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CNA - Daily News

Asia - Pacific:    Church in Fiji threatens to close all Catholic schools

Suva, Fiji, Jan 23, 2019 / 12:21 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Catholic Church in Fiji is prepared to shut down all of its 44 primary and 19 secondary schools if the government continues to elect non-Catholics as the head of those schools.

Fiji’s education ministry recently named two non-Catholics as principals of Saint Thomas High in Lautoka and Xavier College in Ba. Education Minister Rosy Akbar said the decisions were part of the country’s merit-based recruitment system, and that the Church can privatize its schools if it disagrees with the move, the London-based Christian radio station Premier reported.

The Church is now calling for greater autonomy in the governance of its schools.

After a meeting held last Thursday, Archbishop Peter Loy Chong of Suva said he is prepared to close the local schools, but will only do so if Catholic leaders and government authorities cannot arrive at a solution, according to Premier.

At the meeting, four possible courses of action were identified: initiating a “critical self-reflection and an organisational review of Catholic education in the areas of identity, character, quality of teachers and planning”; working toward partnership with the government; demanding that the government take faith into account when appointing heads of schools; and engaging in civil disobedience, which would include closing the nation’s 63 Catholic schools.

The Fiji Sun reported that Permanent Secretary for Education Alison Burchell has said the government is open to more discussions and is dedicated to finding the most appropriate person for the job.


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Americas:    Sodalitium Christianae Vitae elects new superior general

Aparecida, Brazil, Jan 22, 2019 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- Colombian José David Correa González has been selected as the new superior general of the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae, a Catholic society of apostolic life.

The selection took place during Fifth General Assembly of the Sodalitium, which is being held at the Aparecida Marian shrine in Brazil, Jan. 6-27.

Correa, 49, will serve a six year term. He was chosen by the Vatican Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life from a three-person list chosen by members of the society during the general assembly.

The Sodalitium Christianae Vitae was founded in 1971 in Peru, and granted pontifical recognition in 1997. CNA's executive director, Alejandro Bermúdez, is a member of the community.

The Sodalitium’s founder, Luis Fernando Figari, stepped down as superior general in 2010, after allegations surfaced that he had committed serial acts of abuse while leading the community. Other former leaders of the community have since faced related abuse allegations, and several remain subject to law enforcement investigations.

In February 2017, a team of independent investigators commissioned by the Sodalitium reported that “Figari sexually assaulted at least one child, manipulated, sexually abused, or harmed several other young people; and physically or psychologically abused dozens of others.”

As a result, the Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life issued a decree the same month forbidding Figari from any contact with the religious community, and banning him from returning to Peru without permission from the current superior of the Sodalitium. Figari was also forbidden to make any public statements.

In January 2018, Pope Francis appointed Colombian Bishop Noel Antonio Londoño Buitrago C.Ss.R. as papal commissioner for the society, tasking him with overseeing an ongoing process of reform that began after allegations against Figari came to light. Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark was tasked in 2016 with assisting the community’s reform process and its internal investigations of alleged misconduct.

The election of Correa is seen as the latest step in the reform process.

The new superior general of the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae was the first Colombian member of the community. He was born in Medellin July 26, 1969, entered the SCV on September 4, 1992 and made his perpetual vows May 13, 2000.

Correa had been serving as superior of the Our Lady of Alta Gracia community in the prelature of Ayaviri, Peru, one of the poorest regions of Peru, situated 12,800 feet above sea level. Until now he was also the Secretary General of Caritas in Ayaviri.

Correa is the first non-Peruvian superior general of the Sodalitium.
The SCV general assembly next elect the community’s vicar general, who functions as an executive officer to the superior, and five members of its governing council.

The Holy See has also announced that with Correa’s selection, the Sodalitium will no longer be directly governned by its commissioner. Tobin, however, will continue to assist the community as a papal delegate, especially on financial matters.

The general assembly will conclude with a Mass of thanksgiving at the Aparecida Marian shrine Sunday, January 27.

 

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.


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Europe:    'Induced' deaths rise in Netherlands, sparking concerns from doctors, ethicists

Amsterdam, Netherlands, Jan 22, 2019 / 04:39 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Legalized euthanasia and assisted suicide have the longest history in the Netherlands: 17 years ago, the two practices became legal, under what were supposed to be very limited circumstances, available only to those undergoing “unbearable” suffering with “no reasonable alternatives” for relief.

But time has brought a loosening of definitions and a level of comfortability with the practices, increasingly extending their availability far beyond patients with terminal conditions and extreme pain.

The Guardian recently reported that “well over a quarter” of deaths in the Netherlands in 2017 were “induced.” This included 6,585 who died by euthanasia; around 1,900 who killed themselves; and 32,000 “who died under palliative sedation.”

In a longform piece published by the Guardian, Christopher de Bellaigue examines the increased popularity of the practices, and the expanding availability of euthanasia and assisted suicide to include the young and the mentally (though not physically) ill.

He also notes that the increase in demand has some doctors and ethicists balking at the practice, and questioning whether the Netherlands has headed down the oft-referenced “slippery slope” of having gone too far in letting people choose when to die.

“The process of bringing in euthanasia legislation began with a desire to deal with the most heartbreaking cases – really terrible forms of death,” Theo Boer, an ethics teacher at the Theological University of Kampen, told the Guardian. “But there have been important changes in the way the law is applied. We have put in motion something that we have now discovered has more consequences than we ever imagined.”

Those opposed to assisted suicide and euthanasia often do so out of concern for the possibility of coercion, or the impossibility of predicting whether someone’s condition or mental state might improve, with additional care. Many disability groups actively campaign against it, arguing that it discriminates against the disabled, making insurance companies more likely to pay for their death than their ongoing care.

Ethicist Berna Van Baarsen shares similar concerns. Sometimes patients write advance directives, requesting assisted suicide once they deteriorate past a certain point, while they are still fully physically and mentally competent. But these patients may adjust to their new circumstances and change their mind, but be unable to communicate, making it nearly impossible to know whether their original request still stands.

Van Baarsen resigned from her position on a euthanasia case review board last year, citing her qualms with these types of cases, which are common.

