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Penitential rite held after naked man stands on St. Peter’s Basilica’s main altar

Cardinal Mauro Gambetti, archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica, presides over a penitential rite on June 3, 2023, two days after a Polish man stripped naked and stood on the basilica’s high altar. / Vatican Media

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 3, 2023 / 08:04 am (CNA).

Two days after a naked man stood on the high altar of St. Peter’s Basilica in a shocking security breach, the basilica’s archpriest on Saturday held a penitential rite as required by canon law in cases where sacred places are desecrated.

Vatican News reported that the unidentified man was a Polish national who approached the high altar on June 1 as the basilica was about to close. He quickly undressed and climbed onto the altar. Photos posted online showed the words “Save children of Ukraine” written in marker on his back.

“As officers of the Vatican Gendarmerie approached, the man did not resist but cooperated as they led him to the police station inside the Vatican,” the Vatican News report said. “After ascertaining his identity, the man was handed over to the Italian police, according to the Italy-Holy See Treaty, and was issued an expulsion order and instructed to leave Italian territory.”

The basilica’s main altar, where the pope celebrates Mass, is called the Altar of the Confession. Reached by climbing seven steps, the marble altar is located directly above St. Peter’s Tomb and is crowned by Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s large Baroque sculpted bronze canopy.

Cardinal Mauro Gambetti, the basilica’s archpriest, led the penitential rite, held at noon Rome time Saturday. Canons of the Chapter of the Papal Basilica of St. Peter’s and several members of the faithful also participated, Vatican News reported.

According to a report by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, during the act of reparation, the cardinal pointed out that “it is the structure of sin that conditions the hearts and minds of people.”

“This structure of sin is the one that feeds the wars, the one that inhabits our society,” he added.

Referring to the desecration carried out on June 1, the cardinal pointed out that it is this “structure of sin” that pushed the man “to make an inappropriate and deplorable gesture,” ACI Prensa reported.

“We are here to tell the Lord that we recognize that this structure of sin conditions the actions of God’s people. Lord, we ask your forgiveness, purify us,” Gambetti said.

Next, after praying the Creed, the cardinal blessed the water and later spread it on the altar as a sign of purification. Later, two nuns dressed the altar with a tablecloth, candles, flowers, and a crucifix.

The Code of Canon Law and the Ceremonial of Bishops provide guidance for situations where altars or other sacred spaces are violated.

Canon No. 1211 states: “Sacred places are violated by gravely injurious actions done in them with scandal to the faithful, actions which, in the judgment of the local ordinary, are so grave and contrary to the holiness of the place that it is not permitted to carry on worship in them until the damage is repaired by a penitential rite according to the norm of the liturgical books.”

The Ceremonial of Bishops, Nos. 1070–1092, specifies that crimes that can desecrate a church are those that “do grave dishonor to sacred mysteries, especially to the eucharistic species, and are committed to show contempt for the Church, or are crimes that are serious offenses against the dignity of the person and society.”

A penitential rite, either a Mass or a Liturgy of the Word, should be carried out as soon as possible after such a desecration, the norms state.

Religious persecution takes its toll on Catholic faith in Mexico

Flag of Mexico. / Credit: David Ramos/ACI Prensa

ACI Prensa Staff, Jun 3, 2023 / 08:00 am (CNA).

Recent episodes of violence against the Catholic Church, including the murder of a priest and the attempted murder of an archbishop, once again bring to the fore the persecution of the faith in Mexico and the power of organized crime.

On May 22, Augustinian priest Javier García Villafañe was found shot to death in his car on the Cuitzeo-Huandacareo highway. The Michoacán state attorney general’s office stated that he “was killed by several gunshots.”

Days before, an 80-year-old assailant tried to stab to death the archbishop of Durango, Faustino Armendáriz, in the cathedral sacristy after Mass was finished. Fortunately, the prelate was barely injured in the failed attempt.

In addition, in recent weeks there have been various cases of desecration and sacrilege in different churches in the country.

Is Mexico still a Catholic country?

In a May 25 interview with CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, ACI Prensa, Marcela Szymanski of the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) pointed out that a little less than 100 years ago Mexico suffered intense religious persecution against Catholics at the hands of the Mexican government.

“There were deaths, violence for years,” said Szymanski, who holds a doctorate in international politics and is editor-in-chief of the Report on Religious Freedom.

The period of religious persecution suffered by the Catholic Church in Mexico at the beginning of the 20th century is known as “Cristiada.” In 1926 the attacks against the faith triggered the Cristero War, the armed confrontation between Catholics and the Mexican Army that ended in 1929, although numerous civilians and Cristeros were killed in government reprisals after the official end of the conflict.

