Vatican City, Sep 18, 2019 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- This week, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, president of the German bishops’ conference, travels to Rome. There he will meet with Cardinal Marc Ouellet, head of the Vatican’s […]
Buffalo, N.Y., Sep 18, 2019 / 04:05 pm (CNA).- Bishop Richard Malone of Buffalo, New York is facing fresh calls for his resignation, after a local news organization commissioned a poll that suggests a majority of Catholics and lapsed Catholics in the diocese would like to see him step down because of his alleged mishandling of clerical sexual abuse cases.
A poll commissioned by The Buffalo News has found that among a sample of 473 Erie and Niagara County residents surveyed, nearly 86% said they believe Malone should step down. All of those surveyed self-identified as either “Catholic” or “lapsed Catholic.”
Of those surveyed, just 3% said they thought Malone should continue as bishop.
The diocese is home to over half a million Catholics out of a total population of 1.5 million.
In addition, local reporter Charlie Specht reported Sept. 17 that St. Joseph University Parish in northeast Buffalo took a poll at Masses last weekend, and found that of those surveyed, 504 parishioners wanted Malone to resign and 24 parishioners want him to stay.
Malone has so far remained firm in his conviction to remain as bishop, at least until he reaches the normal retirement age for bishops at 75. He is 73 now.
“I’m here because I feel an obligation as the one who was sent here to lead this diocese, to carry on, and once again, if I thought that the majority of Catholic people in particular were calling for my resignation, that would be a different story,” Malone said at a Sept. 4 news conference, as reported by The Buffalo News.
At least two whistleblowers with high-level access in the diocese— Malone’s former executive assistant and former priest secretary— have gone public with accusations that Malone mishandled several cases of sexual abuse by priests in the diocese, some of which involved minors.
One such case involves a priest accused of sending inappropriate Facebook messages to a minor. Malone reinstated the priest, Father Art Smith, to ministry in 2012 and allowed him not only to work at a diocesan Catholic youth conference, but also to minister at a nursing home, where reports of inappropriate conduct with adults later surfaced. Smith is currently listed on the diocesan page for clergy with substantiated claims of sexual abuse of a minor.
In Sept. 2019, local news station WKBW released recordings of private conversations between Bishop Malone and Fr. Ryszard Biernat, Malone’s former priest secretary, which appear to show that Malone believed sexual harassment accusations made against a diocesan priest months before the diocese removed the priest from ministry.
Biernat recorded the conversations as the bishop discussed how to deal with accusations against Fr. Jeffrey Nowak by then-seminarian Matthew Bojanowski, who in a January letter to Malone accused Nowak of grooming him, sexually harassing him, and violating the Seal of the Confessional.
In an Aug. 2 conversation, Malone can reportedly be heard saying, “We are in a true crisis situation. True crisis. And everyone in the office is convinced this could be the end for me as bishop.”
In another, earlier conversation from March, Bishop Malone seems to acknowledge the legitimacy of Bojanowski’s accusation against Nowak months before the diocese removed Nowak from active ministry.
WKBW published a report about allegations against Nowak in May. Nowak was not removed from ministry until Aug. 7, after the seminarian’s mother accused Malone of allowing Fr. Nowak to remain in ministry despite the allegations against him.
Biernat says he made the secret recording after Nowak became jealous of Biernat and Bojanowski’s close friendship.
According to a conversation taped Aug. 2, the bishop was concerned that media coverage would focus on a possible “love triangle” between Nowak, Bojanowski, and Biernat.
Biernat also says he was a victim of sexual abuse by Father Art Smith. He alleges that Auxiliary Bishop Grosz threatened to halt his ordination as a priest and have him deported to Poland after Biernat complained in 2004 to Buffalo Diocese administrators that Smith sexually assaulted him, according to The Buffalo News. Grosz denies this.
Biernat was also vice-chancellor of the diocese for a time, and was required to notarize documents from Bishop Malone keeping Father Smith in ministry.