“It is fundamentally impossible to establish that the patient is suffering unbearably, because he can no longer explain it,” she told the Dutch daily Trouw.

She has also recently lamented that “legal arguments” often weigh more heavily on committees that approve people’s requests for euthanasia, “while the moral question of whether in certain cases good is done by killing, threatens to get snowed under,” the Guardian reported.

“The underlying problem with the advance directives is that they imply the subordination of an irrational human being to their rational former self, essentially splitting a single person into two mutually opposed ones. Many doctors, having watched patients adapt to circumstances they had once expected to find intolerable, doubt whether anyone can accurately predict what they will want after their condition worsens,” de Bellaigue wrote.

De Bellaigue also detailed another disturbing case, in which a doctor went on vacation at a time when one of her patients had requested euthanasia, but she had declined his case, at least for the time. When she came back, another doctor had euthanised her patient.

“...guilt was a factor; if she hadn’t gone away, would her patient still be alive? Now she was making plans to leave the practice, but hadn’t yet made an announcement for fear of unsettling her other patients. ‘How can I stay here?’ she said. ‘I am a doctor and yet I can’t guarantee the safety of my most vulnerable patients,’” de Ballaige wrote.

Currently, a doctor is being investigated in the first case of euthanasia malpractice in the Netherlands. The case was the kind Van Baarsen was wary about - the woman in the case had signed an advance directive, requesting euthanasia if she was still mentally competent at the time it was carried out.

After getting dementia and being confined to a nursing home, the woman was secretly slipped a sedative by the doctor in question and then given a lethal injection. While the woman fought the doctor, her family held her down.

Prosecutors say they are investigating the doctor for administering euthanasia to a woman who had voiced different desires about euthanasia at different times, and for euthanizing her without checking to be sure it was her wish at the time. Two other cases investigating possible euthanasia malpractice have been dropped.

De Ballaige wrote that these cases may be the cause of a 9 percent drop in euthanasia and assisted suicide that has been reported for the first nine months of 2018.

Boer told the Guardian that when he speaks to lawmakers from other countries considering legalized euthanasia and assisted suicide, he points to the Netherlands as a warning.

“Look closely at the Netherlands because this is where your country may be 20 years from now,” he said.

Euthanasia and assisted suicide are legal only in a handful of states in the U.S., though there has been a recent push to legalize the practice in more places, in part due to the high-profile case of Brittany Maynard, a 29 year-old with terminal cancer who ended her life via assisted suicide in 2014. Compassion and Choices, which advocates for legalized euthanasia and assisted suicide, helped publicize her death.

Catholic social teaching holds assisted suicide and euthanasia to be “morally unacceptable.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “even if death is thought imminent, the ordinary care owed to a sick person cannot be legitimately interrupted. The use of painkillers to alleviate the sufferings of the dying, even at the risk of shortening their days, can be morally in conformity with human dignity if death is not willed as either an end or a means, but only foreseen and tolerated as inevitable. Palliative care is a special form of disinterested charity. As such it should be encouraged.”

“Everyone is responsible for his life before God who has given it to him. It is God who remains the sovereign Master of life. We are obliged to accept life gratefully and preserve it for his honor and the salvation of our souls. We are stewards, not owners, of the life God has entrusted to us. It is not ours to dispose of,” it adds.

In June 2016, Pope Francis denounced assisted suicide as part of a “throwaway culture” that offers a “false compassion” and treats a human person as a problem. Addressing medical professionals from Spain and Latin America at the Vatican, the Pope criticized “those who hide behind an alleged compassion to justify and approve the death of a patient.”

“True compassion does not marginalize anyone, nor does it humiliate and exclude – much less considers the disappearance of a person as a good thing.”


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US:    Nathan Phillips rally attempted to disrupt Mass at DC’s National Shrine

Washington D.C., Jan 22, 2019 / 03:58 pm (CNA).- While chanting and playing ceremonial drums, a group of Native American rights activists reportedly led by Nathan Phillips attempted Jan. 19 to enter Washington, D.C.’s Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception during a Saturday evening Mass.

The group of 20 demonstrators was stopped by shrine security as it tried to enter the church during its 5:15 pm Vigil Mass, according to a shrine security guard on duty during the Mass.

“It was really upsetting,” the guard told CNA.

“There were about twenty people trying to get in, we had to lock the doors and everything.”

The guard said the incident was a disappointment during a busy and joyful weekend for the shrine.

“We had hundreds and hundreds of people from all over the country come here to celebrate life, to celebrate each other together. That a protest tried to come inside during Mass was really the worst.”

The guard told CNA the situation was “tense.”

“I’m just really grateful that nothing too bad happened, they were really angry.”

A source close to the shrine’s leadership corroborated the security guard’s account, telling CNA that during the Mass, Phillips and the group tried to enter the church while playing drums and chanting, and were prohibited from entering the building by security personnel, who locked the main basilica doors with the congregation still inside.

The shrine’s spokeswoman would not confirm or deny that the group attempted to enter the Mass. She told CNA that “a group did assemble on Saturday evening outside the the shrine” and that they “left without incident.”

Philips was the subject of national media attention on Saturday, after video went viral on social media depicting parts of a Jan. 18 incident involving him and several teenagers, some of whom were students from Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky. The incident has become the subject of intense national debate, and Phillips has been accused by some of instigating an encounter with the students, and subsequently altering his initial account of events. 

Covington Catholic High School was closed Jan. 22, following threats against students and staff in the wake of media coverage of Friday’s incident.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported that about 60 people gathered outside the shrine in support of Phillips on Saturday night, though it did not mention reports that Phillips and some supporters attempted to disrupt the evening Mass.

Video footage showed one supporter saying that the group had gathered at the shrine to listen to Phillips, and to hold the Catholic Church “accountable” for the alleged actions of the Covington Catholic students and for the “colonial violence that the Catholic Church reproduces every day.”

A photograph attached to the post shows Phillips addressing the group outside the shrine.

The security guard told CNA that the incident was especially distressing given that Mass was underway.

