Browsing News Entries

Loyola quiet on Flannery O’Connor residence hall controversy

Denver Newsroom, Aug 5, 2020 / 02:55 am (CNA).- After controversy surrounding the removal of American Catholic author Flannery O’Connor’s name from a residence hall, Loyola University Maryland has not said whether it will reconsider its decision.

A petition asking the university to reverse the decision came in the form of a letter, written by Angela Alaimo O’Donnell, a former Loyola professor and a Flannery O’Connor scholar who is the associate director of the Curran Center for American Catholic Studies at Fordham University.

Signed by O’Donnell, as well as more than 80 other authors, scholars and leaders, the letter defended O’Connor’s work and asked the university to reconsider its decision. Among the signatories are Alice Walker, a Black author who grew up down the road from the O’Connor farm, and Bishop Robert Barron.

The letter was presented to Fr. Brian Linnane, S.J., president of Loyola University Maryland, on July 31.

“O’Connor believes in the Imago Dei, the fact that every human being is beloved of God and made in God’s image. Her stories champion the despised, the outcast, and the other, demonstrating their humanity, and call to account people who try to deny their God-given sacred nature,” the letter states. “Among the despised in her stories are African Americans, and the primary objects of her satire are most often racist whites.”

“It is no small thing to remove Flannery O’Connor from the pantheon of Catholic writers and intellectuals honored on your campus. We urge you to reconsider this decision,” the letter states.

According to Baltimore’s archdiocesan newspaper the Catholic Review, Loyola “is undergoing a larger review of all the names of its buildings and a university committee advised [Linnane] on the renaming proposal” that called for the removal of O’Connor’s name.

When asked, a Loyola University Maryland spokesperson did not say whether the petition was being considered, or whether a different building on campus would be named for O’Connor in the future.

“Our president has received the petition. The residence hall has already been renamed for Sister Thea Bowman. I do not know what work will come out of the presidential renaming committee,” Rita Buettner, director of university communications for Loyola University Maryland, told CNA Aug. 4.

Attention was drawn to apparent racism in O’Connor’s personal writings by “How Racist Was Flannery O’Connor?”, a piece that appeared in the New Yorker in June. There, Paul Elie wrote that “letters and postcards she sent home from the North in 1943 were made available to scholars only in 2014, and they show O’Connor as a bigoted young woman.”

O'Connor was a short story writer, novelist, and essayist, as well as a devout Catholic who attended daily Mass. She died of lupus in 1964, at the age of 39.

The residence hall that had borne the name of Flannery O’Connor for more than 10 years was renamed Thea Bowman Hall, after Sr. Thea Bowman, an African-American religious sister and civil rights activist whose cause for canonization is being considered.

Linnane told the Catholic Review that the decision was made in light of student concerns over some of racist comments written by O’Connor in her personal correspondence.

“A residence hall is supposed to be the students’ home,” Linnane said. “If some of the students who live in that building find it to be unwelcoming and unsettling, that has to be taken seriously.”

Linnane added that this did not mean that the school had banned the study of O’Connor’s work, and that the study of her works would still be assigned by professors if they so choose.

 

 

 

Catholic University of America offers coronavirus tuition adjustments

CNA Staff, Aug 4, 2020 / 05:19 pm (CNA).- As the coronavirus pandemic limits class schedules and sizes, the Catholic University of America announced its plan to return to some students a portion of their tuition for the upcoming semester.

John Garvey, president of the Catholic University of America in Washington D.C., noted the adjustments for the fall 2020 semester.

“Last May, we committed to fully reopening our campus at the earliest possible opportunity. Since that time we have been carefully gauging the trajectory of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” he said July 31.

“I am very sorry to report that developments in public health conditions over the past few weeks have forced us to conclude that it is simply too early to bring everyone back to campus.”

When classes begin in August, the number of students who may reside on campus will be limited to freshman and transfers students with fewer than 30 college credits. As required by the District of Columbia, students arriving on campus from one of the 27 states designated as “high risk” will be required to quarantine for 14 days. The university’s orientation and the first two weeks of classes will then be held online to comply with the requirements.

A majority of sophomore, junior, and senior students are not permitted to live on campus but will instead conduct all of their classes online. Exceptions will be made for some international students, residents assistants, and students who are unable to pursue studies at their permanent address.

“I understand this is disappointing news, because it is disappointing to us. But the large and sustained increase in infections nationwide poses a serious risk that we will be unable to provide the care necessary for a full complement of our student population,” said Garvey.

“We remain confident that we can attend properly to a smaller cohort, while providing our freshmen with the best possible transition to college.”

The CUA president issued a statement Aug. 3 outlining the refunds and tuition decreases that will be provided to those students who will not attend the university as they expected.

Students will receive a 10% refund for this semester’s tuition costs if they planned to attend at least some of their classes in-person and are now forced to attend these classes online. There is no tuition reduction for classes that are traditionally taken online.

Also, those students who planned to stay on campus but are no longer eligible will receive a full refund for on-campus room and board. The students off-campus who purchased a meal plan will have that plan honored and additional dining plans will be available for these students.

The refunds will be processed around the time that the semester begins, Aug. 17. Students who wish to roll over their credit balance for the spring semester should notify Enrollment Services.

