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Pope Francis prays for all hearts to be inspired with respect for life

Vatican City, Oct 28, 2020 / 05:07 am (CNA).- Pope Francis said Wednesday that he asks for St. John Paul II’s intercession for all hearts to be inspired with a respect for life and prays for strength for those who welcome life with heroic love.

“Through the intercession of Mary Most Holy and the holy Polish pontiff, I ask God to inspire in the hearts of all respect for the life of our brothers, especially of the most fragile and defenseless, and to give strength to those who welcome it and take it care, even when it requires heroic love,” Pope Francis said Oct. 28 in his message to Polish pilgrims.

The pope’s comments came days after Poland’s constitutional court ruled that a law permitting abortion for fetal abnormalities was unconstitutional on Oct. 22. Protestors were filmed interrupting Sunday Masses following the ruling.

Pope Francis noted that Oct. 22 was the feast of St. John Paul II, and recalled: “He always appealed for a privileged love for the least and the defenseless, and for the protection of every human being from conception until natural death.”

In his general audience catechesis, the pope said that it was important to remember that “Jesus prays with us”.

“This is the unique greatness of Jesus’ prayer: the Holy Spirit takes possession of His person and the voice of the Father attests that He is the beloved, the Son in whom He fully reflects Himself,” Pope Francis said in Vatican City’s Paul VI Audience Hall.

Jesus invites each Christian to “pray as He prayed,” the pope said, adding that Pentecost provided this “grace of prayer for all those baptised in Christ.”

“Therefore, if during an evening of prayer we feel sluggish and empty, if it seems to us that life has been completely useless, we must at that moment beg that Jesus’ prayer also become our own. ‘I cannot pray today, I don’t know what to do: I don’t feel like it, I am unworthy.’”

“In that moment … entrust yourself to Him, that He may pray for us. He in this moment is before the Father, praying for us, He is the intercessor; He shows the wounds to the Father, for us. Let us trust in this, it is great,” he said.

The pope said that in prayer one can hear God’s words to Jesus at his baptism at the Jordan River whispered tenderly as a message for each person: “You are God’s beloved, you are a son, you are the joy of the Father in heaven.”

Because of his Incarnation, “Jesus is not a distant God,” the pope explained.

“In the whirlwind of life and the world that will come to condemn him, even in the hardest and most sorrowful experiences He will have to endure, even when He experiences that he has no place to lay His head, even when hatred and persecution are unleashed around Him, Jesus is never without the refuge of a dwelling place: He dwells eternally in the Father,” Pope Francis said.

“Jesus gave us His own prayer, which is His loving dialogue with the Father. He gave it to us like a seed of the Trinity, which He wants to take root in our hearts. Let us welcome him. Let us welcome this gift, the gift of prayer. Always with Him,” he said.

The pope noted in his greeting to Italian pilgrims that Oct. 28 is the feast of the Apostles Sts. Simon and Jude.

“I urge you to follow their example in always putting Christ at the center of your life, to be true witnesses of his Gospel in our society,” he said. “I wish everyone to grow every day in the contemplation of goodness and of tenderness that radiates from the person of Christ.”

Polish Catholics urged to pray and fast after protesters disrupt Masses over abortion ruling

CNA Staff, Oct 28, 2020 / 04:35 am (CNA).- An archbishop urged Polish Catholics to pray and fast Tuesday after protesters disrupted Masses in the wake of a landmark court ruling on abortion. 

Archbishop Marek Jędraszewski of Kraków issued the appeal Oct. 27 after demonstrators interrupted Sunday Masses across Poland. 

“Since our Master, Jesus Christ, has called for true love of our neighbor, I ask you to pray and fast for the understanding of this truth by all and for peace in our homeland,” the archbishop wrote to his flock. 

Kraków archdiocese reported that young Catholics stood outside churches amid the protests in an effort to prevent disruption and cleaned up graffiti. 

Nationwide protests began after the constitutional court ruled Oct. 22 that a law permitting abortion for fetal abnormalities was unconstitutional.

In the highly anticipated ruling, the Constitutional Tribunal in Warsaw declared that the law introduced in 1993 was incompatible with Poland’s constitution.

The ruling, which cannot be appealed, could lead to a significant reduction in the number of abortions in the country. Abortion will continue to remain legal in cases of rape or incest and risk to the mother’s life.

In addition to disrupting Masses, protesters left graffiti on church property, vandalized a statue of St. John Paul II, and chanted slogans at clergy. 

Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki, president of Poland’s bishops’ conference, urged demonstrators to express their opposition “in a socially acceptable way.” 

“Profanity, violence, abusive inscriptions, and the disturbance of services and profanations that have been committed in recent days -- although they may help some people to defuse their emotions -- are not the right way to act in a democratic state,” the archbishop of Poznań said Oct. 25.

“I express my sadness that in many churches today, believers have been prevented from praying and that the right to profess their faith has been forcibly taken away.”

Gądecki’s own cathedral was among the churches targeted by protesters.

The archbishop will chair a meeting of the permanent council of the Polish bishops’ conference Wednesday to discuss the current situation.

Archbishop Wojciech Polak, the Primate of Poland, told the Polish station Radio Plus that he was surprised by the scale and the sharp tone of the protests.

“We cannot react with evil to evil; we must react with good. Our weapon is not to fight, but to pray and meet before God,” the archbishop of Gniezno said Tuesday.