“It’s a house of worship, a place of prayer where people come to celebrate. All this anger is so against what we are all about here.”

He told CNA that he’d never witnessed anything like it during his whole time of employment at the basilica.

“I don’t know the details of what happened on Friday [after the March for Life], I wish I did. All I know is it’s a shame, and it’s got nothing to do with why people were here.”

“And this all happened on our biggest event of the year. I hope we never see it again.”


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US:    US Supreme Court allows transgender military ban

Washington D.C., Jan 22, 2019 / 02:26 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The US Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed President Donald Trump’s ban on transgender persons serving in the military to go into effect, while the issue continues to be adjudicated in lower courts.

The Supreme Court’s five conservative members voted Jan. 22 to lift nationwide injunctions that had blocked the ban from going into effect. However, the policy is being appealed in lower courts, and those appeals will still be going forward despite the ruling.

In July 2017 Trump announced on Twitter that anyone identifying or presenting as a sex different from their biological sex would be prohibited from military service, with extremely limited exceptions. The policy was formally issued in 2018 by then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis.

Previously, under President Barack Obama’s administration, military policies were changed to allow people who do not identify themselves according to their biological sex, or who were seeking surgical “gender transition”, to join the military.

Pentagon spokesperson Lt. Col. Carla Anderson insisted that the policy is in fact not a ban on transgender troops, but rather is a “personnel policy” that is “necessary to ensure the most lethal and combat effective fighting force in the world.”

Slightly under 1,000 people in the military have undergone a gender transition. In 2016, the government estimated that there were about 9,000 transgender troops in the U.S. military. Including reservists, there are about 2.1 million people in the military.

When Trump announced the policy in July 2017, a theology professor at the Catholic University of America said it was the “right decision.”

Those who identify as transgender are “people made in God's image, and they deserve our compassion, and they deserve to be treated with dignity, but that doesn't mean that they are fit for combat in the defense of a nation,” Dr. Chad Pecknold told CNA.

“Pope Francis is famous for his stress upon dialogue, and his non-judgmental approach with respect to the dignity of every person,” he said. “But the Holy Father has also been crystal clear that ‘gender theory’ represents a burning threat to humanity, starkly describing it as a ‘global ideological war on marriage’.”

Also on Tuesday, the Supreme Court declined to act regarding Trump’s plan to end the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. This means that DACA will stay in place for the time being.

The USCCB has said in previous statements that they are in favor of a “permanent legislative solution” for DACA recipients as well as those under temporary protective status. This solution is “vital,” said the bishops.


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US:    Lori laments racism in American society and Church

Baltimore, Md., Jan 22, 2019 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- Archbishop William Lori has issued a major pastoral reflection on the subject of racism in American society and the Church in the U.S.

 

Entitled “The Journey to Racial Justice - Repentance, Healing and Action,” Lori’s reflection was released to coincide with the commemoration of Martin Luther King Day. In the Jan. 21 document, the Archbishop of Baltimore wrote of his concern at renewed racial tensions in the country.

 

“Even as we Americans celebrate Dr. King’s inspiring example, we feel the shame of witnessing public demonstrations of racial and ethnic violence and hatred such as we have not seen in decades,” Lori wrote.

 

Recent reports have indicated a rise in hate crimes across the country, while major incidents like the 2017 racial demonstrations and conflicts in Charlottesville, VA, have highlighted growing concerns about a resurgence in overtly racist attitudes in sections of American society.

 

In a searching reflection on the evil of racism in American, Lori wrote that institutional and personal complicity by the Church needs to be frankly understood, acknowledged, and atoned for.

 

“No doubt, in looking back at the history not only of our Church, but also of our nation, one may justly say that racism is the original sin of our country, our state, and our local dioceses, and its deep roots continue to plague us,” said Lori.

 

“As we are so painfully aware in the midst of the current crisis in the Church, without acknowledging the sins of the past, we cannot hope to understand and heal the wounds of the present.”

 

The archbishop’s reflection laid out an unsparing resume of his earliest predecessors, saying that “no credible treatment of the history of the establishment of the Catholic Church in the United States can be told without also acknowledging the reality of the early Church’s direct involvement in slavery.”

 

Noting his own previous pastoral statement on Dr. King’s teaching on non-violence, Lori acknowledged that the Church had fallen short of the demands of the Gospel in the era of so-called Jim Crow laws and beyond, allowing de facto segregation between and even within parishes and other institutions.

 

While efforts by Church leaders to support and champion the civil rights movement offered examples of “efforts, sacrifices, and achievements” by Catholic leaders, priests, religious, and lay people, Lori warned there is still more to be done.

 

“Without a doubt, many members of the Catholic Church today have continued to devote themselves to addressing racial injustice in our Church and society,” the archbishop said.

 

“These efforts, encouraging as they may be, cannot by themselves end racial injustice, nor can they be causes of complacency,” he said, while asking “if we can still easily identify the ‘black’ and ‘white’ parishes of our archdiocese, have we truly accomplished the goal of racial equity we claim to embrace?”

 

In November, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops released the pastoral letter “Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love,” also on the subject of racism in America.

 

Lori made frequent reference to this document, which warned against a “neglect of history” among many in the Church with regard to racism and a lack of awareness of “the connection between institutional racism and the continued erosion of the sanctity of life.”

 

 

The U.S. bishops wrote that neither the Church or society could “look upon the progress against racism in recent decades and conclude that our current situation meets the standard of justice.”

 

“God demands more of us,” the bishops said.

 

In response to this demand, and to other recent scandals, Lori wrote that he felt a renewed call to be present to the witness of human suffering.

 

“I have come to realize in a new and clearer way an important truth: wherever the people of God are suffering is where I belong, at their side, listening, sharing compassion, and discerning how the Holy Spirit is calling me to take action.”

 

To this end, Lori used his pastoral reflection to commit to renewed action in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, pledging more training within the archdiocese to address the problem of racism, and to conduct a review of the diversity of Church institutions, including archdiocesan leadership, seminaries, clergy, parishes, schools and social service programs.

