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Hong Kong police arrest dozens at memorials for victims of Tiananmen Square massacre
Posted on 06/5/2023 21:50 PM (CNA Daily News - US)
Washington D.C., Jun 5, 2023 / 13:50 pm (CNA).
Hong Kong police apprehended almost two dozen citizens for “seditious” activity on the 34th anniversary of the Chinese communist government’s massacre of citizens at Tiananmen Square, according to the Hong Kong Free Press.
The Hong Kong Free Press reported that 11 men and 12 women, ages 20 to 74, were detained in an apparent crackdown on Tiananmen Square memorials over the weekend in Hong Kong.
According to a statement released Saturday by the Hong Kong Police Force, four individuals were arrested and four detained for “displaying protest items loaded with seditious wordings, chanting, and committing unlawful acts.”
The arrests were made near Hong Kong’s Victoria Park in Causeway Bay, where highly attended Tiananmen Square memorials have been held in years past.
The memorials recall how on June 4, 1989, the Chinese government quashed a weekslong protest of Chinese citizens by opening fire and sending tanks into Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China’s capital city. There is no official count, but death toll estimates of the massacre range from 200 to 10,000.
Tiananmen Square memorials have long been illegal in mainland China, but the crackdown in Hong Kong is a more recent development.
As a special administrative region of the Chinese government, Hong Kong formerly enjoyed relative autonomy until the Chinese Communist Party began ramping up its control of the region in recent years.
A 2019 Tiananmen Square candlelight memorial in Victoria Park, Hong Kong, drew more than 100,000 participants, according to the Guardian.
In 2020, Hong Kong passed a national security law that has been used to arrest hundreds of protestors and activists and to crack down on the press, according to the BBC.
The following year a famous statue depicting the victims of the Tiananmen Square massacre known as the “Pillar of Shame” was removed from the University of Hong Kong by officials.
This year, a section of the park where the memorial commemoration has been held was used as a festival ground while the rest of the park was closed off for “maintenance.” According to the Hong Kong Free Press, the festival is being organized by “pro-Beijing groups.”
Video footage taken Sunday shows an elderly woman holding up flowers and a man holding a copy of a play about the Tiananmen Square massacre being escorted away by police.
The woman has been identified by the Hong Kong Free Press as Alexandra Wong, 67, a Hong Kong pro-democracy activist also known as “Grandmother Wong.”
Activist Alexandra Wong, who’s also known as “Grandma Wong”, is also taken away by the police as she holds flowers high up in the air to mourn the victims of the China’s 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown. pic.twitter.com/FiKhvhSZAR— Jessie Pang (@JessiePang0125) June 4, 2023
Others detained include prominent Hong Kong pro-democracy leaders Tsui Hong-kwong, Leo Tan, and Chan Po-ying.
Also among those apprehended was Lau Ka-yee, a Hong Kong citizen who formerly attended college and graduate school in Taiwan.
The National Taiwan University Graduate Students Association condemned Ka-yee’s detention, saying she had been “arbitrarily” denied her right to peacefully protest.
In response, the Hong Kong Security Bureau strongly denied the Taiwanese association’s claims, accusing it of “disregarding the facts,” “confusing right and wrong,” and “smearing the lawful actions of the police.”
In a June 5 statement, the bureau said it “strongly opposes the unfounded and false accusations made by the National Taiwan University Graduate Students Association against the police’s law enforcement actions on June 4.”
“Hong Kong residents enjoy the rights and freedoms under the Basic Law, the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance, and other relevant laws,” the bureau added. “However, members of the public must abide by the law, not affect social order, and maintain national security when exercising these freedoms.”
The U.S. and European Union consulates in Hong Kong marked the anniversary by placing candles in their windows.
In memory. pic.twitter.com/mJMKDCo2vE— US Con HK & Macau (@USAinHKMacau) June 4, 2023
The U.S. Consulate General in Hong Kong issued a statement June 3, saying: “Tomorrow, we observe the 34th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre. On June 4, 1989, the Government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) sent tanks into Tiananmen Square to brutally repress peaceful Chinese pro-democracy protesters and bystanders alike.”
“The victims’ bravery will not be forgotten and continues to inspire advocates for these principles around the world,” the statement continued. “The United States will continue advocating for people’s human rights and fundamental freedoms in China and around the world.”
‘National Celebrate Life Day’ rally in Washington, DC, announced for anniversary of Roe reversal
Posted on 06/5/2023 21:20 PM (CNA Daily News - US)
Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 5, 2023 / 13:20 pm (CNA).
Leading pro-life organizations will hold a “National Celebrate Life Day” rally and gala in Washington, D.C., on June 24, the first anniversary of the reversal of Roe v. Wade.
Students for Life of America (SFLA) announced the event in an April press release.
The rally will be held on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall from 10:30 a.m. to noon and will be co-hosted by SFLA, 40 Days for Life, Live Action, and Pro-Life Partners Foundation.
SFLA President Kristan Hawkins said in the release that the first anniversary of the Dobbs v. Jackson Supreme Court decision marks “both the celebration of a battle won and a moment to rally the troops for our new opportunities.”
“We are no longer hampered by the 1973 Roe decision in light of the 2022 Dobbs ruling,” Hawkins said. “With Roe gone, we can reaffirm the obvious: Our nation was built on the hope of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all of us, including those not yet born.”
