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NYC arts program rejects Mother Cabrini for statue

New York City, N.Y., Aug 19, 2019 / 03:30 pm (CNA).- A New York City public arts program has said it will not build a statue in honor of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, despite the saint receiving the most nominations in a public poll. 

She Built NYC was established in June of 2018 under the patronage of Chirlane McCray, wife of New York Mayor Bill De Blasio, to create more statues of women around the city of New York. The public were asked to nominate women for a potential statue and the campaign received over 2,000 votes for over 300 eligible women.

The results of the nominating period were published in December, with Mother Cabrini receiving 219 nominations - more than double the number received by second-place finisher, Jane Jacobs. 

Despite the public vote, the New York Post reported on Aug. 10 that the selection committee, led by McCray and former New York deputy mayor Alicia Glen, had excluded the first American saint from the planned statutes, instead choosing to honor Rep. Shirley Chisolm, Katherine Walker, Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, Elizabeth Jennings Graham, Billie Holiday, and Dr. Helen Rodriguez-Trias. They received the third, fifth, seventh, 19th, 22nd, 24th and 42nd-most nominations, respectively. 

LGBT rights activists Johnson and Rivera were biological males and will be featured together in a single statue. Both were self-identified “drag queens” and co-founders of the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries. The pair received a combined 86 nominations.

Rodriguez-Trias, the first Latina to be elected as the American Public Health Association, was one of the founding members of the Committee for Abortion Rights and Against Sterilization Abuse, received just seven nominations to Cabrini’s 219. 

The She Built NYC program was created after Mayor Bill de Blasio commissioned a study into existing statues and monuments in the city, setting aside $10 million to craft new monuments better representative of the city’s ethnic and gender diversity. 

Of the 150 statues in New York City, only five figure women. She Built NYC will spend $5 million to build the new monuments.

A spokesperson for Ms. McCray told CNA that the public nominations process was not intended to determine which women would be honored, but only to inform the judgment of the selection committee.

“Nominations made by the public were the foundation of this entire process – only those submitted were considered by the advisory committee and the City,” Siobhan Dingwall, press secretary for the Office of the First Lady in New York City, told CNA in a statement. 

In addition to the public nominations, She Built NYC also considered other factors, such as proposed locations, existing monuments, and site availability when deciding who and where to erect new statues.

“Everyone agrees: there are countless New York City women deserving of recognition, and we look forward to continuing our work with New Yorkers to honor their contributions to our city,” said Dingwell.

New York City Councilman Justin Brannan told CNA that while he supports the core mission of She Built NYC, and is “delighted” that his “personal heroes” Chisolm, Holiday, Jennings Graham, and Rodriguez-Trias will be honored, he is “dismayed” that Cabrini was excluded.

“The will of the people was denied,” he said in a statement provided to CNA. 

“Mother Cabrini received more nominations from New Yorkers than any other woman during the process but these results have been completely ignored,” he said. 

“Why open this up for a public vote and then ignore the results? I would hate to see a meaningful campaign undermined by a process that tries to appear to value public opinion without ever actually doing so.”

Cabrini, an Italian immigrant, arrived in New York City in the late 19th century. She founded the Institute of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and opened many schools and orphanages in New York City. She was canonized by Pope Pius XII in 1946, who named her the patroness of immigrants in 1950.

Kentucky again denies abortion clinic's license

Louisville, Ky., Aug 19, 2019 / 03:24 pm (CNA).- Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin’s administration has reportedly denied a Planned Parenthood clinic in downtown Louisville its license to perform abortions, doing so for the second time.

The Louisville Courier-Journal reports that Adam Meier, secretary of Kentucky’s Cabinet for Health and Family Services, informed Planned Parenthood via a letter on Friday that the state is denying the license because the clinic performed 23 abortions without a license between December 2015 and January 2016.

The state first denied the clinic’s license to perform abortions under a 1998 law requiring abortion providers to have what are known as "transport" and "transfer" agreements with an ambulance and hospital in the event of a medical emergency. A U.S. District Court Judge struck down that law in 2018 as unconstitutional, a decision the state has appealed.

The clinic opened in December 2015 and began performing abortions the following month.

In January 2016, acting state Inspector General Stephanie Hold ordered the clinic to cease performing abortions and the Bevin administration subsequently sued the clinic in February 2016, stating that abortion facilities are not allowed to commence performing abortions without a license. That lawsuit is currently pending in county court.

The clinic claimed at the time that it had received emails from the state saying that it could perform abortions while awaiting a state inspection of the clinic. The state responded saying that former inspector general for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, Maryellen Mynear, was “wrong” when she told the clinic that they would have to be operating— i.e. performing abortions— for a state inspection to take place.