Biernat is currently on a voluntary leave of absence.
Smith denies the allegations of abuse made against him. The diocese includes Smith’s name on its list of clergy with credible allegations of abuse of a minor.
The diocese has responded to various allegations of mishandling abuse cases by Malone, stating in August that “Bishop Malone has never allowed any priest with a credible allegation of abusing a minor to remain in ministry.”
“The bishop very much respects area Catholics’ right to express their opinion,” diocesan spokeswoman Kathy Spangler told The Buffalo News in response to the poll.
The diocese did not respond to CNA’s request for further comment on the poll by press time.
Portland, Maine, Sep 18, 2019 / 03:30 pm (CNA).- Bishop Robert Deeley of Portland, Maine, has expressed his disappointment at the failure of efforts to force a public vote on the legalization of physician-assisted suicide and taxpayer-funded abortion i… […]
Washington D.C., Sep 18, 2019 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- A new study from a Planned Parenthood thinktank released on Wednesday has found that abortion in the United States have dropped to its lowest rate since the procedure was made legal in 1973.
The report from the Guttmacher Institute, the research arm of Planned Parenthood, estimated that there were approximately 862,000 abortions in 2017. The rate of 13.5 abortions per 1,000 “women of reproductive age,” marks a drop of 3.4 from 2011, and half of the rate in 1980.
Overall, the total number of abortions fell by 196,000 over the past six years, with just over 500,000 of 2017 abortions carried out via abortion pills, as opposed to a surgical method.
The report suggested that increased availability of contraception, including long-term contraceptives such as intrauterine devices, not state laws restricting abortion, were responsible for the drop. This conclusion was disputed by the pro-life organization the Charlotte Lozier Institute, which suggested that cultural change over time has played a significant role.
“We welcome the new report showing the decline in both the abortion rate and the overall number of abortions from 2011 to 2017. There are several reasons for this positive news, including factors that Guttmacher does their best to ignore,” said Chuck Donovan, president of the Charlotte Lozier Institute.
“American mothers are increasingly choosing life for their children, as well as choosing to identify themselves with the pro-life cause and pro-life policies. This includes the broad protections for women and children being enacted at the state level such as strengthened health and safety standards for abortion facilities, limits on public funding of abortion, parental involvement laws, and increased informed consent,” he added.
Donovan also expressed concern at the increasing percentage of women who opt to end their pregnancies using chemical abortifacients. This, he said, “reveals the abortion industry’s increasingly successful effort to cut the overhead costs of surgical abortion while still profiting off the destruction of unborn children and wounding of his or her mother.”
“The industry’s migration to chemical self-abortion is deeply disturbing as it carries with it the possibility of increasing the overall abortion rate over time and also carries with it a higher rate of injury, about which women are often under informed or deceived,” he added.
Guttmacher’s report found that nearly one out of five abortion clinics, or “nonhospital facilities,” had reported treating a woman who had attempted and failed to induce an abortion on her own. They termed this a “self-managed abortion.”
There are many organizations that will facilitate delivery of abortion drugs to women through the mail, and they are easily accessed online.
The new data on the lowest abortion rates recorded comes just weeks after a report on declining pregnancies and fertility rates in the United States.
In July, the CDC confirmed that fertility rates in the United States had dropped to their lowest rate ever.
“The 2018 general fertility rate fell to another all-time low for the United States,” researchers with the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics wrote in a July 24 report.
The fertility rate among women aged 15 to 44 dropped 2% between 2017 and 2018, from 60.3 births per 1,000 women aged 15-44, to 59.1.
According to the early statistical release from the NCHS in May, the total fertility rate, or average number of children born per woman, stands at 1.7, well below the demographic replacement bar of 2.1.
In 2018, fewer than 3.8 million children were born in the country. Since a peak in 2007, birth rates have fallen in all but one of the last 11 years. The results also show a continued trend of lower fertility among younger women over the last decade.
