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Federal judge sides with asylum-seeking migrants, blocks Trump order

Washington D.C., Nov 20, 2018 / 04:22 pm (CNA).- The Trump administration’s new rules limiting asylum for undocumented immigrants was wrong, says a federal judge who ruled they can still claim asylum even if they do not cross the border at an official point of entry.

U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar said that President Donald Trump’s Nov. 9 proclamation violates  immigration law that clearly makes such migrants eligible to seek asylum.

“Whatever the scope of the President’s authority, he may not rewrite the immigration laws to impose a condition that Congress has expressly forbidden,” said Tigar, who temporarily blocked President Trump’s proclamation from taking effect at least until a Dec. 19 hearing.

Tigar, a President Barack Obama nominee, said the ban on asylum “irreconcilably conflicts” with immigration laws and with the “expressed intent of Congress.” He said the ban would put potential asylum seekers at “increased risk of violence and other harms at the border.”

Trump administration leaders defended the proclamation, claiming it was “lawful and tailored” and aimed at “controlling immigration in the national interest.”

The order cited the same powers in a Trump administration travel ban that was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

“As the Supreme Court affirmed this summer, Congress has given the President broad authority to limit or even stop the entry of aliens into this country,” Department of Homeland Security spokeswoman Katie Waldeman and Department of Justice spokesman Steven Stafford said in a statement.

“Our asylum system is broken, and it is being abused by tens of thousands of meritless claims every year,” they added, characterizing asylum as a “discretionary benefit” given by the executive branch only under certain legal conditions. They said they would continue to defend the executive branch’s “legitimate and well-reasoned exercise of its authority to address the crisis at our southern border.”

Trump’s order drew criticism from Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, who chairs the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration, and other Catholic leaders. They made a Nov. 14 joint statement responding to the proclamation.

“While our teaching acknowledges the right of each nation to regulate its borders, we find this action deeply concerning,” they said. “It will restrict and slow access to protection for hundreds of children and families fleeing violence in Central America, potentially leaving them in unsafe conditions in Mexico or in indefinite detention situations at the U.S.-Mexico border.”

“We reiterate that it is not a crime to seek asylum and this right to seek refuge is codified in our laws and in our values,” said the Catholic leaders.

Bishop Vasquez was joined in the statement by Sister Donna Markham, O.P., president and CEO of Catholic Charities USA; Jeanne Atkinson, executive director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network; and Sean Callahan, president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services.

The Catholic leaders urged the Trump administration to seek “other solutions that will strengthen the integrity of the existing immigration system, while assuring access to protection for vulnerable children and families.”

They said the Catholic Church will continue to “serve, accompany and assist” all those who flee persecution, “regardless of where they seek such protection and where they are from.”

President Trump’s order was part of a response to the several migrant caravans reported to be headed to the U.S. from Central America. It was intended to last for 90 days unless Mexico agrees to allow U.S. immigration officials to deport to Mexico those Central Americans who have entered the U.S. at the southern border.

“We need people in our country, but they have to come in legally,” he said Nov. 9

According to DHS estimates, about 70,000 people a year claim asylum after crossing the border without documentation.

Recently media attention and immigration restriction advocates have focused on caravans of refugees and immigrants, sometimes growing or shrinking as they progress towards the U.S. border on a journey that can be dangerous.

The latest caravan of about 3,000 people has arrived in Tijuana, across the U.S.-Mexico border from San Diego. U.S. Border and Custom Protection officials said they closed northbound traffic at the San Ysidro crossing for several hours on Monday to install movable barriers in response to reports that there was a plan to rush the crossing. There was no rush, the Associated Press reports.

On Nov. 9 President Trump had said that the situation of people crossing the southern border has changed in recent decades. About two decades ago, the average person caught crossing the southern border was a single adult who was immediately returned to Mexico, and did not try to claim asylum or express fear about going back to their country of origin.

He claimed there has been a “massive increase” in fear-of-persecution or torture claims. While the “vast majority” satisfy the first asylum step of appearing to have a credible fear, only a “fraction” are ruled to qualify for asylum.

