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Little Rock diocese welcomes Roe-triggered abortion ban in Arkansas

Little Rock, Ark., Feb 22, 2019 / 11:03 am (CNA).- The Diocese of Little Rock has said that a law signed Tuesday banning abortion in Arkansas in the event that Roe v. Wade is overturned is a step toward a future without the procedure.

“Act 180 is a welcome addition to the law in Arkansas and happily anticipates the day when our society can be free from the scourge of elective abortion on demand,” Catherine Phillips, diocesan respect life director, told CNA.

Governor Asa Hutchinson (R) signed Act 180 Feb. 19. The legislation had passed the Senate 29-6 earlier this month.  

The 1973 US Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade found that a woman had the right to seek an abortion in the United States. If the Supreme Court decision is overturned, then the law would automatically ban abortions in Arkansas except in cases of medical emergencies.

Phillips said the law is important because it takes a pro-life stance, especially amid a push for pro-abortion protections in other states. She pointed to a January law in New York that decriminalized the procedure and stripped it of most safeguards.

“It is important in comparison with what has been done recently in states like New York. Regrettably, other states are passing laws to perpetuate and expand abortion, but Act 180 stakes out a national position that supports life,” she said.

“Act 180 affirms that Arkansas disagrees with the finding of Roe v. Wade and stands for the position that life begins at conception and should be protected from that moment.”

Arkansas is the fifth state to ban abortion in case Roe is overturned. Trigger bans are also in effect in Louisiana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Mississippi. Similar bills have been introduced in Kentucky and Tennessee, and legislators in Oklahoma have signalled their intent to do the same.

President Donald Trump has promised to appoint pro-life justices to the Supreme Court. Were Roe overturned, states would be again free to outlaw abortion, which has led to Republican-leading states acting to ban abortion in case Roe is overturned, and Democratic-leaning states, including Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Mexico, working to enshrine abortion protections.

Since taking office in January 2017, Trump has appointed Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the bench.

Before the Arkansas Senate’s Feb. 7 vote on the bill, its sponsor, Republican Sen. Jason Rapert, said the bill reflected the state’s pro-life intentions.

"The state of Arkansas is clearly a pro-life state and our citizens have spoken clearly time and time again that we should protect the lives of unborn babies," said Rapert, according to Arkansas Online.

Arkansas currently bans abortion after 20 weeks into pregnancy. A bill has been introduced in the legislature to drop the limit to 18 weeks.

Women of Catholic Worker Movement on prayerful pilgrimage for abuse summit

Rome, Italy, Feb 22, 2019 / 05:02 am (CNA).- American women from the Catholic Worker Movement are in Rome this week to pray for the Vatican’s sexual abuse summit in emulation of Dorothy Day’s Roman pilgrimage to fast and pray for peace.

“We've all been very deeply grieved by the sex abuse crisis, and the crisis it has created for the entire Church,” Catholic Worker Movement leader Johanna Berrigan told CNA Feb. 21.

“It just dawned on us that this would be an important time to be in Rome, to bear witness to the suffering Church that we care deeply about and … we wanted to address ways for reform,” she said.

Through her involvement in the Catholic Worker Movement, a group dedicated to aiding and advocating for the poor, Berrigan co-founded the Catholic Worker Free Clinic for homeless and uninsured adults in Philadelphia in 1991 and opened another medical clinic in Haiti in 2005.

Berrigan, along with six other women, decided in November that they wanted to be in Rome as the summit was happening to pray and to give a voice to women, mothers, and lay people in the Vatican’s discussion of the issue.

“When we first heard about it, it was strictly bishops that were invited, we have since learned that there has been some lay involvement,” Berrigan explained.

Three of the nine official speakers at the Vatican sex abuse summit Feb. 21 - 24 are women, one of whom is a religious sister from Nigeria, Sister Veronica Openibo.

On the first day of the summit, the women were invited for a surprise visit to the US Embassy to the Holy See, where they met with Ambassador Callista Gingrich to discuss their perspective on the sex abuse crisis.

The seven Catholic Worker Movement women on pilgrimage meet each day to decide which historic churches they should visit to pray for the summit.

“We have an example in Dorothy Day, our foundress, who came to Rome in another significant point in the Church's history and she and a delegation of women came on pilgrimage to fast and pray for the Church to recognize 'conscientious objection,' and really calling for an end to nuclear weapons. So we have that in our history,” Berrigan said.

Dorothy Day, whose cause for canonization has been opened, founded the Catholic Worker Movement with Peter Maurin in 1933, starting soup kitchens, farm communities, and a Catholic newspaper. She dedicated her life to aiding and advocating for the poor and leading a life characterized by voluntary poverty and works of mercy.

