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Forum forms women in leadership, dignity, faith

Washington D.C., Jun 17, 2019 / 11:30 am (CNA).- The 2019 GIVEN Catholic Young Women’s Leadership Forum, which met last week, convened more than 100 professional Catholic women in Washington, DC, to discuss faith, vocation, dignity, and leadership.

The June 12-16 forum was conducted by the newly-launched GIVEN Institute, and aimed to equip young Catholic women with the tools, mentorship, and advice needed to become leaders in the modern world while remaining true to their faith.

“We live in fast-moving and distracted world, so it’s easy to lose one’s grounding in the truth or even to never learn that there is a Truth, and one that sets us free,” Anne Marie Warner, director of operations for the GIVEN Institute, told CNA.

The GIVEN Forum seeks to remind attendees that not only is there a truth, but that women have unique, God-given gifts that they can use to better serve their communities.

Participants were invited after a rigorous application process that examined both their engagement with the Church and their aptitude for leadership. Additionally, applicants had to submit an “Action Plan Proposal.”

“The Action Plan is each woman’s unique initiative to activate her God-given gifts in a way that will benefit others in her community, or in the Church or the world,”said Warner. The plan is “It is a specific concrete project that (the attendee) will accomplish during the year following the GIVEN Forum,” she added.  

Warner was an attendee of the first GIVEN Forum, in 2016. She said she was “very inspired” by the diversity of the speakers at the event, and that it was “so encouraging to see the many ways that women are called to live out their femininity in the Church and in the world.”

Warner told CNA that she hopes each of the 120 attendees of this year’s forum will return home from the forum knowing that “her dreams matter, and that she has a place to be received and accompanied as she seeks to implement these for the good of others.”

Another goal of the conference, Warner said, is to recognize the place in the Church for the whole person.

“The Church is a place where (forum attendees) can be received in their strengths and in their weaknesses, a home where they are loved not for what they do, but for who they are; a family in which their unique heart is essential and cherished.”

In addition to the Action Plan, forum attendees are also mentored by older Catholic women. Warner believes this relationship is beneficial for both the mentor and the mentee, and “allows a collaboration between those whose lives are being formed in adulthood and those who have wisdom and love to share.”

“Our hope is that, through this relationship, the gift of both will be magnified and the gift of women in the Church will be magnified and, in turn, the gift of the Church to the world will be magnified,” she said.  

Attendees of the GIVEN Form shared their experiences with CNA.

Lily Alvarez traveled from Los Angeles to attend the forum. Alvarez, a native of Mexico, works for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. She said she was encouraged to apply for this year’s forum by friends who attended the first incarnation of the event in 2016.

“GIVEN has opened my eyes to see that God wants me to be intentional in the way I live my femininity, through conversations, people and testimonies I’ve heard here,” she said.

For Alvarez, one of the highlights of the forum was the opportunity to meet religious sisters. The first GIVEN Forum was intended to be a one-time event sponsored by the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR), who later expanded the event into the GIVEN Institute non-profit organization. Due to this relationship, there were many religious sisters at the forum, representing many religious orders.

“I’ve never had the chance to have deep conversations, play or even spend a day with (religious sisters),” Alvarez told CNA. “It’s been quite inspirational to see how professional, joyful and motherly they are.”

Alvarez described GIVEN as a “transformational conference,” that changed the way she viewed the dignity of women and offered “a fresh angle full of opportunities” as well as “a space of true friendship and deep understanding of God’s encounter with us.” She told CNA that she is eager to see what she and her fellow attendees are able to accomplish in the next year.

“I think now the world is lucky to have 120 new leaders of true femininity ready to make a change in the culture about the place of women in society,” she said.

Another attendee, Molly Sheahan, expressed a similar sentiment. Sheahan, a California native who is now a graduate student in Washington, DC, told CNA that she applied for the GIVEN Forum seeking to “gain practical skills for leadership and advice for future action and advocacy in the Church and in the world.”

Sheahan said she particularly enjoyed the opportunity to meet other forum attendees, women “who shared their passion and dreams for their Church, (and) their hope and fire to evangelize.” She told CNA that she received “a newfound courage and fire” from hearing the speakers, and she has been inspired to further share the things she has learned.