U.S. District Judge Greg Stivers had in June ordered the state to expedite its review of Planned Parenthood's license application and report back to him no later than Aug. 19 with a decision, the Courier-Journal reported.

Planned Parenthood is challenging the licensing issue in federal court.

Gov. Matt Bevin signed into law in March a bill prohibiting abortions based on the race, gender, or a disability diagnosis of an unborn child. The law’s implementation has been blocked while legal challenges play out in court.

Federal Judge David J. Hale of the Western District of Kentucky in March blocked a law that would prohibit abortion after the detection of a fetal heartbeat.

The state's only clinic licensed to perform abortions is EMW Women's Surgical Center in Louisville, which performs over 3,000 a year.

After investigation, Memphis bishop defends priest accused of racism

Memphis, Tenn., Aug 19, 2019 / 11:10 am (CNA).- The Diocese of Memphis is supporting a pastor whose staff denied a job to a black housekeeper on the grounds that his dog was racist. The diocese says the dog had a history of aggression and tended to become agitated around strangers with dark skin.

“Although the parish staff member’s choice of words was highly unfortunate and imprecise—they were not motivated by racial animus,” said Bishop David Talley of Memphis in an Aug. 16 letter.

“Rather, the concern by all involved was the safety of these women, one of whom was a stranger to the dog, and they knew that attempting to crate the dog would be dangerous when its owner was not present. Their concern was to prevent the cleaning company employees from being injured.”

Fr. Jacek Kowal, pastor of the Catholic Church of the Incarnation in Collierville, has been accused of turning away LaShundra Allen as a housekeeper because she was black.

On May 3, Kowal’s housekeeper, who is white, arrived at the rectory, announcing that she was quitting her job. She had brought Allen, who is black, with her, and asked if she could train Allen as her replacement.

Staff members at the rectory consulted with Kowal, who was at the church preparing for a May Crowning ceremony and then returned to the rectory.

According to a letter from the women’s attorney, they told the two women, “I’m sorry, we are not trying to be rude, but the dog doesn’t like black people,” the Commercial Appeal reported.

“The cleaning company employees interpreted this incident as a pretext by Fr. Kowal, motivated by a desire not to have an African American housekeeper. This is simply not true,” said Bishop Talley in his letter, noting that Kowal employed an African American housekeeper for the entire five-year duration of his previous assignment as pastor.

Following the conclusion of diocesan investigation, Talley said he believes Kowal and the parish staff were trying to be cautious, since Kowal’s dog – a German shepherd named Ceaser – was out of his crate and was “very protective of his home.”

The priest would have been concerned about the dog being out of his crate around any stranger, Talley said.

“The staff were aware that years ago the dog had been threatened by a person who happened to be African American, causing the dog to be somewhat more agitated initially around strangers with darker skin, until the dog gets to know them,” the bishop said. “The replacement employee who was planning to enter the rectory was an African-American person the dog had never met.”

In addition, “the parish staff were aware that in 2017 Fr. Kowal had been bitten on the hand by the dog while trying to crate him in an agitated state.”

For these reasons, the bishop said he believed “that the claims of racial bias and discrimination are unfounded, and that Fr. Kowal did nothing wrong.”

The two housekeepers, however, say the priest made no effort to contact Allen afterward and that no offer was made for Allen to come back on another day when Kowal would be available to introduce her to the dog. They say they will continue pursuing legal action.

The cleaning company that employs the two women has terminated its contract with the church, the Washington Post reports.

In his letter, Bishop Talley emphasized “that all human persons are created in the image of the one God and enjoy an equal dignity. Therefore, all forms of racial discrimination are sinful and wrong.”

However, he reiterated, “after our thorough investigation, I find these particular allegations of racial discrimination to be unfounded.”
 

Cincinnati priest arrested and indicted for sexually abusing minor

Cincinnati, Ohio, Aug 19, 2019 / 11:08 am (CNA).- A Cincinnati priest removed from ministry last month for grooming behavior has been indicted on nine counts of raping an altar server.

Fr. Geoff Drew was arrested Aug. 19 on allegations dating back 20 years, which concern Drew’s time as music minister at a local parish, prior to his ordination as a priest. The accusations concern abuse said to have taken place over two years, when the reported victim was 10 and 11 years old. If convicted, the priest could face life in prison.

Drew was removed from ministry last month, after allegations surfaced that he had sent a series of inappropriate text messages to a 17-year-old boy. A history of similar allegations against Drew was then confirmed by the archdiocese.

