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Americas:    Montreal priest stabbed at Mass 'eager' to return

Montreal, Canada, Mar 23, 2019 / 03:19 pm (CNA).- Father Claude Grou is out of the hospital and grateful for the groundswell of support he received after he was stabbed by an assailant while celebrating a televised Mass at St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal Friday morning.

The 77-year-old priest said in a statement that the words of support he had received “warm my heart and allow me to contemplate these difficult moments peacefully.” He said he was in good health and still processing the Friday attack, CBC News reports.

Celine Barbeau, a spokesperson for the oratory, said the priest will grudgingly take a few days’ break.

Though he needs a few days, he is in “a very good state of mind,” said Barbeau.

“And actually he’s eager to go back to work. We have to hold him back,” said the spokesperson.

Grou was standing behind the altar for daily Mass with about 60 congregants in the oratory’s Crypt Church when he was rushed by a man in a baseball cap, who stabbed him.

The church security team quickly detained the attacker, BBC News reports. The incident was broadcast live.

Authorities detained a 26-year-old suspect they said is known to police.

The priest, who is rector of the shrine, was taken away by ambulance. Montreal police said he suffered upper-body “lacerations.”

Adele Plamondon was finishing the day’s reading when the assailant stood up from the pew.

“I saw this man coming quickly and taking his knife out and going straight for Père Grou,” she said, according to CBC News. “It was obvious what his intentions were. So, I left screaming to alert the security.”

The attack drew comment from many people.

“Father Claude Grou, Canadians are thinking of you and wishing you a swift recovery,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Twitter the day of the attack.

"We are all shocked by this act of violence that has taken place in our city, in a space dedicated to peace,” Archbishop Christian Lepine of Montreal said in a statement.  

“We know that places of worship of many religions are targets of acts of violence,” the archbishop continued. “We must continue to follow the path of peace and love, believing that good will overcome evil through prayer and good works.”
 
Construction on the mountaintop oratory was finished in 1967. Its dome is visible from across Montreal. It is the largest shrine dedicated to St. Joseph in the world, with about two million annual visitors.

St. Andre Bessette, a Holy Cross brother devoted to the poor and sick, had built a chapel to St. Joseph on the site with help from friends and money he received from giving haircuts to students. He spread devotion to St. Joseph and the brother’s prayers were believed to be especially effective in working miraculous cures, drawing many visitors.

Larger versions of the chapel were built as more and more visitors came. When he died in 1937, over one million people attended his wake and funeral.

Brother Andre was canonized under Pope Benedict XVI in 2010.


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Vatican:    Pope Francis accepts resignation of Chilean cardinal accused of cover-up

Vatican City, Mar 23, 2019 / 09:21 am (CNA).- Pope Francis Saturday accepted the resignation of the Archbishop of Santiago de Chile, Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati Andrello, who has faced accusations that he was involved in covering up the crimes of several abusive priests.

Cardinal Ezzati’s resignation was originally submitted to Pope Francis in May 2018, along with the rest of the Chilean bishops. The pope March 23 named Bishop Celestino Aos Braco, OFM Cap., to oversee the Archdiocese of Santiago as apostolic administrator until the appointment of Ezzati’s successor.

Ezzati, 77, is the eighth Chilean bishop to have his resignation accepted since last May. The cardinal has come under scrutiny by Chilean authorities for the possible cover-up of the crimes of abusive priests Fernando Karadima, Rigoberto Tito Rivera Muñoz, and Oscar Munoz Toledo. He denies covering up any abuse.

In an interview with Informe Especial this month, Cardinal Ezzati denied knowing and giving money to Daniel Rojas Alvarez, who was about 40 when he was sexually assaulted by Fr. Rigoberto Tito Rivera Muñoz in a room of the Santiago Metropolitan Cathedral in 2015.

Rojas claims he told Cardinal Ezzati of the attack during a confession, and that the archbishop asked him to pray for the abuser, gave him 30,000 pesos ($45), and asked him not to share what had happened.

In the Informe Especial interview, Ezzati said: “I hear confessions in the cathedral, especially during the time of Holy Week, but I am not aware of having heard his confession, because I don’t know him and still less am I aware of giving him a hug and telling him that a priest would give him some money in my name, that’s not it, this is all very unfortunate, but that’s not the case.”

Asked if he ever had contact with Rojas, the cardinal said “no.”

Chilean police raided several archdiocesan offices last summer after Rivera Munoz was linked to a suspected network of 14 abuser-priests in the neighboring Diocese of Rancagua, approximately 40 miles south of Santiago.  

During one of the searches, authorities discovered a 2013 letter from a former bishop of Rancagua to Ezzati criticizing the cardinal for his response to victims of Fr. Fernando Karadima. Karadima was a serial abuser of minors whose relationship with Bishop Juan Barros triggered a scandal that has engulfed the Chilean Church for months.

Ezzati later invoked his legal right to silence after being summoned for questioning by a state prosecutor.

The intended questioning was likely to have been focused on what the cardinal knew about his former archdiocesan chancellor, Fr. Oscar Munoz Toledo, who was arrested in July 2018 following allegations he sexually abused seven minors.