 

“In a spirit of repentance and prayer, we seek healing as we turn to the redeeming and reconciling love of Jesus with the hope of building a Church that is journeying toward a better future as we work side by side with those who are victims of racism today.”


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Vatican:    How the Vatican summit's moderator approaches the problem of clerical sexual abuse

Vatican City, Jan 22, 2019 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- The moderator of the Vatican’s February summit on child sexual abuse has written an article outlining his take on the Church’s most effective models of response for addressing its sexual abuse crisis.

The article, written by Fr. Federico Lombardi, is published in the Jan. 19 issue of the Jesuit-run bi-monthly magazine La Civiltà Cattolica. Lombardi, a Jesuit and former papal spokesman, will be a central actor in the Feb. 21-24 meeting, which will convene the leaders of bishops’ conferences from around the world to discuss the clerical sexual abuse of minors.
 
Lombardi has long known in Italy as a key figure in the fight against sex abuse by clergy.

In 2011, Lombardi was part of a significant moment related to combating sexual abuse: A conference, “Toward Healing and Renewal,” organized by the Pontifical Gregorian University. The work of the conference become the basis for the establishment of the Gregorian’s Centre for Child Protection, which partially inspired the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.
 
In 2017, Lombardi was involved in the organization of the conference “Child Dignity in Digital Age,” which drafted and presented to Pope Francis the “Declaration of Rome”, which proposed new approaches needed to countering sexual abuse in the internet era.
 
Lombardi is also part of the steering committee of the “Child Dignity Alliance.”
 
The former papal spokesperson has also gained attention as an expert on sexual abuse issues because of his articles on La Civiltà Cattolica. In an essay last month, he retraced step-by-step the history of the clergy sex abuse crisis and of the Church’s response.
 
In his most recent article, Lombardi listed some “good practices” for an effective response. Those documents will be likely at the center of the discussions in the February meeting.
 
Lombardi highlighted the document “Protecting Minors from Sexual Abuse,” issued by the Canadian Bishops Conference, which addresses the effects of abuses on victims and community, explains how to respond to the crisis and outlines “guidelines” for juridical and pastoral procedures.
 
Lombardi said that “it is expected that every diocese will appoint dedicated people to collect abuse reports and to proceed to preliminary investigations.”
 
The moderator of the February meeting also praised the diocese in Bergamo, in Northern Italy, which established a specific office in the diocesan Curia, called the “diocesan service for the Protection of Minors.” While such offices are standard operating procedure in the United States, they are less common in other parts of the world.
 
Lombardi stressed that “the collaboration between dioceses and ecclesial institutions” is crucial, as it is important to “formulate and set up new curricula,” especially to train those on the front line of countering the abuse crisis. The Jesuit noted that “this is difficult in vast areas of the world that lack of experience, resources and competences.”


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Vatican:    On anniversary, Swiss Guards don new 3D-printed helmets

Vatican City, Jan 22, 2019 / 11:04 am (CNA).- As the Swiss Guards celebrated their 513th anniversary Tuesday, they donned for the first time their new light-weight helmets, which are made of black PVC and 3D printed.

The plastic helmets replace those made of metal, which were easily dented, and which would get so hot from the Roman sun in the summer months they could cause blisters on the guards’ ears.

Printed in Switzerland, the new helmets were unveiled by Swiss Guard Commander Christoph Graf during a press conference last May, but were formally added to the uniform Jan. 22 as part of the anniversary celebrations of the world’s smallest-but-oldest standing army.

Per tradition, the day’s anniversary festivities began with Mass in the Church of Santa Maria della Pieta in the Vatican’s Teutonic College, followed by a march of the Swiss Guards from the chapel to the Swiss Guard quarters on the opposite side of Vatican City.

The march follows a path under the Arch of the Bells and across St. Peter’s Square in commemoration of the arrival of Swiss mercenaries to the Vatican on Jan. 22, 1506, the year the Swiss Guard was founded.

Also on Jan. 22, the Guard released the first in a series of short videos illustrating the daily life of a Swiss Guard. The series, called “1506-The Swiss Guard Presents,” will publish new videos throughout the year on the 20th of every month.

The first 3-minute-long video is called “Service of Honor,” and shows the guards as they go about their various duties; it also includes clips from the State visit of Swiss President Alain Berset with Pope Francis Nov. 12, 2018.

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The series was created by Vatican Media and the Rome-based film company Officina della Comunicazione.

The Vatican’s Swiss Guard barracks is currently undergoing a renovation, which the website says was needed because it has not been renovated since the 19th century, had a lack of proper insulation, and had started to become run-down. 

The three buildings being renovated encompass the area of the troop of the halberdiers (the lowest rank of the Guard), the canteen, administrative offices, and the cadre and family housing.

The renovation will be funded by the Vatican and by the Swiss Guard Foundation, which will conduct fundraising in Switzerland and abroad.


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US:    Navy chaplains appointed military archdiocese auxiliary bishops

Vatican City, Jan 22, 2019 / 09:44 am (CNA).- Pope Francis appointed Tuesday two Navy chaplains, Fr. Joseph Coffey and Fr. William Muhm, as auxiliary bishops for the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services.

As bishops for the Archdiocese for the Military Services, Coffey and Muhm will serve the spiritual needs of personnel in the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard, as well as the Department for Veterans Affairs and those in government service outside of the U.S.

Coffey and Muhm’s past deployments include Afghanistan and Iraq respectively.

Coffey, a priest of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, is a Navy captain and past recipient of the Distinguished Service Award from the Military Chaplains Association.

During his 18 years of service as a Navy chaplain, Coffey’s assignments has served the Marines in Okinawa, Japan, the Coast Guard training facility in Cape May, NJ, and as a Naval chaplain recruiter.

Born in 1960, Coffey is the fifth of nine children of a Catholic family in Philadelphia. He has an M.A. in Moral Theology and a Master of Divinity from St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, Philadelphia. Between university and seminary, he worked for one year as an auto dealer in Europe, selling cars to American serviceman in Germany and Belgium.

Muhm is a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, a U.S. Navy Chaplain and captain since 1998. He was ordained by Cardinal John O’Connor in 1995 after serving in the Navy prior to entering the seminary.