In a statement released Aug. 19, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati acknowledged the charges and urged anyone with information concerning the allegations to contact local law enforcement.

“Today, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati learned that a Hamilton County Grand Jury returned a nine-count indictment against Fr. Geoff Drew stemming from alleged crimes during his time at St. Jude Parish,” the statement said.
 
“We have fully cooperated with this investigation and will continue to do so.The protection of young people is of paramount importance and can never be compromised. We urge anyone who has any information regarding the accusations against Fr. Geoff Drew to please report it to Cincinnati Police.”

Drew worked as music minister at the parish of St. Jude in Bridgetown, Ohio, from 1984-1999. During that time he was also a music teacher at Elder High School until 1991. He entered seminary in 1999, and was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati in 2004.

The archdiocesan statement emphasized that neither the archdiocese, nor Cincinnati Archbishop Dennis Schnurr were aware of the rape allegations at the time of Drew’s removal last month.

“The Archdiocese of Cincinnati was made aware of these allegations after Archbishop Schnurr removed Fr. Drew as pastor of St. Ignatius of Loyola Parish on July 23” the statement said.
 
Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters told local media that Drew’s alleged victim came forward last month to report the rapes, calling the case “incredibly disturbing.”

Prosecutors also say it is likely the priest has had other victims.
 
The archdiocese indicated earlier this month that they had referred to law enforcement some allegations of Drew’s misconduct stemming from his time as a high school music teacher to law enforcement. Those allegations reportedly arose during a 2018 investigation into other complaints against the priest.

CNA reported earlier this month that complaints were raised to at least one archdiocesan official about Drew’s inappropriate behavior with teenage and pre-teenage boys as early as 2013. Complaints were made to auxiliary bishop Joseph Binzer, who is the archdiocesan vicar general, in 2013 and 2015.

Binzer referred the complaints to law enforcement, who found no evidence of criminal activity. 

Binzer did not, however, notify the archdiocesan personnel board or Archbishop Dennis Schnurr about the multiple complaints he had received against Drew.

The allegations were also reportedly not recorded by Binzer in the priest’s personnel file.

Drew’s 2018 request for a transfer from one parish to another was approved without any member of the board - apart from Binzer - being aware of the previous complaints.

One month after Drew’s arrival at his new parish, a parishioner at his previous church resubmitted a 2015 complaint made about the priest. The complaint was again reported to Butler County officials, but this time it was also brought to the attention of Archbishop Schnurr.

Sources close to the chancery told CNA that because Binzer failed to notify the archbishop or the priest personnel board about the previous allegations he had received, the accusation was believed by them to be an isolated incident.

The priest was asked to restrict his involvement with the school and was assigned to meet regularly with a “monitor,” but school faculty and administration were not told about these restrictions, or the reasons for them.

Sources have told CNA that Drew was on the verge of being sent to an inpatient treatment center for priests at the time he was arrested and charged with rape. 

Binzer was removed from his position as head of priest personnel for the archdiocese earlier this month, but remains vicar general of the archdiocese. 

On Monday, a spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati confirmed to CNA that following the initial reports of Drew's removeal from ministry, Bishop Binzer resigned from the USCCB’s committee on child and youth protection, which advises the bishops’ conference on all matters related to safe environment policy and child protection.

Following questions submitted by CNA, the archdiocese confirmed that the committee were informed of the resignation on Aug. 6.

Binzer had previously served as the representative for Region VI of the U.S. bishops’ conference, including the dioceses of Ohio and Michigan.

This post has been updated to reflect that Bishop Binzer has resigned from the USCCB's child and youth protection committee.

'Unplanned' actress establishes scholarship for pregnant women

Columbus, Ohio, Aug 18, 2019 / 04:55 pm (CNA).- Ashley Bratcher, lead actress in the pro-life movie “Unplanned,” has helped establish a scholarship for women pursing an education during an unexpected pregnancy.

“Women can pursue their careers, live out their dreams, and have richer, more fulfilling lives while balancing motherhood. Sometimes, it just takes a little help,” Bratcher said in a recent press release from Heartbeat International.

“I wanted to be a part of empowering mothers to chase their dreams and to provide a means for those who choose life to continue their educations.”

The scholarship, called the Unplanned Movie Scholarship, will give $5,000 annually for a woman facing an unplanned pregnancy. It can go toward educational educational opportunities including college or trade school.

The project is backed by Heartbeat International, a pro-life agency providing pregnancy resources to expecting mothers in over 2,000 locations worldwide.