“Although my faith is strong, having a new community of women this week has given me a spiritual boost,” said Sheahan. “I feel called on to prayer in a new way now.”

Guam's Catholics oppose governor's plan to expand abortion

Hagatna, Guam, Jun 17, 2019 / 11:01 am (CNA).- Catholics in Guam have organized a prayer rally to protest the territorial governor's plan to recruit a doctor willing to perform abortions, after the retirement of the island's last abortion doctor.

“Say no to recruiting doctors who will kill our unborn children! Say yes to recruiting doctors who help us save lives,” read an invitation to the prayer rally sent by Patricia Perry, co-chair of the Catholic Pro-Life Committee, according to the Pacific Daily News, a Hagatna daily.

“We will not stop until all abortion is outlawed and all anti-life laws will be abolished,” Perry stated.

Guam Governor Lou Leon Guerrero, a former nurse who took office in January, recently expressed her wish to expand abortion access in the territory, but no doctors on the island are willing to perform abortions. The territory's last abortion doctor retired in June 2018.

The island's government is also offering waivers and discounts for contraception through a public health clinic.

According to the Pacific Daily News, the Archdiocese of Agaña said that “human life begins at conception and the Roman Catholic Church affirms and promotes this truth. There is no other moral or logical place to draw the line.”

Guam is predominantly Catholic, and Leon Guerrero has said that finding a doctor willing to perform abortions there “will take some work.” She said officials are trying to recruit doctors to come to the island and establish clinics.

Elective abortion is legal in Guam up to 13 weeks, and the procedure is legal up to 26 weeks in case of rape or incest; anyone who procures an abortion without help from a doctor can be charged with a felony. Doctors have the legal right to refuse to perform an abortion except in the case of a medical emergency.

Women in Guam seeking abortions fly thousands of miles from the island to seek abortions elsewhere, many in Hawaii.

There have only two or three Guam women given abortions in Hawaii since last year, and none was an elective procedure, an OB-GYN and University of Hawaii professor told the AP.

Guam's public health department received reports of an average of 246 abortions annually between 2007 and 2017. Since the 2018 retirement of Dr. William Freeman, none have been reported.

The Pacific Daily News reported that the territory is in need of more foster families. It said a recent bill introduced to improve foster care noted that in May, there were 270 children in foster placement, and 37 licensed foster families.

“If you don’t do anything to help these kids, you’re not pro-life. You’re just pro-birth. I’m not saying that you should abort these children to avoid the system but if we’re not going to have an abortion clinic here on Guam, something needs to be fixed,” Kimmi Yee, a 20-year-old Guam resident and abortion rights supporter, told the Pacific Daily News.

U.S. federal law applies in Guam and its people are U.S. citizens; the island is home to about 170,000 residents.

Polish priest ordained after cancer diagnosis dies

Warsaw, Poland, Jun 17, 2019 / 10:25 am (CNA).- A young Polish priest who was ordained last month following a terminal cancer diagnosis has died, his community announced Monday.

Fr. Michal Los, FDP, died June 17 in the morning, the Congregation of the Orionine Fathers said in a Facebook post.

“We believe that he met with the Risen Christ whom he so desperately wanted to serve as a priest. Thank you for all your prayers and support,” the congregation said.

On May 24, Los was ordained a priest in his Warsaw hospital bed.

He had been diagnosed with cancer about a month prior. At the time of his ordination, he was in critical condition.

Pope Francis granted a dispensation allowing Los to be ordained both a deacon and a priest in the same Mass. The pope sent a letter to the director general of the congregation, Fr.  Tarcisio Vieira, granting permission.

Los was ordained by Bishop Marek Solarczyk of the Diocese of Warsaw-Praga.

The day before his ordination, Los made perpetual vows in his religious community, the Congregation of the Orionine Fathers.

On May 25, he celebrated his first Mass, also from his hospital bed. In a video posted on social media that day, he thanked Catholics who were praying for him, and asked for their continued prayers.