Tina Whittington, SFLA’s executive vice president, told CNA that the rally will be “laying out a vision of where to go next in the pro-life movement: achieving national protection for preborn Americans under the 14th Amendment of the Constitution.”
“We are fighting for protections for life in law at the state and federal level,” Whittington said, adding that “as long as Planned Parenthood is funded through our federal government and pro-abortionists fight for life-ending bills in Congress, there’s a fight to be had in Washington.”
Whittington pointed out that although the 14th Amendment guarantees that no state can deprive any person of life, liberty, or equal protection under the law, abortion denies those rights to unborn children across America.
According to Whittington, thousands are planning to attend the event, which is expected to have a joyful, celebratory atmosphere marking the first full year since the decision that ended Roe v. Wade.
“Our celebration is a reflection of a momentous day in history,” Whittington said. “We celebrate the fact that half of all states prevent abortions after 12 weeks one year after Roe’s reversal, but we’re just getting started and far more can be done at the federal level to protect innocent lives from the violence of abortion.”
Shawn Carney, president of 40 Days for Life, told CNA that because the 2022 Dobbs decision occurred on the feast of the Sacred Heart, the event will hold a special significance for Catholics.
“This event is the epitome of how Catholics in America can make history if we trust God, go to work at the grassroots, and unapologetically share the Church’s beautiful teachings on the dignity of the human person,” Carney said.
Carney added that many Catholics have been especially motivated “to charter buses to D.C. to celebrate this ruling in the midst of so much current bigotry toward Catholics we have seen from the media, corporations, and even our DOJ.”
According to Carney the rally “is not a reflection on the past” but rather “a future resolve to end abortion in our nation now that Roe has fallen.”
“Pro-life Americans don’t want to see this historic day pass without celebrating what many thought they would never live to see,” Carney said. “This event is a positive celebration of the Dobbs decision and a firm resolution to end abortion across America.”
The rally will feature some of the country’s leading Catholic pro-life voices as speakers, including Live Action President Lila Rose, Daily Wire podcaster Michael Knowles, SFLA president Hawkins, and others.
A ticketed National Celebrate Life Day gala will also be held in conjunction with the rally on the evening of June 24 at the Renaissance Washington, D.C.
For more information on both the rally and gala, click here.
‘A unifying moment’: Sister Wilhelmina’s nuns share their story in exclusive TV interview
Posted on 06/4/2023 16:00 PM (CNA Daily News - US)
Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 4, 2023 / 08:00 am (CNA).
Her flashlight was dim, so when Mother Abbess Cecilia Snell first peered inside the cracked coffin lid and saw a human foot inside a black sock where one would expect to find only bone and dust, she didn’t say anything.
Instead, she took a step back, collected herself, and leaned in for another look, just to be sure. Then she screamed for joy.
“I will never forget that scream for as long as I live,” recalled Sister Scholastica Radel, the prioress, who was among the members of the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, who were present to exhume the remains of their foundress, Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster.
“It was a very different scream than any other scream,” the abbess agreed. “Nothing like seeing a mouse or something. It was just pure joy. ‘I see her foot!’”
What the sisters discovered that day would cause a worldwide sensation: Roughly four years after her burial in a simple wooden coffin, Sister Wilhelmina’s unembalmed body appeared very much intact.
In an exclusive TV interview with EWTN News In Depth, the two sisters shared details of their remarkable discovery — revealing, among other things, that Sister Wilhelmina’s body doesn’t exhibit the muscular stiffness of rigor mortis — and reflected on the deeper significance of the drama still unfolding at their Abbey of Our Lady of Ephesus in rural Gower, Missouri.
They also clarified that Sister Wilhelmina’s coffin was exhumed on April 28, nearly three weeks earlier than CNA had understood. The sisters explained that it took about two weeks to remove dirt, mold, and mildew before they moved her body to the church. You can hear excerpts from the interview and other commentaries in the video at the end of this story.
Of particular significance to the members of the contemplative order, known for their popular recordings of Gregorian chants and devotion to the Traditional Latin Mass, is that the traditional habit of their African American foundress also is surprisingly well-preserved.
“It’s in better condition than most of our habits,” Mother Cecilia told EWTN’s Catherine Hadro.
“This is not possible. Four years in a wet coffin, broken in with all the dirt, all the bacteria, all the mildew, all the mold — completely intact, every thread.”
For the sisters, the symbolism is profound. A St. Louis native, Sister Wilhelmina spent 50 years in another religious order but left after it dispensed with the requirement of wearing its conventional habit and altered other long-established practices. She founded the Benedictines of Mary in 1995 when she was 70 years old.
“It’s so appropriate, because that’s what Sister Wilhelmina fought for her whole religious life,” Mother Cecilia said of the habit.
“And now,” Sister Scholastica said, “that’s what’s standing out. That’s what she took on to show the world that she belonged to Christ, and that is what she still shows the world. Even in her state, even after death, four years after the death, she’s still showing the world that this is who she is. She’s a bride of Christ, and nothing else matters.”
‘I did a double take’
The Benedictine community exhumed Sister Wilhelmina after deciding to move her remains to a new St. Joseph’s Shrine inside the abbey’s church, a common custom to honor the founders of religious orders, the sisters said.
Members of the community did the digging themselves, “a little bit each day,” Mother Cecilia said. The process began on April 26 and culminated with a half-dozen or so sisters using straps to haul the coffin out of the ground on April 28.
