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Retired Albany bishop admits returning accused priests to ministry without notifying law enforcement

Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Albany / Matt H. Wade via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Washington D.C., Aug 1, 2021 / 09:01 am (CNA).

The bishop emeritus of Albany says that the diocese once handled allegations of sexual abuse against priests without notifying law enforcement, returning accused priests to ministry following treatment.

In a statement provided to the Albany Times-Union and reported on Saturday, the Bishop Emeritus Howard Hubbard of Albany said that as a practice in the 1970s and 1980s, the diocese would handle abuse allegations against priests by sending them to counseling and treatment rather than notifying law enforcement.

Priests with allegations would be returned to ministry upon the approval of a “licensed psychologist or psychiatrist,” Hubbard said.

“When an allegation of sexual misconduct against a priest was received in the 1970s and 1980s, the common practice in the Albany diocese and elsewhere was to remove the priest from ministry temporarily and send him for counseling and treatment,” Hubbard said, reported in the Times-Union.

“Only when a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist determined the priest was capable of returning to ministry without reoffending did we consider placing the priest back in ministry,” he added. “The professional advice we received was well-intended but flawed, and I deeply regret that we followed it.”

Bishop Hubbard led the diocese from 1977 until 2014, when he was succeeded by current Bishop Edward Scharfenberger. Hubbard currently faces a Vos Estis investigation, a Vatican-ordered investigation into allegations that he committed sexual abuse. The 2019 document Vos Estis lux Mundi contained Pope Francis’ norms for investigating allegations of episcopal misconduct.

An anonymous plaintiff in March filed a lawsuit against Hubbard, alleging that Hubbard molested him in 1977, soon after his installation as bishop. The lawsuit named the diocese as well as St. Edward the Confessor Catholic Church in Clifton Park, New York.

The diocesan communications director told CNA at the time of the lawsuit that Hubbard maintained he had never abused a child.

Hubbard’s statement to the Times-Union came in response to an investigation by the newspaper, which reported a pattern of priests with abuse allegations being removed from ministry for treatment, only to be reinstated to active ministry without law enforcement being notified. Some of those priests allegedly went on to commit abuse once back in active ministry.

In one case, a woman testified in a deposition before diocesan attorneys that her nephew had been abused by a priest of the diocese around 1983. Her nephew killed himself, she recalled, and she subsequently contacted the diocese and reached Bishop Hubbard. The bishop allegedly told her he was aware of the alleged abuse, and that the priest in question was “being sent to New Mexico where they have more respect for priests.” 

In 2019, New York’s Child Victims Act went into effect, creating a temporary time window for new civil lawsuits to be filed in old cases of child sex abuse when the statute of limitations had already expired. The time window expires on Aug. 14, 2021.

So far, several New York dioceses have been named in hundreds of abuse lawsuits; according to a tally by a private law firm, the Albany diocese had been named in 266 lawsuits under the act as of April.

Hubbard himself has been named in several lawsuits under the act, including one which accused him of sexually abusing a 16-year-old boy in the 1990s.

The diocese on Friday also released a statement regarding abuse accusations under the Child Victims Act that were made against a retired priest of the diocese.

“In light of allegations of sexual abuse that were first reported in a Child Victims Act (CVA) case, Father John ‘Jack’ Varno, a retired priest in the Diocese of Albany who serves as a sacramental minister in several parishes, has voluntarily withdrawn from public ministry while the case moves forward,” the diocese stated on July 30.

“While on leave, Father Varno will not publicly officiate at sacraments, wear clerical garb, or present himself as a priest.”

Pope Francis: ‘The Lord wants a loving relationship with us’

Pope Francis delivers his Angelus address at the Vatican, Aug. 1, 2021. / Screenshot from Vatican News YouTube channel.

Vatican City, Aug 1, 2021 / 05:05 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said on Sunday that God wants us to move “beyond the logic of interest and calculation” and enter into a loving relationship with Him.

In his Angelus address on Aug. 1, the pope said that Catholics were called to mature in faith, leaving behind self-interest.

“We are not able to do this on our own. But the Lord wants a loving relationship with us: before the things we receive and do, there is Him to love. There is a relationship with Him that goes beyond the logic of interest and calculation,” he said.

In his Angelus address, the pope reflected on the day’s Gospel reading, John 6:24-35, in which a crowd seeks out Jesus following the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves.

He noted that Jesus tells the people that they are looking for him “not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled.”

The pope said: “Here then is a first question we can ask ourselves: why do we seek the Lord? Why do we seek the Lord? What are the motivations for my faith, for our faith? We need to discern this because among the many temptations we have in life there is one that we might call idolatrous temptation.”

“It is the one that drives us to seek God for our own use, to solve problems, to have, thanks to Him, what we cannot obtain on our own, out of self-interest.”