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Amazon Synod to consider possible ordination of married men

Vatican City, Jun 17, 2019 / 07:30 am (CNA).- The working document for the special assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazonian region, released Monday, recommends study of the possibility of ordaining married men in remote areas for the priesthood.

“Stating that celibacy is a gift for the Church, we ask that, for more remote areas in the region, study of the possibility of priestly ordination of elders, preferably indigenous …  they can already have an established and stable family, in order to ensure the sacraments that they accompany and support the Christian life,” paragraph 129 of the document released June 17 states.

This opens the door for the discussion of the ordination of viri probati -- a term referring to mature, married men -- during the Special Synod of Bishops from the Pan-Amazonian region to be held at the Vatican Oct. 6-27.

Canon law for the Latin Catholic Church prohibits the ordination of married men to the priesthood, with limited exceptions regarding the ordination of formerly Anglican and Protestant ecclesial leaders who have converted to Catholicism.

The working document, which calls for “a Church with an indigenous face,” further recommends that the synod identify “an official ministry that can be conferred upon women, taking into account the central role they play in the Amazonian church.”

Monsignor Fabio Fabene, Under-Secretary for the Synod of Bishops highlighted the document’s call for new lay ministries.

“In this sense, one wonders what official ministry can be conferred to the woman,” Fabene said at a Vatican press conference June 17.

He continued, “the document does not speak of the female diaconate, since the pope has already expressed himself on the subject in the Assembly of the Superiors General, declaring that the topic needs further study. In fact, the study commission set up in 2016 did not reach a unanimous opinion on the issue.”

The synod working document, entitled “Amazonia: New Paths for the Church and for an Integral Ecology,” is divided into three sections on the Amazonian cultures, environmental and economic problems, and pastoral approaches for the Church in the region.

Calling for “an integral ecological conversion,” the document touches on the issues of migration, deforestation, urbanization, corruption, health, education, and Indigenous Peoples in Voluntary Isolation (PIAV).

The document stresses the importance of inculturation of indigenous cultures in the Catholic faith and the liturgy in the region, starting with engagement with indigenous spiritualities.

“It is necessary to grasp what the Spirit of the Lord has taught to these peoples over the centuries: faith in God the Father-Mother Creator, the sense of communion and harmony with the earth, the sense of solidarity with one's companions ...  the living relationship with nature and 'Mother Earth,’ the resilience of women,” paragraph 121 of the document states.

Recommending that the Church “recognize indigenous spirituality as a source of wealth for the Christian experience,” and the document calls for dialogue with “the Amazonian cosmovision” to be included in formation for religious life.

Monsignor Fabene described inculturation in the liturgy in the region as “a better integration of the symbols and celebratory styles of indigenous cultures … taking into account music and dance, languages ​​and native clothes.”

“Recognition and dialogue will be the best way to transform the ancient relations marked by exclusion and discrimination,” paragraph 35 states. In several places, the document refers to “the wounds caused during long periods of colonization.”

“For this Pope Francis asked ‘humbly for forgiveness, not only for the offenses of his own Church, but for crimes against indigenous peoples during the conquest of so-called America.’  In this past, the Church has sometimes been complicit in the colonization and this has stifled the prophetic voice of the Gospel,” paragraph 38 states.

The document also stresses the importance of having greater respect for the dignity and rights of indigenous populations in the area today.

“The Church cannot but worry about the integral salvation of the human person, which involves promoting the culture of indigenous peoples, talking about their vital needs, accompanying movements and joining forces to defend their rights,” paragraph 143 states.

The synod document therefore recommends that Catholics in the region, “join the basic social movements, to prophetically announce a program of agrarian justice that promotes a profound agrarian reform, supporting farming organic and agroforestry.”

Participants in the special synod of the Amazon will include residential bishops and ordinaries of the nine Pan-Amazonian ecclesiastical territories in Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, French Guiana, Guyana and Suriname; the presidents of the seven bishops’ conferences of the Pan-Amazonian Region; members for the Roman Curia; the president of the Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network (REPAM); and the members of the pre-Synodal Council.