On Wednesday, the website of the Polish bishops’ conference highlighted Pope Francis’ greeting to Polish-speakers at Wednesday’s general audience. 

The pope said: “On October 22 we celebrated the liturgical memorial of St. John Paul II, in this centenary year of his birth. He always appealed for a privileged love for the least and the defenseless, and for the protection of every human being from conception until natural death.” 

“Through the intercession of Mary Most Holy and the holy Polish pontiff, I ask God to inspire in the hearts of all respect for the life of our brothers, especially of the most fragile and defenseless, and to give strength to those who welcome and care for it, even when it requires heroic love.”

The martyrs buried at the Valley of the Fallen

CNA Staff, Oct 28, 2020 / 03:01 am (CNA).- The Valley of the Fallen is a monumental complex near Madrid which includes an abbey and basilica, and which honors the fallen of both sides during the Spanish civil war. The bodies of more than 30,000 victims of the war are buried in the complex.

Among them lie 57 Blesseds and 15 Servants of God.

The Spanish Civil War of 1936-39 was fought between the Nationalist forces, led by Francisco Franco, and the Republican faction. During the war, Republicans martyred thousands of clerics, religious, and laity; of these, 11 have been canonized, and 1,915 beatified.

Fr. Santiago Cantera, prior of the Abbey of the Holy Cross, recently spoke at an event organized by the Diocese of Barbastro-Monzón to commemorate the martyrs who died during the religious persecution of the Civil War. The prior highlighted some of the common characteristics of the martyrs, who came from diverse backgrounds.

The martyrs who are buried in the Basilica of the Holy Cross “are the finest testimony of forgiveness and reconciliation” and belong to all states in life: “laity, diocesan and religious priests, consecrated men and women religious, people of all ages, but also a large group of young people, such as Rafael Lluch, a 19-year-old member of Vincentian Youth and Catholic Action,” Cantera explained.

Acceptance of martyrdom

One aspect the martyrs all share in common, Cantera highlighted, was their "acceptance of martyrdom," giving "the finest testimony for peace, forgiveness and the reconciliation of the Spanish people, because they died forgiving their executioners without any hatred.”

Blessed Juan Pedro de San Antonio, a 46 year-old Passionist priest, was hiding in a boarding house along with four other brothers from the congregation. He told the owner of the boarding house that “if anyone takes us out to shoot us, I ask that no one bear hatred or resentment for the evil they are thinking of doing to us. The Lord allows it for our sanctification.”

Before dying, Fr. Antonio Martínez Lópe said he wanted to bless his executioners, but they struck his arm and broke it before killing him. "These are examples of the peace with which they died, in the absence of hatred, with the will to forgive and to reconcile," the prior noted.

A supernatural outlook

Another common element is  "the supernatural outlook they had at the time of martyrdom,” Fr. Cantera said. These martyrs "looked to eternity, they lived out the love of God and this led them to imitate Christ even to the ultimate consequence, accepting death as having a redemptive meaning for all men.”

During the years of religious persecution in Spain it was common for the martyrs to say goodbye with the words "Until (we meet again in) Heaven.”

Rafael Lluch, the youngest of the martyrs buried in the Basilica of the Holy Cross, was arrested for carrying a holy card of the Virgin of the Forsaken in his pocket and belonging to the association of the Miraculous Medal. The young man said goodbye to his mother saying: "Don't cry, I'm going to give my life for our God, I'll wait for you in Heaven."

"Long live Christ the King” were also the last words of many of the martyrs, such as Blessed Florencio López Egea, whose executioners stuck thorns in his eyes demanding he blaspheme, but he always replied "Long live Christ the King."

Also sharing this supernatural outlook are the 23 sisters belonging to the Adorers of the Blessed Sacrament. Seven of them are buried in the Basilica of the Holy Cross.

When they were riding in a truck on the way to being shot, “they all knelt down to receive the Sacred Hosts that they had kept in a watch case,” Fr. Cantera related. “The driver of the truck carrying them after they had been arrested told his wife how much he admired them: ‘I saw them all die, most of them young, with smiles on their faces and blessing God. What women. They were Adorers.'”

Love for the priesthood

Another common aspect of the martyrs is "their love for the priesthood and the priestly ministry," the prior said, citing Blessed Enrique López Ruiz. An altar boy described him as "a true apostle of Jesus Christ." The militiamen wanted to stop him from offering Mass, but he refused to leave his parish and the faithful.

The "willingness to die and be martyred, offered in immolation for the salvation of Spain" is also a hallmark of the martyrs.

Blessed Josefa María, a Salesian sister, refused the offer to hide in the house of a relative whom she told: "If Spain has to be saved by the shedding of our blood, we ask God for it to be as soon as possible." Or Blessed Florencio López, who on his way to be shot was singing a song he had composed himself asking the Virgin "to save quickly the Spanish people.”

Enduring torture and cruelty

Cantera also pointed to the cruelty suffered by the martyrs, to which they responded with their love for God and by offering their lives for Spain, as did Fr. Domingo Campoy, a curate of a parish in Almería who was tortured on one of the prison ships.

This priest served in the military as a chaplain and interceded for the release of a soldier who had been arrested who later became one of his executioners.

Serving the needy

The prior noted that almost all of them dedicated a large part of their lives to performing works of charity, such as the Adorers of the Blessed Sacrament, whose charism is helping young women at risk of falling into prostitution.