He was deployed with the 1st Marine Regiment in Iraq from 2008 to 2009, and then was assigned as the chaplain for the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, MD. He holds an STB and Master of Divinity from St. Joseph Seminary, Yonkers, NY. Most recently Muhm was a parish administrator for the Most Precious Blood parish in Walden, New York.

The Archdiocese for the Military Services is responsible for more than 1.8 million men, women, and children across 29 countries worldwide.

 


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Americas:    Order of Malta to provide first aid at World Youth Day

Panama City, Panama, Jan 22, 2019 / 09:32 am (CNA/EWTN News).- There will be 120 volunteers of the Order of Malta in Panama for World Youth Day, with the task of “providing first aid to young pilgrims”, Prince Dominique de La Rochefoucauld-Monbel, Grand Hospitalier of the Order, told CNA.

Within the Order of Malta, the Grand Hospitalier includes the office of Minister of Health and of Social Affairs, for Humanitarian Action, and for International Cooperation.

The Sovereign Military Order of Malta is a Catholic lay religious order of a military, noble, and chivalrous nature. It is a subject of international law, and in that capacity it has diplomatic relations with over 100 states and the European Union, and also holds a Permanent Observer status at the United Nations. It is preparing to sign a memorandum of understanding with Panama.

The Order of Malta is currently active in 120 countries, with a wide network of social and humanitarian work.

De la Rochefoucauld recounted that the Order of Malta organized for World Youth Day “120 volunteers, coming from Germany, France and Italy,” whose main task will be that of providing first aid to the pilgrims.

Given the number of pilgrims coming from long distances, “there are people who do not feel well, some of them faint, some of them simply cannot manage the energy. And so, there is the need of professionals there, who are able to care for these people.”

The Order of Malta volunteers are all specifically trained to face any kind of crisis. The Grand Hospitalier underscored that “they have been trained to help in crisis situations like earthquake,” not to mention that “our first aid units in France were among the first assisting the injured at the Bataclan theater.”

De la Rochefoucauld-Mombel also recalled the Paris 1997 World Youth Day, where he was among the first aid corps: “We were called because one of the girls of the group was not feeling well. When we got there, she had fainted, so we started the procedure, automatically: we opened the buttons, untied shoes, put her in the right position to let her breath. The doctor was in front of me. We stared from one to the other and in that moment the crowd started saying the ‘Our Father’ prayer. And we prayed the prayer, too, while continuing to provide the first aid.”


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Vatican:    Vatican again denies prior knowledge of allegations against Argentine bishop

Vatican City, Jan 22, 2019 / 08:36 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a statement Tuesday the Vatican again denied having prior knowledge of sexual abuse allegations against Argentine Bishop Gustavo Oscar Zanchetta before his December 2017 appointment to a Vatican office.

In a Jan. 22 statement, interim director of the Vatican Press Office Alessandro Gisotti “resolutely” repeated a Jan. 4 Vatican statement that said no sexual abuse charges had yet emerged against the bishop at the time Pope Francis appointed Zanchetta to the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA) in December 2017. Gisotti said the charges only emerged in the fall of 2018.

The Vatican’s latest statement came in response to recent articles on the Zanchetta allegations carried by several news outlets. Gisotti said it was necessary to correct “some misleading reconstructions.” He also confirmed that Zanchetta’s case is being studied and that “information will be forthcoming regarding the results” of that process.

Bishop Zanchetta, 54, was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Quilmes in 1991. He remained there until his 2013 appointment by Pope Francis as Bishop of Orán. In July 2017, he announced his resignation as bishop, citing health problems and “an incapacity to govern the clergy.”

After spending some time in Spain, Zanchetta took up the position of assessor at APSA, which manages the Holy See’s assets and real estate holdings, in December 2017.

In a Jan. 20 report from the Associated Press, Zanchetta’s former vicar general said that information about alleged sexual abuse by Zanchetta had been sent to Rome several years prior to the Argentine bishop’s appointment to APSA.

Fr. Juan Jose Manzano, Zanchetta’s former vicar general in the diocese of Orán, told the AP that the Vatican received complaints against Zanchetta in both 2015 and 2017. According to Manzano, these complaints concerned alleged “obscene behavior” by Zanchetta, misconduct and sexual harassment of adult seminarians, and the possession of naked selfies on the bishop’s phone.

“In 2015, we just sent a ‘digital support’ with selfie photos of the previous bishop in obscene or out of place behavior that seemed inappropriate and dangerous,” Manzano, now a parish priest in Argentina, told the AP. The 2015 complaint against Zanchetta was not issued as an official canonical complaint, he noted.

In May or June of 2017, Manzano told the AP, he and the rector of the seminary made a second complaint against Zanchetta to the apostolic nuncio in Buenos Aires, who forwarded it along to the Vatican.

According to Gisotti’s Jan. 4 statement, the current Bishop of Oran is in the process of collecting testimonies regarding allegations against Zanchetta, which will be sent to the Congregation for Bishops.

“If the elements needed to proceed are confirmed, the case will be referred to the special commission for bishops,” Gisotti said.

Zanchetta has been placed on temporary leave from his APSA position while the investigation is ongoing.

 


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Vatican:    Getting to February: The decisions that could shape the pope's summit

Vatican City, Jan 22, 2019 / 07:30 am (CNA).- As the Church continues to wrestle with the fall-out of last year’s sexual abuse scandals, the Vatican faces a series of crucial decisions in the coming weeks. How they are resolved, and in what order, will likely set the tone for the rest of the year.

 

One month from today, the heads of the world’s bishops’ conferences will gather in Rome for a special summit to address the abuse crisis. Ahead of that meeting, the Vatican has attempted to lower what it has called “excessive” expectations.

 

These efforts notwithstanding, the credibility of its discussions and conclusions will likely play a large part in shaping wider assessments of the Church in 2019. But before the three-day meeting begins, two other events could do much to frame how the February session will be seen from the outside.

