

In his apostolic letter, Pope Francis emphasized the history of the catechist, beginning with the New Testament’s First Epistle to the Corinthians, which refers to “teachers” within the early Christian community.

He said that catechists played a critical role in the Church’s missionary expansion in the following centuries and noted the renewed appreciation for lay catechists in the work of evangelization following the Second Vatican Council.

Fisichella said his pontifical council, at the request of Pope Francis, has been studying the institution of the lay ministry of catechist for more than five years in collaboration with bishops’ conferences and experts.

Vatican fixes website glitch showing two versions of Catechism

The Good Shepherd image used in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. / Public domain.

Vatican City, May 11, 2021 / 06:00 am (CNA).

The Vatican has corrected a problem on its website that meant it displayed at least two different editions of the Catechism of the Catholic Church in English.

When using an online search engine, internet users could land on two different editions of the Catechism of the Catholic Church in English, one of which was an earlier edition.

Matteo Bruni, director of the Holy See Press Office, told CNA last week that “it is one of those cases where the system updates are incompletely coordinated, so one page had the older version and the other the more recent one.”

Bruni explained that after being alerted, Vatican staff realigned the pages of the Catechism in English and were checking the website for similar problems in other languages.

Before it was corrected, the Vatican website showed two versions of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, sometimes not reflecting recent significant changes to the document.

In one version, for example, Pope Francis’ 2018 update to paragraph 2267 on the death penalty was not present, while nothing on the page indicated that it was an older edition of the Catechism.

In one version, Paragraph 2358, on homosexuality, showed wording from a previous draft of the Catechism, which left out the phrase, “which is objectively disordered,” after the words “this inclination,” except when “concordant links” were turned off.

After fixing the website, the full paragraph, as published in the Catechism, is visible whether concordant links are on or off.

Following the update, when website users use a search engine to find the Vatican website’s publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church some links may lead to an error message which says “Forbidden” and that access to the page is not permitted.

This issue can be solved by clicking on the correct link, or by going to the English-language version of the Vatican website directly and clicking on “Resource Library” at the foot of the homepage, which leads to a section called “Archive” containing a link to the Catechism.

The fix to a part of the website comes after cyber security experts urged the Vatican to strengthen its defenses against hackers.

Andrew Jenkinson​, group CEO of Cybersec Innovation Partners (CIP) in London, told CNA in November last year that he had contacted the Vatican in July to express concern about its vulnerability to cyber attacks.

The British cybersecurity consultancy approached the Vatican following reports in July 2020 that suspected Chinese state-sponsored hackers had targeted Vatican computer networks.