Upon the working document’s publication June 17, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, said:

“The image of a Church with an Amazonian face, courageous in its prophetic proclamation of the Gospel in defense of Creation and of indigenous peoples, is the horizon towards which we are walking under the guidance of Pope Francis.”

Meet the bishop who weaves Gospel verses, art, and Tolkien into his ministry

Baltimore, Md., Jun 17, 2019 / 03:01 am (CNA).- There are bishops who may or may not tweet with any regularity, and then there’s “Amigo de Frodo”, who provides daily Gospel verses, bits of art and literature, and maybe a Lord of the Rings quote or two at a Confirmation: Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville.

“As a bishop, I think Twitter—you shouldn’t take yourself too seriously,” Bishop Flores, who tweets under the handle @bpdflores, told CNA at the annual spring meeting of the U.S. bishops last week.

“It can be – it often isn’t – but it can be a humanizing platform. And I think the challenge, just for Catholic Twitter in general, is to kind of be a humanizing voice in it that’s respectful and that encourages and has imagination, and in a certain sense humor, in terms of how things can be.”

One thing that can be seen on the bishop’s account every single day is a Gospel verse from that day’s reading and a brief reflection, in Spanish and in English.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">*Everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.<br><br>As charity— gift of the Risen Christ— takes possession of the heart, enabling us to love God and serve the good of others, there is less room in the heart to consent to sin. <a href="https://t.co/jBzGw2oKwo">pic.twitter.com/jBzGw2oKwo</a></p>&mdash; Amigo de Frodo (@bpdflores) <a href="https://twitter.com/bpdflores/status/1139487295411802113?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">June 14, 2019</a></blockquote>
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“I do think, fundamentally, for the Catholic Church, before we can tackle the problems and the issues, if we aren’t fundamentally reading the Gospel every day and letting that inform how it is that we think and how it is that we see the world, then we’re not doing what we’re supposed to be doing in terms of being a people who are able to look at the world through the eyes of the Gospel, instead of judging the Gospel through the eyes of the world,” he said.

“So it’s just my way of saying ‘folks, we all need to be reading the Gospel, and then we can deal with reality’.”

Among the items discussed and voted upon by the bishops were measures to respond to the clergy abuse crisis, among them authorizing a hotline for victims of abuse by bishops to confidentially report the case.

On Tuesday, during a presentation of heads of the working group on immigration, bishops discussed the need for the Church to be concretely present to migrants and refugees, and especially undocumented immigrants whose future legal status is in question and who face deportation.

One item discussed was the threat of tariffs by President Trump against Mexico, to push for a stronger effort to curtail migration from Central America to the U.S.

“We can’t use the immigrant as a bargaining chip,” Bishop Flores told CNA of the tariff threats.

Bishop Flores is one of the “border bishops”, whose diocese has for years been at the center of the rise in migrant children and women coming to the U.S. seeking asylum.

These migrants cannot be ignored, he said. “It’s about the reality of the children and mothers and families are suffering. And we have to address that. There is no reading of the Gospel that the Church is familiar with that says we can exempt ourselves from any interest of what is going on here.”

Ahead of the 2020 elections, immigration is once again expected to be a core issue among voters. When asked how voters can consider the Church’s teaching on the right to migrate and on the state’s just authority to regulate immigration, Bishop Flores pointed to global solidarity, the common good, and the limits of national sovereignty.

“The good of survival is a very high good in terms of Catholic social teaching,” he said. “And while a country has a responsibility to defend its borders, it also has a responsibility to be just and reasonable in attending to the human crisis which is beyond our borders. Because Catholic social teaching has never considered national sovereignty as an absolute right that is sort of ‘free to be capricious, it’s not our problem’.”

Pope Francis has taught of the “responsibility in global solidarity” to pay attention to crises beyond the borders of one’s own country, he said, and the pope has pointed out problems that transcend national boundaries and demand the attention of everyone, such as human trafficking.

To ignore these problems, and the plight of migrants, as a country, “we will simply just kind of shrivel in terms of our own human awareness of the basic commonality we have as human beings.”