 

The first of these events is the replacement of Cardinal Donald Wuerl as Archbishop of Washington, DC. The second is the conclusion of the penal process handling the allegations against Wuerl’s predecessor, Archbishop Theodore McCarrick. Both are expected imminently, and both seem sure to cast a shadow, for good or for ill, on February’s meeting and whatever it produces.

 

As has been previously reported, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith recently concluded the investigative phase of its handling of the McCarrick case. The CDF also confirmed that, instead of a full canonical trial, McCarrick was facing a penal administrative process - ordinarily reserved for handling cases where the evidence is clear and compelling.

 

Officials in different Vatican departments, if not the CDF itself, have already begun pointedly referring to the former cardinal as “Mr. McCarrick” in a nod to his likely laicization if he is found guilty of sexual abuse.

 

While Rome appears intent on ensuring the McCarrick case is resolved - one way or another - before the February meeting, how much detail the CDF makes public about the resolution will be important.

 

McCarrick is accused of a number of grave crimes, including the sexual abuse of minors and adults. What is done and said about his alleged abuse of adults may prove more significant, even if it represents the lesser charge canonically speaking.

 

If McCarrick is found guilty of abusing seminarians over a period of years, it will be far harder for the February meeting to ignore the growing calls for an expansion in law of the definition of “vulnerable adults” to include victims like McCarrick’s.

 

On the other hand, if no decision is reached, or publicly acknowledged, on those charges, the seminarians who submitted their testimony as part of the CDF process may well feel ignored, and their suffering marginalized all over again.

 

Either result is likely to inform perceptions of the Vatican summit next month and present a serious obstacle to those hoping to force through a narrower focus and agenda based only on the abuse of minors, about which there is less disagreement among the bishops.

 

Meanwhile, the replacement of Cardinal Wuerl in Washington remains a significant and increasingly urgent priority for Rome.

 

Just months ago, before the scandals of last summer, Wuerl seemed likely to continue in office until he was nearly 80, well past the normal retirement age for bishops, which he passed when he turned 75 three years ago. His resignation, submitted in 2015, was accepted last October (with obvious reluctance by the pope) due to mounting pressure on the cardinal following the Pennsylvania grand jury report - in which he was named more than 200 times - and questions about what Wuerl did or did not know about his predecessor.

 

Recent weeks have seen confirmation by Wuerl that, despite his earlier denials, he was aware of accusations against McCarrick involving misconduct with seminarians as early as 2004. His current tenure as administrator of the Washington archdiocese has helped to keep both him and McCarrick in the news.

 

While a replacement for Wuerl would likely be received as a welcome turning of the page for both Washington Catholics and the Vatican, deciding who that replacement should be has proven difficult for Rome to resolve. Sources in Washington and the Vatican, including the Congregation for Bishops, have spoken to CNA about a lack of consensus on who is best placed to succeed Wuerl.

 

Some in Rome had previously speculated that picking a successor for Wuerl might wait until after the February meeting, allowing it to be presented as part of an ongoing process of renewal. Recent events have now made his replacement a more pressing priority.

 

Further urgency now seems likely, given the expectation of a decision on the McCarrick case. Given the esteem Wuerl still enjoys in Rome, it is unlikely that the Vatican would announce his replacement soon after a guilty verdict on McCarrick, lest the two been seen as related events. If McCarrick’s fate is expected soon, the next archbishop of Washington may well be expected sooner still.

 

With the Congregation, the pope’s own inner circle of advisors, and Wuerl himself all eager to put forward their own candidates, a succession of supposed front-runners have been touted, beginning with Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego, passing through Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, and now appearing to settle around either Bishop Frank Caggiano of Bridgeport or Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta.

 

Whoever emerges as the next Archbishop of Washington (and likely cardinal), they will have been chosen with an eye on presenting a credible face of change but one not expected to further rock the boat of the capital see.

 

If both McCarrick and Wuerl’s different situations can be resolved in the next few weeks, it may offer some breathing room before the February summit. But even assuming the most positive outcome and reception in both cases, little seems likely to dampen expectations for what many are calling a make-or-break meeting in Rome. Senior figures, like former member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors Marie Collins, are already warning that the meeting must produce a “practical” outcome and not merely “more talk.”

 

Earlier this month, Pope Francis wrote to the American bishops about the crisis of credibility facing the hierarchy. He and the Vatican are now facing three major events in the space of a few weeks. How each of them is handled could affect profoundly how quickly that credibility is regained.


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US:    Latest Planned Parenthood numbers show more abortions—and higher profits

Washington D.C., Jan 22, 2019 / 03:30 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Planned Parenthood, the largest performer of abortions in the U.S., has released its annual report, and its critics object to the organization’s increase in abortions and financial profits even as its number of adoption referrals has fallen.

“The big business of abortion is evident in this report, as Planned Parenthood turned a profit of nearly $250 million, a 150 percent increase, according to its own accounts. What a waste of taxpayer dollars,” Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, said Jan. 21.

“While Planned Parenthood pushes talking points about healthcare, the fact remains that Planned Parenthood is the nation’s number one abortion vendor, profiting by violently ending life,” Hawkins charged. “But pregnancy is not a disease cured by abortion. Women deserve real, life-affirming care, and taxpayers deserve a return on their investment that helps women and their children, born and preborn.”

The Planned Parenthood annual report, covering the 2017-2018 fiscal year, was published over the weekend of Jan. 19-20.

The number of abortions performed by Planned Parenthood rose to 332,757, an increase of over three percent. Adoption referrals dropped by over 25 percent to 2,831. The abortion provider makes one adoption referral for every 117 abortions.

Hawkins backed the idea of defunding Planned Parenthood “to invest in life-saving care.”

Millennials and young adults prefer that tax money go to federally qualified health centers instead of Planned Parenthood, Hawkins said. She cited a Students for Life poll of 18- to 34-year-olds, conducted in January, whose respondents showed a 3-to-1 preference against tax dollars for Planned Parenthood.

Students for Life of America trains and organizes students for campus outreach to young mothers and to fellow students, with the goal of ending abortion. Since 2006 it has helped establish or build over 1,200 pro-life student chapters and has trained over 55,000 students.