Fr. Cantera also wanted people “to know the great spiritual wealth and theological mark sealed upon his soul by the Valley of the Fallen as an authentic place of peace and reconciliation in the shadow of the redemptive Cross, a symbol that reminds us of the redemption of Christ, the reconciliation that God has accomplished to which he invites all men."

The Valley of the Fallen

The complex was inaugurated in 1959 under Franco, who was Spain's head of state from the end of the Spanish Civil War, when the Nationalist forces he led defeated the Republican faction, until his death in 1975.

The government of Pedro Sanchez, secretary-general of the Spanish Socialist Worker's Party, in September introduced the Law on Democratic Memory.

The bill seeks to transform the Valley of the Fallen into a civil cemetery, and would expel the Benedictine community. It would also bar publicly funded groups from glorifying Franco, the BBC reported.

While removing the 150 meter cross that presides over the valley is not explicitly mentioned in the bill, it has been considered on other occasions.

Franco's body was exhumed from the Basilica of the Holy Cross in October 2019 by the Sanchez government. Fr. Cantera said the exhumation failed to respect the inviolability of the abbey as a sacred place.

Focolare Movement will review handling of abuse allegations

CNA Staff, Oct 27, 2020 / 08:00 pm (CNA).-  

The Focolare Movement will initiate an independent review of its handling of sexual abuse allegations.

Leaders responsible for the lay movement’s activities in France resigned from their positions this month, as the group addressed concerns that it did not properly address a former consecrated member of the movement who admitted to sexually abusing a minor, and is alleged to have committed numerous other acts of sexual abuse.

“The Focolare Movement has...decided to institute a special inquiry that will be entrusted to an independent Body the composition of which will be made public shortly.”

“The task of this Body will be to listen to the victims and to gather further testimonies, as well as investigating whether there were any omissions, cover ups or silences on the part of those responsible for the Movement. At the end of the investigation, the independent Body will make its final report public,” said an Oct. 22 statement from the Focolare Movement’s headquarters in Rome.

The statement addressed allegations concerning a former consecrated member of the group, who admitted in 1998 to having sexually abused a minor, and was dismissed from the movement in 2016.

The Focolare statement said the member, identified only as J.M.M., is presumed to have had other victims, according to a finding from the independent Commission on sexual abuse in the Church in France.

The member was in 1994 accused of sexually abusing a male victim in 1981 and 1982, when the alleged victim was 15 and 16 years old. He was not tried for the crime because of the criminal statute of limitations, but he did admit the molestation during a lawsuit in 1998, and was required to pay damages.

J.M.M “followed a psychotherapeutic path for a number of years,” the statement said, but he was not dismissed from the group until 2016, after his victim contacted Focolare leaders and the French bishops’ conference.

“In November 2019, the independent Commission on sexual abuse in the Church in France (CIASE) received notification concerning the presence of other presumed victims of J.M.M.,” the Focolare statement said.

Last month, the group held a meeting with some alleged victims of J.M.M,, at which one Focolare official expressed his shame for abuse suffered in the group, “and also for the silence or lack of initiative sustained for years on the part of various people in positions of responsibility.”

“Faced with this immense suffering, we are convinced that the only path to follow is that of offering the victims full attention and recognition of the harm done. I wish here to reiterate the Movement’s full and unconditional collaboration, to shed full light on the facts and do justice to the victims,” Maria Voce, president of the Focolare Movement said in a statement.

Founded in Italy in 1943, the Focolare Movement is a lay-led organization that promotes Christian unity and solidarity. There are formally 140,444 members of the Focolare movement, including some men and women who live forms of consecrated life. Beyond formal members, there are millions worldwide who participate in projects and initiatives of the Focolare Movement.


Former Swiss Guard releases Catholic Christmas cookbook

CNA Staff, Oct 27, 2020 / 05:44 pm (CNA).-  

A new cookbook offers recipes, some more than 1,000 years old, that have been served at the Vatican during the Advent and Christmas seasons.

The Vatican Christmas Cookbook” is written by chef David Geisser, who is a former member of the Vatican’s Swiss Guard, along with author Thomas Kelly. The book offers stories of the Vatican’s own Christmas celebrations, and includes 100 Vatican Christmas recipes.

The book pays special attention to the Swiss Guard, the small military force that has guarded popes for five centuries.

“It is only with the cooperation and assistance of the Swiss Guard that we are able to present this compilation of special recipes, stories, and imagery inspired by the Vatican and set in the glory and wonder of the Christmas season,” the book’s forward explains.

“We hope that it brings some comfort and joy to all. With gratitude and appreciation for their service to fifty popes and the Church of Rome for more than 500 years, we dedicate this book to the Pontifical Swiss Guard of the Holy See.”

“The Vatican Christmas Cookbook” offers recipes like Veal Chanterelle, Egg Williams Soufflé, Venison in Fig Sauce and deserts like Cheesecake David, Gingerbread Plum Parfait, and Maple Cream Cake.

The book incorporates details about the history of Christmas, Advent, and the Papal Guard, which began in 1503 after Pope Julius II determined that the Vatican was in dire need of a military force to protect it from European conflicts. It also offers traditional Christmas and Advent prayers.

“The Vatican Christmas Cookbook” includes stories about the tradition of the Swiss Guard Christmas Watch and recalls Christmases observed by popes of centuries past. 