The “Cristiada,” she noted, “is still not taught in schools, in free textbooks. Nothing about this religious persecution.”

“People continue to think and continue to feel that Mexico is a Catholic country,” she continued, but asked: “Where does this notion come from? This notion stems not only from the fact that they don’t know that there was persecution but also from the fact that during the last 40 years Mexico has still been a Catholic country despite the prohibitions on practicing or living their religion in public and in private.”

Szymanski lamented that for “about 30 years Mexican marriages have been falling apart,” while families no longer maintain a solid Catholic formation and have abandoned attendance at Sunday Mass.

According to the National Institute of Statistics (INEGI) for the year 2011 in Mexico there were 16 divorces for every 100 marriages. By 2019, there were already double that number with 32 divorces for every 100 marriages.

In 2021, there were 33 divorces for every 100 marriages in Mexico.

“Mexico has been carried away by the anti-Christian trend that comes from the West. The vandalism attacks on the churches, the buildings, the attacks on the religious, are always against the Catholics, not against the 22 mosques that exist in the country,” she pointed out.

“Mexico has been losing traditional family religiosity for decades,” she added.

For the year 2000, according to INEGI, Catholics represented 89.7% of the population. Twenty years later the percentage decreased to 77.7%, while an increase in Protestant Christians and people “without religion” was noted.

For Szymanski, in Mexico, “we have a significant mixture of ignorance with a lack of social cohesion that makes it seem natural or normal to attack the institutions, the Catholic Church, and everything that it represents.”

“The notion that it’s an actual crime is lost,” she said. However, such acts are prohibited under Mexican law.

Drug trafficking and murdered priests

Father Omar Sotelo, director of the Multimedia Catholic Center (CCM), also interviewed by ACI Prensa May 25, noted that “for more than 10 years, Mexico has been the most dangerous country to exercise the priesthood in all of Latin America, and it is one of the primary places in the entire world.”

According to a CCM report, between 1990 and 2022, 63 priests were murdered in Mexico, including the archbishop of Guadalajara, Cardinal Juan Jesús Posadas Ocampo. Just in the last four years, during the current administration of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, nine priests have been killed.

According to the report “Missionaries murdered in the year 2022” by the Vatican Fides foundation, Mexico recorded three homicides of priests last year. Only Nigeria recorded a higher number: Four priests were killed there.

“In theory,” he stated, “it’s not a country that has the problems of war or something like that. However, it’s one of the primary countries where exercising the priesthood is dangerous.”

“In Mexico, we have counted at least 25 or 26 churches that have been desecrated, attacked, robbed, looted, violated in a week,” he explained.

For Sotelo, “it’s a clear sign that organized crime has practically overrun the authorities.”

He also noted that there are places in the country where “there are no police” because drug traffickers are the ones who govern those areas.

“Drug trafficking has practically positioned itself strategically throughout the national territory and they have put many of the authorities in check,” he lamented.

In this crisis situation, he explained, a priest “works 24 hours a day, seven days a week” as a “social stabilizer,” giving “aid, defense, protection to all and to the migrant” as well as “health services.”

“The priests compete against organized crime. When they eliminate [a priest], they send two very strong messages: One, if I am able to kill a priest, I can kill whomever they want. Second, by eliminating a priest they are not killing just one person, they are attacking this entire community and this stability,” Sotelo explained.

“Then a narco-culture, a narco-politics, a narco-economy is created,” he warned.

The permanent persecution of the Church

In a statement to ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, Hércules Medina Garfias, the auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Morelia who offered the funeral Mass for the recently murdered priest Villafañe, pointed out that the Catholic Church “from the beginning has been persecuted.”

“Our Lord … was persecuted by Herod, who had the Holy Innocents murdered and the Holy Family had to flee to Egypt,” he said.

In the Bible, he pointed out, “there are many passages about persecution of the first Christian community. The Apostles were persecuted.”

Being persecuted, he stressed, “is a good sign that we are doing things right, and it’s part of our history.”

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Abortions in Scotland highest on record as government considers abortion on demand

null / Credit: Ivon19 / Wikipedia (public domain) (CC-BY-SA-4.0)

London, England, Jun 3, 2023 / 07:00 am (CNA).

The Catholic Church in Scotland, pro-life organizations, and disability rights campaigners have expressed dismay after statistics released by Public Health Scotland on June 1 revealed that the number of abortions recorded in Scotland in 2022 was the highest number ever on record.