“And the Gospel certainly calls us to look with open eyes as to the Lazaruses at the door. And to try to find some sort of reasonable accommodation to address those situations,” he said. Migrants are often victims of gang violence and human traffickers, he said, “basically what the pope calls the modern slave trade. It happens not just in the Americas, it happens across the world.”

“And this is, as the Holy Father keeps saying to the world, especially to the economically successful in the world, you can’t keep pretending this is not happening.”

Pro-life groups laud Pampers move to place changing tables in men's restrooms

Cincinnati, Ohio, Jun 16, 2019 / 02:01 pm (CNA).- Pro-life groups are cheering an initiative from Pampers which is seeking to place 5,000 diaper changing tables in men’s restrooms throughout the United States and Canada.

“Picture this...dad is out and about, enjoying quality time with his baby and the inevitable hits – diaper duty. Cue the search for a changing table, only for dad to find there’s nowhere for him to change that stinky booty in the men’s restroom,” the Pampers company, a popular brand of baby and toddler products, said in an announcement of the initiative.

“It’s an all too familiar story that’s happening across the country, with new Pampers research revealing that 9 out of 10 dads have gone into a public restroom that has not had a baby changing table,” Pampers added. “As part of its ‘Love the Change’ campaign, Pampers is proud to announce they’re providing 5,000 changing tables for public restrooms across North America by 2021, so more dads and babies can #LoveTheChange together when they’re out-and-about.”

The initiative was inspired largely by the #SquatforChange campaign, which started after frustrated Florida father Donte Palmer posted a photo of himself, squatting on the floor of a public restroom and balancing his child on his knees while trying to change the child’s diaper.

The photo, which Palmer posted to Facebook and Instagram, went viral, and Palmer told the Washington Post he was encouraged by the response, which indicated that it was a widespread issue for dads across the country.

Kristi Hamrick, a spokesperson for the pro-life group Students for Life of America, applauded the Pampers initiative, and told CNA that it points out an age-old “discrepancy” that assumes mothers are always the ones changing their children’s diapers.

“Students for Life has always been an advocate for helping both mothers and fathers take care of their children,” she said. “In fact, we've been pointing out the discrepancy for years, because moms can use a break, and I know from experience that my husband was just as good as I was at helping our children on diaper duty.”

“A pro-life/pro-family society puts policies and infrastructure in place to help young families succeed in raising happy, healthy children. We may pursue different programming ideas, but helping families should be a goal for all of us as we all need the next generation to do well,” she added.

Hamrick noted that the initiative is similar to other efforts of Students for Life groups throughout the country, including the 2018 installment of diaper decks at the University of Wyoming, after the encouragement of the local Students for Life group, as well as efforts to support paid family leave acts in Congress.

Carol Tobias, a spokesperson for the pro-life group National Right to Life, told CNA that she welcomed the Pampers initiative, and that she imagined most mothers did too.

“Fathers seem to be more involved in the care of their children than previous generations so it makes sense that diaper-changing stations are available to help them provide that care,” she said.

According to Pampers, the installation of the diaper decks will take place over the next two years, in partnership with Koala Kare.

The companies “will identify high-need public locations and provide baby changing tables for installation in the men’s restrooms. Dads and babies visiting places such as parks and recreation centers, community centers and libraries in cities such as Cincinnati, Dallas, Philadelphia, Detroit, and many others across the U.S. and Canada, are in line to benefit from Pampers’ commitment,” Pampers announced.

Pampers noted that the first 500 locations for the installation of diaper decks have already been selected, and will be installed in the coming weeks.

Pope Francis: Whatever happens, 'hope does not disappoint!'

Camerino, Italy, Jun 16, 2019 / 06:09 am (CNA).- Hope, which is more than mere optimism, gives one a deep-rooted confidence in the love and care of God, no matter what has happened, Pope Francis said Sunday.

Hope “does not expire, because it is based on the fidelity of God. The hope of the Spirit is not even optimism. Born deeper, it rekindles at the bottom of the heart the certainty of being precious because loved,” the pope said June 16.