Swiss Guard Felix Geisser shares his memories of Christmas 1981 - the Christmas that followed a failed assassination attempt on Pope St. John Paul II.

“I had the special honor of serving as a Guard of the Throne during Midnight Mass. This is the most exalted position on the holiest night of the Christmas season, in the heart of venerable St. Peter’s, and so close to the pope, only steps away,” Geisser recalled.

“It was the night when I witnessed the resurgence of the Holy Father. He was energized by the profound meaning of this night, and the faithful that surrounded him. It was a great joy for me to participate in this beautiful service.”

This cookbook is the sequel to David Geisser’s “The Vatican Cookbook,” which was endorsed  chef Michael Symon and actress Patricia Heaton.

Geisser began his cooking career working in European gourmet restaurants. He gained international recognition at the age of 18 when he wrote a cookbook under the title “Around the World in 80 Plate.”

The author spent two years in the Swiss Guard and wrote his third cookbook, “Buon Appetito.” In his Christmas cookbook’s introduction, Geisser said he was excited to share his experiences in the Vatican’s kitchen, the Guard, and the season of Christmas.

“When my friend, Thomas Kelly, proposed a Christmas sequel to ‘The Vatican Cookbook’ that we collaborated with many others to create four years ago, I thought it was a wonderful idea,” he said.

“The collection of many new and classic recipes, surrounded by the splendor of the Vatican and enhanced by the stories of the Swiss Guard, was worthy of its title. I welcomed the opportunity to take that same concept and infuse it with the Christmas spirit and all the meaning and glory of that special season. It seemed a perfect fit to me.”


Louisiana voters will decide whether to amend constitution to exclude 'right to abortion'

Denver Newsroom, Oct 27, 2020 / 04:21 pm (CNA).- Voters in Louisiana will decide Nov. 3 on a constitutional amendment, authored by a pro-life Democrat, which would prevent Louisiana’s courts finding a “right to abortion,” or to public abortion funding, in the state’s constitution.

Under Amendment 1, also known as the “Love Life Amendment,” the Louisiana constitution would be updated to state that “nothing in this constitution shall be construed to secure or protect a right to abortion or require the funding of abortion.”

State Senator Katrina Jackson, a pro-life Democrat, authored the amendment when she was a state representative, along with dozens of co-sponsors from both parties.

The purpose of the amendment, Jackson wrote in an op-ed last week, is to ensure that the state’s courts cannot circumvent the state’s existing pro-life laws by finding a right to abortion in the state’s constitution.

This situation has already occured in 13 other states, most recently in Kansas, despite the fact, Jackson notes, that “the word abortion can’t be found in the Kansas Constitution.”

“It’s important to understand that Amendment 1 is not a ban on abortion. It simply keeps abortion policy in the hands of our legislators rather than state judges,” Jackson wrote.

Louisiana already has a “trigger law” that would ban abortion in the state— with some exceptions to save the life of the mother— should the Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade.

“Our body of pro-life laws ensure that women are empowered with the truth about their pregnancy prior to an abortion, that minors seeking an abortion have parental consent, and that babies born alive following a botched abortion receive immediate medical care. Our law also makes sure that not a dollar of your state tax dollars fund abortion. Yet these laws and others are at risk unless we pass Amendment 1,” Jackson said.

Kristen Day, Executive Director of Democrats For Life of America, noted that over a dozen states have introduced proposals to write explicitly a “right to abortion” into their state constitutions.

In May 2019, Vermont’s legislature advanced Proposal 5, which would write a right to abortion into the state’s constitution. Before this can happen, it must be passed once again by the 2021-2022 legislature, and be approved by voters in the November 2022 election.

If the measure passes, Vermont would become the first state to list abortion as a constitutional right.

Louisiana's proposal would do the opposite, and would prevent the state's courts from finding a right to abortion or abortion funding in the future, Day said.

"Louisiana's a very pro-life state— nobody wants public funding of abortion, so if the legislature flipped and somebody wanted to try to fund abortion with state money, it would be clear that that is not constitutional,” she told CNA.

“Large majorities of people oppose public funding of abortion. And so to have those protections in there is important," she said.

"We're very hopeful that it will pass, and send a strong message to the rest of the country.”

Sophie Trist, a recent college graduate and activist with Democrats for Life, wrote in an Oct. 22 op-ed in The Advocate, a Baton Rouge daily, that Amendment 1 is consistent with Democratic principles, and that it will protect the will of Louisianans, at least 63% of whom identify as pro-life.

“A so-called right gained at the expense of another living human being is no right at all. I'm voting yes because killing another human being, no matter their circumstances, is never social justice,” she wrote.

Trist, who is blind, wrote that an abortion supporter once told her that she should favor abortion because it prevents disabled people, like her, from being born into suffering. “Sadly, I'm all too aware of how society often views those of us who are less developed, physically weaker, or less able-bodied, as less human,” she wrote.

“I had always respected a pro-life ethic before, but this encounter made me even more passionately pro-life because I know that every human life, including mine and those of unborn children in the womb, is worth living and worth protecting. The fact of the matter is that I love my life and am grateful to have been born,” she wrote.

Jackson also authored a bipartisan Louisiana law requiring that abortion clinics be held to the same standards as surgical centers, which the Supreme Court threw out in June.