Pope Francis gave his live-streamed address at a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square as he continues to recuperate from colon surgery. The 84-year-old began reading in a strong voice, pausing at one point to cough, then continuing with his reflection.

The pope stressed that people with an “immature faith” prioritized their own needs ahead of their relationship with God.

“It is right to present our needs to God’s heart,” he said, “but the Lord, who acts far beyond our expectations, wishes to live with us first of all in a relationship of love. And true love is disinterested, it is free: one does not love to receive a favor in return.”

The pope recalled that in the Gospel reading the crowd ask Jesus: “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?” He said that it was as if the people were asking how to move beyond a self-interested faith to one that pleases God.

“And Jesus shows the way: He answers that the work of God is to welcome the One whom the Father has sent, that is, Himself, Jesus,” he said.

“It is not adding religious practices or observing special precepts; it is welcoming Jesus, it is welcoming Him into our lives, living a story of love with Him. It is He who will purify our faith.”

The pope said that this applied not only to God but also to social relations.

“When we seek first and foremost the satisfaction of our needs, we risk using people and exploiting situations for our own ends. How many times have we heard from a person, ‘But this one uses people and then forgets’? Using people for your own profit: that’s bad. And a society that puts interests instead of people at its center is a society that does not generate life,” he commented.

“The Gospel’s invitation is this: rather than being concerned only with the material bread that feeds us, let us welcome Jesus as the bread of life and, starting out from our friendship with Him, learn to love each other. Freely and without calculation. Love given freely without calculation, without using people, with gratuitousness, with generosity, with magnanimity.”

After praying the Angelus, Pope Francis greeted groups of young people gathered in the square from different parts of Italy.

He also acknowledged pilgrims from Peru, noting that the Latin American country had a new president, Pedro Castillo.

“I see some Peruvian flags and I greet you, Peruvians, who have a new president. May the Lord bless your country always,” he said.

Finally, he wished pilgrims a peaceful August, observing that it was currently warm in Rome.

“I wish everyone a good Sunday and a peaceful month of August ... Too hot, but may it be peaceful. Please don’t forget to pray for me. Have a good lunch and goodbye!”

Updated: Catholics ask Cardinal Gregory to reconsider cancelation of Tridentine Mass at National Shrine

Cardinal Raymond Burke celebrates a pontifical high Mass during the Summorum Pontificum Pilgrimage in Rome on Oct. 25, 2014. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Washington D.C., Jul 31, 2021 / 14:30 pm (CNA).

This story has been updated.

The organizers of an Aug. 14 Tridentine Mass in Washington, D.C. – canceled per new papal restrictions on traditional liturgies - asked the Archbishop of Washington this week to reinstate the Mass. In response, Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington reaffirmed his original decision to rescind permission for the Mass.

On Tuesday evening, CNA reported that a solemn pontifical Mass scheduled for Aug. 14 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. had been cancelled, after Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington withdrew his permission for the Mass.

On July 29, the Paulus Institute, which organized the Mass, wrote to Cardinal Gregory asking him to reinstate the scheduled Mass by Monday, Aug. 2, “in the interests of the unity of the universal Church.”

“The cancellation of the Mass, so long planned and prepared, is a violation of fundamental justice, because it is an arbitrary action not motivated by any urgency,” the group stated. “The Catholic faithful should not be subjected to penalties for unused travel reservations caused by an unworthy cancellation of the Mass.”

Following CNA’s initial report on Saturday, the Paulus Institute shared with CNA a letter from Cardinal Gregory dated July 30 reaffirming his decision to withhold permission for the Mass.

“I acknowledge that my decision to implement the newest motu proprio Traditionis custodes of Pope Francis has received initial attention both in support and in opposition,” the cardinal wrote. He cited the document’s grant of “exclusive competence” to diocesan bishops to authorize Latin Masses according to the 1962 Roman Missal in their respective dioceses.

The Aug. 14 Mass at the National Shrine, he said, “may be celebrated in Latin according to the Roman Missal promulgated by Saint Paul VI and revised by Saint John Paul II.” Cardinal Gregory stated his “regret” that his decision “has been a source of disappointment.”

The Archdiocese of Washington did not respond to CNA’s request for comment on Saturday afternoon.

According to the institute, Cardinal Gregory’s decision to rescind his permission for the Mass was per the pope’s new motu proprio restricting traditional liturgies, Traditionis custodes. Archbishop Thomas Gullickson, the retired papal nuncio to Switzerland, was to celebrate the Mass.

Regarding the  request to Gregory to reinstate the Mass, Archbishop Gullickson “has reviewed this letter and has agreed,” the Paulus Institute said on July 29.