“It is a hope that leaves peace and joy inside, regardless of what happens outside. It is a hope that has strong roots, which no storm of life can uproot,” he added. “It is a hope that, says St. Paul, ‘does not disappoint’ – hope does not disappoint! – which gives the strength to overcome all tribulations.”

Pope Francis said Mass in Camerino, Italy during a day visit to the Archdiocese of Camerino-San Severino Marche. The area was one of those affected by the earthquakes which struck central Italy in 2016 and 2017. The Mass was said in the square outside the cathedral, which is still under reconstruction after being damaged in the earthquake.

In his homily, Francis spoke to those who suffered damage, injury, or loss due to the earthquakes.

“When we are troubled or wounded – and you know well what it means to be troubled, wounded – we are led to ‘nest’ around our sadness and our fears,” he said, noting that the Holy Spirit can free people from these “nests.”

“The Spirit feeds us with living hope. Invite him. Let us ask him to come to us and he will come near. Come, Comforter Spirit! Come give us some light, give us the sense of this tragedy, give us the hope that does not disappoint. Come, Holy Spirit!” he prayed.

The pope also reflected on a line from the day’s Responsorial Psalm: “What is man that you should be mindful of him...” This question, he said, could come also in the face of “collapsed houses and buildings reduced to rubble.”

“What is man ever? What is he, if what you raise can collapse in an instant? What is he if his hope can end in dust?”

The truth, Francis said, is that “God remembers us as we are, with our frailties.”

“No one is contemptible in his eyes, each has an infinite value for him: we are small under heaven and powerless when the earth trembles, but for God we are more precious than anything.”

Before praying the Angelus following Mass, Pope Francis told the people of the diocese he came in order to be near to them and to pray with them, saying, “I pray to the God of hope, so that what is unstable on earth does not shake the certainty we have inside.”

God remembers everyone and he can heal the memories of that difficult time, he said. “God helps us to be builders of good, consolers of hearts. Everyone can do a little good, without waiting for others to start.”

Entrusting the diocese to the Virgin Mary, he prayed: “May she who animated the first community of Jesus’ disciples with her motherly presence, also help the Church today to give good witness to the Gospel.”

Before returning to the Vatican in the afternoon, the pope met with around 200 children who had received their first Holy Communion and with their parents and catechists.

 

Kenyan court rules that rape victims have right to abortion

Nairobi, Kenya, Jun 15, 2019 / 02:01 pm (CNA).- Kenya's High Court ruled Wednesday that rape victims whose pregnancy threatens their life or health have a right to procure abortion.

The June 12 ruling regarded a case brought on b ehalf of a young woman who died in June 2018 from complications related to a back-alley abortion she procured in 2014.

"Pregnancy resulting from rape or defilement, if in the opinion of a trained medical profession poses a danger to life or the health - that is physical, mental and social well-being of the mother – maybe terminated under ... sections of the constitution," said Justice Aggrey Muchelule, the Thompson Reuters Foundation reported.

The Standard, a Nairobi daily, reported that the judges ruled: “The apparent blanket prohibition of abortion in the penal code cannot stand while the Constitution gives the right to a woman to abort when their life and health are in danger.”

The 2010 Kenyan constitution made abortion legal in certain circumstances – in the cases of emergencies and when the woman’s health is in jeopardy.

The girl at the center of the case, known by her initials JMM, was raped in 2014 at the age of 15. In December of that year, her guardian was told by a relative that JMM was vomiting and bleeding heavily at a clinic where she had gone for treatment.

JMM had told clinic staff she had procured an unsafe abortion and that she had been sent to a variety of hospitals for post-abortive care.

In 2015, JMM's mother, along with the Federation of Women Lawyers and the Centre for Reproductive Rights, filed a suit against the Ministry of Health claiming JMM was not provided with proper post-abortion care and calling on the government to provide access to safe abortions.

JMM developed kidney failure, and died June 10, 2018.

The suit filed on JMM's behalf maintains that the poor care she received following her abortion was a result of the lack of safe abortion services.

In its ruling, the court awarded JMM's mother damage of 3 million Kenyan shillings ($29,500).