Four justices ruled in June Medical Services, LLC v. Russo that Louisiana’s requirement that abortion doctors have admitting privileges at a local hospital would have made it “impossible” for abortion clinics to comply, without offering a significant health benefit for women. Justice Stephen Breyer authored the opinion, and Chief Justice John Roberts concurred to tip the court’s balance 5-4 against Louisiana’s law.

The Unsafe Abortion Protection Act, as Jackson’s law was known, received widespread support from both parties in the state legislature and was signed into law by then-governor Bobby Jindal (R) in 2014.

In Kansas, an effort during February to place a referendum on the Kansas ballot clarifying that abortion is not a constitutional right fell four votes short of the support needed in the House of Representatives.

The push for the referendum was instigated in 2019 after the Kansas Supreme Court blocked a 2015 law banning dilation-and-evacuation abortions, which are the most common procedure for second-trimester abortions and use suction devices and other equipment to dismember the fetus and remove it from the mother’s womb.

As part of the ruling, the Kansas Supreme Court determined for the first time that provisions of the state constitution dating back to 1859 extends to a “natural right of personal autonomy” regarding abortion.

The federal Hyde Amendment bars federal funds for abortions except in cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment. Presidential candidate Joe Biden has said that he no longer supports the Hyde Amendment and would repeal it if he is elected.

At least 16 states currently use their own funds to pay for additional abortions outside of those conditions.

New Orleans archdiocese seeks laicization for all clergy credibly accused of sex abuse

Denver Newsroom, Oct 27, 2020 / 02:45 pm (CNA).-  

While allegations against two New Orleans-area priests have again raised questions about the Church’s response to clergy misconduct, the Archdiocese of New Orleans has confirmed that for the past two years it has been seeking to laicize clergy who have been removed from ministry for credible reports of sexual abuse.

“In the Archdiocese of New Orleans, very soon after the publication of the 2018 Clergy Abuse Report, conversations began in an effort to seek the laicization of those living clergy that had been removed from ministry for abuse of a minor and this is in process,” Sarah McDonald, communications director at the New Orleans archdiocese, told CNA Oct. 26.

“This is a highly technical canonical process and clergy have canonical rights that must be respected.”

On Oct. 1. the archdiocese announced the removal from ministry of Father Pat Wattingy, who on that day self-reported sexually abusing a minor in 2013. The archdiocese said the priest admitted the abuse after undergoing psychological treatment and going on a spiritual retreat this summer, the New Orleans CBS affiliate WWL-TV reports.

The St. Tammany Parish Sheriff's Office investigated and then issued a warrant for the priest’s arrest on four counts of molestation of a juvenile, alleged to have taken place between December 2013 and December 2015. He was arrested as a fugitive at his home in West Point, Georgia on Oct. 22 and extradited to Louisiana.

“Mr. Wattigny stated that he knew he had warrants in Louisiana but that he did not know that we would catch him,” said the West Point Police Department's incident report on the arrest.

The priest faces additional controversy concerning allegations that he sent inappropriate text messages to a minor at a Catholic high school where he was recently chaplain.

In Pearl River on Sept. 30, 37-year-old priest Father Travis Clark, recently the pastor of Sts. Peter and Paul Parish, has been charged with obscenity after he was discovered filming himself in sex acts with two women on the altar of the parish church.

A local resident told police they noticed the lights were on in the church and looked through the windows, discovering the three people. One of the women is reported to be a self-avowed satanist. Archbishop Aymond has since performed a penitential rite required for continued use of the church for sacramental purposes.

Both Clark and Wattigny have been asked to “seek laicization immediately,” McDonald told CNA. If the priests do not request to be laicized by the Vatican, each could be laicized as the result of a formal canonical trial.

“The removal of Clark and Wattigny from priestly ministry marks the first time Archbishop Aymond as Archbishop of New Orleans has had to remove an active clergyman from ministry for abuse or scandal.” McDonald said. Aymond became New Orleans’ archbishop in August 2009.

While priests who are found by a canonical process to have committed an act of serious sexual abuse can be laicized, or removed from the clerical state, other priests who have been credibly accused of abuse but not found guilty in such a process remain clerics, even if they will not be returned to priestly ministry.

Under canon law, a priest or deacon has the right to housing and minimal financial support if he has not been formally laicized, even if he is not eligible for priestly ministry. Dioceses have sometimes been criticized for payments to priests accused of abuse but not laicized, even while the diocese is canonically obliged to make some provision for them.

In addition to those laicized after a canonical penal process, priests can also be laicized at the discretion of the Vatican if they request it, or if the diocesan bishop makes such a request under limited circumstances established by the Vatican’s Congregation for Clergy in 2009.

The Archdiocese of New Orleans did not offer specifics about its efforts to laicize priests accused of abuse.

At least seven diocesan priests on the archdiocese’s list of 72 credibly accused clergy are still living, according to the New Orleans Advocate. This list does not include accused religious clergy who are under their religious orders’ jurisdictions.

In the New Orleans archdiocese, benefits to accused priests had included retirement benefits, until a federal judge overseeing its Chapter 11 bankruptcy said that the archdiocese could only pay for health insurance.

Archbishop Aymond held a day of prayer, fasting and atonement on Friday, Oct. 23 and encouraged the Catholic faithful to participate, especially those feeling wounded.

“We know that it’s been a very challenging time in our archdiocese, for a number of reasons, especially because of the news we have received recently about two of our priests who have not fulfilled their vocation,” he said in an Oct. 19 video at the archdiocese’s YouTube channel.