The national statistics on abortion revealed an increase of 2,659 abortions — equal to 19.08% — in one year, with the number of abortions increasing from 13,937 in 2021 to 16,596 in 2022.

The statistics also revealed that there has been an 84% increase in the number of abortions where a baby has Down syndrome, from 32 in 2021 to 59 in 2022.

These latest statistics come following a commitment from Scotland’s new first minister, Humza Yousaf, to decriminalize abortion in Scotland, which campaigners warn will mean the availability of abortion on demand.

Anthony Horan, director of the Catholic Parliamentary Office, said that the Scottish government should focus on promoting human dignity.

“Every abortion is a tragedy,“ he said. “Each statistic presented in this report represents a unique, unrepeatable life extinguished.“

“Instead of creating ways to increase the number of abortions in Scotland, the Scottish government should be promoting and defending human dignity through its laws, including the right of the child to develop in his or her mother’s womb from the moment of conception,” he added.

Meanwhile, disability rights campaigners are calling for a public inquiry following the highly controversial revelations, because the rise in abortions for babies with Down syndrome follows the introduction of new NIPT (Non-Invasive Pre-Natal) tests by National Health Service Scotland. 

Lynn Murray, spokesperson for the Don’t Screen Us Out campaign and mother of Rachel, who has Down syndrome, said: “As a mother of a 23-year-old daughter who has Down syndrome, I see every day the unique value she brings to our family and the positive impact she has on others around her.”

Murray said it was “deeply upsetting” to see such a high increase in the number of abortions of babies with Down syndrome.

“Already so many babies with Down syndrome are screened out by termination each year in Scotland and now the situation appears to be getting worse,” she said. “The rollout of new Non-Invasive Pre-Natal tests on the NHS in Scotland appears to be having an impact on the number of terminations.”

Murray called on the government to urgently review the impact of NIPT tests on the number of babies screened out for termination due to Down syndrome.

“They then need to urgently introduce medical reforms to our screening program to ensure that this deeply disturbing increase in the number of abortions for Down syndrome is reversed,” she said.

“We are calling on the Scottish government to urgently update Scottish abortion legislation to ensure that babies with Down syndrome cannot be aborted right up to birth, as is permitted under current legislation,” she added.

Catherine Robinson, spokesperson for Right To Life UK, called the record number of abortions last year “a great tragedy.”

“Every one of these abortions represents a failure of our society to protect the lives of babies in the womb and a failure to offer full support to women with unplanned pregnancies,” she said.

Robinson pointed to First Minister Yousaf’s commitment to decriminalize abortion, which she said would introduce abortion on demand up to birth in Scotland as well as legalize sex-selective abortion.

“This would likely lead to further increases in abortion numbers,” she said. A similar change in law was introduced in New Zealand in 2020, she noted, which resulted in a 43% increase in late-term abortions in 2020.

“We are calling on the Scottish government to scrap plans to introduce abortion up to birth and instead bring forward sensible new restrictions along with increased support for women with unplanned pregnancies,” Robinson said.

“Polling shows these changes are backed by the public in Scotland and this would ensure we were working together as a society to reduce the tragic number of lives that are lost to abortion each year.”

Pope Francis to travel to Mongolia on Aug. 31

Pope Francis greets pilgrims at the Wednesday general audience in St. Peter's Square on March 22, 2023. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Rome Newsroom, Jun 3, 2023 / 05:30 am (CNA).

The Vatican announced Saturday that Pope Francis will visit Mongolia, the world’s most sparsely populated sovereign country.

The pope is set to travel to Mongolia from Aug. 31 to Sept. 4. The trip will make Pope Francis the first pope to visit the Asian country that shares a 2,880-mile border with China, its most significant economic partner.

Mongolia has a population of about 1,300 Catholics in a country of more than 3 million people.

The first modern mission to Mongolia was in 1922 and was entrusted to the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. But under a communist government, religious expression was soon thereafter suppressed, until 1992. Mongolia’s first native priest was ordained in 2016.

Last year, Pope Francis named an Italian who had served as a missionary in Mongolia for nearly 20 years as the world’s youngest cardinal. Cardinal Giorgio Marengo, 48, is the apostolic prefect of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, which serves the entire country.

Roughly the size of Alaska, Mongolia has five people per square mile. About 30% of its population is nomadic or semi-nomadic. Bordering Russia to the north and China to the south, Mongolia is also the second-largest landlocked country in the world with the vast Gobi Desert covering one-third of its territory.

Pope Francis will also travel to Lisbon, Portugal, for World Youth Day this August with a visit to the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima.