“Not only will the scholarship financially support the decision of mothers to continue their education, but it will also connect them to an organization that will support them throughout their pregnancy and beyond,” Bratcher added.

Jor-El Godsey, president of Heartbeat International, said the scholarship will help expecting mothers embrace education and life.

“Tucked into Unplanned is a vivid reminder that education can present an obstacle to accepting the new life within,” said Godsey.

“The Unplanned Movie Scholarship will be a lifeline to a young mom's future as she makes the brave choice to embrace motherhood.”

Bratcher played Abby Johnson in the movie, “Unplanned.” The story follows the life of Johnson, a former clinic director for Planned Parenthood, who had a conversion experience after witnessing the horrors of abortion. Today, Johnson is a pro-life advocate and the director of And Then There Were None, a ministry that helps other abortion workers leave the industry.

Following the movie’s release, numerous women reached out to Bratcher to share their stories of difficult pregnancy situations. Andrea Trudden, director of communications for Heartbeat International, told CNA that many women shared a common conflict - they needed financial support to finish their education.

“After the release of ‘Unplanned,’ Ashley had a lot of different questions from moms who were reaching out sharing their stories about their unplanned pregnancies,” she said.

“The education aspect tended to be one of the hurdles.”

Trudden said the scholarship’s development is still underway. She said applicants will be recommended from one of the agency’s pregnancy help centers, where the mothers’ needs will be best addressed.

“[Pregnancy centers] provide parenting classes and financial classes. We are able to couple what we do through these pregnancy health organizations with the woman who wants to continue her education,” she said.

“We are really looking at exactly how to partner with our pregnancy help organizations in order to provide the funds to the women.”

She said the scholarship will begin accepting applicants at the end of this year, after the organization receives enough funds. The scholarship is now accepting donations at www.UnplannedMovieScholarship.com.

Trudden said the opportunity will provide women the support they need to pursue their education, but it also presents a bigger message.

“Women can have careers, they can have fulfilling lives and be mothers. It’s not an either-or situation,” she said.

“We want to do everything we can to support the mothers during these hard decisions, to help prepare her for motherhood and … [provide her with] everything she needs to get through her pregnancy in a loving and caring way so she can positive choices for her life.”

 

Regarding abuse claims against a Detroit priest and others who served in southeast Michigan

The Archdiocese of Detroit Communications Department shares the following statement in response to abuse claims made against a Detroit priest, other clergy members and a lay person who served in southeast Michigan:

Fr. Lawrence Tannous Fares

The Archdiocese of Detroit was made aware Tuesday, July 30 of an allegation of child sexual abuse against Fr. Lawrence Tannous Fares, a retired priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit. We have no prior record of any allegation having been made against him.

We are always deeply grieved to learn about any allegations of clergy abuse, especially involving minors or vulnerable adults, and we do everything in our power to provide assistance to victims. Had this allegation been shared with the archdiocese in 2010, it would have been examined by our Review Board, and if deemed a substantive allegation (that is, having a semblance of truth), Fr. Fares’ ministry would have been restricted at that time. At this point, we will adhere to our practice of looking to local law enforcement and the Attorney General’s Office as to how to proceed.

Individuals with knowledge of sexual abuse by clergy or other Church representatives are urged to contact local law enforcement and/or the Attorney General’s Office at (844) 324-3374 or aginvestigations@michigan.gov. Individuals may also share the report with the Archdiocese of Detroit’s Victim Assistance Coordinator at (866) 343-8055 or vac@aod.org.

Fr. William Cahill, S.J.

Fr. William B. Cahill was a religious order priest with the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) religious order who served as chaplain of St. Joseph’s Hospital in Mount Clemens from 1972 to 1977. He died in 1986. His name was added to the Archdiocese of Detroit’s list of clergy credibly accused of abuse on January 16, 2019, following the Society’s release of names of their clergy credibly accused of abuse. As with all religious order priests, Fr. Cahill’s case was received, investigated and deemed a substantive allegation (that is, having a semblance of truth), by his religious order.

Fr. Dennis Mitchell, C.S.P.

Fr. John Dennis Mitchell was ordained in 1938 for the Missionary Society of St. Paul the Apostle (Paulist Fathers) and served from 1942-43 in campus ministry at Wayne State University in Detroit. He died in 1996. According to the Paulist Fathers, the abuse was alleged to have occurred in 1968 in Los Angeles and was reported in 1994. As with all religious order priests, Fr. Mitchell’s case was received, investigated and deemed a substantive allegation (that is, having a semblance of truth), by his religious order. The Archdiocese of Detroit has no record of any local allegations against him.