A pontifical Mass is celebrated by a bishop in the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite. The Mass at the National Shrine was scheduled for the vigil of the Solemnity of the Assumption, and was to be broadcast by EWTN.

Traditionis custodes, issued on July 16 and effective immediately, recognized the “exclusive competence” of bishops to authorize the Traditional Latin Mass in their respective dioceses. Bishops are to determine places in their dioceses where the faithful may gather for the Latin Mass – but the locations may not be parochial churches, the document stated.

In a July 16 letter to priests following the release of the document, Cardinal Gregory said he would “prayerfully reflect” on the pope’s letter “in the coming weeks,” in order “to ensure we understand fully the Holy Father's intentions and consider carefully how they are realized in the Archdiocese of Washington.”

"In the interim, I hereby grant the faculty to those who celebrate the Mass using the liturgical books issued before 1970 to continue to do so this weekend and in the days to come, until further guidance is forthcoming,” he stated.

Bishops around the United States have responded to the motu proprio in the last two weeks, with many of them granting temporary permission for priests who already celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass to continue doing so. Some bishops have granted canonical dispensations for parish churches from the papal restrictions on Latin Mass locations.

On July 27, the Paulus Institute reported that Cardinal Gregory’s permission for the Tridentine Mass at the National Shrine had been withdrawn per Traditionis custodes.

Although the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is located within the territorial bounds of the Archdiocese of Washington, it is not a diocesan church. Archbishop Wilton Gregory, as Washington archbishop, is ex officio chairman of the shrine’s board of directors.

Pope Francis’ letter accompanying his motu proprio stated that liberalizations in the use of the Traditional Latin Mass had been “exploited” to promote disunity within the Church.

“I am nonetheless saddened that the instrumental use of Missale Romanum of 1962 is often characterized by a rejection not only of the liturgical reform, but of the Vatican Council II itself, claiming, with unfounded and unsustainable assertions, that it betrayed the Tradition and the ‘true Church’,” Pope Francis wrote.  

In its July 29 letter, the Paulus Institute – which had organized previous pontifical Masses in 2010 and 2018 at the shrine – denied that such division had been a part of the celebrations.

“None of the allegations of disunity and division presented in Traditionis Custodes and in the accompanying letter to bishops can rightfully be said to apply to this pontifical Mass,” the letter stated.

Citing the Second Vatican Council’s constitution on the sacred liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium, the institute said that “the Usus Antiquior, is a millennial treasure of the sacred Deposit of the Faith—and as such is a right enjoyed by entitlement by the Catholic faithful.

This story was updated on July 31 with Cardinal Gregory's July 30 letter.

Theodore McCarrick faces new civil sex abuse lawsuit

Theodore McCarrick / U.S. Institute of Peace / CC BY NC 2.0

Washington D.C., Jul 31, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

Former cardinal Theodore McCarrick now faces a fifth civil sex abuse lawsuit in New Jersey, after he was criminally charged in a Massachusetts district court this week for sexually assaulting a teenage boy.

On Thursday, a lawsuit was filed in a New Jersey court accusing McCarrick of sexually abusing a 12-year-old boy in 1986, NorthJersey.com first reported. The civil lawsuit was filed on behalf of the plaintiff by Jeffrey Anderson, a prominent attorney who represents sex abuse victims.

McCarrick's attorney Barry Coburn told CNA in a statement on Saturday, "We will look forward to addressing this case in the courtroom."

The new lawsuit follows McCarrick’s first criminal charges, which were filed on Wednesday by Wellesley, Massachusetts police in the state’s Dedham District Court. That complaint included three counts of indecent assault and battery on a person over the age of 14, alleged to have been committed against a 16-year-old male in 1974.

McCarrick, now 91, is scheduled to appear in the Massachusetts court for his arraignment, to formally answer the charges, on Sept. 3. He was the first U.S. cardinal to be criminally charged with sex abuse of a minor.

In 2018, he became the most notable Church figure at the center of sex abuse allegations. In June of that year, the Archdiocese of New York announced that an allegation of sexual abuse against McCarrick from nearly 50 years prior was found to be “credible and substantiated.” The New York Times later reported accusations of McCarrick’s having sexually abused two boys decades earlier, while he was a priest.

More reports then surfaced of McCarrick’s abuse, grooming, and harassment of seminarians from over the decades, and McCarrick resigned from the College of Cardinals in July 2018. Pope Francis sentenced him to a life of prayer and penance that month following the public allegations.

The pope laicized McCarrick in February 2019 after the Vatican conducted an expedited investigation and found him guilty of “solicitation in the Sacrament of Confession, and sins against the Sixth Commandment with minors and with adults, with the aggravating factor of the abuse of power.”

According to the lawsuit filed Thursday in New Jersey, McCarrick sexually abused a boy in 1986, while he was “an agent and representative of Defendant Archdiocese of Newark.”