The pope is also expected to travel to Marseille to preside over a Mass on Sept. 23 as part of a meeting of Mediterranean bishops in the port city in southern France.

PHOTOS: American seminarians having a ‘ball’ in Rome college’s restored 1960s bowling alley

Seminarians and priests enjoyed a friendly bowling match in the St. John XXIII Pontifical Lanes during some downtime on an afternoon in May 2023. / Credit: Daniel Ibañez/CNA

Rome Newsroom, Jun 3, 2023 / 05:00 am (CNA).

The “mythical bowling alley” — that’s how it was thought of by seminarians at the Pontifical North American College in Rome in recent years.

The narrow room in the basement of the seminary’s main building, with its two 1960s-era wooden lanes and above-ground ball return, had become a glorified closet for at least nine years.

A photo of the bowling alley in the basement of the Pontifical North American College before its restoration in 2023. Credit: Pontifical North American College
A photo of the bowling alley in the basement of the Pontifical North American College before its restoration in 2023. Credit: Pontifical North American College

“For years — for decades really — this bowling alley was breaking down,” NAC rector Monsignor Thomas Powers told CNA. “It was hard to find parts for the old pieces, and it was getting more and more expensive [to maintain]. So for the last few years it became more or less a storage room.”

But then the idea by some students to restore the alley scored a strike.

The original bowling alley had been a gift from St. John XXIII to the American seminary, Powers explained. The gift was announced in 1958 and the construction completed in the early 1960s.

Monsignor Thomas Powers, rector of the Pontifical North American College, talks to CNA in the St. John XXIII Pontifical Lanes in May 2023. The blue benches were salvaged from the original bowling alley, which was a gift of St. Pope John XXIII to the college in the early 1960s. Credit: Daniel Ibañez/CNA
Monsignor Thomas Powers, rector of the Pontifical North American College, talks to CNA in the St. John XXIII Pontifical Lanes in May 2023. The blue benches were salvaged from the original bowling alley, which was a gift of St. Pope John XXIII to the college in the early 1960s. Credit: Daniel Ibañez/CNA

“Because [the alley] was possible because of a saint — and because it’s a great way for guys to have fraternity, to spend time together, to take exam breaks, study breaks, build teamwork — we thought it really should be back to what it was intended to be by the pope,” he said.

Washington, D.C., seminarian Benjamin Bralove had also heard of this “mythical bowling alley that once existed.”

He told CNA he talked to the Student Activities Committee at the seminary, which he chairs, and found that the other seminarians were also interested in “trying to bring this bowling alley back to life.”

Washington, D.C., seminarian Benjamin Bralove (left) and the Pontifical North American College's CFO Michele Marconi (right) prepare to bowl the first balls on the seminary's newly renovated bowling alley after a blessing on May 17, 2023. Credit: Pontifical North American College
Washington, D.C., seminarian Benjamin Bralove (left) and the Pontifical North American College's CFO Michele Marconi (right) prepare to bowl the first balls on the seminary's newly renovated bowling alley after a blessing on May 17, 2023. Credit: Pontifical North American College

A generous donation from Norman and Darlene Ferenz last summer meant the students’ dream could finally be realized, and the college got to work restoring the St. John XXIII Lanes to their former glory.

Powers blessed the newly refurbished bowling alley on May 17, and since that day, he said, the sound of bowling balls striking pins has reverberated throughout the college.

Bralove, who led the restoration plan, said the hardest part of the process for him was the patience he had to exercise waiting for the monthslong project to be completed.

Monsignor Thomas Powers, rector of the Pontifical North American College, blesses the newly refurbished bowling lanes in the basement of the seminary on May 17, 2023. Credit: Pontifical North American College
Monsignor Thomas Powers, rector of the Pontifical North American College, blesses the newly refurbished bowling lanes in the basement of the seminary on May 17, 2023. Credit: Pontifical North American College

But Michele Marconi, the college’s chief financial officer and another leader on the refurbishment, said there were other challenges, too — namely, getting the proper pieces and finding someone with the know-how to restore the original 1960s Brunswick lanes.

The first obstacle, he said, was that there was no longer a Brunswick representative in Italy, so they ended up using a Netherlands-based company for help getting the parts.

Marconi noted that “the gutters at the end were all broken” and that it probably would have been easier to install something new than to fix the old. But, he said, they were committed to keeping the 1960s charm and were able to find a carpenter to do the repair work.