The abbess revealed that there was a feeling of anticipation among the sisters to see what was inside the coffin.
“There was a sense that maybe God would do something special because she was so special and so pure of heart,” Mother Cecilia said.
It was the abbess who looked through the cracked lid first, shining her flashlight into the dark coffin.
“So I looked and I kind of did a double take and I kind of stepped back. ‘Did I just see what I think I saw? Because I think I just saw a completely full foot with a black sock still on it,’” she recalled saying to herself.
Sister Wilhelmina’s features were clearly recognizable; even her eyebrows and eyelashes were still there, the sisters discovered. Not only that, but her Hanes-brand socks, her brown scapular, Miraculous Medal, rosary beads, profession candle, and the ribbon around the candle — none of it had deteriorated.
The crown of flowers placed on her head for her burial had survived, too, dried in place but still visible. Yet the coffin’s fabric lining, the sisters noted, had disintegrated. So had a strap of new linen the sisters said they used to keep Sister Wilhelmina’s mouth closed.
“So I think everything that was left to us was a sign of her life,” Sister Scholastica reflected, “whereas everything pertaining to her death was gone.”
Another revelation from the interview: Contrary to what one would expect in the case of a four-year-old corpse, Sister Wilhelmina’s body is “really flexible,” according to Sister Scholastica.
“I mean, you can take her leg and lift it,” Mother Cecilia observed.
EWTN News In Depth also spoke with Shannen Dee Williams, an author and scholar who is an expert on the history of Black Catholicism. Sister Wilhelmina’s story, she said, is an important reminder of “the great diversity and beauty of the Black Catholic experience across the spectrum.”
"It's a really important story that reminds us of what is the great diversity of what is the Black Catholic experience." - @BlkNunHistorian explains the significance of Sister Wilhelmina choosing a traditional habit for her community. pic.twitter.com/nJmyQ6UYjA— EWTN News In Depth (@EWTNNewsInDepth) June 3, 2023
‘A unifying moment’
There has been no formal declaration by Church authorities that Sister Wilhelmina’s body is incorrupt, nor has an independent analysis been conducted of her remains, the condition of which has puzzled even some experienced morticians. Neither is there any official process yet underway to put the African American nun on a possible path to sainthood.
But that hasn’t stopped thousands of pilgrims from making the trek to northwest Missouri to see Sister Wilhelmina’s body, which was moved to a glass display case in the abbey church on May 29. And within the abbey’s walls, there is a pervasive sense of joy, gratitude, and wonder.
In the interview, Mother Cecilia called what’s happening at the abbey “a unifying moment for everybody” in a time of discord.
“There’s so much division, and it’s crazy,” she said. “We’re children of God the Father, every single one of us. And so you see, Sister Wilhelmina is bringing everyone together ... I mean, this is God’s love pouring forth through people of every race, color,” she said.
“They come and they’re blown away, and it makes them think,” the abbess said. “It makes them think about God, about, ‘OK, why are we here? Is there more than just my phone, and my job, and my next vacation?’”
As for what comes next, no one can say. “We love God so much, his sense of humor, the irony, this humble little black nun hidden away in a monastery is a catalyst for this. It’s like a spark to send fire to the world,” Mother Cecilia said.
“It’s just remarkable,” she said. “But this is the kind of thing that God does when we need a wake-up call.”
Trinity Sunday 2023: 10 illuminating quotes from the saints about the Holy Trinity
Posted on 06/4/2023 10:00 AM (CNA Daily News - US)
Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 4, 2023 / 02:00 am (CNA).
The solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, also known as Trinity Sunday, is observed on the Sunday following Pentecost. This year’s feast falls on June 4 and draws our attention to the mystery of the Trinity — God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
Saints over time have commented on the importance of the Holy Trinity, speaking on its greatness, simplicity, and power to transform the souls of believers.
To pay tribute to the Holy Trinity, here are 10 illuminating quotes from the mouths, minds, and hearts of 10 different saints:
St. Augustine: “For to have the fruition of God the Trinity, after whose image we are made, is indeed the fullness of our joy, than which there is no greater.”
St. Teresa of Ávila: “The three Persons are distinct from one another; a sublime knowledge is infused into the soul, imbuing it with a certainty of the truth that the Three are of one substance, power, and knowledge and are one God.”
St. Seraphim of Sarov: “In spite of our sinfulness, in spite of the darkness surrounding our souls, the grace of the Holy Spirit, conferred by baptism in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, still shines in our hearts with the inextinguishable light of Christ ... and when the sinner turns to the way of repentance the light smooths away every trace of the sins committed, clothing the former sinner in the garments of incorruption, spun of the grace of the Holy Spirit. It is this acquisition of the Holy Spirit about which I have been speaking.”
St. Patrick (from “St. Patrick’s Breastplate” prayer): “Today I put on a terrible strength invoking the Trinity, confessing the Three with faith in the One as I face my Maker.”
St. Catherine of Siena: “O Trinity, eternal Trinity! Fire, abyss of love ... Was it necessary that you should give even the Holy Trinity as food for souls? You gave us not only your Word through the Redemption and in the Eucharist, but you also gave yourself in the fullness of love for your creature.
St. Thomas Aquinas: “The Father loves not only the Son but also himself and us, by the Holy Ghost.”
St. Ambrose: “Rise, you who were lying fast asleep … Rise and hurry to the Church: Here is the Father, here is the Son, here is the Holy Spirit.”
