No Picture
News Briefs

Three churches reportedly burned down in Sudan

January 28, 2020 CNA Daily News 0

Khartoum, Sudan, Jan 28, 2020 / 04:27 pm (CNA).- According to a local rights group in Sudan, three churches in a town were burnt down in December 2019 and quickly rebuilt, only to be burnt down again earlier this month.

Human Rights and Development Organization said that a Catholic church, an Orthodox church, and a Sudan Internal Church in Bout were burnt down on both Dec. 28 and Jan. 16; the church buildings had been rebuilt in the interim. Bout is the capital of Tadamoun district in Blue Nile state, more than 300 miles southeast of Khartoum.

According to HUDO, the alleged arsons were reported to Bout police each time, “but police did not investigate further or put preventive measures.”

The human rights organization has decried the attack and criticized the government for negligence of religious freedom.

But the Sundanese religious affairs minister, Nasr al-Din Mufreh, has claimed that only one church had been attacked twice.

The Sudan Tribune reported that Mufreh stated “Sudan’s full commitment to protecting religious freedoms.”

“If it is proven that it occurred as a result of a criminal offence, the perpetrators will be identified, pursued and brought to justice,” he said. He added that a suspect had been interrogated, but was released for lack of evidence.

Mufreh added that “The Ministry of Religious Affairs and the Blue Nile state government have committed themselves to build a church with modern materials (…) and taking appropriate measure for its future protection.”

Sudan was listed as a Country of Particular Concern for its religious freedom record by the US Department of State from 1999 to 2019.

In December 2019, it was moved to the Special Watch List “due to significant steps taken by the civilian-led transitional government to address the previous regime’s ‘systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom.’”

Sudan had been under the military dictatorship of Omar al-Bashir since 1989, but pro-democracy protests led to his overthrow in April 2019. The country is now led by a transitional government.

According to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, under Bashir the government “actively promoted and enforced a strict interpretation of Sunni Islam and imposed religious-based constraints on Muslims and non-Muslims.”

At least 90 percent of Sudan’s population is Muslim, and sharia is the source of the nation’s legislation. Apostasy from Islam is punishable by the death penalty.

[…]

No Picture
News Briefs

Trump and Netanyahu propose two-state plan for Israel-Palestine peace

January 28, 2020 CNA Daily News 0

Washington D.C., Jan 28, 2020 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proposed a new peace plan for the Middle East on Tuesday. The plan includes an independent Palestinian state with a capital in East Jerusalem. 

Trump said Jan. 28 that the plan offers a “win-win opportunity for both sides” and a “realistic two-state solution that resolves the risk of Palestinian statehood to Israel’s security.” 

“This is the first time Israel has authorized the release of a conceptual map, illustrating the territorial consequences it’s willing to make for the cause of peace,” said Trump. “And they’ve gone a long way. This is an unprecedented and highly significant development.” 

Netanyahu, who was in Washington on Tuesday for the unveiling of the plan, also used the term “realistic” when describing the proposal and said that it “strikes the right balance where others have failed.” 

Despite optimism from the two leaders, the proposal was not welcomed by the Palestinian Authority. President Mahmoud Abbas said in a statement on Tuesday evening that the proposal “will not pass.” Protests erupted in Gaza following the announcement of the plan.

Under the terms of the proposal, the Palestinian state would have a capital city called Al-Quds, the Arabic name for Jerusalem, which would include parts of East Jerusalem. Despite this, Trump insisted that Jerusalem would also remain “Israel’s undivided–very important–undivided capital.” The United States moved their embassy in Israel to Jerusalem in 2017. 

Under the plan, none of Jerusalem’s Old City or territory within the current security wall would be ceded to the  Palestinian state. The agreement also preserves the status quo policy regarding control of various religious sites, including the site of the Temple Mount and Al Aqsa Mosque, and, under the proposal, Muslims would still have access to the site. 

The plan also proposes the construction of a “West Bank-Gaza Tunnel” to connect the two halves of the new state, and that a third of the Gaza Strip be designated as a “high-tech manufacturing industrial zone.” 