New technology was brought in to replace broken equipment in the St. John XXIII Pontifical Lanes, which were restored in the beginning of 2023. Credit: Pontifical North American College
New technology was brought in to replace broken equipment in the St. John XXIII Pontifical Lanes, which were restored in the beginning of 2023. Credit: Pontifical North American College

“We had three different companies working on it ... not only delivering the parts, but actually assembling the pieces,” he said, including a Brunswick expert who travels all around Europe.

The financial officer also pointed out the now-rare feature of the lanes with above-ground ball returns rather than underground, something he said is “really typical of the ’60s, ’50s.”

Rector Powers said “part of formation is to teach the men to study hard, to work hard, to be a complete self-gift to God and his Church, but also to have a healthy leisure in his life, and this is a great way to have some leisure with their brother seminarians.”

“And finally it’s something that faculty can actually compete in with these guys,” he added with a chuckle.

Group of faithful in Germany rejects Synodal Way: ‘We want to remain Catholic’

The cross of the German “Synodal Way.” / Maximilian von Lachner / Synodaler Weg

ACI Prensa Staff, Jun 2, 2023 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

Birgit Kelle, spokeswoman for the German lay group Neuer Anfang (New Beginning) in a May 29 interview with EWTN Noticias explained that its members reject the Synodal Path initiated by the Church in Germany because they want to “remain Catholic.”

This lay initiative was started two years ago, when the bishops and various lay leaders in Germany had already embarked on the controversial Synodal Path.

Organized by the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK) and the German Bishops’ Conference, the Synodal Way began in 2019.

In March of this year, it approved measures to incorporate gender ideology into Catholic teaching, the ordination of women as deaconesses, the blessing of homosexual unions, the normalization of lay preaching at Mass, and a request that the Vatican “re-examine” the discipline of priestly celibacy.

Kelle told EWTN Noticias that her association seeks to raise their voices, focusing “on a true new beginning in Germany” as they represent “many orthodox Catholics who are concerned about the Synodal Way and its decisions.”

The spokeswoman for New Beginning also pointed out that “the lay officials who were part of the Synodal Path were appointed to represent the normal laity, but they do not.”

“Normal Catholics who sit in church on Sundays are not involved in this process, so we were not heard,” she explained.

“Therefore we’re not ‘against something’ but we are trying to ‘educate about something’ based on [what Jesus teaches] and on the unity of the Catholic Church especially,” she added.

“We’re not following the decisions and guidelines of the Synodal Way because we want to remain Catholic,” she stressed.

“The debate, the papers, the decisions, everything confirms our fears that they [the Synodal Way] do not want a reform in the Church but a new doctrine of the Catholic Church. And that leads us in Germany to a break with the rest of the Church,” the spokeswoman lamented.

Kelle recalled that in January her group gave a letter with their concerns to Pope Francis and that last year they brought him a manifesto they prepared in this regard.

Regarding their activities, Kelle said: “We hold conferences in the academic field but also special conferences for priests, because we experience daily that there are Catholics who do not want to implement the Synodal Path and its resolutions in the communities.”

However, she lamented that these Catholics “face a lot of pressure when it comes to activism to not implement things that are clearly against Catholic teaching.”

The spokeswoman for New Beginning called on “the Catholic Church in the world to intervene in Germany.”

“We want to be part of the Catholic Church worldwide, and we are confronting bishops and lay officials right now who reject all [of our] objections to what goes against Rome, the pope, and the Vatican,” she said.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

In 1995 a ‘deeply embarrassed’ MLB owner apologized for event with anti-Catholic drag performers 

The "Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence" at an "LGBT pride" march in 1995. / Joe Mabel|Wikipedia|GFDL

Washington D.C., Jun 2, 2023 / 16:20 pm (CNA).

The Los Angeles Dodgers, it turns out, are not the first MLB team to find themselves in hot water over an invitation to the drag group calling itself the “Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.” 

Almost 28 years ago, the owner of the San Francisco Giants wrote a letter of apology to the Catholic League for hosting the drag group on the field before a game, according to correspondence the Catholic League shared with CNA on Friday.

In a letter dated Aug. 28, 1995, Catholic League President William Donohue raised his concerns with Giants owner Peter Magowan, who died in 2019, that the pregame ceremony designed to raise AIDS awareness “also seemed to open the door to anti-Catholicism.”

In response, Magowan expressed regret for the inclusion of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence at the event, saying “their acts of mockery” were “unfair to the Catholic Church.”

A national group of drag performers founded in 1979, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence dress as religious sisters, using Catholic religious imagery and themes in protests and sexualized performances to raise awareness and money for LGBTQ+ causes. 

“We were informed that people dressed as Catholic nuns and as the pope were on the field. The ‘nuns’ apparently attend many AIDS-related events and are known as the ‘Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence,’” Donohue wrote. “If this group mocking Catholics and the Church did attend, the Catholic League would like to know why.”