During their time in Rome, the Catholic Worker Movement women attended a sex abuse survivors’ vigil sponsored by Ending Clergy Abuse Feb. 21 in solidarity with victims.

At the vigil, the women called for justice for survivors and an end to clericalism, as well as truth, reconciliation and healing for the entire Church.

“We care deeply about this Church, we are very, very grateful that Pope Francis has called this summit. It seems to be a step forward,” Berrigan said.

“The world is watching ... people of all faiths are watching to see what the outcome of [this summit] is going to be,” she said.

Vermont bishop: Abortion bill tests limits of human brokenness

Burlington, Vt., Feb 22, 2019 / 03:14 am (CNA).- With a bill to legalize abortion for any reason until birth advancing in Vermont, the local Catholic bishop has stressed that defending unborn babies is a matter of human rights.

“Do we really want to allow this? Do we really want to test the limits of where human brokenness can take us? Please God, no,” Bishop Christopher Coyne of Burlington said in a Feb. 15 statement.

Coyne cited his previous comments from January, saying the bill goes beyond Roe v. Wade and “does not recognize a viable life at any stage of pregnancy.”

“This bill will legalize infanticide. This is wrong,” he said.

The Vermont House of Representatives passed H. 57, called the “The Freedom of Choice Act,” on Feb. 21 by a vote of 106-36.

The bill had at least 90 co-sponsors in the House and has strong support in the state Senate. It claims to “safeguard the right to abortion” by ensuring it is not “denied, restricted, or infringed.” It bars the prosecution of “any individual” who performs or attempts to perform an abortion.

If it becomes law, the bill would strengthen the position of legal abortion in Vermont even if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns its 1973 decision Roe v. Wade and other precedents that mandate legal abortion nationwide.

Coyne said that advocates of the legislation claim that it will not be abused.

“But that is not what this bill says,” he added. “It says anyone has the right to kill her unborn child right up to the moment of birth, without any restriction or protection.”

While backers frame it as an issue of “women’s rights and healthcare,” he objected that the bill “allows abortions to be performed by non-physicians in non-medical settings” and “removes any rights or protections a woman might have in situations of coercion or malpractice.”

The legislation asserts that “every individual” has a fundamental right to choose or refuse contraception or sterilization, that “every individual who becomes pregnant has the fundamental right to choose to carry a pregnancy to term, give birth to a child, or to have an abortion”, and that “a fertilized egg, embryo, or fetus shall not have independent rights under Vermont law.”

The bill would apply to all branches of the state government and municipal governments.

Arguing against the bill, Coyne said opposition to legal abortion is a matter of both religion and reason.

“The Catholic Church stands for the protection of all life from the moment of conception until natural death, and therefore opposes abortion in all instances,” said the bishop.
This is “not just a matter of faith,” but “an issue of human rights.”

Bill sponsor Rep. Ann Pugh, (D-South Burlington), said Wednesday night that legislation will “reinforce a woman’s right to reproductive health care freedom.”

“The most unrepresented person or thing in the world or here in Vermont is a viable fetus that has not yet been born,” said bill opponent Rep. Robert Bancroft, R-Westford, the news site WCAX reports. “But it feels pain, it feels love and, unfortunately, we don't regard it as anything until the day it is born.”

Mary Hahn Beerworth, executive director of Vermont Right to Life, told the Washington Times that under the proposed law, notorious abortionist Kermit Gosnell could not be prosecuted.

“Planned Parenthood says trust us, and everybody loves Planned Parenthood here. They’ve dominated the state for decades,” she said. “But they’re not thinking, or they don’t care, that somebody could just move here tomorrow and undercut Planned Parenthood for price and run a Gosnell-like clinic.”

In 2013 Gosnell was convicted of three first-degree murders of babies who were born alive at his Philadelphia abortion clinic, which was kept in an unsanitary state and had not been visited by a state regulator in years. One former employee said he saw his staff snip the necks of about 100 babies born alive.

Gosnell was also convicted of involuntary manslaughter for a patient at his facility, a mother who died of a drug overdose.

Eileen Sullivan, spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, said Gosnell “ran a criminal enterprise, not a health care facility.”

“His case makes clear that we must enforce the laws already in existence that protect access to safe and legal abortion,” she said, according to the Washington Times. Sullivan contended that abortion regulations “would limit patients’ options and lead them to seek treatment from criminals like Gosnell.”

A January 2011 grand jury report on the Gosnell case found that inspections of his clinic identified violations but never required corrections up through 1993. With the 1995 transition to a governor who supported legal abortion, the report said, “officials concluded that inspections would be ‘putting a barrier up to women’ seeking abortions.”