Munoz has already admitted to sexually abusing one minor, but investigators believe the archdiocese may have been aware of as many as four of his victims. Ezzati was called as prosecutors consider his involvement in a potential cover-up of Munoz’s crimes.

According to Crux, Ezzati's replacement to manage the archdiocese of Santiago, Aos Braco, was charged in 2012 with investigating abuse allegations by former seminarians against five priests of the Diocese of Valparaiso, Chile.

As the diocesan promoter of justice, Aos Braco reportedly spent three months looking into the allegations before dismissing them on a lack of evidence. One of the accused priests has since died and the others have either been suspended from ministry or are being investigated for abuse, Crux reports.


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US:    Disability rights activists protest assisted suicide bills as dangerous, discriminatory

Washington D.C., Mar 23, 2019 / 04:17 am (CNA).- As multiple states consider assisted suicide legislation, disability activists are speaking out, saying the bills are slippery slopes that put the lives of people with disabilities at risk.

Connecticut lawmakers are now considering HB 5898, “An Act Concerning Aid In Dying For Terminally Ill Patients,” which would permit doctors to prescribe lethal medication to people with less than six months to live. The patient would be permitted to self-administer the medication when they wish to end their life.

HB 5898 is modeled after Oregon’s assisted suicide law, which was the first in the nation. On Monday, members of the state General Assembly’s Public Health Committee heard testimony from those who are in favor of the bill, and from those who are opposed.

Cathy Ludlum, one of the leaders of the group Second Thoughts Connecticut and a woman who lives with a disability, provided written testimony that was emailed to all members of the public health committee.

In the testimony, which was forwarded to CNA by Second Thoughts Connecticut, Ludlum explained that the language of the bill puts people with disabilities at risk.

“But the harsh reality is that (persons with disabilities) will be the collateral damage in any formalized death-by-choice system,” said Ludlum. “Many of us with severe and obvious disabilities are already too frequently thought of by medical practitioners as having reached a final stage, where death might be expected in the near future.”

Ludlum said the definitions in the bill mean that she herself would be defined as someone who is terminally ill, even though she is not.

That section defines a “terminal illness” as “final stage of an incurable and irreversible medical condition that an attending physician anticipates, within reasonable medical judgment, will produce a patient's death within six months.”

“Nowhere does it say ‘with or without treatment,’” Ludlum pointed out.

“Most people assume this legislation is for people who have exhausted all their treatment options, but that is not what it says.” Ludlum explained that she eats with a feeding tube and requires respiratory support when she sleeps.

“Without these treatments, I would not last six months,” she said. “I probably would not last six days. What is to prevent someone like me from showing up at a doctor’s office and saying, ‘I have had enough. I will be stopping all my treatment’?”

A typical person in this situation would not be allowed to kill themselves, and would instead receive counseling. Ludlum is concerned that someone with a disability “would be more likely to get compassionate nods of approval.”

Ludlum is also concerned that the law would enable doctors to steer patients with disabilities into ending their own lives, or stopping treatment needlessly. She noted that due to the language of the bill, which states that the lethal medication “may” be self-administered, as opposed to that it “shall be” self-administered, there would be nothing to prevent someone else from ending the patient’s life.

Another group opposed to assisted suicide laws is the United Spinal Association, which is a nonprofit organization dedicating to “improving the quality of life of Americans with spinal cord injuries or disorders.”

United Spinal’s President and CEO James Weisman told CNA that his organization was opposed to these bills not for religious or political reasons, but because “people - family members, and in the medical profession - often don’t understand the latent capacity of quadriplegics to live full, meaningful lives with jobs and families in the community, after (they) break their neck.”

He believes that assisted suicide laws are rooted in discrimination, because people are afraid of what life would be like with a disability.

"Nobody wants to have a broken neck. Everybody says they'd rather be dead,” said Weisman.

“Every single one of our members who's a quadriplegic says they wanted to die when they found out they were going to be a quadriplegic. But the overwhelming majority go on to leave meaningful, full lives.”

Weisman told CNA that he would like to see expanded access to palliative care for those who are in pain, as well as increased education for people in the medical field about how it is possible to live a meaningful life with a disability.

“The medical profession and the uninformed public encourage those who break their necks or have other injuries to end (their lives),” said Weisman. “It’s such a slippery slope when we decide who can live and who can die.”

Elsewhere in the country, 16 other states are in the process of passing similar legislation, including Maryland and Nevada.

Members of Maryland’s Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee approved the “End-of-Life Option Act” on Friday. The bill had advanced through the state House of Delegates earlier in March.

In Nevada, the state Senate is considering SB 165, which would allow doctors to prescribe lethal doses of medication to terminally ill patients over the age of 18. The bill has passed through one working session of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

That bill, similar to Connecticut’s, defines “terminal condition” as “an incurable and irreversible condition that cannot be cured or modified by any known current medical therapy or treatment and which will, in the opinion of the attending physician, result in death within 6 months.”

Also like Connecticut, the bill does not specify if death will occur “with or without treatment.”


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US:    Catholics bring pro-life voices to the UN Commission for Women

New York City, N.Y., Mar 22, 2019 / 04:49 pm (CNA).- As participants in the UN Commission for Women’s annual gathering advocated for increased international access to abortion, side events hosted by the Vatican and other Catholic groups presented a pro-life perspective on women’s empowerment at the UN.