Trump claimed Tuesday that the plan would “more than double Palestinian territory” without causing additional displacement for either Israelis or Palestinians. The plan includes provision for a “land freeze” over the next four years to maintain the borders of the proposed Palestinian state. 

As part of the plan, Trump also pledged $50 billion towards the Palestinian state for job creation and poverty reduction. Trump said that if Abbas and the Palestinian Authority “choose the path to peace,” that the United States and other countries “will be there, we will be there to help you in so many different ways.” 

After the announcement of the plan, Trump sent out a variety of tweets in English, Hebrew, and Arabic championing the proposal.

 “I will always stand with the State of Israel and the Jewish people. I strongly support their safety and security and their right to live in their historic homeland. It’s time for peace!” the president tweeted in English and Hebrew.

“This is what a future State of Palestine can look like, with a capital in parts of East Jerusalem,” Trump tweeted in Arabic and English. Both tweets included a map of the proposed two states. 

Parts of the proposed plan would seem to be in line with the Holy See’s stated preferences for a lasting peace in the Holy Land.

Monsignor Fredrik Hansen, chargé d’affaires of the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See, told the UN Security Council on Jan. 22 that Pope Francis continues to advocate for a two-state solution and a status quo policy in Jerusalem for shared religious sites. 

“Indeed, the appeal to maintain the status quo of the holy sites of Jerusalem, dear to Jews, Christians and Muslims in virtue of their religion and important for the cultural heritage of the whole human family, is one that has been repeatedly made,” said Hansen. 

Pope Francis, Hansen said, wishes for Jerusalem to live out “its vocation as a city of peace,” which can be a symbolic location of peace and encounter, with respect between religions and continued dialogue.

[…]

No Picture
News Briefs

Supreme Court allows ‘public burden’ rule for migrants, but Catholic leaders object

January 28, 2020 CNA Daily News 0

Washington D.C., Jan 28, 2020 / 01:15 pm (CNA).- A Trump administration rule defining more low-income immigrants as a public burden may go into effect, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled this week. Catholic leaders decried the ruling, saying it will harm families’ ability to secure basic services and that it represents a radical departure from American traditions.

“We implore the administration to reconsider this harsh and unnecessary policy and rescind it in its entirety,” Sister Donna Markham O.P., president and CEO of Catholic Charities USA, said Jan. 27. “By allowing this harmful policy to go into effect, the administration imposes a chilling effect on access to basic services, creating fear among eligible individuals threatening family unity and stability.”

“We will be judged on how we treat the hungry, the homeless and the stranger among us and this decision signals a watershed change of course from the best moments of our American heritage of welcoming immigrants and refugees,” Markham said.

The rule change expands the criteria under which immigrants would be ineligible for a green card, encompassing those who use public benefits on a more temporary basis than the previous standards.

Catholic Charities USA said the rule harms families, targets legal immigrants, and could prevent families from securing basic nutrition and housing assistance.

The U.S. Supreme Court sided with the Trump administration in a 5-4 vote on Jan. 27 to overturn a nationwide injunction against the rule. The justices did not comment on the merits of the case. However, Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, joined by Justice Clarence Thomas, issued a concurring opinion objecting to the use of nationwide injunctions.

The decision means the new rule can go to effect in every state except for Illinois, a separate case. The rule will still face legal challenge in several courts across the country.

Immigrant advocates and several states had challenged the rule, saying it would impose costs on the states and penalize immigrants who rely on temporary government assistance. They objected that it limited access to green cards for low-income immigrants seeking legal entry to the U.S. or seeking to remain legally.

The concept of a “public charge” dates back to at least 1882, when federal lawmakers wanted to ensure that immigrants were independent and would not burden public services.

Since 1996, government regulations had defined a public charge as someone who is “primarily dependent” on government assistance, meaning this assistance supplies more than half their income through cash benefits, such as the Temporary Aid for Needy Families or Supplemental Security Income from Social Security, CNN reports.

Previously, fewer than 1% of applicants were disqualified on public charge grounds.

Under the Trump administration rules announced in August 2019, “noncash benefits providing for basic needs such as housing or food” count towards consideration of whether a person would be a public charge. These include most forms of Medicaid, food stamps and housing vouchers.

