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New global Catholic rules against sex abuse build on decades of work

May 31, 2019 CNA Daily News 0

Vatican City, May 31, 2019 / 03:05 pm (CNA).- The Vatican’s global norms mandating sex abuse reporting take effect June 1, but two North American archdioceses say their recent decades’ work against clergy sex abuse means they are largely already compliant with the new global requirements for the Catholic Church.

“We recognize that trust needs to be regained and that we must work every day to earn that trust. That’s why viewing this from a global perspective is important,” Neil MacCarthy, director of public relations and communications at the Archdiocese of Toronto, told CNA. “It’s not just about Toronto having a responsible approach in place. It’s trying to ensure that this is a priority of the global Church – that we are all concerned for the safety and well-being of those involved in our ministries.”

“When any diocese experiences a case of sexual abuse, it is a wound to every one of us. People don’t tend to distinguish between one diocese or another so it really is a ‘Catholic Church issue’,” MacCarthy added. “That’s a huge challenge and in our own dioceses we need to do all that we can to regain that trust, one day at a time.”

Pope Francis promulgated the new norms May 9 in a document titled Vos estis lux mundi, or “You are the Light of the World.”

The norms establish that clerics and religious are obliged to report sexual abuse accusations to the local ordinary where the abuse occurred. Every diocese must have a mechanism for reporting abuse.
When a suffragan bishop is accused, the metropolitan archbishop – that is, the head of the region’s archdiocese – is placed in charge of the investigation.

Sexual abuse of minors is not the only focus. With the new norms, the coercion of seminarians and religious into sexual activity through the misuse of authority is placed in the same criminal category as abuse of minors and vulnerable adults.

The document is a motu proprio, a Church instruction that reflects the Pope’s personal judgement. The norms of Vos estis lux mundi are approved for an experimental basis for a period of three years.

“The crimes of sexual abuse offend Our Lord, cause physical, psychological and spiritual damage to the victims and harm the community of the faithful,” Pope Francis said in the document. “Therefore, it is good that procedures be universally adopted to prevent and combat these crimes that betray the trust of the faithful.”

The Toronto archdiocese is reviewing the document and believes that “key elements” of the norms are already present in archdiocesan procedures.

“We don’t view these as new responsibilities. Rather, they are building on what has been in place for us since 1989. We must foster a safe environment for every person who interacts with the Archdiocese of Toronto,” MacCarthy said.

MacCarthy pointed to the Canadian bishops’ 2018 document “Protecting Minors from Sexual Abuse: A Call to the Catholic Faithful in Canada for Healing, Reconciliation, and Transformation.” It has over 60 recommendations for dioceses on how to implement their protocols on sex abuse.

The Archdiocese of Denver said its initial review of the document concluded that the mandatory reporting policies and reporting mechanisms are already part of the archdiocese’s code of conduct and its Office of Child and Youth Protection.

The new norms “mirror many of the policies put in place in the United States by the 2002 Dallas Charter,” said the archdiocese, referring to the Charter for the Protection of Young People approved at the U.S. bishops’ spring 2002 assembly held in Dallas in the wake of widespread reports of clergy sex abuse of children and failure of Church authorities to keep known abusers away from minors.

“In Denver, we have had mandatory reporting and strict sexual misconduct policies since 1991, that were further strengthened by the 2002 Charter, and consistently updated every few years,” the Denver archdiocese said.

It suggested that the main change required by the document is the establishment of reporting and investigating procedures for allegations against bishops. Such discussions began at the US bishops’ fall assembly in November 2018, and “will no doubt be resumed at the next bishops’ meeting in June.”

“We would echo what Cardinal Daniel D. DiNardo has said, that we too are grateful for the opportunity to build upon the excellent foundation and existing framework already in place here in the United States,” said the archdiocese.

“Protecting our children and our most vulnerable is a sacred responsibility of the Catholic Church, and the Archdiocese of Denver is committed to seeking justice and healing for survivors and to restoring the trust of people to live their faith in the Church,” the archdiocese added.

It cited Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver: “May Jesus, who is the way, the truth and the life guide us, and may we keep our eyes fixed on him who alone can bring healing and peace.”

MacCarthy said the new norms are “a positive step forward for the global Church,” adding, that there are many countries around the world with “no policies or procedures in place whatsoever.”

“It is important to view this document in the context of the global Church and the impact it can have in bringing everyone up to a minimum standard,” he said. “In North America, we have been deeply immersed in trying to address the abuse crisis for decades. We must remember this isn’t the case in many jurisdictions and hopefully the collective effort can have an impact.”

“The Archdiocese of Toronto has had a policy and procedure relating to allegations of abuse in place since 1989,” MacCarthy explained. The policy has been revised multiple times, with the last revision in October 2018.

“Every employee of the archdiocese has a responsibility to report any credible allegation of abuse,” said MacCarthy. “In the case of minors, our policy explicitly states that we must inform the appropriate civil authorities ‘within one hour within one hour or as soon thereafter as circumstances will reasonably permit’.”