There are about 1.1. million asylum cases pending in immigration courts, and about 20 percent of applications for asylum are approved, the Associated Press reports.

Other officials who defended the new policy have said it would encourage migrants to pass through official border crossings where their asylum claims can find a fast hearing. The border is close to 2,000 miles long.

Between the active date of President Trump’s order and the court ruling, DHS had referred over 100 people who had sought asylum without going to an official crossing to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

The president has advocated revoking the right to citizenship of babies who are born in the U.S. to non-U.S. citizens. His family separation policy came under strong criticism and was changed.

His travel ban on foreigners from several predominantly Muslim countries was blocked in federal court before the U.S. Supreme Court let it stand.

Most of his immigration actions have come through regulatory change and presidential orders, rather than through new legislation passed by Congress.

Winona-Rochester diocese to file for bankruptcy amid abuse lawsuits

Winona, Minn., Nov 20, 2018 / 03:53 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Diocese of Winona-Rochester will file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, it was announced Sunday. Bishop John Quinn wrote a letter explaining the decision, which was distributed in bulletins throughout the diocese.

In a recorded video statement posted on the diocesan website, Quinn said he was sorry, and that on behalf of his brother priests, he “offer(s) an apology to these survivors and acknowledge their pain and suffering,” and pledged to “remain vigilant” to prevent abuse in the future. He also said it was important to create an “environment of healing” for both abuse survivors and their families.

Quinn explained that due to the 121 claims of child sexual abuse by priests within the diocese, and after praying for guidance as to how to best heal the pain of these survivors, the diocese would file for bankruptcy. A total of 17 priests in the diocese have been accused of sexual abuse.

This move is the “most just and equitable way to hold ourselves accountable, to bring healing and justice to the survivors, and to find a path forward for our diocesan community,” said Quinn.

“By proactively taking this step, we will begin to bring healing and justice to survivors, holding ourselves accountable for the abuse that occurred in the past,” said the bishop. The diocese will continue to work with survivors and their legal counsel.

Filing for bankruptcy will allow the diocese to reorganize their finances, and continue to provide social service work. Quinn said there was “no way to predict” how long this was going to take, but he promised complete transparency and will continue to provide updates throughout the process.

He did, however, say that he does not anticipate a day-to-day change for members of the diocese, and that no parishes or parish schools will be closing due to the bankruptcy filing. This is because they are separate legal entities, he explained.

Survivors of clerical sexual abuse in the diocese will be compensated, said Quinn, by a combination of insurance, savings, money from the sale of assets, and other sources.

“I am committed to keeping our children, and vulnerable adults, safe from sexual abuse,” said Quinn.

“I want to assure you: all clergy against whom credible accusations have been previously made are either deceased, or have been removed from ministry, laicized, and no longer function in any priestly capacity in the diocese.”

Quinn explained that since 2002, the diocese has implemented a program in order to ensure the safety of children in the diocese. As part of this program, every member of the clergy, as well as diocesan employees and volunteers, undergoes a background check.

“I pray for God’s grace during this difficult period, as well as for guidance and strength from the Holy Spirit,” said Quinn.

“I believe that we will walk together toward healing, reaffirming our dedication to carrying out ministries across southern Minnesota. I also ask for your continued prayers and support as we work together to offer healing to those who have suffered unconscionable abuse and to forge a path forward for all of us.”

Quinn also said that he welcomed suggestions from members of the public on how the diocese could work to become a safer environment.

Gunman kills one at Catholic store in Missouri

St. Louis, Mo., Nov 20, 2018 / 02:56 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A gunman remains on the loose after shooting a woman and sexually assaulting another at the Catholic Supply of St. Louis retail store in Ballwin, Mo. on Monday afternoon. Ballwin is a suburb of St. Louis.

The woman killed was identified on Tuesday as Jamie Schmidt, from the nearby town of House Springs. Schmidt was a customer in the store at the time of the attack. She was shot in the head by the assailant, and died after being transported to the hospital in critical condition. She was 53.

Schmidt is survived by her husband and three children.