The ten-day international meeting in New York March 11-22 included debate as to whether this year’s final document will include “universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights,” as a part of the commission’s “agreed conclusions,” as it did last year.

The topic of the commission’s 63rd session this year is “access to public services and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.”

For some at the UN meeting, access to public services means access to abortion.

“It’s a crime to prevent a woman from having access to abortion,”  said French Minister of Gender Marlene Schiappa at an event at the UN headquarters March 13.

Obianuju Ekeocha, president of Culture of Life Africa, said that her “head almost exploded” when she heard this.

She added that in her view, the UN Commission for Women’s annual gathering is “the heart of the pro-abortion movement.”

“The meetings that I have gone to … the people I have listened to speak right here at the United Nations, [for them] there is no room for compromise,” Ekeocha said in a video statement.

“They want abortion to be legal. They want it to be legal in every country in every situation,” she added.

Ekeocha said she attended a UN event in which an abortionist-midwife demonstrated how she trains other abortionists in developing countries. The UN event was entitled “All united for the right to abortion.”

During the week of the commission meeting, a screening of Ekeocha’s documentary, “Strings Attached,” was streamed at the Nigerian Mission to United Nations on March 12. The documentary uncovers “ideological colonization” of contraceptives and abortion into African countries and gives voice to African women who are suffering its effects.

Pro-life advocate Lila Rose spoke on the topic “Motherhood is a gift” at UN side event co-hosted by the Holy See Mission to the UN and C-Fam, entitled “Protecting Femininity and Human Dignity in Women's Empowerment and Gender Equality Policies Today.”

The Holy See Mission to the UN sponsored five side events addressing issues that affect women, from human trafficking to protections for women and girls with Down syndrome.

In conjunction with the Catholic Women’s Forum, the Holy See helped to organize an event on “Valuing Unpaid Work and Caregiving.”

Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Apostolic Nuncio and Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations said at the event that there has been a presumption in the United Nations that “a person’s work outside the home is far more valuable than a person’s work inside the home.”

Auza questioned whether “a prioritization of a person’s work in the labor markets over care work at home flows from woman’s deepest desires or whether it’s an emulation of a flawed, hyper-masculine, way of looking at the world, one in which work, and what work can provide, is treated as the most important value.”

“No women who desires to give of her time in this way should be stigmatized by society or penalized in comparison to other women or to men. Work schedules should be continuously adapted so that if a woman wishes to work she can do so without relinquishing her family life or enduring chronic stress,” he said. “Rather than having her readjust everything to the rules of the marketplace, the marketplace itself should be adjusted to what society recognizes is the enormous personal and social value of her work.”

“Humanity owes its very survival to the gift of caregiving, most notably in motherhood, and this indispensable contribution should be esteemed as such, by both women and by men,” Auza said.

 


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US:    Proposed changes to mercury regulations 'troubling,' bishops say

Washington D.C., Mar 22, 2019 / 04:32 pm (CNA).- A proposal to ease regulations on mercury pollution levels in the air fails to show proper respect for human life and health, said the heads of two committees at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on Friday.

“The proposed change to the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) rule is troubling since it is well-documented that pregnant mothers and their unborn children are the most sensitive to mercury pollution and its adverse health effects,” said Archbishop Joseph Naumann, chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Pro-life Activities.

Archbishop Naumann was joined by Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, Florida, who heads the bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development in voicing concern over the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed changes to the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, decade-old regulations that have led to an 85 percent decrease in mercury emissions at coal-based power plans.

The EPA believes it is no longer “appropriate and necessary” to regulate mercury and other toxic pollutants from power plants.

It says the rules are unnecessarily expensive and is suggesting a change in the way that the costs and benefits of the regulations are calculated, in response to a 2015 Supreme Court ruling in which the justices instructed the EPA to consider the costs of the regulations to determine whether they are justified.

President Donald Trump has called the Obama-era standards a “crushing attack on American industry,” saying they threaten miners, energy workers and companies.

Advocates of the regulations say they are necessary to protect the air quality from mercury contamination, which is known to cause brain damage and birth defects in children.

“The MATS rule reflects a proper respect for life of the human person and of God’s creation – a great example of the integral ecology called for in Laudato Si’,” said Bishop Dewane.

 


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Americas:    In Edmonton, growth puts pressure on Catholic school enrollment

Edmonton, Canada, Mar 22, 2019 / 01:16 pm (CNA).- Edmonton’s Catholic schools are at full capacity and may soon have to turn away students, although school district officials are hopeful that new funding from the Alberta government will be announced.

The Edmonton Catholic School District trustees approved a capital plan for 2020-2023 which reports that 22 new neighborhoods in the southwest of Edmonton are in early stages of development, CBC News says. Only four K-9 schools serve those neighborhoods.

A failure to provide more space will mean turning away 400 students by 2023, according to John Fiacco, assistant superintendent of educational planning.

Another high school is needed to relieve crowding at Archbishop O’Leary High School in northwest Edmonton, where enrollment is at 104 percent.

The district aims to build a new high school in the Castle Downs area of northwest Edmonton.