While federal funds for abortion are limited, the abortion provider Planned Parenthood receives over $500 million in federal funding for programs involving contraception provision and other services.

It is also in the public eye for possible involvement in illegal sale of fetal tissue from aborted babies’ remains, after a series of videos produced by the Center for Medical Progress alleged that Planned Parenthood was involved in the sale of aborted fetal parts for profit.

The Department of Justice is currently investigating Planned Parenthood due to these videos. Congress has launched several investigations.

In 2018 Dr. Leana Wen became the new president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

“Planned Parenthood services — from birth control to cancer screenings to abortion — are standard medical care,” Wen said in the report. “Reproductive health care is health care. Women’s health care is health care. And health care is a fundamental human right.”

The report claims 12 million supporters and claims its contraceptive services averted about 400,000 pregnancies.

 


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US:    ‘Zimbabwe is burning’: Bishops call for peace amid violent protests, crackdown

Harare, Zimbabwe, Jan 22, 2019 / 12:16 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As political protests in Zimbabwe have turned violent and even fatal, reportedly leaving at least 12 people dead, the bishops of the country have called for peaceful resolutions to the crisis.

“Zimbabwe is burning; its economy is hurting; its people are suffering. Many ordinary Zimbabweans express disappointment that hoped-for changes are yet to be felt, in access to employment, cash and broad stakeholder consultations. Our quasi currency, operating with multiple exchange rates, is fueling a national crisis,” the bishops said in a Jan. 17 letter.

“We call upon [the] Government and the Opposition to put their differences aside and work together to free Zimbabwe from economic shackles and international ostracisation.”

Last week, a sharp spike in fuel prices in Zimbabwe sparked violent protests from members of groups who oppose the current government.

According to the BBC, Presidential spokesman George Charamba told local journalists that the opposition group Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) was responsible for the violence.

“The MDC leadership has been consistently pushing out the message that they will use violent street action to overturn the results of (last year's) ballot,” Caramba said.

However, the United Nations called on the Zimbabwe government to stop using “excessive” force to cull the protests, after reports surfaced that the government was conducting door-to-door searches and beating, torturing and using live ammunition on the protestors.

Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced that he would be returning early from a foreign tour in order to help address the situation.

The clashes took place largely in the capital city, Harare, and the southern city of Bulawayo, where looting and riots have been reported and all schools have been forced to close. Reuters reported that more than 60 people were treated for gunshot wounds, following the government’s alleged use of live ammunition on the protestors.

News of the protests came despite government blocks on Facebook, Whatsapp and Twitter messaging apps. The government said the blocks were part of an attempt to quell the violence, while human rights groups have said they were attempting to mask human rights violations.  

The protests come after a long period of political and economic instability, from “the military-assisted political change that took place in November 2017 to the total shutdown of Zimbabwe's major cities and rural trading centres that began on Monday, 14 January 2019,” the bishops said.

They said that while they had hoped for good change after November 2017, they have “witnessed with sadness and concern [the] Government's piecemeal and knee-jerk reaction to the worsening economic situation, exemplified by the unilateral imposition of 2 percent tax on the country's major money-transfer and payment system and by the hefty increase in fuel prices on 12 January 2019, the immediate cause of the violent demonstrations and riots that brought Zimbabwe's major cities and rural trading centres into complete lockdown.”

The bishops said that they are “saddened and concerned” by the government’s failure to stabilize the economy, which has put the livelihood of many Zimbabweans in jeopardy, as well as by the violent riots and demonstrations, the disruption of essential services, and by the government’s intolerance for people expressing opposing views, leading to their torture and even death.

“We are writing at a time when our country is going through one of the most trying periods in its history. Once more the resilience and resolve of Zimbabweans is being put to test. We thank the many Zimbabweans who continue to pray ceaselessly for our Country. We, your Shepherds, write to you at this time to help rebuild hope, trust, confidence and stability in Zimbabwe,” the bishops said.

They encouraged the government and all citizens of Zimbabwe to help build a free country, with free elections and strong, politically inclusive institutions.

“We do not need a strong man or woman but strong institutions. We need to develop a new and challenging kind of politics, a new cooperation and harmony based on reasoned argument, generous compromise and respectful toleration,” they said.

“Zimbabwe is faced with a crisis that is not just political and economic but moral and spiritual. A new Zimbabwean politics needs to be more collaborative, inclusive and based not on one or two leaders, however effective and charismatic, but rather on strong democratic institutions that embody and secure the values of our democracy, regulate our politics, build trust and administer peace, truth and justice to all.”

The bishops urged the government to work to ease the suffering of the people of Zimbabwe rather than contribute to it, and they urged all citizens towards tolerance and peaceful, nonviolent protests that are within their constitutional rights.

“We believe in a God of second chances, who is always offering us new opportunities. Even in the midst of current tensions and disturbances there are new opportunities to rebuild hope, trust, confidence and stability in our country,” they said.

“The task at hand requires our collective responsibility in upholding everything that is good and right, to promote unity, reconciliation, and national cohesion. We wish to state our firm belief that Zimbabwe would easily become one of the best countries to live in on earth if only all of us, its people, committed to living and working with each other in harmony, tolerance and peace, putting the interests of the country before selfish and political party interests.”


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US:    Notre Dame to cover prominent Columbus murals

South Bend, Ind., Jan 21, 2019 / 06:01 pm (CNA).- A series of murals depicting Christopher Columbus' life and exploration displayed at the University of Notre Dame will be covered up, the university's president announced Sunday.

“Painted in 1882-84 … they reflect the attitudes of the time and were intended as a didactic presentation, responding to cultural challenges for the school’s largely immigrant, Catholic population,” Fr. John Jenkins, C.S.C., wrote in his Jan. 20 letter announcing the decision.

“In recent years, however, many have come to see the murals as at best blind to the consequences of Columbus’s voyage for the indigenous peoples who inhabited this 'new' world and at worst demeaning toward them.”

The murals, painted by Luigi Gregori, are located in Notre Dame's Main Building. Gregori served for a time as artist in residence at the Vatican, before becoming a professor and artist in residence at the Indiana university.