“It is important that we come together as a community of faith and pray for the wounds of our Church: personal wounds and the wounds that so many are feeling at this time, with a sense of disappointment and betrayal,” he said.

“I’m asking you specifically to enter into fasting if you wish to, to enter into prayer, and we are providing for you a Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which helps us to get into the heart of Jesus, to give him our suffering, and to ask him for the healing and peace that he alone can give,” said the archbishop.

“Let us also pray for all the victims of abuse. They need our prayers and support as we reach out to them,” he said.

On Oct. 16, Aymond met with all the archdiocese’s priests regarding the scandal caused by the two priests.

The Council of Deans and the Presbyteral Council, both composed of leading priests in the archdiocese, wrote an Oct. 16 letter on behalf of the 335 priests of the archdiocese. While acknowledging that some have questioned his leadership, the letter voiced the clergy’s support for the archbishop.

The letter gave an account of the meeting, reporting an “open and honest dialogue” with the archbishop followed by time together in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, then a collective renewal of their ordination promises by the archbishop and the clergy together.

“He exhorted all of us to pray regularly for victims of sexual abuse. At the end of his remarks, all of us present stood in unanimous support of Archbishop Aymond,” said the letter, which the archdiocese carried on its website.

“We emphatically support Archbishop Aymond and his leadership of our local church,” the priests’ letter continued. “Archbishop Aymond is a dedicated, faithful, and holy priest of Jesus Christ. He has always faithfully served the people of God throughout his priesthood.”

“While the archbishop did not create the problems of sexual abuse, he has always courageously addressed the issue,” said their letter. They characterized Aymond’s decision to publish a list of credibly accused clergy as a “bold step.” In their view, the archbishop has acted quickly to any new allegations

“While the last few years have been difficult, we believe that his leadership is helping to shed light on the darkness of the past, to heal past wounds, and to renew the Church in New Orleans,” said the letter.

“Although a small number of priests have betrayed us and you, we commit ourselves and our lives wholeheartedly to the mission of Jesus Christ made present in the Church,” said the priests. “Be assured that the Church cannot and will not tolerate any sexual abuse or misconduct on the part of any cleric.”

Before his arrest on an obscenity charge and removal from ministry, Father Clark had been named to fill Wattigny’s role as chaplain at John Paul II High School in Slidell, Louisiana. Wattigny had resigned from the faculty in July.

The details of Father Wattigny’s recent misconduct involving texting are still in dispute.

On Oct. 2, Aymond told the principal of John Paul II High School that Wattigny allegedly sent inappropriate texts to a male student.

Although the student’s parents and attorney first alerted the archdiocese in February, school administrators were allegedly not told, and Wattigny was allowed to remain in ministry at the school until the end of the academic year.

According to a letter written by Aymond to parents of the school, reported by the Advocate, the texts did not contain “sexual references or innuendo” but still violated the archdiocesan policies about communication with youth.

The priest was reportedly admonished by archdiocesan officials to stop sending texts but permitted to remain in ministry at the school. He remained chaplain until he sent additional texts to at least one student and was reportedly sent by the archdiocese for a psychological evaluation.

Bill Arata, an attorney for the student, has said the priest’s texts had the aim of grooming the teen. Among other things, the priest asked the student repeatedly when he would turn 18. The priest texted the boy late at night, the attorney said, and his texts contained suggestive remarks. The attorney said he was told in June that the priest was being sent for a psychological evaluation. He said sending the priest for an evaluation confirms that the archdiocese knew the texts were not appropriate.

In an Oct. 9 statement, Aymond said Wattigny would never again serve in public ministry, and defended an archdiocesan decision not to remove Wattigny from the school when reports that he was sending inappropriate text messages first arose in February.




Report: Vatican investigators focus on longtime investment manager

CNA Staff, Oct 27, 2020 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- An Italian newsweekly said Friday that it has obtained a document in which Vatican investigators focus on a longtime investment manager for the Holy See as a central figure in the ongoing financial scandal. The investment manager has said there is nothing unusual about his work at the Vatican.

In a report published Oct. 23, L’Espresso said it had obtained a letter rogatory sent from the Vatican to Switzerland highlighting alleged activities of Enrico Crasso, an Italian-born Swiss citizen.

Letters rogatory are formal requests from courts in one country to the courts of another country for judicial assistance. 

The magazine published a photograph purporting to show the cover of the document, which bore the emblem of the promoter of justice of the tribunal of Vatican City State. The document reportedly requested information about several figures caught up in an investigation into a controversial London property deal. The newspaper said the document was sent to Swiss authorities almost a year ago.

CNA has not verified the document’s authenticity.

According to L’Espresso, Vatican investigators referred to “a hypothesis” which they said “cannot be excluded” when they requested information from Swiss authorities.

The investigators reportedly summed up that hypothesis by saying: “Given that the links between the various internal and external personages at the Secretariat of State took place over a considerable length of time, through the arrangement of well-structured legal instruments with offices in different countries, including those on ‘blacklists,’ and with the realization of multiple criminal activities, it also amounts to the crime of criminal association to the detriment of the Holy See.”

L’Espresso reported that Crasso appeared to be a pivotal figure in that framework. 

Crasso is the manager of the Centurion Global Fund, in which the Holy See is the principal investor. He began working with the Vatican in 1993.