An immigrant who received one or more designated benefits for more than 12 months in a 36-month period could be designated a public charge. Use of two kinds of benefits in a single month would count as two months, the New York Times reports.

Lawyers for the private groups challenging the rule cited Department of Homeland Security estimates that the rule will cause hundreds of thousands of households to forgo benefits for which they are eligible “out of fear and confusion about the consequences for their immigration status of accepting such benefits.” The Department of Homeland Security warned of increased malnutrition, especially for pregnant or breastfeeding women and their infants and children; increased prevalence of communicable disease; and increased poverty and housing instability, the lawyers said in their brief.

New York Solicitor General Barbara D. Underwood, whose state was among the plaintiffs to the legal challenge, said the new rule would “radically disrupt over a century of settled immigration policy and public-benefits programs.” The established consensus was that the phrase “public charge” was limited to mean “individuals who are primarily dependent on the government for long-term subsistence,” she argued.

U.S. Solicitor General Noel J. Francisco, who defended the rule, asked the Supreme Court to lift the lower court injunctions. He argued that the new rule was a permissible interpretation of the concept “public charge.” It is a lawful goal to discourage immigrants seeking green cards from using public benefits, and enjoinment of the rule would cause “long-term harm” to the government, he said.

Francisco said if any resident aliens not subject to the rule disenroll from benefits for fear they would endanger their immigration status, then “such disenrollment is unwarranted, easily corrected and temporary.”

Susan Welber, a staff attorney at the Legal Aid Society, opposed the new policy. She told CNN the policy aimed to exclude “as unworthy and unwelcome anyone who is predicted to receive even a small amount of food, health or housing assistance at any point.”

“We are very disappointed in the Supreme Court’s decision, and the irreparable consequences it will have for immigrants and their families across the nation, but we continue to believe that our legal claims are very strong that we will ultimately prevail in stopping this rule permanently,” she said.

In September 2018, when the initial changes to the rule were proposed, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops warned that the rule will be “very harmful to families” and cause fear among immigrant families who are “already struggling to fulfill the American Dream.” The proposed rule “further compounds strict eligibility guidelines already in place preventing many immigrants from receiving federal aid,” they said.
 

 

[…]

No Picture
News Briefs

Legionaries of Christ: Sexual abuse was perpetrated at minor seminary

January 27, 2020 CNA Daily News 1

Vatican City, Jan 27, 2020 / 08:00 pm (CNA).- The Legionaries of Christ acknowledged that sexual abuse took place at the religious order’s El Ajusco minor seminary in Mexico City between 1985 and 1992.

The group issued two separate statements Jan. 24, during its general chapter in Rome. The statements were in response to allegations of sexual abuse on the part of Fr. Antonio Rodríguez Sánchez, 65, and laicized priests José María Sabín Sabín, 61.

In its statement on Rodríguez, Legion officials said that during an internal review, “several indications were found of possible sexual abuse of minors by Fr.  Rodríguez in relation to the period when he was rector of the El Ajusco minor seminary in Mexico, between 1983-1988.”

“The initial indications [of abuse] were confirmed by complaints from victims,” the Legion said, and the Rodriguez admitted the abuse.

The Legionaries said that Rodríguez has been banned from contact with minors and prohibited from public priestly ministry since September 2019.

An investigation into Rodriguez has been sent to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican, which began a canonical trial concerning the matter.

“There are no indications of the abuse of minors during other periods of his ministry,” the statement added.

In the case of José María Sabin, the Legionaries of Christ stated that “in relation to his time as rector of the minor seminary between 1988-1992, there are credible private complaints against him for the sexual abuse of minors that were compiled and verified during the work of reviewing cases from the past that the Congregation carried out in 2019.”

Sabín requested in 2014 to leave both the congregation and the priesthood, and the Holy See granted those requests in 2015.

The religious order said it plans to report the abuse to civil authorities in Mexico, and cooperate with any criminal investigation.

The group also said the cases of  Sánchez and Sabín are noted in a December 2019 report on abuse within the congregation, although the priests are not mentioned by name. The report documents statistics on sexual abuse but does not disclose details. 

Since its founding in 1941, 33 priests of the Legionaries of Christ have been found to have committed sexual abuse of minors, victimizing 175 children, according to the 2019 report.