McCarrick was installed as Archbishop of Newark on July 25, 1986. He had served in New Jersey as Bishop of Metuchen since 1981, and before that as auxiliary bishop of the neighboring New York archdiocese since 1977.

A summary of the criminal complaint against McCarrick this week in Massachusetts alleged that he abused the victim in several states – in New Jersey, New York, California, and Massachusetts.

In an allegation shared in the summary report – from which the criminal charges stem –  McCarrick sexually assaulted the then-16-year-old victim at his brother’s wedding reception at Wellesley College. Immediately following the alleged abuse, McCarrick instructed the victim to say prayers “so god can redeem you of your sins.”

The criminal sex abuse charges were the first to be filed against McCarrick. Although allegations of sexual abuse and harassment against him were made public in 2018, he had not yet been charged criminally due to the statutes of limitations in states where he was alleged to have committed abuse.

Some states, including New York and New Jersey, have since 2018 begun suspending the statutes of limitations for civil lawsuits in old cases of child sex abuse; stricter time limits still apply to criminal cases of sex abuse, however.

As McCarrick was not a Massachusetts resident, however, and left the state before the statute of limitations expired, the time limits for criminal charges of sex abuse to be filed did not apply in his case.

After the time window opened in New Jersey for new civil lawsuits in old cases of child sex abuse, two lawsuits naming McCarrick and New Jersey dioceses were promptly filed in state courts in December 2019. The two lawsuits alleged that McCarrick sexually assaulted two males while he served as bishop of Metuchen and archbishop of Newark; McCarrick allegedly committed some acts of abuse at cathedral rectories, according to the lawsuits.

One of the plaintiffs in the lawsuits was James Grein, who said he was abused by McCarrick, a family friend, beginning at age 11 while McCarrick was a priest in the New York archdiocese. The abuse allegedly continued while McCarrick bishop of Metuchen and archbishop of Newark. Grein was also the subject of a July 2018 New York Times story that published his decades-old abuse allegations against McCarrick.

In a canonical deposition by the Archdiocese of New York in December of 2018, Grein reportedly said that McCarrick abused him during confession.

In another lawsuit filed against McCarrick in 2020, Jeffrey Anderson alleged that McCarrick sexually abused a boy and aided his abuse by several other priests and characterized McCarrick as leading a “sex ring.”

After he was sentenced to a life of prayer and penance in 2018, McCarrick resided at St. Fidelis Friary in Victoria, Kansas, of the Capuchin Franciscan Province of St. Conrad. In January 2020, he was reported to have moved to an undisclosed location on his own accord.

The criminal complaint filed this week listed his residence at an address matching that of the Vianney Renewal Center in Dittmer, Missouri. The center is a treatment facility run by the Servants of the Paraclete, which, according to its website, provides "a safe and supportive environment for the rehabilitation and reconciliation of priests and religious brothers."

This article was updated on July 31 with a statement from McCarrick's attorney.

Irish Catholic dioceses to go ahead with First Communions, confirmations after government advises delay

Bishop Kevin Doran. / Courtesy of the Diocese of Elphin.

Dublin, Ireland, Jul 31, 2021 / 06:00 am (CNA).

A number of Irish Catholic dioceses have said that they will proceed with First Communions and confirmations after the government advised them to delay the ceremonies.

The bishops of Elphin, Clogher, and Waterford and Lismore have given the green light to First Communions and confirmations in their dioceses.

Irish media reported that the four Catholic archbishops of Ireland wrote to the government on July 28, indicating that the ceremonies would go ahead from mid-August.

The Irish government website currently states: “It is advised that religious ceremonies such as baptisms, First Holy Communions and confirmations should not take place at this time. Further advice will follow on resumption of these ceremonies when it is safe to do so.”

“From Thursday, Aug. 5, baptism services may proceed. However, they must follow all protective measures and social gatherings afterward should be avoided.”

Bishop Kevin Doran of Elphin, western Ireland, said on July 30 that, after a consultation with clergy, the ceremonies would be held following the regulations for general religious services.

“The mission of the Church cannot be put on hold indefinitely,” he wrote in the Irish Independent, describing the state’s guidance as “advice by government rather than regulation.”

Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Micheál Martin responded by saying that he did not approve “any unilateral breaching of regulations no matter what quarter they come from.”

“I’d say to the Church authorities that the government’s only motivation here in terms of the regulations we have brought in, in respect of gatherings and congregations, is to protect people and to protect people’s health,” he commented.

Archbishop Eamon Martin, the Primate of All Ireland, accused the Irish government earlier this month of communicating in a “grossly disrespectful” way that baptisms, First Communions, and confirmations should be delayed due to COVID-19.