Gregori was commissioned to produce a series of murals of Columbus by Fr. Edward Sorin, the founder and first president of the University of Notre Dame. One of the murals was the model for the first series of commemorative stamps issued by the U.S., in 1893.

Jenkins said that he has heard in recent years “from students, alumni, faculty, staff, representatives of the Native American community, and others on this complex topic,” and that his decision was made after consulting with the Board of Fellows.

Though a brochure to explain the murals' context has been provided since the 1990s, “because the second-floor hall of the Main Building is a busy throughway for visitors and members of the University community, it is not well suited for a thoughtful consideration of these paintings and the context of their composition,” Jenkins wrote.

The brochure was created after a group of Native American students called for the murals' removal in 1995.

The priest said that there will be “a permanent display for high-quality, high-resolution images of the murals in a campus setting to be determined that will be conducive to such an informed and careful consideration.”

The murals themselves will “be covered by woven material consistent with the décor of the space, though it will be possible to display the murals on occasion.”

The university president announced that a committee will be formed “to decide on the place to display the images of the murals and the appropriate communication around the display.”

“The murals present us with several narratives not easily reconciled, and the tensions among them are especially perplexing for us because of Notre Dame’s distinctive history and Catholic mission,” the priest explained.

“The murals were not intended to slight indigenous peoples, but to encourage another marginalized group,” he said, noting that when they were made, the immigrant-dominated population of Notre Dame “encountered significant anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant attitudes in American public life.”

Moreover, Columbus was at the time “hailed by Americans generally as an intrepid explorer.”

“Gregori’s murals focused on the popular image of Columbus as an American hero, who was also an immigrant and a devout Catholic,” Jenkins wrote. “The message to the Notre Dame community was that they too, though largely immigrants and Catholics, could be fully and proudly American.”

The priest then declared that for natives of the Americas “Columbus’s arrival was nothing short of a catastrophe.”

“Whatever else Columbus’s arrival brought, for these peoples it led to exploitation, expropriation of land, repression of vibrant cultures, enslavement, and new diseases causing epidemics that killed millions.”

Jenkins quoted a 1987 meeting of St. John Paul II with the native peoples of the Americas, in which the pope said the encounter “was a harsh and painful reality for your peoples. The cultural oppression, the injustices, the disruption of your way of life and of your traditional societies must be acknowledged.”

The pope continued, in remarks not quoted by Jenkins’ letter: “At the same time, in order to be objective, history must record the deeply positive aspects of your people’s encounter with the culture that came from Europe.”

According to the Jenkins, “the murals’ depiction of Columbus as beneficent explorer and friend of the native peoples hides from view the darker side of this story, a side we must acknowledge.”

Carol Delaney, an emerita professor of anthropology at Stanford University and author of “Columbus and the Quest for Jerusalem,” told CNA in 2017 that a popular current narrative around Columbus is tarred by bad history.

“They’re blaming Columbus for the things he didn’t do. It was mostly the people who came after, the settlers,” Delaney said. “He’s been terribly maligned.”

She said Columbus initially had a favorable impression of many of the Native Americans he met and instructed the men under his command not to abuse them but to trade with them; he also punished some of his own men who committed crimes against the natives.

Delaney acknowledged that some Native Americans were sent to Spain as slaves or conscripted into hard labor at the time Columbus had responsibility for the region, but she attributed this mistreatment to his substitutes acting in his absence.

And the Knights of Columbus have said that their namesake “has frequently been falsely blamed for the actions of those who came after him and is the victim of horrific slanders concerning his conduct.”

Leo XIII wrote an encyclical marking the Columbian quadricentennial in 1892, reflecting on Columbus’ desire to spread the faith. In Quarto abeunte saeculo, the pope wrote that Columbus “resolved to go before and prepare the ways for the Gospel” by his exploration.

“When [Columbus] learned from the lessons of astronomy and the record of the ancients, that there were great tracts of land lying towards the West … he saw in spirit a mighty multitude, cloaked in miserable darkness, given over to evil rites, and the superstitious worship of vain gods. Miserable it is to live in a barbarous state and with savage manners: but more miserable to lack the knowledge of that which is highest, and to dwell in ignorance of the one true God. Considering these things, therefore, in his mind, he sought first of all to extend the Christian name and the benefits of Christian charity to the West,” Leo declared.

Jenkins claimed that the goal of covering up the murals is to respect both them “and the reality and experience of Native Americans in the aftermath of Columbus’s arrival.”

“We wish to preserve artistic works originally intended to celebrate immigrant Catholics who were marginalized at the time in society, but do so in a way that avoids unintentionally marginalizing others. The course described above, we believe, honors the University’s heritage, of which we are justly proud, and better respects the heritage of native peoples, who have known great adversity since the arrival of Europeans.”

Jenkins opened his letter saying the announcement was timed to coincide with the feast of Bl. Basil Moreau, founder of the Congregation of Holy Cross, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and “Walk the Walk Week,” a series of events, begun in 2016, at the University of Notre Dame “to help us consider how we – both individually and collectively – might take an active role in making Notre Dame even more welcoming and inclusive.”

The priest concluded his letter saying, “Remembering the legacy of Dr. King and asking in prayer for the intercession of Fr. Moreau, let us renew in our minds and hearts our commitment to respect the dignity of all individuals, their communities, and their cultures, with particular concern for the most vulnerable.”

Eugene F. Rivers, III, founder of the Seymour Institute for Black Church and Policy Studies, wrote in a 2016 column at CNA that proposals to end Columbus Day are divisive, and based on stereotypes. While there were deplorable consequences of colonization, attacks on Columbus “were created in the 1920s by the Ku Klux Klan as part of a targeted assault on Italians, Catholics, and the Catholic charitable group the Knights of Columbus,” he wrote.

A little more than a year ago, in December 2017, university spokesman Dennis Brown said that the murals “are of historic and artistic value, and the University has no plans to remove them.”

The head of the Native American Student Association of Notre Dame welcomed Jenkins' decision, and wrote to the South Bend Tribune expressing hope that the administration “will continue to prioritize Native issues on our campus in the coming weeks and months as there is still work to be done.”


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