The mechanism for reporting abuse and communicating with any victim is “very clear.” Victims are told that going to civil authorities is always an option.

“In the case of bishops, they are subject to both civil law and canon law as they relate to the issue of abuse or misconduct,” said MacCarthy, who stressed the importance of continuing education about sex abuse protection.

“We are one of the largest groups in the country involved in police background checks and screening clergy, staff and volunteers in ministry,” he said. “The more education we can do with our clergy, staff and volunteers, the more effective we will all be in ensuring that a safe environment is a priority for every parish.”

In the U.S., clergy sex abuse of minors peaked in the mid-1970s before going into a long decline which some researchers say mirrors a general countrywide decline in sex abuse of children.

Father D. Paul Sullins, a Catholic priest and retired Catholic University of America sociology professor, has warned that there are signs of a new rise in the rate of sex abuse by clergy and warns of possible complacency among bishops and dioceses.


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Prostitution is an ‘inherently violent’ practice, say critics of decriminalization

May 31, 2019 CNA Daily News 3

New York City, N.Y., May 31, 2019 / 02:49 pm (CNA).- Marijuana, mushrooms, and now prostitution: decriminalization as a legal tactic for handling previously (or currently) illicit activities is a growing trend, and lawmakers in multiple states are now considering bills that could decriminalize the buying and selling of sex, to varying degrees.

The push to decriminalize prostitution is happening primarily in Democrat-led state legislatures, including in New York, Maine, Massechusets, Washington, D.C., and in Rhode Island, which is considering a proposal that would study the impact of decriminalizing prostitution, according to the New York Times.

“This is about the oldest profession, and understanding that we haven’t been able to deter or end it, in millennia,” Senator Jessica Ramos, a Democrat from Queens, told the New York Times. “So I think it’s time to confront reality.”

New York Democrats plan to introduce a proposal that would decriminalize prostitution both for the men, women and children who are prostituted, and for those who buy their services. Other efforts focus on criminally prosecuting pimps and buyers of prostitutes, but offer social services to the prostitutes themselves, rather than criminal charges, which is sometimes called the Nordic Model or the End Demand Model.

Currently, prostitution is only legal in the United States in 10 Nevada counties. A bill pushing to make prostitution illegal throughout the whole state of Nevada died in committee in April.

Critics of total decriminalization say that it would only further facilitate and legitimize criminal activity like sex trafficking and child prostitution.

Ane Mathieson is a program specialist at Sanctuary for Families, a Manhattan-based organization that serves victims of domestic violence and is part of an anti-decriminalization coalition.

“Prostitution is inherently violent,” Mathieson told the New York Times. “Sex buying promotes sex trafficking, promotes pimping and organized crime, and sexual exploitation of children.”

Laura Ramirez, a representative with international feminist group AF3IRM, said at a protest against decriminalization in New York that she was “absolutely appalled at the fact that this is being sold as something that’s progressive.”

“This proposed legislation is the most classist, racist and absolutely obtuse legislation that we have ever seen,” Ramirez said, according to the New York Times. “Women and girls of this state deserve better.”

Decriminalization proponents point to countries in Europe, like Germany and the Netherlands, where prostitution has been decriminalized for years. However, critics of decriminalization say that this ignores the problems that these countries have had as a result of the decriminalization of prostitution.

Tina Frundt, a survivor of child sex trafficking and founder of Courtney’s House, which helps victims of domestic sex trafficking and commercial sex exploitation, told CNA in 2015 that the decriminalization of prostitution would be a “terrible idea.”

“This has been tried and failed – in the Netherlands, in Germany – they’ve closed down over 30 brothels because we are talking about a criminal industry that we are trying to legalize,” Frundt said at the time. She said that women and underage girls from other countries were trafficked to places with legalized markets and given fake IDs, so that they could work in a legitimized market.

“Criminals think like criminals. It’s a die-hard criminal business making millions,” she added.

Frundt spoke with CNA in 2015 after global human rights organization Amnesty International announced that it supported the worldwide decriminalization of prostitution.

Candace Wheeler, a therapist with Restoration Ministries who works with victims of sex trafficking, also spoke with CNA in 2015.

Wheeler said she was skeptical of decriminalization efforts, based on what she’s seen in other countries.

“What they have found (in Amsterdam) is that tolerance is not protecting women who are in prostitution there, because it’s mostly women who are trafficked from other countries, and they are realizing that their tolerance is a huge problem,” Wheeler said.

“If it’s decriminalized, then that just opens up the door for that kind of business. We could have established brothels and red light districts, and then crime comes with that, and drugs – and I am the person that gets to see them afterwards and try and heal them.”


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Edinburgh council may strip religious reps’ votes on education

May 31, 2019 CNA Daily News 1

Edinburgh, Scotland, May 31, 2019 / 11:44 am (CNA).- A priest in Edinburgh has written to oppose a suggestion in Edinburgh council to strip voting rights from religious representatives on the education committee.