The court also ordered the health ministry to reinstate guidelines on conducting 'safe' abortions. In 2013 the ministry had withdrawn the guidelines, and banned health workers from training in the procedure, after it emerged they were being used to unintended purposes.

The court had heard three days of testimony in the case in July 2018. It had been expected to deliver a verdict before January 2019.

Among the testimonies heard by the court was that of Dr. Wahome Ngari, who said that figures on the number of back-alley abortions procured, which are used to argue for the expansion of abortion rights, are wildly inflated, and that similar inflation was used to push the Malawian government to repeal its abortion law.

Ngari said the focus on health care for pregnant women in Kenya should begin with blood loss.

“The reason pregnant mothers die in the country is haemorrhage, followed by infections, hyperactive disorders, prolonged or obstructed labour and lastly abortion. Anyone who wants to offer a solution should follow that order.”

Trial date set for Argentine priests accused of abusing deaf children

Mendoza, Argentina, Jun 15, 2019 / 06:01 am (CNA).- Two priests accused of sexually abusing minors at a school for deaf children in Argentina will stand trial Aug. 5.

The priests and a former employee at the Antonio Provolo institute will face charges of the abuse of more than 20 children, the AP noted.

One of the priests involved is Fr. Nicola Corradi, who is a member of the Company of Mary, an Italian religious community which operates schools for deaf children in several countries, including Argentina and Italy. The schools are named for Antonio Provolo, a nineteenth-century Italian priest who founded Corradi’s religious community.

Corradi was arrested in 2016 along with Fr. Horacio Corbacho and other employees in connection with the abuse allegations, and the school was closed down.

Sr. Kosako Kumiko, a religious sister with the school, was arrested in May 2017 for charges of facilitating and covering-up sexual abuse at the school. Some students have also accused the sister of sexual abuse, though she has maintained her innocence.

Corradi, now 83, was first accused of abuse in 2009, when 14 Italians reported that they had been abused by priests, religious brothers, and other adults at the Provolo Institute in Verona, over the course of several decades.

After an investigation, five priests were sanctioned by the Vatican. Corradi, then living in Argentina, was among those accused of abuse, but was not arrested or otherwise sanctioned.

In 2014, Corradi was the subject of a letter sent to Pope Francis from victims of sexual abuse who were concerned about the priests ongoing ministry, despite the accusations against him. In 2015, the group handed a list of priests accused of abuse to the Pope in person, according to the Washington Post.

The group reportedly did not hear back from Pope Francis, but did hear from a Vatican official, Archbishop Giovanni Becciu, who wrote to the group in 2016 to tell them that he had informed the Italian bishops’ conference of their request for an investigation.

Later that year, Corradi, as well as Corbacho and another employee of the school, were arrested. However, according to a Washington Post report, it was civil authorities who decided to take action against Corradi and remove his access to children, while the Church in Argentina was not fully cooperative with the investigation, according to local officials.

“I want Pope Francis to come here, I want him to explain how this happened, how they knew this and did nothing,” a 24-year-old alumna of the Provolo Institute told the Washington Post in February.

Prosecutors in the case told the Washington Post that children at the school were “fondled, raped, sometimes tied up and, in one instance, forced to wear a diaper to hide the bleeding. All the while, their limited ability to communicate complicated their ability to tell others what was happening to them. Students at the school were smacked if they used sign language.”

“They were the perfect victims,” Gustavo Stroppiana, the chief prosecutor in the case, told the Washington Post, because the students were typically from poor families and had communication limitations.

According to previous reports from the AP, pornographic videos and magazines, along with $34,000 in cash, were found in Corradi’s room at the time he was arrested.

Corradi could face up to 50 years in prison if he is convicted by the Argentine court.

Lead by example, not documents, Vatican abuse expert tells Polish bishops

Warsaw, Poland, Jun 14, 2019 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- As the Catholic Church in Poland continues to respond to sex abuse by clergy, Archbishop Charles Scicluna, a leading Vatican expert on prosecuting sex crimes under church law, attended the bishops’ plenary assembly to discuss child and youth protection.
 
Scicluna told the Catholic news source KAI that he wanted to encourage the bishops “to implement the very good guidance points that they themselves adopted” in 2013, Reuters reported.
 