Martin said on July 1 that the government’s decision marked a “complete reversal” of its previous position.

He noted that the Church had received a letter from the office of the Taoiseach in June indicating that the ceremonies could go ahead the following month.

He said: “We’ve been deluged with calls from parishes and I know that priests and others have been extremely disappointed by this reversal of the position that was written to us from the Taoiseach’s office from the very beginning of June that said that, in line with the gradual reopening of society from July 5, these ceremonies could take place.”

Ireland, a country of 4.9 million people, has recorded 299,549 coronavirus cases and 5,035 related deaths as of July 31, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

The country is experiencing a fourth wave of COVID-19 driven by the Delta variant first detected in India.

RTÉ reported that Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan of Waterford and Lismore, in southeastern Ireland, criticized the way that the government and National Public Health Emergency Team for COVID-19 (NPHET) communicated with the Church.

“The communication from the government and from NPHET regarding the sacraments leaves a great deal to be desired,” the bishop said.

“We are all conscious of the need to remain vigilant. Parishes have been exemplary in taking the health guidelines seriously and will continue to do so, but for any local parish community and their priest who wish to avail of these sacraments, they must be allowed to do so.”

“Therefore in line with the four archbishops’ letter to the government this week, access to these sacraments for our children will go ahead from mid-August.”

RTÉ also reported that Bishop Larry Duffy, whose diocese of Clogher straddles the border with Northern Ireland, said that the ceremonies would take place in the Republic of Ireland from Aug. 20.

“The appropriate protocols presently in place in our churches will be maintained, and families are reminded of the need for adherence to public health guidance in relation to social interactions following the church celebration,” he said.

“As with the practice last year, these liturgies will take place with small groups of children where attendance is restricted to the child, the parents/guardians, and sponsor.”

“The celebration of First Holy Communion and confirmation has been completed already in the parishes situated in the northern part of our diocese, with full adherence to public health protocols.”

Archbishop Martin previously criticized the Irish government’s approach to public worship during the coronavirus crisis.

In April, he accused officials of introducing “draconian” new regulations on public worship “in a clandestine manner.”

While public worship was suspended in the Republic of Ireland at the end of 2020 as a safety measure to prevent the spread of the virus, the new regulations effectively criminalized Mass with a congregation.

After meeting with Ireland’s health minister, Martin underlined that priests’ pastoral work should be “deemed essential, rather than subject to penal sanction” amid the pandemic.

Irish Catholics’ long wait to return to public Masses ended on May 10.

Report: 17 Christians killed every day in Nigeria in first half of 2021

The flag of Nigeria on a soldier’s arm. / Bumble Dee/Shutterstock

Onitsha, Nigeria, Jul 31, 2021 / 04:30 am (CNA).

An estimated 3,462 Christians have been killed in Nigeria in the first 200 days of 2021, according to a new study.

This equates to 17 Christians being murdered every day in Africa’s most populous country, reported ACI Africa, CNA’s African news partner.

The study by the International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law (Intersociety) in Onitsha, eastern Nigeria, said that the figure included 10 priests and pastors who were murdered between Jan. 1 and July 18.

“The number of defenseless Christians hacked to death by Nigeria’s Islamic jihadists and their collaborators in the security forces in the past 200 days ... has risen to no fewer than 3,462 and this is just 68 deaths less than the total deaths of Nigerian Christians in 2020, which the Open Doors’ World Watch List of Persecuted Christians put at 3,530,” Intersociety said.

The figure is the second-highest since 2014 when more than 5,000 Christian deaths were recorded at the hands of Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen, the Intersociety study noted.

The report indicated that Boko Haram, one of Africa’s largest Islamist groups, was responsible for the deaths of more than 4,000 Christians in 2014. Fulani herdsmen, who have clashed frequently with Christian farmers over grazing land, accounted for an additional 1,229 deaths that year.

“In our last report issued on May 11, 2021, covering January to April 2021, we found that no fewer than 1,470 Christians were hacked to death and in the past 80 days -- or May 1 to July 18, 2021 -- not less than 1,992 Christian lives have been lost,” said the report issued on July 18.

Intersociety is a research and investigative rights group that has monitored religious persecution across Nigeria since 2010.

The human rights group gathers information through contact with victims and eyewitnesses, media tracking, and interviews, among other methods.

Intersociety found that 2,200 Christians were abducted between Jan. 1 and April 30 this year, with a further 780 kidnapped between May 1 and July 18 -- a total of 3,000 people seized since the start of 2020.

The investigators said that at least three out of every 30 abducted Christians were likely to have died in captivity, suggesting that some 300 kidnapped Christians died in the first half of this year.

The additional deaths of 150 people were also added to represent what researchers referred to as “dark figures,” meaning deaths that occurred but were not reported.