Donohue added that “an event meant to raise money for AIDS should not become a forum for bigotry.”

In response, the Giants owner said that the team was “deeply embarrassed to discover the ‘Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence’ on the field during the pregame ceremonies” in a letter dated Sept. 5, 1995.  

Magowan assured the Catholic League that “the Giants had no previous knowledge” that the anti-Catholic drag group would be participating in the ceremonies, explaining that the team relied on AIDS organizations to provide the 1,000 volunteers.

Though he said the team was not aware the anti-Catholic group would be there, Magowan reiterated that he “in no way condon[ed] the behavior of this group.”

“It was most regrettable, as their acts of mockery not only were unfair to the Catholic Church but also were a distraction to the worthy focus of the day,” Magowan said. “Let me assure you that stricter screening procedures will be implemented next year if a similar event is staged.”

The recent controversy erupted last week after the Dodgers announced that they would honor the Los Angeles chapter of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence with a “Community Hero Award” during their Pride Night at Dodger Stadium event on June 16.

Donohue told CNA that he believes “the difference between the Giants’ response in 1995 and the Dodgers’ response today is a reflection of the cultural changes we have been experiencing.” 

“We have become increasingly secular, and indeed there is a militant streak evident among the ruling class,” Donohue said. “Perversely, in the name of tolerance and diversity, we have become increasingly intolerant of the diversity that Christianity provides.” 

Donohue added that he believes “a restoration of our Judeo-Christian heritage is the answer, not more militant secularism.” 

“As a sociologist, it is my conviction that we may be reaching a tipping point in our culture,” Donohue asserted. “The backlash against Bud Light, Disney, Target, the Navy — and now the Dodgers — suggests that the woke mob has gone too far.” 

After initially receiving blowback from the Christian community, the Dodgers revoked their invitation to the drag group, only to reinstate it with an apology days later.  

“The Los Angeles Dodgers would like to offer our sincerest apologies to the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence,” the team said in an official statement on Twitter, adding: “We have asked the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence to take their place on the field at our 10th annual LGBTQ+ Pride Night on June 16th.” 

“We are pleased to share that they have agreed to receive the gratitude of our collective communities for the lifesaving work that they have done tirelessly for decades,” the Dodgers said. “In the weeks ahead, we will continue to work with our LGBTQ+ partners to better educate ourselves, find ways to strengthen the ties that bind, and use our platform to support all our fans who make up the diversity of the Dodgers family.” 

Not all the team members agreed with the team’s decision to re-invite the anti-Catholic drag group.

In a personal statement, Dodgers pitcher Blake Treinen said that the team’s decision “disenfranchises a large community and promotes hate of Christians and people of faith.” 

“Many of their performances are blasphemous, and their work only displays hate and mockery of Catholics and the Christian faith,” Treinen said, adding: “This group openly mocks Jesus Christ, the cornerstone of my faith, and I want to make it clear that I do not agree with nor support the decision of the Dodgers to ‘honor’ the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.” 

Church in Spain collects almost 1,000 complaints of sexual abuse since 1945

null / Credit: Emiliano Arruabarrena/Cathopic

ACI Prensa Staff, Jun 2, 2023 / 13:45 pm (CNA).

The Catholic Church in Spain on June 1 presented the report “To shed light,” which tallies 927 complaints of alleged sexual abuse of minors under 18 years of age or vulnerable people that occurred from 1945 to 2022.

The report does not include situations involving the abuse of conscience and power or committed against adults.

The report was “prepared from the testimonies that have been collected in the offices [of the protection of minors and abuse prevention], without assuming or proving innocence or guilt.”

The Spanish Bishops’ Conference (CEE) also acknowledged that in the account it presented “it’s possible that there are some duplications of testimonies.”

The complaints indicate 728 alleged perpetrators including 170 diocesan priests and 208 ordained religious, 234 non-ordained men and women religious, one deacon, 92 laypeople, and 23 people whose state is unknown.

Most abuse was of homosexual nature

According to the data provided by the CEE, the majority of those accused are men (99.4%) and in more than eight out of 10 cases the abuse was of a homosexual nature.

In most cases it is unknown if the perpetrator is alive or dead, but of those cases where it was indicated, 63% are dead.

The report indicates that 80% of the cases occurred before 1990 and that seven out of 10 took place in the 20th century.

The 1970s was the decade with the most cases of abuse.