According to L’Espresso, investigators alleged that Crasso repeatedly “contributed to using funds other than institutional funds and for unprofitable speculative investments.” They also reportedly highlighted “an evident conflict of interest and a possible risk of fraud to the detriment of the Secretariat of State.”

“It has not been possible to reconstruct the total commissions collected by him for his activity,” the investigators reportedly told Swiss authorities.

They also reportedly said: “Despite the fact that the Secretariat of State was alerted, it continued to trust him and did not take away from him the power to operate on his current accounts. The very bond that he has with the employees of the Secretariat of State deserves further study.”

Earlier this month, Crasso defended his stewardship of Church funds controlled by the Secretariat of State, saying that the investments he made were “no secret.” 

In an Oct. 4 interview with Corriere della Sera, Crasso also denied managing “confidential” accounts for Becciu’s family.

Crasso was named in reports last month alleging that Cardinal Angelo Becciu used millions of euros of Vatican charity funds in speculative and risky investments, including loans for projects owned and operated by Becciu’s brothers. 

On Sept. 24, Becciu was asked by Pope Francis to resign from his Vatican job and from the rights of cardinals following the report. In a press conference, the cardinal distanced himself from Crasso, saying he did not follow his actions “step by step.”

According to Becciu, Crasso would inform him of what investments he was making, “but it’s not that he was telling me the ramifications of all these investments.”

Crasso appeared to corroborate Becciu’s remarks, saying they had met only five or six times since 2012. He said that Becciu also never applied “pressure” about what investments to make.

Crasso’s Centurion Global Fund is connected to several institutions linked to allegations and investigations of money laundering, a CNA investigation found.

The fund registered a loss of some 4.6% in 2018, while at the same time incurring management fees of roughly two million euros.

According to Crasso, “the Secretariat [of State] has always earned from our management.” 

The Centurion Global Fund first made headlines in December 2019 for its use of Vatican assets under its management to invest in Hollywood films, real estate, and utilities, including investments in movies like “Men in Black International” and the Elton John biopic “Rocketman.”

Corriere della Sera reported that Centurion had raised around 70 million euros in cash, and that the Holy See’s Secretariat of State was the source of at least two thirds of the fund’s assets.

Crasso said Oct. 4 that after Il Corriere’s Dec. 2019 article, he was told “the Holy Father had given instructions to liquidate the fund. And now we are closing it.”

While Becciu has said that he didn’t know what Crasso was doing, Crasso said “Centurion was known in the Secretariat [of State]” and that Vatican officials “knew very well” which investments were being made. 

Asked how he made his decisions about how to invest Vatican money, Crasso said the secretariat pointed out some investments to him directly, such as shares in the English Eos fund, who were “friends of Mgr Alberto Perlasca.”

Perlasca is Becciu’s former chief deputy at the Secretariat of State. In February, his home and office were raided by investigators over his participation in the Vatican’s investment of hundreds of millions of euros with the Italian financier Raffaele Mincione. 

Crasso indicated that on at least one occasion he informed Perlasca that a desired investment was too risky and advised making an investment of only six million euros instead of 30 million, which they did.

Vatican investments through Centurion have also been reported to include funds from the Peter’s Pence collection, intended to support charitable works and the ministry of the Holy See.

Crasso confirmed that “the funds of Peter’s Pence were managed by banks, including hedge funds. Everyone knew it,” he said. “Now, however, the Vatican’s auditor general argues that these funds were tied to charitable works. But they never told the banks!”

Vatican abuse trial: Victim petitions to sue pre-seminary and religious group

Vatican City, Oct 27, 2020 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- At a hearing Tuesday of an ongoing abuse and cover-up trial against two Italian priests, the Vatican court accepted a request from the victim’s lawyer to sue the institution where the alleged abuse took place, as well as the group which oversees it.

The Oct. 27 hearing was the second in the trial against defendants Fr. Gabriele Martinelli, 28, and Fr. Enrico Radice, 72. Martinelli was charged earlier this month with using violence and his authority to commit sexual abuse over a number of years, and Radice was charged with impeding investigations into the abuse.

The defendants, who have not publicly addressed the accusations against them, were present, together with their lawyers, at the hearing, which lasted three-quarters of an hour.  

L.G., the alleged victim, was also present in the Vatican courtroom for the first time. Under Vatican criminal law, he was present as a civil party. 

Dario Imparato, L.G.’s lawyer, asked for access to court documents, saying that he had “nothing from this trial, only the request for indictment.”

Imparato then presented a petition to sue the institution which oversees the youth seminary where the alleged crimes took place.

The St. Pius X pre-seminary, which is located on Vatican City territory, is run by a Como-based religious group, the Opera Don Folci.

The lawyer said that he made the request to sue Opera Don Folci because “we believe that there are objective responsibilities in the institution that oversees the pre-seminary.” He also cited a “lack of vigilance” and “great negligence” on the group’s part.

Vatican prosecutor Roberto Zannotti said it was “not the prerogative” of the civil party to present such a request, and the defendants’ lawyers presented objections.

In response to a question from court president Giuseppe Pignatone, L.G.’s lawyer indicated that the “legal person” being sued was the youth seminary “as an institution.” The lawyer noted that otherwise they would sue the Diocese of Como instead.

After a deliberation of nearly 40 minutes, the court accepted and authorized the petition to sue the youth seminary and the Opera Don Folci. It also accepted the defense request of the alleged victim, and set the next hearing for Nov. 19.