Though the school board received no money for new schools in the 2018 provincial budget, funding for a new school and a replacement school was provided later.

As of October 2017, the school district had 42,510 students enrolled in 96 schools, the district’s website says.

The school district trustees’ plan proposes a partnership for a new high school connected to an existing recreation complex, which is a model in action at Cardinal Collins High School Academic Centre in the northwest Edmonton area of Clareview.

This would provide flexible programming for students from recognized Native American groups called the First Nations, as well as Metis and Inuit students and for English language learners, the trustees’ plan said.


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Vatican:    Pope: Education, encounter are key in furthering access to clean water

Vatican City, Mar 22, 2019 / 11:13 am (CNA).- In a message for World Water Day, Pope Francis stressed the need to remember the suffering of billions of people who do not have reliable access to clean water in their homes.

“Joint work is essential to eradicate this evil [of a lack of access to clean water] that afflicts so many of our brothers and sisters,” the pope said.

“It will be possible if we join efforts in the search for the common good, when the other has a real face, takes center stage and is placed at the center of debate and initiatives. This is when the measures adopted will take on the flavor of encounter, and the value of responding to an injustice that needs to be healed.”

Pope Francis sent a message to Professor José Graziano da Silva, director general of the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization on March 22, World Water Day.

Observed annually by the United Nations to highlight the need for access to safe water, the theme of this year’s World Water Day is “Leaving no one behind.”

One of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals set in 2015 is ensuring clean water and sanitation for all people by 2030. Currently, up to 2.1 billion people lack safe water at home, according to the United Nations. Nearly two-thirds of the global population struggles to find water during at least part of the year.

In his message, Pope Francis noted that water is crucial “for the balance of ecosystems and human survival, and it is necessary to manage it and take care of it so that it is not contaminated or lost.”

All people are called “to value and defend this good,” the pope said.

He emphasized the need for education, in order to create an awareness of the suffering caused by those who lack clean water or experience other environmental challenges.

“This task of raising awareness is a priority in a world in which everything is discarded and disdained, and which in many cases does not appreciate the importance of the resources we have at our disposal,” he said.

With environmental challenges growing, Pope Francis said, “the disadvantaged of the earth challenge us to find a remedy for the lack of water in their countries; they also challenge us, from their poverty and limits, to accord the just value to this good, essential for the development of all peoples.”

He called for financing plans, long-range water projects, and a new vision of water that is seen as a good for humanity, not just a commodity governed by laws of the market.

The pope voiced prayers that World Water Day may contribute to the good of people currently suffering from a lack of clean water.

“Access to this good is a fundamental human right, which must be respected, because the life of the people and their dignity are at stake,” he said.


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Americas:    Catholic priest in Montreal stabbed during Mass

Montreal, Canada, Mar 22, 2019 / 09:38 am (CNA).- A Catholic priest in Montreal is in stable condition after being stabbed during Friday morning Mass. One suspect has been taken into custody in connection with the attack.

Fr. Claude Grou, rector of St. Joseph’s Oratory, was celebrating Mass when the attacker ran from the back of the rectory and stabbed him in the chest, CBC News reported. Police were called at 8:40 am, about 10 minutes into Mass.

Adele Plamondon, an attendee at the Mass, told CBC News that the attacker “was very determined in what he wanted to do. He didn’t yell, he didn’t say anything. He just took out his knife.”

The stabbing was captured on video. St. Joseph’s Oratory is the largest church in Canada, and its daily Mass is broadcast live each morning.

The priest’s injuries were not severe, according to authorities. He was taken to a local hospital in an ambulance.

The Diocese on Montreal said on Twitter that Grou’s “health is stable,” adding, “All our prayers are with him.”

Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante called the attack “a horrible and inexcusable gesture that has no place in Montreal.”

The Archdiocese of Toronto tweeted, “We offers our prayers for the priest stabbed this morning at @diocesemontreal's St. Joseph's Oratory while celebrating Mass.”


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Americas:    Civil disobedience is a fundamental right, says Venezuelan cardinal

Caracas, Venezuela, Mar 22, 2019 / 03:02 am (CNA).- A Venezuelan cardinal has called on state security forces to exercise civil disobedience when given orders to use lethal force against citizens.

“State security agencies exist not to take care of the government but to take care of the citizens,” said Cardinal Baltazar Porras, at a press conference this week.

“Therefore every order that is given that goes against the lives of the citizenry is an order to kill, it is an order which there is no duty to carry out nor heed, because civil disobedience is also a fundamental right,” the cardinal stressed.

Porras, who serves as archbishop of Merida and apostolic administrator of Caracas, stressed the disobeying unjust orders is both a right and a duty for members of the security forces.

Since Nicolas Maduro succeeded Hugo Chávez as president of Venezuela in 2013, the country has been marred by violence and social upheaval. Under the socialist government, the country has seen hyperinflation and severe shortages of food, medicine, and other necessities, and millions have emigrated.

Amid the protests that have taken place throughout the country, dozens of people have been killed by security forces.

Cardinal Porras stressed that “it’s a citizen’s right, a right in any democracy to be able to hold demonstrations and to say what [you think] will solve the problems.”

