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Historic Marian shrine in Florida elevated to national shrine

St. Augustine, Fla., Oct 15, 2019 / 03:01 am (CNA).- Bishop Felipe Estévez of St. Augustine announced Friday that the Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche has been elevated as a National Shrine by the US bishops' conference.

The shrine is located at the Nombre de Dios mission in St. Augustine, founded in 1587. According to the Diocese of St. Augustine, it is America's oldest Marian shrine.

It is dedicated to the nursing Mother of God, and is a site of pilgrimage particularly for those hoping to become pregnant or to have a safe delivery.

Bishop Estévez made the announcement at an Oct. 11 Mass for the feast of Our Lady of La Leche.

“Mary recognizes the living God who closes the door to the mighty of this world and raises up the little ones, the poor in spirit, who are blessed by God,” he said. “She praises God in his great mercy towards those who obey him and open their hearts to him.”

“When we look at the image of Our Lady of La Leche, in pure beauty, we see the whole mystery of Incarnation,” he reflected. “If Mary has a message for us today, I find it in the only words that appear in the Gospel of St. John, attributed to her: 'Do what He tells you.'”

Some 200 people attended the Mass, including benefactors, members of the Confraternity of Our Lady of La Leche, and Knights and Dames of Malta.

The first Mass at the site of the Nombre de Dios mission was said in 1565, and the mission itself was founded 22 years later by Franciscans. A chapel dedicated to Our Lady of La Leche was established on the grounds of the mission in 1609.

The statue of Our Lady of La Leche will be crowned Oct. 11, 2020, as part of the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the erection of the Diocese of St. Augustine.

California expands statute of limitations for childhood sex abuse

Sacramento, Calif., Oct 15, 2019 / 12:02 am (CNA).- California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law on Sunday a measure extending the statute of limitations for childhood sex abuse victims.

The law allows civil claims of childhood sexual abuse to be filed by victims until age 40, or five years after discovering the damages from the abuse.

Previously, claims had to be filed by age 26, or within three years of discovering damages from the abuse.

The new law also opens up a three-year window to revive past claims that would have expired under the previous statute of limitations. That window begins Jan. 1, 2020.

Andy Rivas, executive director of the California Catholic Conference of Bishops, responded in an Oct. 14 statement, saying, “Ultimately, our hope is that all victim-survivors of childhood sexual abuse in all institutional settings will be able to have their pain and suffering addressed and resolved and so our prayers are that AB 218 will be a step forward in that direction.”

“The Catholic Church has confronted this issue of child sexual abuse for more than two decades now,” Rivas said. “It is a legacy of shame for all of us in the Church, and we are aware that nothing can undo the violence done to victim-survivors or restore the innocence and trust that was taken from them.”

He noted the reforms made by the Church to protect children and that new reports of abuse in the Church in California are rare. He also pointed to efforts by dioceses in the state to devote hundreds of millions of dollars to therapy and pastoral care to abuse victims.

“The Church cooperated with then-Governor Gray Davis and the legislature during the opening of the statute of limitations in 2003. The Church paid more than $1.2 billion to settle claims filed by hundreds of victim-survivors,” he said.

Rivas noted that earlier this year, six of California’s 12 Catholic dioceses established an independently managed compensation program, which would provide compensatory payment to those alleging to be victims of priestly sexual abuse, regardless of what that abuse is alleged to have happened.

The programs covers Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Diego, Orange, and Fresno. These six dioceses represent 80% of California’s Catholics, according to an announcement about the compensation program.

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), who authored the California bill, said in a statement, “The idea that someone who is assaulted as a child can actually run out of time to report that abuse is outrageous.”

“More and more, we’re hearing about people who were victims years ago but were not ready to come forward to tell their story until now,” she said. “We shouldn’t be telling victims their time is up when in reality we need them to come forward to protect the community from future abuse.”

However, critics argue that the law goes too far, opening the door to cases with little evidence and allowing damages to be tripled if cover-up of abuse was involved.

Rivas also noted with disappointment that the law does not cover sexual abuse victims of state employees.

According to the Associated Press, school districts in the state showed heavy opposition to the legislation, arguing that reliable evidence and witnesses are more difficult to collect 40 years after an alleged act of abuse.

Troy Flint, spokesman for the California School Boards Association, said the bill “has a very real chance of bankrupting or impoverishing many districts,” the AP reported.

“We don't want to minimize or trivialize the trauma that's associated with inappropriate sexual conduct in schools,” Flint said, but added that the financial impact on school districts in the state could “inhibit our ability to properly serve today's students and students in years to come.”

The Boy Scouts of America - which has faced millions of dollars in damages to child abuse victims, said it is considering “all available options,” including declaring bankruptcy, the AP reported.