The defendants were not questioned in the course of the Oct. 27 hearing.

The alleged abuse is said to have taken place from 2007 to 2012 at different times and places in Vatican City State. At the time, Martinelli was an alumnus of the St. Pius X pre-seminary, a residence for about a dozen boys aged 12 to 18, who serve at papal Masses and other liturgies in St. Peter’s Basilica and are thinking about the priesthood.

Martinelli would return to the youth seminary as a visitor, and to tutor and coordinate the students’ activities. He is accused of abusing his authority at the seminary and taking advantage of relationships of trust, as well as using violence and threats, in order to force his alleged victim “to undergo carnal acts, sodomy, masturbation on himself and on the boy.”

L.G. was born in 1993 and was 13 at the time the alleged abuse began, turning 18 about a year before the abuse ended.

Martinelli, who is a year older than L.G., was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Como in 2017.

Radice was the youth seminary’s rector for 12 years. He is accused, as rector, of having helped Martinelli “evade investigations, after crimes of sexual assault and lechery.”

Radice is accused of sending a letter on Oct. 3, 2013, to the bishop of Como, Diego Attilio Coletti, contradicting a complaint by the alleged victim against Martinelli, and speaking of a “fumus persecutionis,” a Latin expression meaning a “suspicion of persecution.”

He is also accused of later impersonating the bishop in a letter using the diocesan letterhead to announce the “imminent” priestly ordination of Martinelli.

'One of our own': Catholic leaders welcome Amy Coney Barrett to Supreme Court

CNA Staff, Oct 27, 2020 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- Catholic bishops, academics, and policy experts hailed the confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court on October 26. Barrett was confirmed Monday evening in a senate vote that mostly divided along party lines. 

Barrett is now the sixth practicing Catholic justice at the Supreme court, joining Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Thomas, Samuel Alito, Sonia Sotomayor, and Brett Kavanaugh. In addition, Barrett will join Sotomayor as the only two Catholic female Supreme Court Justices in U.S. history.

Archbishop Gregory Aymond of New Orleans hailed Barrett, a Louisiana native, as “one of our own” on Monday evening. “We pray that the Holy Spirit will continue to lead her and guide her in her service to our country.”

Bishop Richard Stika of Knoxville, Tennessee, also added his congratulations to Barrett via Twitter, as did Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas.

Barrett’s arrival at the Supreme Court was also welcomed by her former colleagues at the University of Notre Dame, where she was both a law student and professor for several years.

“On behalf of the University of Notre Dame, I congratulate Amy Coney Barrett on her confirmation today by the United States Senate as a justice of the United States Supreme Court,” Fr. John Jenkins, C.S.C., president of the university said in a statement. 

“Recognized by experts from across the spectrum of judicial philosophies as a superb legal scholar and judge, she is an esteemed colleague and a teacher revered by her students. Justice Barrett becomes the first alumna of Notre Dame Law School and the first Notre Dame faculty member to be so honored,” Jenkins said. 

“We join her family and friends in celebrating this momentous achievement, and we assure Justice Barrett and all her colleagues on the nation’s highest court of our continued prayers in their work of administering justice and upholding the Constitution.”

Jenkins’ sentiment was echoed by G. Marcus Cole, the Joseph A. Matson Dean and a professor of law at Notre Dame Law school. Cole said he was “immensely proud of our alumna, colleague, and friend on this momentous occasion.” 

“For more than two decades, we have been blessed by her brilliant scholarship, her devoted teaching, and her thoughtful, open-minded approach to legal questions,” said Cole. He referred to Barrett as not only a “brilliant” scholar, but also as someone who is “exemplary” kind and generous. 

“While we will miss her presence on our campus and in our community, we look forward to witnessing these qualities as she serves on our nation’s highest court,” said Cole. 

Born in New Orleans, Barrett attended the University of Notre Dame Law School before clerking for D.C. Circuit Court Judge Laurence Silberman and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. She then entered private practice, returned to Notre Dame Law School to teach classes in 2002, and became a professor in 2010.

During her confirmation process, Barrett became a target for criticism by both media commentators and Democratic lawmakers, with multiple stories focusing on her religious beliefs and family.

Princeton professor Dr. Robert George, referencing the controversy over Barrett’s reported affiliation with the charismatic group People of Praise, posted a picture of himself and the now-justice on his Twitter account following her confirmation. 

“With my favorite Handmaiden of the Law,” he said. 

Brian Burch, the president of CatholicVote, said that Barrett’s confirmation “especially energized” Catholics in the United States. 

Justice Barrett clearly demonstrated she has the qualities, knowledge, and skill needed to be a fair and independent Justice for every American. Senators that voted to confirm Justice Barrett are to be commended for focusing on her eminent qualifications and commitment to fairness and the rule of law, rather than the ugly anti-Catholic attacks that threatened to tarnish this process,” he said.  

Dr. Grazie Christie, a policy advisor for The Catholic Association, called Barrett’s confirmation “great news for all Americans who prefer a fair and independent judiciary to an activist one.”

“Judge Barrett has demonstrated that she will equally apply the law to everyone who comes before her and faithfully interpret the Constitution as written. Her profound knowledge of the law is only matched by her exemplary character,” she said. 

Christie called Barrett a “role model for women and girls who aspire to reach the highest levels of accomplishment.”