Nearly half of the reported abuses (46.96%) took place in a school setting and slightly more than 15% in a parish environment, with another 14.57% in “seminaries, boarding schools, or choirs.”

The Spanish Bishops’ Conference noted that the Church in Spain has 202 open offices prepared to receive complaints of this type, of which 53 are diocesan, four interdiocesan, and three reception centers.

In addition, 121 religious congregations have launched 142 such offices.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Fort Worth bishop dismisses Carmelite mother superior in latest in Texas monastery-diocese dispute

The Reverend Mother Superior Teresa Agnes Gerlach of the Monastery of the Most Holy Trinity in Arlington, Texas. / Credit: Monastery of the Most Holy Trinity Discalced Carmelite Nuns

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 2, 2023 / 12:40 pm (CNA).

Bishop Michael Olson of Fort Worth, Texas, issued a decree Thursday dismissing Reverend Mother Teresa Agnes Gerlach from religious life following a nearly six-week-long investigation into an alleged sexual affair involving a priest.

In his decree, Olson announced he had found Gerlach, prioress of the Monastery of the Most Holy Trinity in Arlington, “guilty of having violated the sixth commandment of the Decalogue and her vow of chastity with a priest from outside the Diocese of Fort Worth.”

Based on this finding, as the pontifical commissary with authority over the monastery, Olson said he is dismissing Gerlach from the Order of Discalced Carmelites.

According to the decree, Gerlach has 30 days to appeal the decision to the Vatican’s Dicastery for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of the Apostolic Life.

In a separate statement, the diocese also announced that daily Mass and regular confession at the monastery would soon be reinstated following the investigation’s conclusion. 

The actions are the latest in an ongoing dispute between Olson and the Texas Carmelite Monastery. 

Matthew Bobo, the attorney representing the monastery in its civil lawsuit against the diocese, responded to the bishop’s decree, saying: “Bishop Michael Olson’s decision is unjust and unconscionable in the light of moral, canonical, and natural law.”

“Mother Superior will be appealing this immoral and unjust decision that is not subject to canonical action,” Bobo said.

“In addition, the civil lawsuit will accelerate and continue full speed ahead,” Bobo noted.

The dispute began in late April when the diocese launched a canonical investigation into an alleged sexual affair between Gerlach and an unnamed priest. 

The reverend mother and the monastery filed a civil lawsuit on May 3 against the bishop and the diocese, accusing them of confiscating the reverend mother’s computer, cellphone, and laptop and subjecting nuns to lengthy questioning.

The monastery argued that Olson had no authority over it as it is an “autonomous religious entity” subject only to the Vatican.

They further accuse the bishop and the diocese of violating both civil and canon law through his conduct related to the investigation. 

The lawsuit seeks $1 million in civil damages and asks the court to block the bishop’s and the diocese’s access to any records obtained by confiscating the reverend mother’s property. 

In turn, the diocese argues that the dispute is an ecclesiastical matter and should not be heard in a civil court.

The civil hearing on the case is set for June 23. 

After the monastery filed the lawsuit, Olson denied Gerlach’s ability to choose her canon lawyer, choosing one himself to represent her in the ecclesiastical investigation. Though the canon lawyer has already filed paperwork on her behalf, the reverend mother denies that he represents her in these matters.

Bobo told CNA that “the bishop’s own canon lawyer is compromised.” 

“Bishop Olson rejected four canonical representatives of Mother Superior’s choosing and then forced his own canonical lawyer (lackey) on her with whom she has never spoken,” Bobo said. 

In response to the monastery’s claim of ecclesiastical autonomy, the diocese announced Wednesday that Olson had been appointed pontifical commissary over the monastery by the Vatican’s Dicastery for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. 

As pontifical commissary, the diocese says Olson is “the pope’s representative in the matter” with “full authority for the Monastery.” 

Though he has now reinstated daily Mass, for a time Olson banned the monastery from celebrating daily Mass and blocked access to regular confessions. 

He did so on the grounds that the nuns’ actions violated the obedience owed to the “Holy Church and to her holy Pastors” in a manner “unbecoming of their religious state.”

The ban was lifted on Thursday in a diocesan statement that read: “Given the time that has passed and now having completed the investigation into the grave misconduct of the Reverend Mother … and having found her guilty of having violated the sixth commandment of the Decalogue and the vow of chastity, and having dismissed her from the Order of Discalced Carmelites, Bishop Michael Olson … has decided to reinstate daily Mass at the Carmel for the nuns of the Monastery beginning on Wednesday, June 7, 2023, at 7:30 a.m.”