The cardinal made these statements the same day that the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and former president of Chile, Michelle Bachelet, delivered a report to the world organization in Geneva, Switzerland, after sending a mission to Venezuela.

“In the context of the last wave of protests in the first two months of this year, my office documented numerous violations of human rights, torture and abuses committed by the security forces and armed pro-government groups,” Bachelet said.

She said that in Venezuela, democratic freedoms have been restricted, with limited freedom of speech and the criminalization of peaceful protest and dissidence.

Cardinal Porras also stressed the importance of allowing the entrance of humanitarian aid into the country. Maduro has blocked the international aid, denying that it is needed in the country.

The humanitarian aid, the cardinal said, must be “for malnourished children, the elderly, for those requiring ongoing treatment...We have to keep on insisting on this.”


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Europe:    St John Paul II’s abuse record defended by his long-time secretary

Krakow, Poland, Mar 21, 2019 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, a personal friend and close collaborator of St. John Paul II, this week defended the Polish pope’s record on the abuse crisis, which has lately come under criticism from some areas.

“The emerging opinions that John Paul II was sluggish in guiding the Church’s response to the sexual abuse of minors by some clerics are prejudicial and contradict the historical facts,” the archbishop emeritus of Krakow wrote in a statement March 20.

St. John Paul II “was shocked,” Cardinal Dziwisz said. “He had no intention of tolerating the crime of pedophilia in the Church and fought against it.”

Cardinal Dziwisz was ordained a priest in 1963 by St. John Paul II, who was then an auxiliary bishop of Krakow. When Wojtyla was made Archbishop of Krakow the following year, then-Fr. Dziwisz became his secretary – a role he served in until the pope’s death in 2005.

Dziwisz was appointed Archbishop of Krakow shortly after his mentor’s death, remaining in that position until his retirement in 2016.

In his statement on John Paul’s abuse record, Dziwisz gave several examples of the actions the pope took against abuse, beginning with the United States at the start of the crisis in the 1980s.

John Paul, he said, “first observed the activities of the episcopate of the United States, and when he came to the conclusion that new tools were needed to fight against these crimes, he gave the church superiors new powers.”

The pope’s 1994 indult for U.S. bishops and, two years later, for Irish bishops, approved a “zero-tolerance” policy concerning abuse by clergy, Dziwisz stated.

“These were, for the bishops, an unambiguous indication of the direction in which they should fight,” he said.

“When it became clear that the local episcopates and religious superiors were still unable to cope with the problem, and the crisis was spreading to other countries, [Pope John Paul II] recognized that it does not concern only the Anglo-Saxon world but has a global character,” he recalled.

Dziwisz said that the pope was also quick to help the local Churches and bishops both on his own initiative and when asked.

He also pointed to John Paul II’s Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela, on protection of the sanctity of the sacraments, which was published in April 2001, nearly a year before the widely-known 2002 Boston Globe “Spotlight” reports. With that document, the pope promulgated norms on “the most serious crimes” for the entire Church.

“We know the groundbreaking importance of this legal act,” Dziwisz added. “John Paul II reserved all sexual crimes committed by clergy against minors under the age of 18 to the jurisdiction of the Apostolic Court of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.”

“He also obliged each bishop and superior religious to report to this Congregation all such crimes, if their probability was confirmed in the preliminary investigation provided for by the Code of Canon Law. Further proceedings were continued under the control of the Apostolic Court.”

In April 2002, following the Boston Globe report, John Paul II summoned the cardinals of the United States to the Vatican to speak about the abuse crisis.

It is thanks to the clear rules of John Paul II that the degree of abuse in the U.S. has lowered, Dziwisz said.

Dziwisz also spoke about John Paul II’s part in the case of Fr. Marcial Maciel, the founder of the Legion of Christ, who was found to have lived a double life, sexually abused seminarians, and fathered children. Initial accusations against Maciel emerged in the late 1990s.

In 2006 the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, with the approval of Benedict XVI, removed Maciel from public ministry and ordered him to spend the rest of his life in prayer and penance. The congregation decided not to subject him to a canonical process because of his advanced age and Maciel died in 2008.

According to Dziwisz, recent claims that John Paul II “was covering up” the criminal activities of Maciel are contradicted by the facts.

He noted that the accusations against Maciel were already being investigated by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in December 2004, under John Paul II’s pontificate, and that at that time, Archbishop Charles Scicluna, who was the Promoter of Justice, was sent to Mexico and the United States, alongside another lawyer, to conduct the investigation.

“The decision to initiate this investigation could only be taken with the knowledge and approval of John Paul II,” the cardinal stated, adding that these processes continued also through the sede vacante and until the conclusion of the process in 2006 with Pope Benedict XVI’s verdict.

To this day, John Paul II’s actions serve “as a reference point for all those committed to fighting against the crime of sexual abuse of minors by clerics, Dziwisz stated.

“This has been confirmed by the summit in the Vatican convened by Pope Francis, who in the fight against this problem is following with determination the path of his predecessors.”


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US:    US Catholics' awareness of Christian persecution increasing

Washington D.C., Mar 21, 2019 / 03:54 pm (CNA).- Nearly half of American Catholics say global persecution of Christians is “very severe,” a 16 percent increase from a year ago, according to a new survey commissioned by the papal charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

Despite this increase in awareness, the American Catholics surveyed ranked human trafficking, poverty and the refugee crisis as more urgent problems than the global persecution of Christians, the study says.