St. John Paul II: “A great mystery, a mystery of love, an ineffable mystery, before which words must give way to the silence of wonder and worship. A divine mystery that challenges and involves us, because a share in the Trinitarian life was given to us through grace, through the redemptive Incarnation of the Word and the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
St. Faustina: “When One of the Three Persons communicates with a soul, by the power of that one will, it finds itself united with the Three Persons and is inundated in the happiness flowing from the Most Holy Trinity, the same happiness that nourishes the saints. This same happiness that streams from the Most Holy Trinity makes all creation happy; from it springs that life which vivifies and bestows all life which takes its beginning from him.”
St. Francis de Sales (from a consecration prayer to the Trinity): “I vow and consecrate to God all that is in me: My memory and my actions to God the Father; My understanding and my words to God the Son; My will and my thoughts to God the Holy Spirit.”
This article was originally published June 11, 2022, and was updated June 2, 2023.
In 1995 a ‘deeply embarrassed’ MLB owner apologized for event with anti-Catholic drag performers
Posted on 06/3/2023 00:20 AM (CNA Daily News - US)
Washington D.C., Jun 2, 2023 / 16:20 pm (CNA).
The Los Angeles Dodgers, it turns out, are not the first MLB team to find themselves in hot water over an invitation to the drag group calling itself the “Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.”
Almost 28 years ago, the owner of the San Francisco Giants wrote a letter of apology to the Catholic League for hosting the drag group on the field before a game, according to correspondence the Catholic League shared with CNA on Friday.
In a letter dated Aug. 28, 1995, Catholic League President William Donohue raised his concerns with Giants owner Peter Magowan, who died in 2019, that the pregame ceremony designed to raise AIDS awareness “also seemed to open the door to anti-Catholicism.”
In response, Magowan expressed regret for the inclusion of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence at the event, saying “their acts of mockery” were “unfair to the Catholic Church.”
A national group of drag performers founded in 1979, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence dress as religious sisters, using Catholic religious imagery and themes in protests and sexualized performances to raise awareness and money for LGBTQ+ causes.
“We were informed that people dressed as Catholic nuns and as the pope were on the field. The ‘nuns’ apparently attend many AIDS-related events and are known as the ‘Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence,’” Donohue wrote. “If this group mocking Catholics and the Church did attend, the Catholic League would like to know why.”
Donohue added that “an event meant to raise money for AIDS should not become a forum for bigotry.”
In response, the Giants owner said that the team was “deeply embarrassed to discover the ‘Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence’ on the field during the pregame ceremonies” in a letter dated Sept. 5, 1995.
Magowan assured the Catholic League that “the Giants had no previous knowledge” that the anti-Catholic drag group would be participating in the ceremonies, explaining that the team relied on AIDS organizations to provide the 1,000 volunteers.
Though he said the team was not aware the anti-Catholic group would be there, Magowan reiterated that he “in no way condon[ed] the behavior of this group.”
“It was most regrettable, as their acts of mockery not only were unfair to the Catholic Church but also were a distraction to the worthy focus of the day,” Magowan said. “Let me assure you that stricter screening procedures will be implemented next year if a similar event is staged.”
The recent controversy erupted last week after the Dodgers announced that they would honor the Los Angeles chapter of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence with a “Community Hero Award” during their Pride Night at Dodger Stadium event on June 16.
Donohue told CNA that he believes “the difference between the Giants’ response in 1995 and the Dodgers’ response today is a reflection of the cultural changes we have been experiencing.”
“We have become increasingly secular, and indeed there is a militant streak evident among the ruling class,” Donohue said. “Perversely, in the name of tolerance and diversity, we have become increasingly intolerant of the diversity that Christianity provides.”
Donohue added that he believes “a restoration of our Judeo-Christian heritage is the answer, not more militant secularism.”
“As a sociologist, it is my conviction that we may be reaching a tipping point in our culture,” Donohue asserted. “The backlash against Bud Light, Disney, Target, the Navy — and now the Dodgers — suggests that the woke mob has gone too far.”
After initially receiving blowback from the Christian community, the Dodgers revoked their invitation to the drag group, only to reinstate it with an apology days later.
“The Los Angeles Dodgers would like to offer our sincerest apologies to the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence,” the team said in an official statement on Twitter, adding: “We have asked the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence to take their place on the field at our 10th annual LGBTQ+ Pride Night on June 16th.”
“We are pleased to share that they have agreed to receive the gratitude of our collective communities for the lifesaving work that they have done tirelessly for decades,” the Dodgers said. “In the weeks ahead, we will continue to work with our LGBTQ+ partners to better educate ourselves, find ways to strengthen the ties that bind, and use our platform to support all our fans who make up the diversity of the Dodgers family.”
May 22, 2023
Not all the team members agreed with the team’s decision to re-invite the anti-Catholic drag group.
In a personal statement, Dodgers pitcher Blake Treinen said that the team’s decision “disenfranchises a large community and promotes hate of Christians and people of faith.”
“Many of their performances are blasphemous, and their work only displays hate and mockery of Catholics and the Christian faith,” Treinen said, adding: “This group openly mocks Jesus Christ, the cornerstone of my faith, and I want to make it clear that I do not agree with nor support the decision of the Dodgers to ‘honor’ the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.”