In a statement the organization said it cares “deeply about all victims of child abuse and sincerely apologize(s) to anyone who was harmed during their time in Scouting.” It noted the procedures put in place to avoid individual youth and adult interactions and ensure respect for privacy.

According to the Associated Press, Michael Pfau, an attorney based in Seattle, says his firm has approximately 100 abuse victims who are ready to file suits against California schools, Catholic dioceses, foster homes, the Boy Scouts when the extended window opens.

California is among several states to consider expanding the statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse.

Earlier this year, New York widened the statute of limitations for both criminal and civil claims, and opened a one-year window for abuse survivors to files suits against their abuser or the institution where the abuse occurred.

More than 400 lawsuits were filed in the state on the first day of the expanded window, including claims against members of the Catholic clergy, the Boy Scouts, and the state’s public schools.

The governor of New Jersey signed a similar law in May. North Carolina, Maryland, and Pennsylvania have also considered similar legislation in the last year.

 

Ohio Down syndrome abortion ban remains blocked after court rulingĀ 

Cincinnati, Ohio, Oct 14, 2019 / 06:52 pm (CNA).- A federal appeals court on Friday upheld a block on an Ohio law banning abortions on the grounds of a diagnosis of Down syndrome. Former Governor John Kasich signed the law nearly two years ago, but it has not yet been able to come into effect.

The court’s decision comes amid Down Syndrome Awareness Month, which advocacy organizations observe in October.

The law outlawed abortions in cases where there was a positive test result or prenatal diagnosis indicating Down syndrome, the Associated Press reports. Physicians convicted of performing an abortion under such circumstances could be charged with a fourth-degree felony, stripped of their medical license and held liable for legal damages. The pregnant women would not be held liable.

The office of Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost has said the state will seek a review by the full 6th Circuit, as Friday’s decision was handed down 2-1 by a U.S. Court of Appeals panel.

Federal Judge Timothy Black first blocked the law from taking effect in March 2018. It was set to go into effect the 23rd of that month.

Supporters of the law have questioned Black’s impartiality. He had served as president of Cincinnati’s Planned Parenthood in 1988 and as its director from 1986-1989. He recused himself from a case involving Planned Parenthood in 2014.

Former Governor John Kasich first signed the law in December 2017, and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on behalf of Planned Parenthood the subsequent February against the Ohio Department of Health, county prosecutors, and members of the state medical board.

Current Ohio Governor Mike Dewine has not yet commented publicly on the law’s most recent blockage, but on Monday tweeted his support for Down Syndrome Awareness Month. As attorney general, DeWine had set the state’s appeal against the judge’s decision into motion.

Attorney General says education is 'ground zero' in fight for religious freedom

South Bend, Ind., Oct 14, 2019 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- Education is “ground zero” in the fight for religious freedom, the U.S. Attorney General told an audience at the Notre Dame Law School on Friday.

While speaking on the threats posed to freedom of religion in the U.S. by aggressive secularism, Attorney General William Barr told law students that nowhere is the threat to religious freedom so great as in education.

Education, he said, should lead students to the truth and teach them to “love the truth” and to develop the “discipline to live by it.” However, he added, “the times are hostile to this.”

Barr addressed law students at Notre Dame on religious freedom Oct. 11, while a crowd of protesters had gathered outside the law school reportedly blowing whistles and holding signs that included asking the Trump administration to end the practice of separations of immigrant families at the border.

The protest of blowing whistles was in reference to a whistleblower complaint that President Donald Trump, on an official phone call with the Ukrainian president, had offered Barr’s services to help investigate the son of opposing presidential candidate Joe Biden and his business dealings in the Ukraine.  

A Catholic, Barr was previously the U.S. attorney general from 1991 to 1993 under President George H.W. Bush. He was confirmed as the 85th attorney general of the U.S. on February 14, after former attorney general Jeff Sessions resigned in November of 2018 at the request of President Trump.

He recently drew criticism for his decision to resume federal executions of some prisoners on death row, after Pope Francis had declared the death penalty “inadmissible” in 2018 and the U.S. bishops had long pushed for its abolition.

In his Friday remarks, Barr warned of a rise in secularism that is intent upon the “organized destruction” of the Judeo-Christian ethic, which he said the U.S. was founded upon.

This secular effort, he said, marshals the resources of academia and the entertainment and communications industries to promote a vision of life and morality that is fundamentally at odds with Christianity; it uses social ostracization, lawsuits, and other threats to push compliance, and even functions as a religion of sorts, he said.

Education, Barr said, is “ground zero” in this fight where secularism seeks to impose itself on the populace even in violation of religious freedom.