“It is heartening to see that U.S. Catholics have a growing awareness of and concern about the persecution of Christians,” said George Marlin, chairman of ACN-USA, in a March 19 statement.

“It is telling that human trafficking, poverty and the refugee crisis get more attention from U.S. Catholics than the persecution of Christians,” he added, saying that the survey “strongly suggests that the U.S. Catholic Church, both at the parish and diocesan levels, should get more engaged with the global persecution of Christians around the world.”

The study examined the extent to which American Catholics are aware of the persecution of Christians around the world; the countries and regions where they consider Christians to be most severely persecuted; specific measures and policies they want the U.S. and other Western governments to pursue to help and protect persecuted Christians; the extent to which they feel that the pope, their bishops and their parishes are prioritizing the persecution of Christians; and actions they believe they can and should take themselves.

Only 19 percent of the survey’s respondents said their parish is very involved with the issue of global persecution of Christians, down from 37 percent a year ago. In addition, 22 percent said they are unsure about their parish’s involvement in this area.

Similarly, only 24 percent of U.S. Catholics believe their bishop is “very engaged” with the issue of Christian persecution, though over half say they think Pope Francis is “very engaged” with this issue.

When asked what they themselves should do to help persecuted Christians around the world, American Catholics ranked prayer highest, followed by raising awareness at the parish level; donating to agencies that work to support persecuted Christians; and contacting their members of Congress. However, the report found that almost half of U.S. Catholics have not donated in the past year to an organization that helps persecuted Christians.

Regarding potential policies by the U.S. and other Western governments to deter the persecution of Christians, respondents ranked diplomatic pressure as most important, followed by economic sanctions; granting victims of persecution emergency asylum; and supporting persecuted Christian communities financially.

U.S. Catholics are least in favor of military intervention and the arming and training of persecuted Christians, but more than 60 percent of U.S. Catholics say that the Church must play a hands-on role in providing emergency and humanitarian aid to persecuted Christians around the world.

The study’s release comes amid increased persecution of Christians in many countries worldwide. ACN released a report last November that highlights 38 nations with significant religious freedom violations, and in more than half of those countries, conditions for religious minorities have deteriorated since 2016.

Some notable countries where persecution of Christians is taking place include China, where the Communist government is brutally cracking down on the practice of religion despite a September 2018 provisional deal with the Vatican meant to ease tensions between the faithful “underground” Church and the state-sponsored Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, the report said.

In other countries including North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Eritrea, “the situation [for religious minorities] was already so bad, it could scarcely get any worse,” it added.

Islamic extremism, fueled by conflict between Sunni and Shia Islam, accounted for the persecution faced by minorities in 22 of the 38 countries highlighted.

Interreligious conflict has been especially acute in Nigeria of late, where clashes between Christian and Muslim herdsmen have killed at least 120 people in the past few weeks, and has claimed thousands of lives in recent years, according to local reports.

 


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Americas:    'We're in a very different time now': Montreal officials oust crucifix from City Hall

Montreal, Canada, Mar 21, 2019 / 03:32 pm (CNA).- Montreal’s City Hall doesn’t need Christ, officials have said.

A crucifix that has hung on the wall of Montreal’s City Hall since 1937, reminding city officials to let God guide their decisions, will be taken down for a renovation project, never to be put back, local sources have reported.

City councilor Laurence Lavigne-Lalonde made the announcement at an executive council meeting this week.

“The crucifix was installed during an era that was completely different than the one we live in today,” Lavigne-Lalonde told the council, according to CTV News Montreal.

“We now live in a society that has evolved and is represented by democratic institutions that must be secular, neutral and open to all citizens,” Lavigne-Lalonde added.

Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante agreed.

“I truly believe and based on all the discussion that has been done in the past, that it doesn't have to be in city council where it is a secular institution. This is a place where we make decisions and it was originally put there to support decision making,” she said at the meeting. “I think we're in a very different time now.”

Plante added that the decision is a “recognition of the role of secularism in the institution, and for me, there is a stark distinction between individual and institutional secularism," she said, according to the CBC.

City officials also said they will be removing another crucifix that is hung in a different room in city hall.

After the decision was announced, the Archdiocese of Montreal issued a statement saying that the crucifix is a symbol of the Christian roots of Canada and doesn’t need to be removed in a religiously pluralistic society.

“As a sign revered by Christians, the crucifix remains a living symbol. It symbolizes openness and respect toward all peoples, including toward other faith communities and religious traditions, which rightfully adhere to their own signs and symbols,” Archbishop Christian Lépine said in his statement. “Nevertheless, nothing forbids us, and our respective beliefs, from being present in the public space in an attitude of respect and openness, since we share the same common humanity,” he added.
 
“When it comes to transmitting spiritual and communal values in a spirit of togetherness and solidarity, the crucifix is laden with meaning, expressing and encapsulating what fortifies the population of Montreal since its foundation, a legacy of which we can be proud.”