Fr. Marcial Maciel, who founded the order, abused at least 60 minors, according to the order.

 

A version of this story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

 

[…]

No Picture
News Briefs

TX judges increasingly denied abortion to minors without parental consent from 2016

January 27, 2020 CNA Daily News 1

Austin, Texas, Jan 27, 2020 / 06:18 pm (CNA).- A study of statistics from Texas suggests that since 2016, judges in the state were less likely to grant permission to minors to procure abortion without their parents’ consent than in previous years.

Thirty-seven states, including Texas, require minors to obtain parental consent before procuring an abortion. In those states, minors can also seek the approval of a judge, in what is known as a “judicial bypass.”

From 2000 to 2015, Texas’ laws mandated that a minor seeking an abortion without parental consent must demonstrate to a judge that they were mature and well-informed, that notifying a parent would not be in their best interest, and that notifying a parent might lead to physical, sexual or emotional abuse.

According to a study published this month in the American Journal of Public Health, between 2001 and 2015 the number of times a judge in Texas denied a minor an abortion ranged from zero to six per year, which in turn represented between 0% and 6.2% of the total requests judges received that year. The rate of denial was 2.8% in 2015.

In 2016, the year that Texas implemented a law changing regulations for minors requesting permission for abortions from judges, the number of denials rose to 23, which represented about 10.3% of the total requests that judges received that year. The number of denials dipped to 10 in 2017 (3.1%) and then rose slightly to 12 in 2018 (5.1%).

The data for 2016-18 came from the Texas Office of Court Administration, while that from 2001-15 were based on reports from Jane’s Due Process, a group that provides legal representation to minors seeking to procure abortion without their parents’ consent.

Reuters reported that one of the changes implemented in 2016 was the removal of the criterion related to physical, sexual, or emotional abuse if the minor tells the parent they are having an abortion. Another change implemented after 2016 required girls to file their petitions in the county they live in, and to include their name, address, and date of birth, Reuters reported.

The study’s lead author, Amanda Stevenson, said that the purpose of the judicial bypass process “is to protect minors from a veto of their abortion decision. We find sometimes the process doesn’t protect them from being vetoed. It’s just the judge instead of the parent.”

Texas’ requirements regarding judicial consent for minors to obtain an abortion recieved national attention when a 17-year-old from Central America, known as Jane Doe, obtained state permission in September 2017.

The minor had been in federal custody in a Texas shelter operated by the Office of Refugee Resettlement – an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services. The Department of Health and Human Services objected to transporting the minor to abortion appointments.

The government argued that since she is a minor in their custody, it has the right to determine what is in the best interest of the teen, and also stated that it has an interest in not creating incentives for minors to cross international borders in order to obtain abortions.

On Oct. 20, 2017, a three-judge appellate panel ruled that Doe would not be allowed immediately to obtain the abortion. This overruled a Texas district court’s ruling that Doe should be allowed to access an abortion immediately.

However, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the decision five days later, ordering instead that an adult custodian be found for the teenager, which would remove her from federal custody. The teen subsequently procured the abortion.

Other states attempting to pass “parental notification laws,” such as Indiana, have been blocked by the courts.

Indiana law requires any Indiana minor seeking an abortion to provide the courts with written consent from a parent, but the state allows a minor to petition a court for approval to have an abortion without parental consent.

A 2017 law would have allowed judges to notify parents that their daughters are seeking to have an abortion without consent.

In 2017, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction that prevents judges from notifying parents when minors seek abortions, and the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that injunction during August 2019 by a vote of 2-1.

Also in 2017, a federal judge struck down an Alabama law requiring more scrutiny for minors who seek an abortion without parental consent, saying that the law violates the minor’s confidentiality by possibly bringing other people from her life into the process.

Efforts are currently underway to remove the longstanding requirement for teens to obtain parental consent before getting an abortion in Massachusetts, a rule that can only be bypassed if the minor is granted permission for the abortion by a state judge. The bill, which state Sen. Harriet Chandler introduced during January 2020, also seeks to establish a state right to an abortion, which would stand even if Roe v. Wade were to be overturned.

[…]