The diocesan statement added that “given the pending lawsuit, Mass will remain closed to the participation of the lay faithful for the time being. The only Mass intention will be for the restoration of peace and good order of the Monastery.” 

The diocese has not publicized the exact nature of the affair nor named the priest or any other diocese possibly involved.

Though the diocese says that Gerlach has admitted to the misconduct, Bobo said that Gerlach was under the influence of pain medication related to a surgery when she is alleged to have admitted to the affair and “has not admitted to any grave misconduct that would warrant his extreme and emotionally damaging measures.”

According to Bobo, Gerlach, 43, was suffering from serious medical issues and had just undergone surgery when she was said to have admitted to the misconduct. 

“Bishop Olson has publicly defamed Mother Superior on matters of the moral law that are NOT canonically actionable,” Bobo told CNA. “His ‘investigation’ was never announced as such to Mother Superior nor the nuns. With a 30-minute window before appearing at the monastery, he advised them he was coming without providing the rationale for his visit and then showed up with the diocesan chancellor and forensic expert and then proceeded to interrogate Mother Superior just after a medical procedure while she was still recovering from the medical use of fentanyl.”

Bobo added that Gerlach “is in a wheelchair and her health has deteriorated.” 

A spokesperson for the diocese declined to comment further on the matter.

Florida bishops plead with DeSantis to spare life of death row inmate

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis at a campaign stop in Salem, New Hampshire, on June 1, 2023. / Credit: JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images

Washington D.C., Jun 2, 2023 / 11:25 am (CNA).

Florida’s Catholic bishops are calling on Gov. Ron DeSantis to issue a stay of execution for a convicted murderer who is scheduled to die by lethal injection on June 15.

Duane Owen, 62, was sentenced to death for the 1984 murder of a 14-year-old babysitter, whom he stabbed to death and then sexually assaulted. He was also sentenced to death for the 1986 murder of a single mother whom he beat to death with a hammer.

Owen would be the fourth person to be executed in Florida this year, the sixth to die by capital punishment during DeSantis’ administration.

In a May 31 letter on behalf of the bishops to DeSantis, Michael Sheedy, the executive director of the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops (FCCB), appealed to the governor to grant a stay and commute Owen’s sentence to life without parole.

The letter acknowledged the suffering Owen has caused but stated the bishops’ opposition to the death penalty and belief in the sanctity of life.

“His senseless and horrific acts tragically ended the lives of these young women and have caused immeasurable grief and suffering to the victims’ families, loved ones, and communities,” the letter reads. “However, taking Mr. Owen’s life will not restore the lives of the victims. Intentionally ending his life will do nothing but perpetuate violence in a society steeped in it.”

“Justice does not demand state-sanctioned killing that disrespects the dignity and sacredness of human life,” the bishops said in the letter. “Rather, justice is best served by the alternative punishment of lifelong incarceration. Society must be kept safe from Mr. Owen and those like him, but that can be done effectively without resorting to more violence.”

The letter said there are “notable mitigating circumstances” in Owen’s case that argue for granting him a stay of execution.

“He was raised by alcoholic parents who both died when he was a very young child, he lived in an abusive orphanage, endured physical and sexual abuse, and suffered from organic brain damage. Such traumatic experiences and injuries have been shown to profoundly affect a child’s development and subsequent behavior,” Sheedy wrote on behalf of the bishops.

DeSantis had issued an executive order May 22 to delay Owen’s execution in response to Owen’s attorneys’ statement that their client had been declared insane after a psychiatric evaluation.

One week later, DeSantis issued another executive order for Owen’s execution to proceed as planned after a panel of state-appointed psychiatrists established Owen’s mental competency.

The order said the psychiatrists had concluded: “Owen has the mental capacity to understand the nature of the death penalty and the reasons why it is to be imposed upon him.”

The Florida bishops recently condemned DeSantis, a Catholic, for signing a bill that would make it easier to impose the death penalty in the state. The bill eliminated the requirement of a unanimous jury when recommending a capital punishment sentence. The death penalty can now be imposed with only an 8-4 majority of the jury.

“As Florida persists in its implementation of the death penalty, the process should be as reliable and just as possible. Unanimity is required in every other circumstance when a jury is summoned in Florida. The harshest punishment that the state imposes should require the strictest standards,” the bishops said in an April 13 statement.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, reflecting an update promulgated by Pope Francis in 2018, describes the death penalty as “inadmissible” and an “attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person” (No. 2267).

The change reflects a development in Catholic doctrine in recent years. St. John Paul II called on Christians to be “unconditionally pro-life” and said that “the dignity of human life must never be taken away, even in the case of someone who has done great evil.”