“I have a great hope that Polish bishops will do what is needed...I hope this situation can be repaired,” said Scicluna, who took part in a June 14 session of the 383rd Plenary Assembly of the Polish Bishops’ Conference in Walbrzych.
 
“My very strong message to the bishops of Poland this morning was - we need to pass from very good documents to an example of best practice,” the archbishop said.
 
He said rules alone are not enough unless they are implemented. Parishioners need to know to whom they can report suspected abuse.
 
Scicluna urged anyone aware of a coverup to report it to Church authorities. In cases where high-ranking bishops are involved, they should report the coverup to Poland’s papal nuncio, the Associated Press reported.
 
In a May 22 letter, the Polish bishop’s conference spoke out against clergy sexual abuse and pledged both to continue to “eliminate factors conducive to crime” and to adopt a more sensitive attitude toward victims.
 
“We admit that as shepherds of the Church we have not done everything to prevent these harms,” they said, thanking the victims who have come forward and urging those who have not to report their abuse to both Church and state authorities.
 
A documentary about clerical sex abuse in Poland, titled “Tell No One,” was produced and recently released by filmmaker brothers Tomasz and Marek Sekielski. Millions of viewers have watched it on YouTube.
 
Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki of Poznan, President of the Polish bishops’ conference, thanked the filmmakers on May 13. He said he was “deeply moved and saddened” by the film.
 
“I am convinced that this film, too, will result in an even more stringent compliance with the guidelines for the protection of children and young people in the Church,” he said, noting Pope Francis’ recent instructions in the document “Vos estis,” which includes rules on the prevention of and response to sexual abuse by clergy.
 
Close to 400 Polish priests were accused of sexual abuse of minors, with alleged incidents dating as far back as 1950 with as many as 625 potential victims, according to a study commissioned by the Episcopal Conference of Poland and released in March 2019. These accusations were submitted to Poland’s bishops starting in the year 1990 until 2018.  
 
The study covered data collected from the more than 10,000 parishes in Poland, and included religious orders.
 
According to the report, 382 priests were accused of abuse during the time covered. Of the clerics accused, 284 were diocesan priests, and 98 belonged to a religious order. Figures provided by the Holy See Press Office in 2016 reported there are 156 bishops and some 30,661 priests in Poland.
 
At the time of the report’s release, Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki, head of the Episcopal Conference of Poland, called the report’s findings “tragic,” and said every instance of sexual abuse is a “particularly painful” betrayal of public trust.
 
About 58 percent of allegations of abuse involved male victims, while 42 percent of victims were female. About 45 percent involved sexual abuse of a victim under age 15.
 
Only 168 priests were charged with a crime by civil authorities, with 85 being convicted. Two of these priests were acquitted outright, while other accused priests’ cases did not move forward. As of March 2019, 33 priests’ trials were ongoing.
 
Polish law currently provides for a 12-year prison sentence for abuse of a child under 15. Jaroslaw Kaczynski, head of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party in Poland, has discussed extending this to 30 years.
 
A canonical process under the Catholic Church’s internal laws was sought against at least 362 of the 382 accused priests.
 
A total of 68 priests were canonically removed from the priesthood, and another 109 punished by limits on ministry or other sanctions. Another 31 were transferred either to a different parish or to a location away from children. Of the accused priests, 34 passed away before the process could finish. Only 28 priests were acquitted. There was no data or explanation for the canonical response to 20 of the accused priests.
 
A separate report was produced by the sex abuse victims support group Have No Fear. The group presented a Spanish-language edition to Pope Francis after his general audience Feb. 20.
 
Their report aims to document “violations of civil and canon law by Polish bishops in the context of priests who engaged in sexual abuse of minors.” It examines more than 20 cases of clergy sexual abuse reported to the relevant Polish bishops in the last three decades, some cases reported as recently as 2012. It also examines these bishops’ responses.
 
The report accuses 24 former and current Polish bishops of having protected or transferred priests who abused children and adolescents.
 
According to the New York Times, about 87% of the Poland's 38 million people self-identify as Catholic.