In an emotional tribute posted on Facebook, her husband Gregg Schmidt remembered his wife’s singing voice and encouraged everyone to share feelings of love at every opportunity.

"Folks, I had my own Mother of Dragons but she was taken from us today,” said Schmidt.

“I still don't know how to feel yet. I do know one thing for sure. Hug your friends and family and tell them you love them every time you get the chance. I didn't get to say goodbye and that hurts pretty bad. She was my angel, my partner, my best friend and the love of my life. I'm sorry if you never got to hear her sing recently because it gave me chills. I probably won't be on Facebook much for awhile but know that I love you all in some way or another,” said Schmidt.

The suspect is described as a white male, between the ages of 45 and 50, 5’7, with a heavyset build. He is not believed to have known Schmidt, and police think the attack was random.

Catholic Supply of St. Louis released a statement saying that they were “shocked and saddened” by the “senseless tragedy” that occurred at the chain’s West County location Nov. 19. They asked for prayers for the victims and their families.

Catholic Supply of St. Louis’ three locations were closed on Tuesday and will reopen Wednesday, said the statement.

“We are cooperating fully with the ongoing police investigation, and we will share details as appropriate. We appreciate your patience, grace and prayers during this difficult time.”

Archbishop Robert Carlson of St. Louis also weighed in with a statement, saying that the archdiocese’s hearts went out to the victims of the “horrific tragedy” at the store.

“We join with civil authorities asking for the community's assistance in apprehending the culprit of this crime,” said Carlson in the statement released to Facebook.

Carlson also instructed parishes throughout the archdiocese to offer prayers for those affected by the shooting and for an end to violence.

As a precaution, two area schools canceled classes on Tuesday due to security fears stemming from the shooting.

Cardinal DiNardo calls for 'reasonable' gun control after Chicago hospital shooting

Chicago, Ill., Nov 20, 2018 / 12:29 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- After a shooting at Mercy Hospital in Chicago left four dead, including the gunman, on Monday afternoon, the president of the U.S. bishop’s conference offered prayers for the victims and called for reasonable gun restrictions.

“Yesterday, at a place which should be a center of healing, a police officer, a doctor and a pharmaceutical resident lost their lives in a senseless act of gun violence,” Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston said in a Nov. 20 statement.

“We entrust to Almighty God the victims and their loved ones and for [sic] the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe. May her love and compassion embrace and bring comfort to those who sorrow,” he said.

According to reports, the shooting is being investigated as a domestic dispute. Dr. Tamara O'Neal, one of the victims, had been engaged to gunman Juan Lopez until September.

The other victims of the shooting were Dayna Less, 25, a pharmacy resident and recent graduate of Purdue University, and police officer Samuel Jimenez, 28, who was responding to the shooting.

Lopez was found dead with gunshot wounds to the head; it is unclear if they were self-inflicted or if they were sustained while he exchanged gunfire with police.

Lopez had worked for Chicago Housing Authority, which said in a statement after the shooting that Lopez had cleared background checks and did not have a history of complaints against him during his employment there.

In his statement, DiNardo said the shooting yet again called into question how someone “capable of such violence was able to obtain a firearm to carry out this heinous act.”

“In our desire to help promote a culture of life, we bishops will continue to ask that public policies be supported to enact reasonable gun measures to help curb this pervasive plague of gun violence. Our prayers are with the staff of Mercy Hospital and the people of the Archdiocese of Chicago as they continue God’s healing work.”

A look at 25 years of RFRA

Washington D.C., Nov 20, 2018 / 03:14 am (CNA).- Last week marked the 25th anniversary of the enactment of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, known as RFRA.

While the law is well-known within legal circles, many Americans may not realize that RFRA is one of the primary legislative pillars upon which religious freedom arguments have rested in the last quarter century.

What exactly is RFRA? What does it say, how did it come to be passed, and what are the primary challenges that it faces today?

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act clarifies the standards that should be used in judging religious freedom disputes involving the First Amendment’s free exercise clause. That clause says that Congress shall make no law prohibiting the free exercise of religion.