Around 300 churches have been targeted since January 2021, the investigators said.

They noted that Taraba State, in northeastern Nigeria, was the worst-affected area, with at least 70 churches threatened or attacked.

The report’s authors said it was “deeply saddening” that those responsible for anti-Christian attacks had continued to evade justice, creating a sense impunity and leading to repeated atrocities.

According to the organization, surviving victims and families of murder victims have been totally abandoned by the Nigerian government.

“The country’s security forces have so fumbled and compromised that they hardly intervene when the vulnerable Christians are in danger of threats or attacks, but only emerge after such attacks to arrest and frame up the same population threatened or attacked,” the report said.

It added: “In the north, the jihadists operate freely under the cover and protection of the security forces; abducting, killing, looting, destroying or burning and forcefully converting their captive and unprotected Christians and their homes and sacred places of worship and learning.”

“But the same security forces hatefully and brutally respond with utter ferocity against southern and northern Christians accused of infraction or offending the law.”

According to the report, Fulani herdsmen were responsible for the most killings, having murdered an estimated 1,909 Christians in the first 200 days of this year.

They were followed by Boko Haram, the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP), and Muslim Fulani bandits who jointly killed 1,063 Christians.

The report said that the Nigerian army, alongside the Nigeria Police Force and other branches of the armed forces, accounted for 490 Christian deaths.

“The Muslim Fulani bandits, originally formed in [the northwestern] Zamfara State in 2011, are jointly responsible for terrors going on in Christian parts of Southern Kaduna, Niger, FCT [Federal Capital Territory], Nasarawa and Kogi states,” the report said.

The Fulani bandits are also responsible for attacks on indigenous Hausa Muslims in Zamfara, Katsina, Sokoto, and Kebbi.

In Kebbi State, in northwestern Nigeria, Muslim Fulani bandits target and kill or abduct both Christians and Muslims, alleging that the “indigenous Hausa Muslims are not pure Muslims,” the report said.

The bandits are also staging what Intersociety called “ferocious jihadist attacks” against their fellow Muslims in Zamfara, Katsina, Sokoto, and Muslim areas of Kaduna and Niger states.

A version of this story was first published by ACI Africa, CNA’s African news partner, written by Agnes Aineah. It has been adapted by CNA.

Mother Angelica's monastery elects new abbess, asks for 'continued prayers'

The newly elected Abbess and Council of Our Lady of the Angels Monastery in Hanceville, Ala., July 2021. Credit: Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration.

Birmingham, Ala., Jul 30, 2021 / 17:01 pm (CNA).

Mother Mary Paschal has been elected the newest abbess of Our Lady of the Angels Monastery in Hanceville, Alabama, filling the role once held by EWTN foundress Mother Angelica.

 

“It is with overwhelming gratitude to Our Eucharistic Lord for His great goodness, and to you who have assisted us in countless ways these past years, that we ask for your continued prayers,” the monastery said in the announcement of Mother Mary Paschal’s election. “Please pray for each of us at Our Lady of the Angels Monastery, that the Holy Spirit may overshadow and guide us as we begin this new chapter and continue anew in this venture of faith and adoration.”

 

Alongside the new abbess, Sister Mary Jacinta was elected vicar and three other nuns were elected councilors on July 29. Bishop Steven Raica of Birmingham was present to witness the election.

 

The monastery is an autonomous Poor Clares of the Perpetual Adoration monastery. The cloistered nuns elect their abbess and council from among their sisters every three years.

 

The monastery was founded by Mother Angelica and several other founding sisters from Sancta Clara Monastery in Canton, Ohio. It was dedicated May 20, 1962. Our Lady of the Angels will mark its feast day Aug. 2.

 

“With our Holy Father Francis, Holy Mother Clare and all our Franciscan brothers and sisters in heaven, we return great thanks for our vocation and call, to live according to the Gospel, in continual thanksgiving and adoration to Our Lord in the Most Blessed Sacrament,” the monastery said.

 

Mother Angelica launched Eternal Word Television Network Aug. 15, 1981, as a new missionary endeavor. Her media apostolate has grown to become the largest Catholic media network in the world.

 

The monastery was originally at EWTN headquarters in Irondale. Mother Angelica moved it to Hanceville.

 

She died at the monastery in Hanceville March 27, 2016.

 

The monastery is adjacent to the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament, which was dedicated in 1999.

 

Some nuns from the monastery have been sent to their mother monastery in Ohio and to the Poor Clares’ cradle monastery in Troyes, France, the monastery website said. The community has made new foundations in Tonopah, Ariz., and San Antonio.

‘Abortion is not health care’: Members of Congress speak out against proposed abortion billing rule

lazyllama/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Jul 30, 2021 / 16:02 pm (CNA).