My friend and @MLB pitcher Blake Treinen asked that I post this statement for him in regards to the @Dodgers honoring of the sisters of perpetual indulgence. #HoldTheLine pic.twitter.com/jIDeDJF8ke— Sean Feucht (@seanfeucht) May 30, 2023
Fort Worth bishop dismisses Carmelite mother superior in latest in Texas monastery-diocese dispute
Posted on 06/2/2023 20:40 PM (CNA Daily News - US)
Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 2, 2023 / 12:40 pm (CNA).
Bishop Michael Olson of Fort Worth, Texas, issued a decree Thursday dismissing Reverend Mother Teresa Agnes Gerlach from religious life following a nearly six-week-long investigation into an alleged sexual affair involving a priest.
In his decree, Olson announced he had found Gerlach, prioress of the Monastery of the Most Holy Trinity in Arlington, “guilty of having violated the sixth commandment of the Decalogue and her vow of chastity with a priest from outside the Diocese of Fort Worth.”
Based on this finding, as the pontifical commissary with authority over the monastery, Olson said he is dismissing Gerlach from the Order of Discalced Carmelites.
According to the decree, Gerlach has 30 days to appeal the decision to the Vatican’s Dicastery for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of the Apostolic Life.
In a separate statement, the diocese also announced that daily Mass and regular confession at the monastery would soon be reinstated following the investigation’s conclusion.
The actions are the latest in an ongoing dispute between Olson and the Texas Carmelite Monastery.
Matthew Bobo, the attorney representing the monastery in its civil lawsuit against the diocese, responded to the bishop’s decree, saying: “Bishop Michael Olson’s decision is unjust and unconscionable in the light of moral, canonical, and natural law.”
“Mother Superior will be appealing this immoral and unjust decision that is not subject to canonical action,” Bobo said.
“In addition, the civil lawsuit will accelerate and continue full speed ahead,” Bobo noted.
The dispute began in late April when the diocese launched a canonical investigation into an alleged sexual affair between Gerlach and an unnamed priest.
The reverend mother and the monastery filed a civil lawsuit on May 3 against the bishop and the diocese, accusing them of confiscating the reverend mother’s computer, cellphone, and laptop and subjecting nuns to lengthy questioning.
The monastery argued that Olson had no authority over it as it is an “autonomous religious entity” subject only to the Vatican.
They further accuse the bishop and the diocese of violating both civil and canon law through his conduct related to the investigation.
The lawsuit seeks $1 million in civil damages and asks the court to block the bishop’s and the diocese’s access to any records obtained by confiscating the reverend mother’s property.
In turn, the diocese argues that the dispute is an ecclesiastical matter and should not be heard in a civil court.
The civil hearing on the case is set for June 23.
After the monastery filed the lawsuit, Olson denied Gerlach’s ability to choose her canon lawyer, choosing one himself to represent her in the ecclesiastical investigation. Though the canon lawyer has already filed paperwork on her behalf, the reverend mother denies that he represents her in these matters.
Bobo told CNA that “the bishop’s own canon lawyer is compromised.”
“Bishop Olson rejected four canonical representatives of Mother Superior’s choosing and then forced his own canonical lawyer (lackey) on her with whom she has never spoken,” Bobo said.
In response to the monastery’s claim of ecclesiastical autonomy, the diocese announced Wednesday that Olson had been appointed pontifical commissary over the monastery by the Vatican’s Dicastery for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.
As pontifical commissary, the diocese says Olson is “the pope’s representative in the matter” with “full authority for the Monastery.”
Though he has now reinstated daily Mass, for a time Olson banned the monastery from celebrating daily Mass and blocked access to regular confessions.
He did so on the grounds that the nuns’ actions violated the obedience owed to the “Holy Church and to her holy Pastors” in a manner “unbecoming of their religious state.”
The ban was lifted on Thursday in a diocesan statement that read: “Given the time that has passed and now having completed the investigation into the grave misconduct of the Reverend Mother … and having found her guilty of having violated the sixth commandment of the Decalogue and the vow of chastity, and having dismissed her from the Order of Discalced Carmelites, Bishop Michael Olson … has decided to reinstate daily Mass at the Carmel for the nuns of the Monastery beginning on Wednesday, June 7, 2023, at 7:30 a.m.”
The diocesan statement added that “given the pending lawsuit, Mass will remain closed to the participation of the lay faithful for the time being. The only Mass intention will be for the restoration of peace and good order of the Monastery.”
The diocese has not publicized the exact nature of the affair nor named the priest or any other diocese possibly involved.
Though the diocese says that Gerlach has admitted to the misconduct, Bobo said that Gerlach was under the influence of pain medication related to a surgery when she is alleged to have admitted to the affair and “has not admitted to any grave misconduct that would warrant his extreme and emotionally damaging measures.”
According to Bobo, Gerlach, 43, was suffering from serious medical issues and had just undergone surgery when she was said to have admitted to the misconduct.
“Bishop Olson has publicly defamed Mother Superior on matters of the moral law that are NOT canonically actionable,” Bobo told CNA. “His ‘investigation’ was never announced as such to Mother Superior nor the nuns. With a 30-minute window before appearing at the monastery, he advised them he was coming without providing the rationale for his visit and then showed up with the diocesan chancellor and forensic expert and then proceeded to interrogate Mother Superior just after a medical procedure while she was still recovering from the medical use of fentanyl.”
Bobo added that Gerlach “is in a wheelchair and her health has deteriorated.”
A spokesperson for the diocese declined to comment further on the matter.