Issues of religious freedom and the display of religious symbols have been prominent issues in Canada recently, and Montreal’s decision brought up an ongoing debate about the crucifix that hangs in the legislature building of Quebec. According to the CBC, Premier François Legault of Quebec has previously defended the crucifix’s place in the province’s National Assembly, even while he backed a bill that would have banned the wearing of religious symbols by civil authorities, such as cross necklaces or hijabs. The bill was recently tabled by the legislature.

But after the Montreal decision, he balked: "There are good arguments for and some arguments against, and right now we have a debate. We have to find a compromise," Legault told CBC. "I accept the decision of the City of Montreal."

Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette of Quebec, who backed the religious symbols bill, told CTV News that the National Assembly does not have to follow the decision of Montreal to remove their crucifix.

"They can do what they want about that. The National Assembly has always decided to maintain (the crucifix) and that's the position of the government because it's a (historical) symbol," he said.


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US:    Indiana legislature fails to restore two genders to driver’s licenses

Indianapolis, Ind., Mar 21, 2019 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- Indiana lawmakers did not act to restore gender options on driver’s licenses as “male” or “female” after the state Bureau of Motor Vehicles announced it would allow for a third “non-specified gender,” but instead chose to require a changed birth certificate, not a doctor’s note, to allow the change to the driver’s license to take place.
 
State Rep. Matt Hostettler, R-Fort Branch, had filed an amendment to Senate Bill 324, whose main focus is providing a special disabled parking placard to eligible military veterans in Indiana, instead of a disabled license plate.
 
The House of Representatives’ Republicans considered support for Hostettler’s amendment, among other proposals, during a March 19 afternoon meeting, the Times of Northwest Indiana reports.

After the House reconvened, Hostettler did not call his proposal for a vote and the bill advanced unchanged for final approval. Any lawmaker can propose inserting the language of the amendment into any germane legislation until the close of the legislative session, which must take place on or before April 29.
 
Under the bureau’s new policy set to begin this month, a third gender option will be indicated by an “X” on driver’s licenses and state ID cards, the NBC television affiliate WTHR reports.
 
Applicants seeking a “non-specified” option must provide a certified, amended birth certificate or a signed and dated physician’s statement attesting that they have permanently changed their gender.
 
The Bureau of Motor Vehicles said it made the changes based on resident requests and on credential standards recommended by the American Academy of Motor Vehicle Administrators.
 
On March 20 the House Roads and Transportation Committee voted to revise Senate Bill 182 so that only a certified and amended birth certificate may be used to change the gender listed on a driver’s license or a state identification.
 
The State Department of Health usually requires a court order to change the gender listed on an Indiana birth certificate. In cases where a baby’s sex is undetermined at birth, such as anatomically ambiguous genitals, the gender is listed as “U.” It is unclear whether a birth certificate can subsequently be changed to something other than “male” or “female,” the Times of Northwest Indiana reports.
 
Under current practice, applicants for a gender change may submit a state form completed by a licensed physician to confirm that an individual has undergone a treatment reputed to be a gender change. A physician may also submit a signed and dated statement on office letterhead to that effect, provided the wording is substantially similar to the language required by the state’s administrative code.
 
The vote in the Republican-controlled House committee was split along party lines.
 
State Rep. Holli Sullivan said she was not trying to eliminate the non-specific gender designation “X” but wanted the birth certificate to be the sole document to establish gender.
 
“It does not say that you cannot change your gender. They still have the process to do that,” she said, arguing that her proposal takes the motor vehicles department out of making medical decisions.
 
One opponent of the change, State Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon, D-Munster, said that reading a note is not a medical decision and compared the practice to how the Bureau of Motor Vehicles approves handicapped placards.
 
“What happens to the people that are in transition and they're not one or the other yet?” asked Candelaria Reardon. “They're in the middle of a transition. How do we address their concerns? How do they get a certified birth certificate?”
 
Sullivan said she did not intend to make anything more difficult, but wanted to put together a process that can be followed to ensure there won’t be questions about the process.
 
Katie Blair, director of advocacy and public policy at American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, said the modification would force self-identified transgender people to undergo “the burdensome and costly legal process of changing their birth certificate in order to update their ID.”
 
Residents born in states that do not allow such modifications to birth certificates will be unable to get “accurate identification,” she said, according to the Times of Northwest Indiana reports.

Blair previously commented on Hostettler’s proposal to remove the unspecified gender option and restore two genders, calling this a “retrograde attempt” to “mandate a definition of gender that would have major, long-term implications for the transgender community.”
 
The amendment would “force gender non-binary people to carry identification that does not accurately identify them,” said Blair. “For people who are non-binary, identification that fails to affirm who they are can trigger the distress of gender dysphoria and contribute to widespread discrimination.” Identification that is “affirming and accurate” would help reduce discrimination, Blair argued.
 
Oregon, Maine, Minnesota, and California offer similar non-binary gender identification, in addition to Washington, D.C., and New York City. The Maryland and New York legislatures are considering proposals to change their identification regarding gender.


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Europe:    Irish bishops speak out against abortion requirement for medical jobs

Dublin, Ireland, Mar 21, 2019 / 01:22 pm (CNA).- The Irish Bishops’ Conference has objected to job requirements mandating that certain consultant doctors be willing to participate in abortions, saying that the country’s new abortion law had promised to safeguard conscience rights for medical professionals.