More than 25 Republican senators wrote to the Biden administration this week warning that a proposed rule would allow federal dollars to subsidize abortion coverage.

“Abortion is not health care, and American taxpayers should not be forced to subsidize it,” the senators said in the letter. The members included Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) and Steve Daines (R-Mont.), chair of the Senate Pro-Life Caucus. 

Under the 2010 Affordable Care Act, insurance providers of “qualified health plans” [QHP] on the exchanges had to collect separate premium payments for elective abortion coverage, to ensure federal subsidies did not pay for abortions. The rule was meant to implement the Hyde Amendment, federal policy since 1976 which prohibits funding of abortions in Medicaid.

However, a 2014 Government Accountability Office report found that many insurers were not properly separating billing of abortion coverage from coverage of other drugs and procedures in the plans. 

In 2019, the Trump administration required health plans under the Affordable Care Act to have separate billing and separate accounts for elective abortion coverage premiums. Three federal courts halted the rule from going into effect.

The proposed rule-change of the Biden administration would allow abortion coverage to be billed together with other items, in insurance plans on exchanges under the Affordable Care Act. The new proposed rule, published on July 1, would require only a single bill and payment of federally-covered services, including abortion coverage. 

Some pro-life leaders have warned for years of the possibility of federal dollars subsidizing abortion coverage in these plans, if the billing is not done separately.

“The Biden administration’s proposed rule would prop the door wide open for Obamacare insurance plans to use taxpayer funds to cover abortions—a move that violates federal law,” said Matt Bowman, senior counsel with the legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, on Wednesday.  

“In construing ‘separate’ to mean ‘together,’ the Proposed Rule would illegally allow insurance companies to collect combined payments for elective abortion coverage, rather than separate payments as the law requires,” the senators said. 

The senators noted that this rule would “undermine consumer transparency” and could potentially result in consumers “pay(ing) for abortions in violation of their consciences or religious beliefs.”

The senators accused the rule of being an attempt to “increase taxpayer funding for abortion on demand, to the financial benefit of Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry.” 

Planned Parenthood is the nation’s largest chain of abortion providers. 

“Separate billing requirements for healthcare plans are the best way to ensure that popular laws preventing tax-funded elective abortion are respected,” Bowman said.

The other senators who signed the July 28 letter were: Senators Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), John Thune (R-S.D.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Todd Young (R-Ind.), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), and Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.).

 

Thank God ahead of time: What Blessed Solanus Casey teaches about a spirituality of gratitude

Blessed Solanus Casey. Photo courtesy of the Capuchin Franciscan Order of St. Joseph in Detroit.

Detroit, Mich., Jul 30, 2021 / 15:19 pm (CNA).

Blessed Solanus Casey's childhood was not easy. He contracted diphtheria that permanently damaged his voice. Casey’s family also struggled economically since he was one of sixteen children. Despite these struggles, Casey’s large Irish Catholic family instilled in him a love for the Catholic faith and a devotion to the rosary.

After bad harvests, Casey left home at 17 to find work. He took on many jobs, including a lumberjack, a prison guard, and a streetcar conductor, during which he witnessed a murder, causing him to rethink his life. 

Instead of sinking into despair at the sight of such an awful scene, Casey decided to give his life in service to others as a priest. He struggled academically and he joined the Capuchins, where he was ordained a simplex priest, meaning he could say Mass, but could not preach publicly or hear confessions. 

While others might feel it beneath their dignity to serve as a doorman, Solanus Casey accepted his position humbly and gratefully.  Solanus Casey tended to those he met at the door of the monastery with gentleness. Fr. Carlo Calloni, the general postulator for the Order of Friars Minor-Capuchin, said, “There was no one, after visiting Solanus Casey at the door of the monastery, who returned with nothing. Everyone received something, spiritual or material.” Casey realized that everything he had came from God, so he directed everything he had in praise of God  through love of neighbor. 

Casey viewed gratitude as an essential human quality. He said, “Gratitude is the first sign of a thinking, rational creature; ingratitude leads to so many breaks with God and our neighbor.” 

Gratitude gave him a cheerfulness and joy that ran through everything he did, even though he suffered illnesses. For example, Solanus Casey loved to play violin, but was not good at it. So as not to disturb the other friars, he would play his violin in front of the Blessed Sacrament, out of joy and gratitude. 

Solanus Casey’s gratitude to God and faith in him manifested itself in many miracles, including one with ice cream. According to Fr. Tom Nguyen, OFM Cap., a friar in Detroit, Casey put two ice cream cones in his desk drawer to save them for later. When another brother returned from an appointment, Casey pulled out not just two ice cream cones, but three, all frozen still and ready to eat. 