Florida bishops plead with DeSantis to spare life of death row inmate
Posted on 06/2/2023 19:25 PM (CNA Daily News - US)
Washington D.C., Jun 2, 2023 / 11:25 am (CNA).
Florida’s Catholic bishops are calling on Gov. Ron DeSantis to issue a stay of execution for a convicted murderer who is scheduled to die by lethal injection on June 15.
Duane Owen, 62, was sentenced to death for the 1984 murder of a 14-year-old babysitter, whom he stabbed to death and then sexually assaulted. He was also sentenced to death for the 1986 murder of a single mother whom he beat to death with a hammer.
Owen would be the fourth person to be executed in Florida this year, the sixth to die by capital punishment during DeSantis’ administration.
In a May 31 letter on behalf of the bishops to DeSantis, Michael Sheedy, the executive director of the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops (FCCB), appealed to the governor to grant a stay and commute Owen’s sentence to life without parole.
The letter acknowledged the suffering Owen has caused but stated the bishops’ opposition to the death penalty and belief in the sanctity of life.
“His senseless and horrific acts tragically ended the lives of these young women and have caused immeasurable grief and suffering to the victims’ families, loved ones, and communities,” the letter reads. “However, taking Mr. Owen’s life will not restore the lives of the victims. Intentionally ending his life will do nothing but perpetuate violence in a society steeped in it.”
“Justice does not demand state-sanctioned killing that disrespects the dignity and sacredness of human life,” the bishops said in the letter. “Rather, justice is best served by the alternative punishment of lifelong incarceration. Society must be kept safe from Mr. Owen and those like him, but that can be done effectively without resorting to more violence.”
The letter said there are “notable mitigating circumstances” in Owen’s case that argue for granting him a stay of execution.
“He was raised by alcoholic parents who both died when he was a very young child, he lived in an abusive orphanage, endured physical and sexual abuse, and suffered from organic brain damage. Such traumatic experiences and injuries have been shown to profoundly affect a child’s development and subsequent behavior,” Sheedy wrote on behalf of the bishops.
DeSantis had issued an executive order May 22 to delay Owen’s execution in response to Owen’s attorneys’ statement that their client had been declared insane after a psychiatric evaluation.
One week later, DeSantis issued another executive order for Owen’s execution to proceed as planned after a panel of state-appointed psychiatrists established Owen’s mental competency.
The order said the psychiatrists had concluded: “Owen has the mental capacity to understand the nature of the death penalty and the reasons why it is to be imposed upon him.”
The Florida bishops recently condemned DeSantis, a Catholic, for signing a bill that would make it easier to impose the death penalty in the state. The bill eliminated the requirement of a unanimous jury when recommending a capital punishment sentence. The death penalty can now be imposed with only an 8-4 majority of the jury.
“As Florida persists in its implementation of the death penalty, the process should be as reliable and just as possible. Unanimity is required in every other circumstance when a jury is summoned in Florida. The harshest punishment that the state imposes should require the strictest standards,” the bishops said in an April 13 statement.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, reflecting an update promulgated by Pope Francis in 2018, describes the death penalty as “inadmissible” and an “attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person” (No. 2267).
The change reflects a development in Catholic doctrine in recent years. St. John Paul II called on Christians to be “unconditionally pro-life” and said that “the dignity of human life must never be taken away, even in the case of someone who has done great evil.”
Nevada GOP governor signs pro-abortion bill; Oklahoma court strikes down abortion restrictions
Posted on 06/2/2023 00:40 AM (CNA Daily News - US)
Washington D.C., Jun 1, 2023 / 16:40 pm (CNA).
The pro-life movement suffered a blow this week in two states after Nevada’s Republican governor signed a pro-abortion bill into law and the Oklahoma Supreme Court struck down two of the state’s restrictions on abortion.
Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo signed legislation late Tuesday to protect abortionists who violate abortion laws in other states and prevent health care licensing boards from disqualifying a person due to his or her participation in providing abortions.
The bill prohibits the execution of arrest warrants or extradition of a person who is wanted in another state for performing an illegal abortion if such an abortion is legal in Nevada. It also prohibits state agencies from providing any information that would assist in another state imposing civil or criminal penalties on someone who performs an illegal abortion when such an abortion would have been legal in Nevada.
The same rule applies to health care licensing boards, which will not be allowed to disqualify a person for violating an abortion law in another state as long as it is legal in Nevada.
Lombardo is the third Republican governor to sign pro-abortion legislation after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022. Vermont Gov. Phil Scott and former Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker also signed pro-abortion legislation.
Lombardo’s campaign website claims he is “Catholic and pro-life” and promised to “govern as a pro-life governor.” He was endorsed by the National Right to Life Committee.
Two abortion laws in Oklahoma were struck down Wednesday after the state Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that they violated the state’s constitution.
One of the laws banned all abortions except in cases of a medical emergency. The second law banned all abortions after a heartbeat was detected with the exception of a medical emergency or if rape or incest had been reported to law enforcement. The bills would have allowed civil lawsuits against abortionists.
Abortion in Oklahoma is still banned except for when the life of the mother is at risk. However, the Supreme Court objected to the phrasing of “medical emergency,” which it argued forced women to wait until their condition worsened before they could obtain an abortion.
The Supreme Court cited its own precedent, which states there is an “inherent right of a pregnant woman to terminate a pregnancy when necessary to preserve her life.”
Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt criticized the ruling.