Other legislation strengthening legal abortion has passed in New York and Massachusetts. Such legislation is under consideration in the New Mexico legislature.

Tagle: Confront the 'stench of filth' caused by abuse

Vatican City, Feb 21, 2019 / 05:30 pm (CNA).- An expert on abuse prevention offered “practical suggestions” to participants at a Vatican summit on child sexual abuse on Thursday, while two cardinals encouraged bishops to work together to support victims of clerical abuse.

Archbishop Charles J. Scicluna, adjunct secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith told the Vatican’s Meeting of the Presidents of the Bishops’ Conferences on Safeguarding of Minors that bishops should make know that Catholics have both “the duty and the right” to report any sort of clerical sexual misconduct or abuse to Church officials.

Scicluna advised that the contact information for Church leaders be made publicly available and easy to access. He called for the establishment of protocols governing how the Church handles abuse, and he encouraged Church leaders to cooperate with civil authorities and other experts on abuse.

“It is important that every allegation is investigated with the help of experts and that the investigation is concluded without unnecessary delay,” he said. He also noted that the practice of establishing review boards and safeguarding commissions has “proved to be beneficial” in areas where this is commonplace.

It can be helpful for bishops to work together and share their experiences in how they have dealt with their priests being accused of abuse, explained Scicluna.

“As shepherds of the Lord’s flock we should not underestimate the need to confront ourselves with the deep wounds inflicted on victims of sex abuse by members of the clergy,” he said, and said that bishops need to be like Simon of Cyrene, who helped Christ carry the cross, by assisting abuse victims who carry the cross of their abuse.

Scicluna, a canon lawyer, also called for just canonical processes that respect the rights of accused clerics.

“The essence of a just process requires that the accused is presented with all arguments and evidence against him; that the accused is given the full benefit of the right of presenting his defense; that judgement is given based on the facts of the case and the law applicable to the case; that a reasoned judgement or decision is communicated in writing to the accused and that the accused enjoy a remedy against a judgement or decision that aggrieves him,” said Scicluna.

A canonical penal process can have three results, explained Scicluna: one in which the accused is guilty; one in which neither the guilt nor innocence of the accused can be proven; or one in which the accused is exonerated.

While the guilty and innocent verdicts are relatively easy for a bishop to digest, a verdict of decisio dismissoria, where the guilt of the accused is unclear, can be problematic for bishops to deal with, Scicluna explained. In these situations, particularly when a claim of abuse is credible but not proven, a bishop or religious superior should exercise prudence, and consult with experts in deciding what to do next. Whatever step is taken, Scicluna said, it should be guaranteed that children and young people will be kept safe.

“An essential aspect of the exercise of stewardship in these cases is the proper interface with civil jurisdiction,” said Scicluna.

Misconduct that rises to a criminal level must be reported to state authorities, who can proceed to investigate the claim and punish the crime or award damages to victims. Bishops should be aware, he explained, that the conclusion of a criminal investigation and a canonical penal process may be different, and that there are different standards of evidence in these systems, as well as different statutes of limitations.

Working with civil authorities can help better safeguard children, he explained. Scicluna cited the example of a priest accused of possessing child pornography as a situation in which civil authorities are likely better equipped to investigate and charge someone than a Church official.

Scicluna encouraged his brother bishops to focus their efforts on preventing sexual abuse, which he said is achieved through a more thorough screening process of candidates for seminary, particularly on the topics of celibacy and chastity.

“A just and balanced understanding of the demands of priestly celibacy and chastity should be underpinned by a profound and healthy formation in human freedom and sound moral doctrine,” said Scicluna. Those studying to be priests need to “nurture and grow in that spiritual fatherhood” that should be their motivation for their work in ministry.

Bishops and religious superiors should also embrace a sense of spiritual fatherhood, he said, through the priests they lead. A good bishop will lead by example, and will follow abuse protocols and codes of conduct.

“Above all, the ordinary is responsible in guaranteeing and promoting the personal, physical, mental and spiritual well-being of his priests.”

Cardinal Luis Antonio G. Tagle of Manila said in his Thursday address that bishops need to better understand the wounds caused by clerical sexual abuse, adding that he fears that bishops have “found the stench of filth inflicted on children and vulnerable people (they) were supposed to protect” to be “too strong to endure.”

Tagle drew inspiration from the Gospel story where Thomas doubts that Jesus has resurrected, and has to touch the wounds of Christ before he can proclaim that the Lord is his God. The action of touching Christ’s wounds was “fundamental to the act and confession of faith.”

Like Thomas, Tagle thinks that the bishops need to be “constantly in touch with the wounds of humanity,” which they can do by confronting the abuse crisis, their failings, and by providing assistance to those who are hurting.