But what are the limits to what may be carried out in the name of free exercise of religion? What is to stop an individual or group from carrying out acts of rape, theft, or human sacrifice, and claiming that they are exercising their protected religious beliefs in doing so?

RFRA helps answer that question. It says that the federal government may not “substantially burden” the free exercise of religion, unless there is a “compelling government interest” in doing so, and it is carried out in the “least-restrictive” manner possible.

Over the last 25 years, courts have used these standards to evaluate various religious freedom claims that conflict with established laws. In one case, courts upheld the right of an Arkansas inmate to grow a beard as required by his Muslim faith. In another, a Native American feather dancer was allowed to use eagle feathers in a religious ceremony.

In a high-profile 2014 case, the Supreme Court ruled that Hobby Lobby and similar employers could not be forced to comply with the federal contraception mandate against their religious beliefs. In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled that the federal government had failed to prove that the mandate was the “least restrictive means” of advancing its goal of providing free birth control to women.

RFRA was initially passed in response to two high profile cases involving American Indians. In one case, the Supreme Court ruled against the use of an illegal hallucinogen – peyote – in a Native American religious service. In the other, the court upheld the U.S. Forest Service’s efforts to build a road through land considered sacred by several tribes.

At the time of its passage, RFRA enjoyed wide bipartisan support and was not considered controversial. Introduced by Democrats Chuck Schumer and Ted Kennedy, it passed unanimously in the House and by a 97-3 vote in the Senate. President Bill Clinton signed it into law Nov. 16, 1993.

In recent years, however, RFRA has drawn criticism, particularly as it relates to same-sex marriage and the provision of free contraception. These clashes with claims of women’s rights and LGBT rights have led some people to question RFRA, or call for it to be limited or repealed.  

The National LGBT Bar Association has warned of the “dangerous results” of RFRA. In recent years, Democrats in the House and Senate have made several failed attempts to introduce legislation that would limit RFRA in cases where religious freedom comes into conflict with other civil rights. Chai Feldblum, appointed to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission under both Obama and Trump, has said that when religious liberty conflicts with sexual rights, “I’m having a hard time coming up with any case in which religious liberty should win.”

RFRA applies only to the federal government, although in recent years, similar laws have increasingly been proposed or passed in many state legislatures as well. State RFRAs have also faced heated objections. Most notably, then-governor of Indiana Mike Pence faced threat of boycotts from CEOs, celebrities, major sports events and leaders of some city and state governments in 2015 over a state RFRA law that mirrored the federal legislation.

Despite these criticisms, however, RFRA remains today as an established law with a solid precedent in the court system.

Last year, the Trump administration affirmed the significance of RFRA in its government-wide religious freedom legal guidance, issued to govern all administrative agencies and executive departments in their work.

The guidance said that RFRA “applies to all sincerely-held religious beliefs,” and the government does not have the authority to second-guess the reasonableness of a religious conviction.

What’s in store for RFRA over the next 25 years? The answer is uncertain. If its opponents have their way, RFRA could see significant restrictions at both the state and federal levels. For now, however, the law remains as a key standard for judging free exercise claims, with the current administration insisting that RFRA continue to be taken seriously and interpreted robustly.

 

After years of controversy, HHS reconsiders fetal tissue funding

Washington D.C., Nov 20, 2018 / 12:06 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Health researchers need alternatives to using fetal tissue, Department of Health and Human Services leaders have said after several years of controversy and investigations into whether fetal tissue procured from aborted babies was sold illegally.

HHS Assistant Secretary of Health Brett Giroir sent a letter to U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), chair of the Freedom Caucus, saying HHS did too little to find alternatives under previous administrations and there need to be “adequate alternatives” to scientific research involving human fetal tissue.

The letter, which a source shared with the news site Politico, said HHS is “fully committed to prioritizing, expanding, and accelerating efforts to develop and implement the use of these alternatives.” He described HHS as “pro-life and pro-science” under President Donald Trump.

The letter appears to back “scientifically validated and reproducible” models as among possible alternatives.