Public school curricula are being pushed by states and local boards of education that are “incompatible with Judeo-Christian principles,” he said, with no opt-outs being offered to parents with religious objections. Barr referenced the states of Illinois, California, New Jersey and Colorado which require by law that public schools teach “LGBT history.”

The right of parents to transmit faith to their children is paramount, he said, and “for the government to interfere in that process is a monstrous invasion of religious liberty.”

For instance, the New Jersey law was passed without any opt-out for parents when the policy takes effect in middle and high schools in 2020-2021. 

The Orange County Department of Education in California issued a memo in 2018 stating that parents who objected to comprehensive sexual education could not withdraw their children from instruction on gender, gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation.

These cases are part of an effort of the “state requiring local public schools to insert themselves into contentious social debates without regard to the religious views of their students or parents,” Barr said. “Those families are implicitly told that they should conform or leave.”

In other cases, religious schools are being singled out and marginalized simply because of their religious status when they are being considered for public benefits, he said.

Long-standing laws such as Blaine Amendment statutes—once passed in many states as anti-Catholic measures—are now being used to “starve religious schools of generally available funds” such as tax credits to help underprivileged students attend the school of their choice, Barr said, pointing to a Montana case, currently before the Supreme Court in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue.

In Indiana, a lawsuit brought by a former teacher at Cathedral Catholic High School is challenging the authority of the Archbishop of Indianapolis to determine the Catholic identity of a school in his archdiocese, Barr said, saying that the situation painted “ a disturbing picture.” 

Barr encouraged Catholics to “do all we can to promote and support authentic Catholic education at all levels,” while promising that the Department of Justice would “fight” for religious freedom, “the most cherished of all American liberties.”

In 2018, a religious liberty task force was created at the Department of Justice to implement a 2017 religious liberty executive order. Barr said that the task force involves the Solicitor General, the Office of Legal Counsel and others to meet regularly and discuss cases where the Establishment Clause is misapplied or abused by states against people of faith, or where the free exercise of religion is being violated.

In his remarks on Friday, Barr blamed the “erosion” of traditional morality for the subsequent rise in secularism that now threatens religious freedom, and represents a break with the founding values which underpin the American constitutional order.

The Constitution, he said, was created for people who could govern themselves and practice “moral discipline,” but in the last several decades there has been a decline in the common understanding and adaptation of Judeo-Christian principles and adherence to the natural law.

“The campaign to destroy the traditional moral order,” he said, “I believe has brought with it immense suffering and misery,” Barr said, while noting that the rise of secularism had come with an attack on organized religion brought with “force, fervor, and comprehensiveness.”

Calif. governor signs state college campus abortion pill mandate into law

Sacramento, Calif., Oct 14, 2019 / 11:48 am (CNA).- California governor Gavin Newsom signed into law Friday a measure requiring public universities to provide free access to medical abortions for students.

The law will take effect in 2023, and applies to the 34 campuses of the University of California and California State University.

Sen. Connie Levya (D-Chino), the law's author, said Oct. 11 that “abortion is a protected right, and it is important that everyone—including college students—have access to that right, if they so choose. I thank the Governor and my legislative colleagues for upholding the right to choose and affirming the right of college students to access medication abortion on campuses here in California.”

The law will also create a fund to provide a $200,000 grant to each public university student health center to pay for the cost of offering abortion pills, with money coming from nonstate sources such as private sector entities and local and federal government agencies.

The law will only take effect if $10.29 million in private funds are made available by Jan 1, 2020, which funding has already been secured according to an Aug. 12 analysis of the bill by the State Assembly's appropriations committee.

It also requires abortion counseling services to students, but it is “specifically written in such a way to exclude pro-life counseling,” the California Catholic Conference said in a statement on their website.

Former Governor Jerry Brown, a public supporter of abortion, vetoed a similar bill last September, saying it was was “not necessary,” as abortion services are already “widely available” off campus.

The California Catholic Conference was opposed to the law as it passed through the legislature, and last month the group urged Newsom to veto “this unprecedented and unnecessary legislation because it purposely narrows a young woman’s choices and puts the state’s prestigious academic institutions in a position of actually promoting, facilitating and potentially funding only abortions.”

Currently, a majority of campus health centers offer gynecological services and contraceptives, but they will refer students seeking an abortion to an off-campus abortion clinic.

The California Catholic Conference said the bill overemphasizes abortion as an option for college pregnancies. While the bill invites health centers to include abortion counseling services, the conference said it is “specifically written in such a way to exclude pro-life counseling.”

“This bill will promote only abortion-inducing drugs on college campuses,” said Andrew Rivas, executive director of the conference. “No government-funded institution, medical or counseling center, should ever provide only one set of services. If this bill is truly about providing choices for female students, the state should then also require and fund life-affirming services on campus.”