“I again wholeheartedly disagree with the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s use of activism to create a right to an abortion in Oklahoma,” Stitt said. “This court has once more over-involved itself in the state’s democratic process and has interceded to undo legislation created by the will of the people. … As governor, I will continue to do my part to fight to protect the lives of the unborn. From the moment life begins at conception, we have a responsibility to do everything we can to protect that baby’s life and the life of the mother. Oklahoma will keep working to be the most pro-family state in the nation.”
New ‘Padre Pio’ film is a human look at the famous saint, filmmakers say
Posted on 06/2/2023 00:10 AM (CNA Daily News - US)
Boston, Mass., Jun 1, 2023 / 16:10 pm (CNA).
The weight of playing St. Pio of Pietrelcina, more popularly known as Padre Pio, one of the most popular saints of the 20th century, was “enormous,” Shia LaBeouf told CNA in late May.
The new film “Padre Pio,” starring “Transformers” and “Fury” star LaBeouf, airs in theaters June 2 and portrays the Italian friar in his early 20s immersed in the suffering of the residents of San Giovanni Rotondo, in eastern Italy, where his monastery is located.
The film, rated R for some explicit violence and language, portrays powerful scenes of Padre Pio ministering to the townspeople and enduring his own spiritual battles with the devil amid the chaos of a violent political clash between the mainly impoverished socialists and the wealthy ruling class, ultimately resulting in a brutal massacre.
Abel Ferrara, the film’s director, called the killings a “nightmare event” and added that all of it came together in the film.
“There’s not a political story and a Padre Pio story. He’s a member of that community. He’s feeling it. He knows what’s going on, and he’s interconnected with those people. And those people are very interconnected to him,” Ferrara said.
LaBeouf, Brother Alexander Rodriguez — who plays a real Franciscan Capuchin in the film — and Ferrara, the film’s director, also addressed a scene in the film that shows the devil in the form of a naked woman as well as the saint’s use of profanity in another scene.
When asked what the message of the film was, Ferrara said that there was nothing specific but added that St. Pio’s message is “compassion and love in the day to day life, not just the hour you’re in church.”
LaBeouf told CNA that playing the role of the saint while being immersed in his monastery and town added to the intensity.
“It’s enormous pressure, but it only served the film,” he said. “There are scenes where we’re running Mass and these aren’t actors in the seats. These are God-fearing people who love Pio and you feel it, and it only adds to the stakes.”
Many of the extras in the film were from the area surrounding San Giovanni Rotondo.
Despite the pressure, LaBeouf said that “I have never, in the course of my entire career, been on a set where the film felt easier to make.”
Whenever the filming team ran into technical or legal issues, LaBeouf didn’t panic but turned to the saint’s famous motto: Pray, hope, and don’t worry.
“And things worked out. They just did. And I think we made a beautiful film as a result of following his teachings and really leaning into the pragmatic way in which he dealt with the world,” he said.
“It’s probably why I love Catholicism, because it is so nuts and bolts.”
LaBeouf said that he “experienced disordered freedom for so long, like an anarchist” and that the film changed his life.
At the end of the film, Padre Pio receives the stigmata while in prayer.
“It’s easy to think that because he was holy, that he received the stigma automatically. No,” Rodriguez said. The First World War and the social political turmoil in San Giovanni Rotondo were the context in which the saint received the stigmata, he said.
“Pio was looking at all of this and saying, ‘I want to take this all upon myself as a suffering servant to help them.’ He didn’t know that the stigmata will be the purpose to help these people out. But it ended up being just that. The stigmata didn’t just happen on its own, in other words,” he said.
Padre Pio is harassed by the devil several times in the film, once even physically. In one scene, the devil, in the appearance of a naked woman disrespecting an image of the Virgin Mary, is taunting and discouraging the saint.
Ferrara told CNA that the scene was taken out of Padre Pio’s private letters to his spiritual director. Rodriguez added that demons would appear in Pio’s room as naked women to harass him.
“We’re taking it from his letters. I mean, we’re trying to embody when he’s talking about temptation in a real way,” Ferrara said.
“A lot of what you see in the movie is pretty accurate,” Rodriguez said, adding that he wrote the letters to his spiritual director in confidence and “would not have wanted the letter to be out.”
Rodriguez told CNA in 2022 that the film’s depiction of the saint is about 90% accurate and is largely based on the saint’s letters to his provincial and spiritual director from 1911–1918.
Rodriguez, who became close with LaBeouf during the actor’s preparation for the role of Padre Pio, said that “I know for a fact that God wanted this movie to be made.”
He noted how the film came together at a providential moment in LaBeouf’s life, which put the actor on the path to join the Catholic Church.
LaBeouf recently told ChurchPOP that he is currently in RCIA, taking weekly classes, and is on track to be confirmed in seven months.
Another scene in the film shows the devil appearing as an androgynous person coming to Padre Pio in confession and being unrepentant for sins, even to the point of denying the existence of God and hell.
Once Padre Pio realizes it is the devil, the saint chastises the figure, sends him away, and angrily screams “Shut the f*** up! Say Christ is Lord!”
“When Pio is saying the F-bomb, this is Abel’s take on showing the world that Pio, who is a saint, was also a sinner,” Rodriguez said. He added that in Pio’s letters to his spiritual director, he would write about struggling to deal with his passions of anger and his temper.