Scientists who back fetal tissue research say there are few alternatives. They argue the tissue would otherwise be discarded, and there are already ethical safeguards in place. They say fetal tissue research has been instrumental in developing vaccines and understanding phenomena like how the Zika virus affects the brains of unborn children. They say fetal tissue aids Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease research, as well as research in childhood developmental disorders.

A 1993 federal law allows the use of fetal tissue from elective abortions that would otherwise be discarded. However, the sale of such tissue is also barred by law.

Mallory Quigley of the Susan B. Anthony List told Politico her group would continue to advocate defunding fetal tissue research “as soon as possible.” She said her group is hopeful “that HHS will reach a new policy consensus that better reflects the administration’s pro-life position.”

Caitlin Oakley, an HHS spokesperson, said the agency has not made an official decision on whether to fund more fetal tissue research.

“We continue to go through a thoughtful, deliberative process given the scientific ethical and moral considerations involved,” she told Politico. “When we receive inquiries from members of Congress, we respond.”

A series of undercover investigations from journalists with the Center for Medical Progress, first released in 2015, appear to show several leaders in the abortion industry involved in the illegal sale of fetal tissue from aborted babies.

The investigation has had legal consequences for some procurers of fetal tissue.

DV Biologics and DaVinci Biosciences, two bioscience companies, admitted fault, ceased California operations and agreed to meet the terms of a legal settlement close to $7.8 million in value for violating state and federal laws against the purchase or sale of fetal tissue.

Following two investigations, Congressional committees have made criminal referrals for both Planned Parenthood and Advanced Bioscience Resources, a non-profit company, for alleged involvement in illegal fetal tissue sales. There is an active Department of Justice investigation based on the criminal referrals.

There are also criminal charges against the Center for Medical Progress investigators, as well as civil lawsuits. These allegations include claims that the videos were filmed illegally in violation of privacy laws.

Federal funding for fetal tissue is now under review. As part of the review process, senior officials at HHS held an off-the record, invitation-only listening session on Nov. 16 with leaders in medical research fields.

Participants included leaders with the American Society for Cell Biology, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, the Society for Neuroscience and the International Society for Stem Cell Research.

The inquiry has prompted opposition from pro-abortion rights groups.

Mary Alice Carter, director of Equity Forward, which backs fetal tissue research and monitors pro-life groups, charged that HHS secretary Alex Azar “continually kowtows to anti-abortion groups while ignoring the scientific and medical communities,” Science magazine reports.

The National Institutes of Health gave out about $103 million in 2018 for research involving fetal tissue.

In July 2018 the Food and Drug Administration gave a $15,900 contract to Advanced Bioscience Resources for “fresh human fetal tissue,” which would be transplanted into mice in order to create human-like immune systems for research purposes. It is the eighth contract between the FDA and the company since 2012, and seven of the contracts appear to relate to the same or similar programs.

HHS cancelled the contract after receiving protests and criticism from several Members of Congress, who said they were alarmed that the tissue procurement contracts continued despite the “serious unresolved questions” uncovered by House and Senate investigations.

In 2010 a federal judge ruled that federally funded human embryonic stem cell research was against the law. That ruling resulted in a 19-day halt on related in-house National Institutes of Health projects, but NIH funds that had already been given to external researchers were not affected, the magazine Science reports.
 

New Mexico legislators want to repeal state's abortion ban

Santa Fe, N.M., Nov 19, 2018 / 03:29 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A group of New Mexican legislators seeks to overturn a state law that would make abortion illegal if Roe v. Wade were overturned, part of a developing trend among the handful of states with laws that criminalize abortion.

Currently, New Mexico law states it is a felony for an abortionist to perform an abortion, with exceptions for rape, birth defects, and to preserve the health of the mother. This law, which dates to the 1960s, has not been enforced since 1973, when the Supreme Court found a right to an abortion throughout a woman’s pregnancy.

Rep. Joanne Ferrary (D-Las Cruces) intends to introduce a bill in the next legislative session that would remove this law from the books. This proposed bill is supported by the state’s governor-elect, Michelle Lujan Grisham (D), as well as the state’s House Speaker and Senate majority leader. The legislative leaders have tabbed the bill as a “high priority” for the upcoming session of the legislature.