“Offering state-funded abortions as the only alternative to pregnancy undermines the ability of a state academic institution to promote the value of diversity and the empowerment of women,” he added.

Medical abortions involve the taking of two pills - the first, mifepristone, blocks progesterone, which is essential for maintaining the health of the fetus. The second pill, misoprostol, is taken 24 hours after mifepristone and works to induce contractions in order to expel the fetus.

Reverend Ronald Babich

Reverend Ronald Babich granted a personal leave of absence, effective October 11, 2019.  Fr. Babich currently serves as the Pastor of St. Daniel Parish, Clarkston.

Reverend John Maksym

Reverend John Maksym appointed Temporary Administrator of St. Daniel Parish, Clarkston, effective October 11, 2019, in addition to his continuing responsibilities as Parochial Vicar of St. Joseph the Worker Parish, Lake Orion.

Catholics in Detroit, Windsor to unite in prayer for international Rosary Coast to Coast event

Metro Detroit Catholics plan to gather at 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 13 along the Riverwalk at the Detroit Renaissance Center to pray the Rosary while their Canadian neighbors pray within eyesight at the Bert Weeks Memorial Gardens in Windsor. 

The twin prayer gatherings are part of the second annual Rosary Coast to Coast, a series of Rosary prayer rallies happening simultaneously across North America and in 50 countries worldwide. 

“Prayer changes things for the positive and we’re excited to help our nation through the power of the Rosary,” said Leonard St. Pierre, president of the World Apostolate of Fatima’s Detroit Archdiocesan Division, which co-sponsors Detroit’s event. “Uniting with people from across America and around the world to pray at exactly the same time will be an amazing and impactful experience.” 

The Detroit and Windsor coordinators have exchanged large national flags, which will be visible from either side of the river during the rally. Both country’s participants plan to wave the flags in a sign of unity before they begin praying the Rosary. The event will kick-off with the U.S. side singing “God Bless America” as their Canadian friends sing “O Canada.” 

In addition to the Detroit and Windsor locations, Rosary Rallies will take place along U.S. coasts and borders, in front of state capitols and other public buildings, in parks, on beaches, along busy streets as well as inside and outside churches and shrines. In 2018, the first annual Rosary Coast to Coast resulted in more than 1,200 simultaneous rallies held across the U.S., in addition to rallies in more than 50 participating countries worldwide.  

Catholic groups from across America are registered to participate, with a large-scale event scheduled in front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C.  

“Praying the Rosary is a tremendous way for families to pray together and for people to gather in prayer as a public witness to our faith,” said Father Stephen Pullis, director of the Department of Evangelization, Catechesis and Schools for the Archdiocese of Detroit. “The Rosary Rally brings together many faithful Catholics in the Archdiocese of Detroit, reminding our Church and community that Jesus is at the center of our lives and his Mother, Mary, is a powerful intercessor, guide and friend to all the faithful.”

John Azzopardi, Windsor’s event captain, echoed Father Pullis’ prayer.

“We’re blessed to live on a peaceful border between our two countries and to share such a strong friendship between our nations,” Azzopardi said. “We’re happy to be joining our American neighbors in Detroit, and it will be exciting to physically see them as we pray for continued peace on our border and for peace throughout the world.”

The second annual Rosary Rally falls on the feast of Our Lady of the Fatima, who in 1917 appeared to three shepherd children in Portugal and encouraged them to pray the Rosary daily for world peace.  

Rosaries and miniature American flags will be offered free to the first 300 people to arrive at the Detroit event. Those who cannot attend a rally are encouraged to unite in spirit with participants worldwide, by praying the Rosary at 4 p.m. wherever they can. For more information on how to participate in Rosary Coast to Coast, please call (313) 320-7887.

Reverend James Kean

Reverend James Kean appointed Temporary Administrator of St. Perpetua Parish, Waterford, with the assistance of Deacon Robert Gajda, appointed Deacon Coordinator.  Deacon Gajda, under the auspices of Father Kean, will manage the day-to-day operations of the parish, being attentive to the needs of the parish, and report those to Father Kean.  These assignments are effective September 30, 2019, in addition to Father Kean’s continuing responsibilities as Pastor of St. Damien of Molokai Parish, Pontiac; and Deacon Gajda’s continuing responsibilities as Deacon of St. Perpetua Parish, Waterford.

Monsignor John Zenz

Reverend Monsignor John Zenz appointed Temporary Administrator of St. Lucy (Croatian-American) Parish, Troy, effective October 3, 2019, in addition to his continuing responsibilities as Pastor of Holy Name Parish, Birmingham.