Casey’s mantra “Thank God ahead of time” shone in his advice to people. Fr. Joseph Mary Elder, OFM Cap. recounted a story. In 1940, the Fanning parents from Dearborn, Michigan, came to Fr. Solanus Casey worried about the health of their daughter Elizabeth, who was sick with leukemia. Fr. Solanus urged them to thank God for all the good he had done and was sure to do for them and their daughter. A few days later, Elizabeth was completely healed from her leukemia.

Catholic Charities in Texas criticizes state order restricting immigration work

August 17, 2017 - A volunteer at the Catholic Charities Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen helps a Central American refugee family take a bus to go stay with U.S. family / Vic Hinterlang/Shutterstock

Denver Newsroom, Jul 30, 2021 / 14:02 pm (CNA).

Catholic entities helping migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border responded this week after the Texas governor restricted who could transport migrants following their release from federal custody. 

On Wednesday, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) issued an order restricting transportation of migrants to law enforcement personnel only. While the order will not prevent law enforcement officers from transporting migrants, it will affect volunteers’ ability to give migrants rides to and from shelters and quarantine sites.

Abbott, who is Catholic, cited pandemic-related concerns as the basis for his order.

Catholic Charities Rio Grande Valley said in response that their precautions against COVID-19 are rigorous, and that the new order will make it harder for people of good will to help migrants “who have been given permission to be in the United States.”

The order, which Abbott issued July 28, mandates that “no person, other than a federal, state, or local law-enforcement official, shall provide ground transportation to a group of migrants who have been detained by [Customs and Border Protection] for crossing the border illegally.” 

Abbott ordered the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) to stop or impound “any vehicle upon reasonable suspicion of such violation and reroute such vehicles back to its point of origin or a port of entry.”

Abbott said he issued the order out of concern for the coronavirus pandemic. He wrote that “busloads of migrants, an unknown number of whom are infected with COVID-l9, are being transported to communities across the State of Texas.”

Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director of Catholic Charities Rio Grande Valley in McAllen, said the new order gave her “great sadness,” and urged its reversal. 

Located on the Mexican-U.S. border, McAllen is a hub for immigrants, and concerns have been expressed by locals about the transient population of asylum seekers and other immigrants in the town. 

Federal law enforcement officers drop migrants off at Catholic Charities’ downtown McAllen facility, where they are tested for COVID-19. The respite center, which is staffed by volunteers, mainly offers food, showers, and basic necessities; it has changed locations several times since 2014.

Pimentel noted that migrants who test positive for COVID-19, as well as their families, are placed in local hotels at Catholic Charities’ expense to recover in isolation.

“All this has been done to protect our communities from COVID while simultaneously protecting and caring for the [migrant] family, who needs assistance,” she wrote. 

“At no time have the COVID positive immigrant families been walking around exposing others in the community. They are kept in isolation until they test negative.”

In his order, Abbott specifically mentioned a recent incident in La Joya, Texas. Local police had been called in response to a migrant family who were eating in a local restaurant and who “appeared to be sick,” MyRGV News reported. The migrant family told the police they were quarantining at a nearby hotel after testing positive for COVID-19. 

Pimentel called the La Joya incident “an isolated case” that has led to “a great deal of misinformation.”

Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville on Wednesday contested the governor’s characterization of the migrants helped by local Catholic Charities as “illegal.”

“Catholic Charities RGV assists families who are referred to us by Border Patrol, a Federal entity,” he noted on Twitter.

“How can the Governor’s order identify them as ‘illegal’ and how does looking for them not constitute racial profiling of persons legally in the US?” he asked.

Governor Abbott has declined to aid the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in its effort to house thousands of migrant children amid a surge at the border. 

In a letter to HHS director Xavier Becerra, Abbott cited hastily-erected emergency federal facilities as justification for withdrawing state support of the federal effort to house migrant children. Abbott has also pledged to continue building a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Confidential data obtained by the Associated Press shows the number of migrant children in government custody more than doubled from April to May of 2021. In April, border authorities encountered 18,890 unaccompanied minors - an all-time high. 

Abbott plans to revoke the licenses of any shelter in the state that houses migrant children beginning Aug. 31, Politico reported. The May 31 declaration is set to strip the licenses of at least six Catholic Charities agencies, including CCRGV, meaning they may have to close. 

If the state’s Catholic Charities agencies lose their license and are forced to close, two of the state’s bishops have said that hundreds of Texas-born children will be transferred to the state’s foster care system which is already stressed. 

In a video published on April 6, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones - known for falsely claiming the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting was a hoax - alleged that a man driving a car with migrant children outside a Catholic Charities humanitarian center in McAllen, Texas, was “smuggling” the children. 

In response, Catholic Charities Rio Grande Valley said the video was “inaccurate and unauthorized,” stating the video in fact shows “families and children peacefully entering the Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen.”