Lujan Grisham said that she believes the law criminalizing abortion to be “antiquated” and one that would “punish women.” She has pledged to sign the bill if it were passed through the legislature.

Similar efforts to repeal this law, under outgoing Gov. Susana Martinez (R), failed.

As of now, nine states, including New Mexico, have laws that would ban abortion. Four additional states – Louisiana, Mississippi, North Dakota, and South Dakota – have what are known as “trigger laws” that would ban abortion if the Roe decision were overturned.

With the recent confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the US Supreme Court, expectations that the decision might be overturned have been heightened. Those who are in favor of abortion rights are moving to change various laws that would be enforced if abortion were once again left to the states to decide.

Until July, Massachusetts had a 19th-century law on the books that made the act of “procuring a miscarriage” illegal. Similar to New Mexico’s law, this has not been enforced since 1973. That law was repealed with the passage of the “Negating Archaic Statutes Targeting Young Women Act,” which was commonly known as the “NASTY Women Act.”

On the other end of the abortion law spectrum, the Ohio House of Representatives recently passed a bill that would make abortion illegal after the detection of a fetal heartbeat. The fetal heartbeat can be detected at around six weeks gestation, before some women even are aware they are pregnant.

Previously, this bill has been vetoed by Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R), although Kasich has signed many more abortion restrictions into law.

A request to the Archdiocese of Santa Fe for comment on the bill was not responded to in time for publication.

NJ dioceses to form compensation program for child victims of clerical abuse

Newark, N.J., Nov 19, 2018 / 03:16 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Archdiocese of Newark announced Monday that New Jersey’s five dioceses will together form a Victim Compensation and Counseling Program in the coming year, and will release the names of all priests in the state who have been accused of sexual misconduct against minors.

Although the precise details of this program have not yet been finalized, Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark said in a statement published on the archdiocese’s webpage Nov. 19, they will be soon and information will be released at that time.

This program will assist dioceses with resources in order to provide compensation for those who were victimized as children by clergy or employees of Catholic dioceses in New Jersey, who are unable to file civil suits due to the state’s statute of limitations.

“This will give victims a formal voice and allow them to be heard by an independent panel,” said the statement. Cardinal Tobin added, “the Program also will assure that victims who have not received any financial compensation will be paid, regardless of whether their claims meet the time requirements of the statute of limitations.”

The Catholic Church in New Jersey has already paid out more than $50 million in financial settlements to those who were sexually abused as children by members of the clergy or diocesan employees in the state.

In addition to financial compensation, this new program will establish “permanent funding” for counseling for abuse survivors. This counseling “so often is needed to help in the healing of those who have been harmed.”

This past September, New Jersey’s Attorney General Gurbir Grewal announced the creation of a task force in the state to investigate the allegations of sexual abuse and cover up.

“No person is above the law and no institution is immune from accountability,” said Grewal in September.

“We will devote whatever resources are necessary to uncover the truth and bring justice to victims.”

Ahead of the release of this report, and in coordination with the task force, Cardinal Tobin said that New Jersey’s dioceses will “undertake a complete review of their files” and release the names of all priests and deacons who have been credibly accused of sexual abuse of a minor. This list is expected to be released in early 2019.

“It is hoped that these steps will aid in the process of healing for victims, who are deserving of our support and prayers,” said the statement.

Notably, the statement did not include any information about compensation or counseling for adults who were victimized by members of the clergy in New Jersey, instead focusing on those who were abused as minors.

In the early 2000s, the Archdiocese of Newark and the Dioceses of Trenton and Metuchen paid settlements to men who allege they were abused by Archbishop Theodore McCarrick when they were adults studying in seminary. These settlements were not public knowledge until the summer of 2018, after two men came forward to say that they had been molested by McCarrick as minors.

Shortly after McCarrick’s second survivor came forward, McCarrick stepped down from the College of Cardinals. McCarrick has since been sentenced to a life of prayer and penance until a canonical trial can be conducted. He is currently residing at a friary in Kansas.