The Archdiocese of Detroit is working with the various religious orders in the area to ensure our list of clergy accused of abuse is as complete and accurate as possible. As this process continues, we will move to add Fr. Dennis Mitchell’s name to our list. Our list is continually updated as we receive new information from law enforcement, religious orders and members of the public.

Patricia Kulwicki

Ms. Patricia Kulwicki was a lay employee of Mercy High School in Farmington Hills for 19 years. She was not a Sister of Mercy, but left another religious order in 1973. She died in 1994. Allegations brought to the Archdiocese of Detroit involving religious order schools are turned over to the religious order for review.

Opus Bono Sacerdotii

The Archdiocese of Detroit reaffirms what previously was shared with the Associated Press: Opus Bono Sacerdotii has never been affiliated with or supported by the Archdiocese of Detroit. What follows is the full statement we provided the reporter in June:

Archbishop Vigneron and his predecessor, Cardinal Adam Maida, understood the initiative to be an independent group of Catholic faithful laypersons committed to working with priests accused of clerical sexual abuse, principally by offering financial assistance. From its inception, the Archdiocese of Detroit considered OBS a de facto association; it did not manage, review, or financially support its operations. And anyone affiliated with OBS would do so of their own choosing and on their own time.

Like they might do for any other autonomous Catholic organizations based in southeast Michigan, Church leadership and other members of the clergy did, on occasion, acknowledge the group’s work and appear in photos with members of OBS.

In 2018, Michigan’s Attorney General cited OBS for “… a lack of board governance, no controls over expenses, unauthorized and excessive compensation, diversion of assets, breach of fiduciary duties, and deceptive solicitations.” As reported at that time, the Archdiocese had no oversight or official connection to OBS or its board. Members on that board were never appointed or approved by the Archdiocese.


Regarding Reverend Richard T. Brown

Investigators from the Dallas, Texas police department recently contacted archdiocesan officials regarding Father Richard T. Brown.  Fr. Brown, born in 1941 and a priest of the Dallas diocese, had been in Detroit circa 1997-2002.  The information received from Texas was shared by the Archdiocese of Detroit with local law enforcement and the Michigan’s Attorney General’s Office.  The Dallas diocese lists Fr. Brown’s status as “absent on leave,” and says his priestly/public ministry was restricted in 2002.

There is an ongoing investigation in Dallas of Fr. Brown involving an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor.  The archdiocese has come to learn that Fr. Brown, during his time in Michigan, assisted with sacramental and Mass duties at Assumption Grotto parish in Detroit.  The Detroit archdiocese has been fully cooperative with authorities in Texas;  it continues to learn more about details involved in this case. 

Individuals with knowledge of sexual abuse by clergy or other Church representatives are urged to contact local law enforcement and/or the Michigan Attorney General’s Office at (844) 324-3374 or aginvestigations@michigan.gov.  Individuals also may contact the Archdiocese of Detroit by visiting protect.aod.org or by calling the 24/7 victim assistance line at (866) 343-8055 or by emailing vac@aod.org. There are no time limits or restrictions on individuals wishing to report abuse.  To contact the Dallas police department visit their TipSubmit online portal or call (214) 671-4301.

Coverage of Fr. Brown’s case as first reported in 1997 and 2002 by the Dallas Morning News

Regarding Reverend Anthony Cipolla

The accusations against Fr. Anthony Cipolla, born in 1943 and a priest of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, include an incident in Dearborn.  That allegation was reported to Pittsburgh police and the Pittsburgh diocese. There is no record the incident was reported to the Detroit archdiocese or that the alleged abuse was reported to Dearborn police. Restricted in his ministry in 1988, Cipolla died in 2016.  He is listed on the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report on page 620.  

Regarding Reverend Robert Spangenberg, C.S.Sp

A religious order priest with the Congregation of the Holy Spirit (Spiritans), Fr. Robert Spangenberg served briefly at Old St. Mary’s Parish in Greektown from July 1975 until December of 1975, when he was reassigned to a parish in Pittsburgh diocese. No allegations against him were brought to the Archdiocese of Detroit. Born in 1947, he died in 2006. He is listed on the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report on page 769.    



Regarding Reverend Ronald Yarrosh, PIME

A religious order priest with the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME), he was based in Detroit from 1977-81 and, on occasion, returned to the Archdiocese of Detroit archdiocese from 1982-2004.  Born in 1947 and incardinated into the Allentown diocese in 1990, Yarrosh was arrested on child pornography charges in 2004 and laicized (removed from the clerical state) in 2007.  No allegations against him were brought to the Detroit archdiocese. He is listed on the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report on page 18.