“Our people need us to draw close to their wounds and acknowledge our faults if we are to give authentic and credible witness to our faith in the Resurrection,” said Tagle. He encouraged people to discard any fears of being wounded and to instead “draw close to the wounds of our people.”

Tagle argued that a two-pronged approach for both justice for those who were abused, as well as forgiveness for abusers is the best way for the Church to move forward in confronting the abuse crisis. He said it is not necessary to think in “either/or” terms, but rather, he advocates for a mentality of “both/and.”

“Regarding victims, we need to help them express their deep hearts and to heal from them,” said Tagle. “Regarding the perpetrators, we need to serve justice, help them to face the truth without rationalization, and at the same time not neglect their inner world, their own wounds.”

Cardinal Rubén Salazar Gómez of Bogota condemned a culture of clericalism as the “deeper root” of the abuse crisis. Clericalism, he said, is a force that converts ministry “into a means to impose force, to violate the conscience and the bodies of the weakest.”

Clericalism, said Gómez, has led to “serious errors of authority” and has exacerbated the abuse crisis in the Church. Bishops are “hardly ever aware” that clericalism underlies their ministry, he said, and there must be an effort to “unmask” this mentality and bring about positive changes.

Bishops are responsible for increasing their own awareness that they are dependent upon each other, and that the Church and her bishops have failed in the past in their response to abuse.

“We often proceed like the hirelings, who, on seeing the wolf coming, flee and leave the flock unprotected,” said Gómez. “Fleeing,” he said, took the form of ignoring claims of abuse, failing to assist survivors of abuse, or attempting to silence survivors with monetary settlements. This “clerical mentality” places the Church above both justice and the suffering experienced by those who were abused, he explained.

In order to effectively protect the vulnerable, Gómez called for both a unified front among the bishops, as well as a “Code of Conduct” for bishops that provides a framework for the best way to handle allegations of abuse by members of the clergy.

“Its obligatory nature will be a guarantee that we all act in unison and in the right direction, since it gives us clear norms to control our conduct and provides concrete suggestions for the necessary corrective measures,” he said, and also pointed out that this code of conduct would be “a concrete way of strengthening the communion that is born of episcopal collegiality.”

 

Sodalit founder expelled from congregation's community life

Lima, Peru, Feb 21, 2019 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- The founder of the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae has been formally expelled from the group's community life, and forbidden from contacting any member of the Sodalitium, the group announced in a statement released on Feb. 20. Figari is also forbidden from returning to his native Peru.

On January 30, 2017, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life prohibited Figari from having any contact with other members of the society after it was found that he had sexually and psychologically abused members and committed other abuses of power.

Figari immediately appealed this decision, and made a second appeal in 2018 after his first was denied.

In January 2017, the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life ordered at that the Sodalitium ban Figari from Peru, “except for grave motives and always with a written permission,” and that he be moved to a location where there is no Sodalit community.

They also said that Figari should be forbidden from any form of contact with other members of the Sodalitium, and that Figari would not be allowed to make “publicly or in private, any statement to the news media, or to participate under any title or for any reason, in public events or meetings of either the Sodalitium or any other ecclesiastical or civil person or institution.”

A Sodalit has since been designated as a contact person for Figari, should there be a need to have communication.

The Superior General of the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae, José David Correa, published a decree on February 5, 2019, that said that because Figari’s appeals had been rejected, he is now definitively subject to the 2017 restrictions. Figari has been informed of these restrictions.

Figari resides in Rome. As part of the decree enacting the policies, the “Mother of the Reconciler” community where he is living has been suppressed, and is no longer considered to be a Sodalit community. Figari will continue to live at the residence “until the details of his new residence are completed,” the Sodalitium said in the statement.

At the conclusion of its 2019 General Assembly, the Sodalitium issued a statement of “forgiveness and reconciliation” in which it lamented the cases of abuse committed by some of its members and its founder Luis Fernando Figari.

“We consider it a duty as an Assembly to make a public statement on the relationship of our community with Luis Fernando Figari, whom we cannot consider as a spiritual exemplar for our Sodalit community.”

”We strongly condemn, and at the same time with pain and shame, the abuses committed by him; the abuse of his authority, his lack of respect for freedom, the physical and psychological abuses, the sexual abuse, which were denounced and investigated by our community and the Holy See,” the statement says.

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

 

ACI Prensa, CNA's Spanish-language sister agency, contributed to this report.

 

Correction: This story originally reported that Figari was expelled from the Sodalitium itself. This was an error. Figari has been expelled from the community life of the Sodalitium. The story has been corrected.