“This precondition runs totally counter to a doctor’s constitutional and human right to freedom of conscience,” said the bishops, according to Irish Catholic.

“This totally undermines the whole concept of freedom of conscience which was guaranteed in the recent legislation,” they added.

In a statement following their Spring 2019 General Meeting in Maynooth, the bishops of Ireland addressed an advertisement for two consultants at the National Maternity Hospital in Dublin. As a job requirement, the candidates for the Obstetrics/Gynecology and Anesthesia positions must be willing to take part in abortions.

The bishops’ conference said these preconditions may rule out the best possible person for the job by eliminating candidates solely because they are unwilling to perform abortions.

“A doctor who is eminently qualified to work as a consultant in these fields is denied employment in these roles because of his/her conscience,” said the bishops, according to RTE.

“Doctors who are pro-life and who may have spent over a decade training in these areas and who may otherwise be the best candidate for these positions are now advised that, should they apply, they would not be eligible for consideration," they said.

A spokesman for the National Maternity Hospital argued that the specific posts were funded by the Health Service Executive, a government agency, for the purpose of abortions.

“They are therefore for individuals willing to contribute to the provision of these services. Other past and future posts are not affected. The conscientious objection guidelines for staff in both hospitals remain unchanged,” the spokesman said, according to RTE.

Once a majority-Catholic and pro-life contingent, voters in Ireland last May voted to repeal the Eighth Amendment to their constitution, which had banned abortion. General practitioners are now allowed to perform abortions up to nine weeks and hospitals are allowed to perform the procedure up to 12 weeks of pregnancy.

The repeal has already led to concerns about freedom of conscience for medical professionals. At least 640 general practitioners in Ireland signed a petition in November objecting to the new obligation of referring patients to other doctors for abortions.

The majority of the country's 2,500 general practitioners (GP) are unwilling to perform abortions. Only between 4 and 6 percent of GPs have said they would participate in the procedure.

The nation’s bishops recommitted themselves to helping pregnant women find the resources they need and educating those interested in apologetics defending life. To further these goals, the bishops have created a new Council for Life, led by Bishop Kevin Doran of Elphin.

“The council will give priority to exploring how best, in the current socio-cultural context, the Catholic community can offer practical support to women in crisis pregnancy, giving their unborn babies the best chance at life,” Bishop Doran said, according to Irish Catholic.

“It will also give priority to promoting an understanding of life questions among young people and to engaging them in the challenge of defending life.”
 
 

 


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Vatican:    Pope Francis invites pediatricians to help shape culture

Vatican City, Mar 21, 2019 / 11:08 am (CNA).- Meeting with pediatricians at the Vatican on Thursday, Pope Francis encouraged the medical professionals to be “promoters of a culture of solidarity and inclusive health.”

“In our time, in fact, increasingly often prevention and treatment become the prerogative of those who enjoy a certain standard of living, and therefore can afford it,” he told members of the Italian Federation of Primary Care Pediatricians during a papal audience.

“I encourage you to work to ensure that this inequality is not added to the many others that already afflict the weakest, but rather that the health system assure assistance and preventative care to all, as rights of the person.”

The pope met with the group, which has been active in the country for some 40 years and offers support to over 5,500 family pediatricians.

Noting the range of talent and training required to care for children from birth through adolescence, Pope Francis praised those present for their commitment to remain constantly up-to-date with developments in the medical field, while also promoting “a culture more capable of protecting the health of people, especially little ones.”

“In our time, where the many comforts and technological and social developments are paid for with an increasingly invasive impact on the natural dynamics of the human body, it becomes urgent to implement a serious program of health education and lifestyles that respects the body, so that progress does not come at the expense of the person,” he said.

The pope encouraged the doctors to frequently read the Gospel passages in which Jesus encounters and heals the sick, seeing in these a constant source of inspiration.

“By virtue of the faith you have received, you are always called to regard Jesus, source of closeness and tenderness, as a model of humanity and dedication to others,” he said.

He recalled how Jesus welcomed the children who came to him and even pointed to them as a model for those who wish to enter the Kingdom of God.

Pope Francis reminded the doctors always to be attentive to the person they are encountering, whether it be the parent entrusting them with the health of a child, or patients receiving care.

Children in particular, the pope said, “have powerful antennas, and rapidly grasp whether we are well disposed to them or if we are distracted, because maybe we wish we had already finished the shift, would like to work faster, or find a patient who screams less ... You too are men and women, with your worries, but we know that you are also trained to smile, necessary to give courage and open a gap of trust in the little ones; and even medicines are more effective.”

Pediatricians can play a role in shaping the culture, and their work “represents a real mission, which involves both the mind and the heart,” he said, noting that while they may take vacations from their work, “your profession will always accompany you, and involves you for far longer and more deeply than during the hours you are at work.”

“With this style, you give Christian witness, because you seek to practice Gospel values and your sense of belonging to the Church,” the pope said, “but also for the breadth of your gaze, for the ability to imagine the social context and the health system most appropriate for the future, and for your desire to be at the service, with humility and competence, of every person entrusted to you.”
 


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