At this point in Pio’s life, he is “a saint in the working,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez questioned what the world will think of the film’s portrayal of St. Pio “in a more human way.”
“I don’t know what’s going to happen next, but I just hope for the best that the world accepts the movie as it is. And to see why did Pio receive the stigmata? These are the circumstances in which he got the stigmata and the suffering that he went through,” he added.
LaBeouf told CNA that “if you’ve ever read Little Flowers of St. Francis, he says very clearly, and it’s not conjecture, it’s not paraphrased, he says, ‘if the devil approaches you stuff s*** in his mouth.’”
“So this idea that saints — and there is no greater a saint than St. Francis — never cursed is just, like, ignorant, and quite frankly, prude, which isn’t Catholicism. Catholicism isn’t prudish,” he said.
“These are human beings before they’re sainted,” he added.
LaBeouf said that he “walked in [the movie process] a wounded man in full-blown suffering, full-blown shame and panic.”
“And through the course of the movie, I came out of my little shame cave and walked back into the world, found purpose again and redemption again. I was saved. I was lost, and I was saved through the love of Christ,” he said.
“That’s what actually happened in my life. It’s beyond the promotion of this movie. It’s what actually transpired in my life. And shortly after coming out of this film, my wife gave birth, and I’m able to show up for my kid in a way I never would have been able to had this not happened for me,” he said.
White House condemns Nicaraguan dictatorship’s latest attacks against the Catholic Church
Posted on 06/1/2023 22:15 PM (CNA Daily News - US)
Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 1, 2023 / 14:15 pm (CNA).
The Biden administration on Wednesday condemned Nicaraguan dictator Daniel Ortega’s attempts to discredit the Catholic Church by accusing it of an illegal money laundering scheme.
National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby called the latest attacks on the Catholic Church “unacceptable” and said the administration is acting to “promote accountability.”
Kirby’s condemnation of the Nicaraguan dictatorship’s latest targeting of the Catholic Church came in response to a question raised by EWTN White House Correspondent Owen Jensen during the May 31 press conference.
On May 27 the Nicaraguan National Police, controlled by the dictatorship of President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, published a statement accusing the Catholic Church of various crimes, including money laundering by the Diocese of Matagalpa.
“The dictatorship there continues its persecution of Catholics,” Jensen said. “The latest, accusing the Catholic Church in Nicaragua of money laundering. Human rights defenders say that is absolutely baseless.”
“Daniel Ortega has imprisoned Bishop Alvarez for decades, expelled 32 nuns from the country, confiscated Church buildings, shut down media outlets. Quite simply, what is the White House message to Daniel Ortega?” Jensen asked.
Kirby responded by saying: “There’s been a dramatic deterioration of respect for democratic principles and human rights by the Ortega-Murillo regime, including the harassment and imprisonment of democratic leaders, members of political opposition parties, faith leaders, as you rightly said, including from the Catholic Church, students, and journalists.”
“This is all unacceptable. We condemn these actions,” Kirby continued. “We’ve already taken a number of actions to promote accountability for the Ortega-Murillo regime’s actions, including by imposing sanctions, and will continue to do so.”
In an attempt to continue covering up their human rights abuses, Nicaragua is now accusing the Catholic Church of money laundering in the country. NSC Coordinator for Strategic Communications, John Kirby, responds to the Ortega regime's abuses on behalf of the White House. pic.twitter.com/E7BFwGRsN0— EWTN News Nightly (@EWTNNewsNightly) May 31, 2023
For years, the U.S. State Department has levied several sanctions against the Ortega regime, including sanctions on Nicaraguan officials and state-owned companies for repression and anti-democratic actions.
Most recently, on April 19, Secretary of State Antony Blinken issued a statement announcing U.S. sanctions on three Nicaraguan judges who, according to Blinken, “played a role in stripping over 300 Nicaraguans of their citizenship, leaving many of these individuals stateless.”
In a June 2022 press statement, the State Department accused the Ortega regime of stealing the 2021 Nicaraguan election.
“Following months of repression and the imprisonment of more than 40 democratic leaders, including seven potential presidential candidates, opposition members, journalists, students and members of civil society, the Ortega-Murillo regime stole an election that denied Nicaraguans their ability to choose their own government. By declaring victory after the fraudulent election, the regime entrenched itself in power and established a dynastic dictatorship,” the release said.
Despite these actions by the Biden administration, the situation in 2023 appears to have only worsened for both ordinary citizens and the Catholic Church in Nicaragua.
Just this May 18, an Ortega regime official media announced the “voluntary dissolution” of Immaculate Conception Catholic University, a seminary for the Archdiocese of Managua.
On Feb. 10, Bishop Rolando Álvarez Lagos of the Diocese of Matagalpa was sentenced by the regime to 26 years and four months in prison on the charge of being a “traitor to the homeland.”
Álvarez’s former diocese is the one now being accused by the regime of the money laundering scheme.
In a May 29 statement to ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, Félix Maradiaga, former presidential candidate and exiled human rights defender, stated that “it’s impossible for the police to have found this alleged illicit money in the Diocese of Matagalpa, because that diocese has been, both the chancery and many of the parishes, under police intervention during the last six months.”
“That’s absolutely unacceptable, but it is also Orwellian. It’s ridiculous that the same chancery from which Bishop Rolando Álvarez was taken away is now designated as the locus of illegal acts,” said Maradiaga, who was deported to the United States on Feb. 9 along with more than 200 other former political prisoners.