Legatus will not collect 2019 tithe to Holy See

Washington D.C., Nov 19, 2018 / 11:28 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A U.S.-based organization of Catholic business executives has decided not to collect from its members the portion of their dues that would constitute its 2019 donation to the Holy See.

Legatus, an organization of Catholic business leaders, had announced in September that it was placing its annual donation to the Holy See in escrow until it can receive clarification on questions of financial accountability.

Thomas Monaghan, chairman of Legatus, wrote its member Nov. 16 asking them to continue to pray “for the Church and all of our leaders,” as “it is evident that it is going to take time for the current crisis in the Church to be addressed to the point where the Board believes the reinstatement of our annual tithe would be prudent.”

For that reason, he said, the board of governors has decided “to forego collecting the annual tithe represented in your 2019 dues.”

“ For those who have already submitted their dues, the National Office will refund the appropriate amount earmarked for the Holy See contribution in a timely fashion,” he said. “For those who have not yet remitted your dues, new invoices will be sent.”

Monaghan noted that the tithe to the Holy See “has been an importance part of Legatus membership” and the board therefore intends “to reinstate this practice once we have sufficient communication regarding the specific accountability related to the use of these funds.”

“The Board will revisit this topic by the fall of 2019 in order to chart a plan related to the 2020 dues,” he stated.

“Legatus continues to pledge its devotion to and solidarity with Holy Mother Church; this is a time when we need to live the mission of Legatus more than ever,” Monaghan wrote.

He concluded his letter urging members to “continue to pray for healing and courage for the Church.”

According to the Wall Street Journal, Legatus' 2018 tithe to the Holy See would have been about $820,000.

When announcing the decision in September to withhold the tithe, Monaghan said that members had raised questions “specifically pertaining to how it is being used, and what financial accountability exists within the Vatican for such charitable contributions.”

“The Board has begun a dialogue along these lines, and in the meantime has decided to place the Holy See annual tithe in escrow, pending further determination,” he said.

Questions of Vatican financial accountability had been raised earlier this year by the Papal Foundation, a U.S.–based organization that offers grants to support the global work of the Holy Father.

In February, some members of the organization sharply criticized a request from the Holy See for $25 million for a Church-owned hospital that has been plagued by fraud and embezzlement scandals. Grants from the Papal Foundation are normally no more than $200,000 and generally go toward initiatives to help the poor in developing nations.

To help fight sex abuse, Catholic group offers guide to the news

Lansing, Mich., Nov 18, 2018 / 04:41 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Catholic bishops must act to counter sex abuse of adults as well as minors, says a lay group that has compiled a reader of news stories, analysis and commentary to help renewal and reform.

“We believe clergy sexual misconduct with adults is at the core of so many of the problems of the Church in the last many decades,” the group No More Victims told the bishops.

“As you deal with the scandal of [Archbishop Theodore] McCarrick and abuse committed by bishops, we urge you to include in your concerns efforts to rid seminaries, dioceses and all Church institutions and structures of those who are involved in sexual misconduct with adults.”

Lay people of Michigan’s Diocese of Lansing formed the group No More Victims. They have produced the reader “What We Laity Are Reading that has Shaken Us to the Core,” compiling news stories and analysis about sexual abuse and misconduct by Catholic clergy.

The group sent copies of the reader to the media and to the U.S. bishops. It also sent the bishops a letter signed by executive director Jason Negri, a Michigan attorney, as well as board member broadcaster and author Al Kresta and moral theologian Janet E. Smith, who is an adviser to the group.

“We know the tasks before you are truly of epic proportions and will affect the faith and salvation of many for decades to come,” their letter continued. “We are praying that what needs to be done to rebuild and purify the Church will be done.”

The group asked the bishops to consider its members “loyal partners in the work of the Church,” adding “we would like to stand with you through this crisis in your commitment to the Gospel which brings healing and calls us all to true holiness.”

A copy of the reader is provided at the No More Victims website, www.nomorevictimsmi.org.

The reader’s material, dating back to the 1990s, is generally from a U.S. perspective. No More Victims said it shows “what the crisis looks like from the standpoint of the average lay Catholic with access to the internet.”