Quito, Ecuador, Sep 18, 2019 / 12:15 pm (CNA).- A bill to decriminalize abortion in all cases of rape failed in the Ecuadorian legislature Tuesday, amid opposition from the Church and civil organizations.
It would have allowed abortion also in cases of non-viable fetal deformity, incest, and nonconsensual artificial insemination.
Sixty-five members of the unicameral National Assembly voted in favor of the bill Sept. 17, five short of the number needed for it to pass. Fifty-nine voted against the bill, and six abstained.
Abortion is legal in Ecuador only in cases of the rape of a woman with mental disabilities or when the mother’s life is determined to be at risk.
The bill to decriminalize abortion in some cases was introduced to the full legislature in January.
The proposal was first made in 2016, and it was approved by the legislature’s Justice and the Structure of the State Commission in December 2018.
Some legislators proposed that instead of decriminalizing the abortion of children conceived in rape, rapists be given greater penalties.
Tens of thousands of Ecuadorians marched on the streets of Guayaquil in June to protest the bill, as well as to support marriage, conscience protectiosn, and parental rights.
Archbishop Alfredo José Espinoza Mateus of Quito issued a statement Sept. 17 saying, “abortion cannot be the answer that a civilized society gives to the pain and anguish of women, men, and their families. Talking about abortion as a solution is a painful irony … abortion cannot be a ‘solution’, it is a drama, a failure of every society.”
“Neither the embryo nor the fetus is a simple part of the mother’s body that carries it; it is in it and depends on it, but it is a biologically different reality and is not comparable to any other part of the woman’s body. The first solidarity and the first hospitality that every human being finds is the maternal womb. It is the first experience of welcome and tenderness,” Archbishop Espinoza continued.
He said, “no law that legalizes the death of a defenseless human being can be ethical … The pregnant woman knows well that she carries a human life in its beginnings.”
The archbishop added: “Abortion does not remedy rape. The child conceived through rape is completely innocent. We must work on the prevention and care and protection of girls and young people in our country. Defending the life of the conceived child does not mean defending, protecting, or covering up rapists, or approving violations.”
Together with leader of evangelical ecclesial communities, the Archdiocese of Guayaquil organized a day of prayer for life held Sept. 16 that invoked God’s wisdom and strength for the country’s legislators.
The Ecuadorian constitution states that “girls, boys and adolescents shall enjoy the rights common to human beings, in addition to those specific to their age. The state shall recognize and guarantee life including its care and protection from conception.”
An effort to expand abortion access in Ecuador also failed in 2013.
Women who procure abortion in Ecuador can face up to two years imprisonment.
Niamey, Niger, Sep 18, 2019 / 12:05 pm (CNA).- One year ago, Fr. Luigi Macalli was abducted in the middle of the night, from his parish Church in Niger. The priest remains missing, and his friends and family say they have no idea where he is.
“On Tuesday, 17 September 2019, we commemorate the first anniversary of the abduction of our Italian SMA confrere, Fr. Pier Luigi Maccalli,” the Society of African Missions, Macalli’s religious community, posted online Tuesday.
“It is a sad day for the Society of African Missions, for his missionary brothers, his family and especially for the people of Niger whom Fr. Luigi served with great faithfulness and love.”
Macalli was kidnapped from his parish in remote Bomanga, near the border between Niger and Burkina Faso, in western Africa. The identity, affiliation, and motivation of the kidnappers is not clear.
“We are in silence and prayer,” Fr. Salako Désiré, provincial superior of the SMA’s Benin-Niger province, told ACI Africa Tuesday.
The society has asked supporters to continue praying that Macalli will be found alive and in good health.
Maccalli, an Italian, had been a missionary in Ivory Coast for several years before he was sent 12 years ago to the Archdiocese of Niamey, in Niger. Remote areas of the diocese lack roads, telephone service, and other infrastructure.
Another priest was with Macalli on the night he was abducted, and managed to escape. The priest said that armed kidnappers took Macalli’s cell phone and computer when they abducted the priest.