The Scottish government has decided that while religious representatives must be appointed to council areas’ education committees, they do not have to be afforded voting rights on those committees. The Humanist Society Scotland is urging the country’s 32 council areas to deny religious representatives a vote on education committees.

Perth and Kinross Council withdrew religious representatives’ voting rights earlier this month.

The Edinburgh Evening News reported May 30 that City of Edinburgh council members from the Scottish Green Party, supported by the Scottish Liberal Democrats, proposed that religious representatives on the education, children and families committee lose their voting rights. They also proposed that parents and youths be given more representation, though also without voting rights.

Msgr. Anthony Duffy, a priest of the Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh, wrote the council to call the proposal “deeply disappointing and a very sad development”.

He added that it “endangers the very harmonious and positive relationship which has existed for many years between the council and the church,” and lamented that “there have been no formal discussions regarding this matter.”

“The church hopes that the views of people of faith continue to be important to members of Edinburgh City Council,” Msgr. Duffy wrote. “When making a decision on this matter we would ask that councillors note that almost 20 per cent of the school estate and pupil population of Edinburgh City Council is within their Catholic schools, chosen by members of the electorate, who are from all faiths and none.”

Councillors of the Scottish Conservative Party have called any decision on the matter to be postponed until August, after an appeal of Perth and Kinross’ decision can be sorted.

The Edinburgh council is administered by the Scottish National Party and the Scottish Labour Party.

Mary Campbell, the Green councillor who made the proposal, said that “the Catholic Church representative is out of touch with councillors.”

She added: “It’s 2019. It’s no longer appropriate for religious representatives to have special status on education committee, although they will still be able to take part in debate, just as parents can currently do.”

Catholic schools in Scotland are part of the state system, and are not owned by the Church. The Church does have rights over the content of religious and moral education at its schools.

The head of the Scottish Catholic Education Service has said that its representatives on education committees “do not vote on matters that will not impact on Catholic schools” and that “the Church representative on the education committee has an invaluable role in articulating the official response of the Catholic Church on these matters.”

The Bishop of Dunkeld has met with Perth and Kinross councillors to discuss that council’s decision to remove voting rights from religious representatives.


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Pope Francis in Romania: Imitate Mary’s joy in the visitation

May 31, 2019 CNA Daily News 1

Bucharest, Romania, May 31, 2019 / 11:18 am (CNA).- Pope Francis celebrated Mass in Bucharest for the feast of the Visitation Friday, encouraging Catholics in Romania to imitate Mary’s humble joy in the little things in life.

“Mary journeys, encounters, and rejoices because she carries something greater than herself: she is the bearer of a blessing. Like her, may we too be unafraid to bear the blessing that Romania needs,” Pope Francis said May 31 in Bucharest’s St. Joseph Cathedral.

“This is the secret of every Christian: God is in our midst as a powerful saviour. Our certainty of this enables us, like Mary, to sing and exult with joy,” he said.

Pope Francis said that contemplating Mary can help one realize the quiet sacrifices, devotion, and self-denial made by so many mothers and grandmothers who are unafraid to ‘roll up their sleeves’ and shoulder difficulties for the sake of their children and families.

“As a good mother, Mary knows that love grows daily amid the little things of life,” he said. “A mother’s love and ingenuity was able to turn a stable into a home for Jesus, with poor swaddling clothes and an abundance of love.”

“Mary, lowly and humble, starts from God’s greatness and despite her problems – which were not few – she is filled with joy, for she entrusts herself to the Lord in all things. She reminds us that God can always work wonders if we open our hearts to him and to our brothers and sisters,” he explained.

The feast of the Visitation celebrates the Virgin Mary’s journey to visit her cousin Elizabeth, who recognizes the unborn Messiah in Mary’s womb.

“Mary journeys from Nazareth to the house of Zechariah and Elizabeth. It is the first of Mary’s journeys, as related by the Scriptures. The first of many,” Pope Francis said in his homily.

“She will journey from Galilee to Bethlehem, where Jesus will be born; she will go down to Egypt to save her Child from Herod; she will go up again every year to Jerusalem for the Passover, and ultimately she will follow Jesus to Calvary,” he said.

Pope Francis explained that these journeys all have one thing in common: “they were never easy; they always required courage and patience.”

“They tell us that Our Lady knows what it means to walk uphill … She knows what it is to be weary of walking and she can take us by the hand amid our difficulties, in the most perilous twists and turns in our life’s journey,” he said.

The Holy Spirit “urges us as Christians to experience the miraculous motherhood of the Church, as she seeks out, protects and gathers her children,” Pope Francis said.

“Let us think of the great witnesses of these lands: simple persons who trusted in God in the midst of persecution. They did not put their hope in the world, but in the Lord, and thus they persevered,” he urged.

The Mass concluded the first day of Pope Francis’ May 31- June 2 apostolic visit to Romania. On Saturday Pope Francis will travel to northeastern Romania to visit the Cathedral of Our Lady Queen of Iași, ahead of the beatification of seven martyred Greek-Catholic bishops in Transylvania on Sunday.