The collection includes news stories about abuse victims, including abused seminarians, as well as news, opinion and commentary from abuse victims, priests, Catholic lay leaders and other observers such as Sandro Magister, Matthew Schmitz, Kenneth L. Woodward, Mary Eberstadt and Daniel Mattson.

In its introduction, the No More Victims group hoped that the reader would help the bishops find methods that will assure laity that seminarians will not be sexually harassed but rather “taught the fullness of the faith.” Actions are needed to ensure that there is no “network of priests who engage in sexual misconduct” in a diocese, and to ensure that priests who violate chastity “in serious ways” will be given an opportunity to repent and change. Bishops’ actions must ensure that “unchaste priests who refuse to repent and change their ways” will be asked to leave the priesthood.

The reader aimed to help find ways “to correct fellow bishops whose response to sex abuse cases is poor, confuses the faithful, and reflects badly upon all bishops,” No More Victims said.

Included in the collection is a Time Magazine essay from a Catholic priest who wrote that he was repeatedly sexually abused as a 15-year-old altar boy in New Jersey by a visiting priest of the New York archdiocese; an Irish-born California priest who was groomed and abused in Ireland by a priest who waited until he was 18 so it would not appear to be abuse; a priest who, according to the Pennsylvania grand jury report, arranged for an abortion for a young girl he had allegedly raped from 1980-1985; a Crux News report on Chilean seminarians who suffered sex abuse; a National Catholic Register report on seminarians sexually abused in Honduras; a 2011 Gawker report on sex abuse and, in the report’s own words, a “secret gay cabal” in Florida allegedly under former Archbishop of Miami John Favalora.

A December 2013 Vanity Fair story on an alleged “gay lobby” at the Vatican between cardinals, priests and monks that “survives on secrecy” is included, as is a 2018 CNA report on priest-sociologist Father D. Paul Sullins’ consideration of sex abuse trends, including apparently strong statistical correlations between sex abuse, a priesthood that is disproportionately homosexual, and a seminary life with a reported “gay subculture.”

The reader has several pages listing “troubling headlines” and it recommends the documentary “Sex Abuse in the Church: Code of Silence,” made in France about how priests have been reassigned to escape prosecution. It ends with “a disturbing account of how Cardinal Bergoglio handled the case of Fr. Grassi in Buenos Aires.”

The reader’s appendix lists key documents, online resources, coordinated responses, and books.

“We believe the extent of this problem is tremendous and the time to purify the Church is now,” No More Victims said in the reader introduction. “The focus here is on another huge problem: the continuing presence of priests who engage in sexual misconduct with adults, especially males, and the effect they have on the Church ― the harm they have done to victims, their pernicious influence in seminaries, the extent of their influence in dioceses, and the way they impede zealous promotion of the gospel.”

“Some of the articles are from a perspective hostile to the Church but that does not negate their veracity,” it added. “While many of these articles may seem sensationalist, it is in fact the reality of abuse that is truly responsible for the shocking nature of what is reported.”

The introduction said it is difficult to believe all the stories of abuse, but claimed “the sheer volume of them gives credence to them,” in addition to the abuse reported in the 2018 Pennsylvania grand jury report about six Catholic dioceses in the state.

“If you know any of these articles to report false information, please provide your reasons because we have come to believe the material they contain,” No More Victims said, predicting “Once the presence of predator priests and unchaste priests is eliminated, we expect that there will be an influx of devout, chaste men into the priesthood.”

“We are lay people who love Jesus, our Church, our bishops, our priests. We know there are holy and exemplary bishops, and bishops who serve us heroically, and we want them to have a Church that fully supports their invaluable work,” said the group.

“We know that many bishops have inherited messes of various kinds and it seems that often the default way of dealing with priests who live immoral lives is to look the other way. But we think that is the wrong answer–the Church deserves priests fully committed to being faithful to their vows, and those who are not ought to reform or resign.”

The group said it does not aim to force bishops to resign or to embarrass or harass them. Rather, it wants bishops to take strong action to restore trust in the episcopacy.

“We don’t intend to stop praying, fasting, and advocating for change until that happens,” No More Victims said.