Weeks into his abduction, there were reports that Maccalli might have been taken across Niger’s border into Burkina Faso where jihadist militants have camps in the region’s forests. There have been, however, no demands for ransom or other communications from his kidnappers.
Named after the Niger River, the Republic of the Niger is bordered by Libya to the northeast, Chad to the East, Benin to the southwest, Nigeria to the South, Algeria to northwest, and Mali and Burkina Faso to the West. The country is predominantly Muslim; less than one percent of Niger’s people are Christians.
A version of this story was first published by CNA’s partner agency, ACI Africa. It has been adapted by CNA.
Washington D.C., Sep 18, 2019 / 11:40 am (CNA).- The Senate voted Wednesday to confirm a prominent Catholic law professor to a high-ranking State Department position.
By a margin of 49 to 44, Robert Destro, a law professor at Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law, was confirmed by the Senate as the next Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) joined Democrats in opposition to Destro’s confirmation.
“Robert Destro is one of the nation’s experts on human rights, both in terms of international law and the moral basis for human rights,” Thomas Farr, president of the Religious Freedom Institute, told CNA in a statement, noting Destro’s experience both as a human rights scholar and activist “in the best sense of that term.”
Destro’s new role at the State Department is tasked with promoting democracy, civic and religious freedom around the world.
It “is the senior human rights position in American diplomacy,” Farr said, charged with promoting human rights “not simply as the right thing to do (which it is), but also as a strategic interest of the United States.”
“Destro will excel in both tasks,” Farr said.
Destro is the founding director of the Interdisciplinary Program in Law & Religion at Catholic University; he previously served as a Commissioner on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights from 1983 to 1989, addressing issues of discrimination on the basis of disability, national origin, and religion.
He has also served on the State Department’s Working Group on Religion in Foreign Affairs, as well as the special counsel for voting rights for the Ohio Secretary of State from 2004 to 2006.
Stephen C. Payne, dean of Catholic’s law school, said he was “thrilled” by the appointment, and that in Destro the “country — and the rest of the world — is getting a strong advocate and leader for Democracy and Human Rights, and we wish him well.”
The appointment was also welcomed by Toufic Baaklini, president of the group In Defense of Christians (IDC), who cited Destro’ years of work with the group and called him “a critical leader in the fight for genocide recognition for victims of ISIS in Iraq and Syria” and “a powerful voice for religious freedom in the Middle East, and throughout the world.”
Senate Democrats questioned Destro at his confirmation hearing in March over the role of religion in foreign affairs as well as the redefinition of marriage.
Destro said that he would work to improve both training on religious freedom and understanding of the role of religion in foreign affairs within the State Department, and cited his own past work bringing various religious groups together on the international stage.
Destro said that he had learned from “the many years that I have been dealing with the State Department” that many at the agency “have had a hard time dealing with the issue of religion, and that’s one of the issues I’d like to bring to their attention.”
Later in the hearing, he explained that the Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act of 2016—authored by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) and signed into law by President Obama—required religious freedom training for all foreign service officers.
Destro said he would work to expand on that, saying that “not only do the foreign service officers need to be trained, but so do the lawyers at the State Department and at USAID.”
“I think that we need to bring people together, and I’ve devoted most of my career, for at least the last 16 years, to doing just that,” he said of bringing religious groups together.
Vatican City, Sep 18, 2019 / 04:34 am (CNA).- Because of sinfulness, human projects will always fail, but the Church remains steadfast, even in times of scandal, because she is sustained by the Holy Spirit, Pope Francis said Wednesday.
“Let us t… […]
Denver, Colo., Sep 18, 2019 / 04:00 am (CNA).- A dispute has developed between Facebook fact checkers and a pro-life group about whether abortion is ever medically necessary. One philosophy professor suggested the key to resolving the discussion lies i… […]
The eminent sociologist Peter Rossi was a world-class punster whose scholarly accomplishments fed a sometimes-whimsical view of the human condition — in which, Rossi memorably observed, “there are many ironies in the fire.” That’s certainly […]