Garvey also encouraged students struggling financially under the pandemic to reach out to the school to see about other financial opportunities.

“Finally, undergraduate students who have suffered economic distress specifically related to the pandemic are encouraged to appeal for additional financial assistance. Through the generosity of University benefactors, the Office of Student Financial Assistance continues to make one-time emergency tuition grants to students directly impacted by the pandemic.”

Garvey said the university will continue to monitor the situation of coronavirus at the school and determine when more in-person courses and other activities may begin. He said the university will continue to follow CDC and D.C. guidelines, and applauded the efforts the school has taken to keep everyone safe.

“Let me offer my thanks to each of our students, our faculty and staff, and our community of parents and alumni. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic we have worked together to deal with this crisis,” he said.

“It’s worth repeating that this is a disappointment for all of us. But it is only a temporary one. We will continue moving forward through this pandemic together.”

Transcript of EWTN News Nightly interview with President Donald Trump

Washington D.C., Aug 4, 2020 / 04:15 pm (CNA).- EWTN News Nightly’s lead anchor Tracy Sabol conducted a White House interview with President Donald Trump Aug. 4. Below is a transcript of that interview provided by EWTN News Nightly.

EWTN News Nightly said it has also reached out for an interview to Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president.

Catholic News Agency is a service of EWTN News.

 



Tracy Sabol: Thank you so much, Mr. President, for speaking with us today. We appreciate it.

President Trump: Thank you.

Tracy Sabol: We have a lot to get to. But I first want to talk about the economy. Where we are right now, of course, we're starting with another round of stimulus. Can you talk about that and what's needed for Republicans and Democrats to meet in the middle?

President Trump: So we had the greatest economy in the history of the world, not only in our country, in every country. We were beating China, beating everybody. They were having the worst economy they've had in over 67 years. So we were doing with the tariffs and all the things that I was doing. And then we had to close it up. It came from China. They should have stopped it. They could have stopped it, but they didn't. They stopped it from going into their country, but they didn't stop it from here, Europe, or the rest of the world. And we had to close it up and we did that. And now we're coming back and we're doing stimulus. We've already done it, as you know, very successfully. And we'll probably have something worked out. We'll see what happens. The problem with the Democrats, as you know, they want bailout money for their states and cities that have done so poorly under Democrat leadership. And I'm not happy with that. It's not appropriate. This is having to do with the corona, I call it the "China-virus." And so I think we're doing very well. We had the best job numbers we've ever had, percentage-wise. You take a look at what happened, [indiscernible] close to seven million jobs over the last two months. New numbers are going to be coming out very soon. We're back. We're doing very well. I think next year is going to be one of the best years we've ever had. And it looks very, very strong.

Tracy Sabol: Looking forward to the third quarter: How do you anticipate that looking?

President Trump: I think the third quarter is going to be good. I think it's going to be good. I think the fourth quarter is going to be very, very good. But we're just coming out of something that we had no choice. We saved millions of lives by closing. If we didn't close it up, you would have lost millions of lives. And by closing it, I mean, we've done a really good job. The ban on China was very important. We banned people coming in, highly infected, and we banned people from coming in from China and then from Europe. We did the ban on Europe, very important. It really, I think, is going to be, I think we're going to have a very special economy in about...for next year. But I think third quarter actually is going to be very good.

Tracy Sabol: A lot of things shut down, including churches. Let's talk about that and the importance of reopening churches. I know you've talked about that.

President Trump: I think they should open the churches. It's up to the governors. But, I think, and I’m recommending it, you open the churches. They'll spread, they'll be socially spread, they'll have masks and they'll do what they have to do, you know, the hygiene and everything else that we know. It's a very simple list, but I think it's very unfair that they have-- I saw Jim Jordan the other day talking about it very well, that they have 50,000 people protesting and they're standing on top of each other practically, and yet you're not allowed to go to church. You don't go to schools. We want to open our churches. We want to open our schools. And everybody wants to be safe. They know what to do. They'll stay away. And, you know, we'll be the same way. Maybe you'll have an extra service or two or three. But they have to let the churches open. They want to put, the Democrats want to put them out of business. They want to put the churches out of business. And it's very unfair. So they don't complain about the protests, which are horrible in many cases. You look at Portland, it's a disaster, but they don't want the churches open, they don't want the schools open, they don't want offices open. So it's a very, very unfair situation to a lot of people.

Tracy Sabol: Mr. President, is there a way to deem churches as essential businesses? How can we do that?

President Trump: I am looking at that because I think it's enough already. You have some states, I think they never want them open. They don't want churches open. Look, the Democrats, frankly, if you look at the radical left, Democrats, which are radical left now, they've gone radical left. Whether you're talking about life or whether you're talking about almost anything, they're not liking it. They're not liking it.

Tracy Sabol: I know that you've heard about the vandalism, the horrific vandalism. Many, many churches have been vandalized over the past recent weeks. When you heard about that, what did you think?

President Trump: I think it's a disgrace. And I think it's partially because they're not allowed to function, they're not allowed to really function. And I think it's disgraceful that it can happen. And, you know, they want to defund the police. They want to stop the police. They want to have them at least to a minimum. And we're just the opposite. I just got endorsed by Texas law enforcement, by Florida, all of the sheriffs and the law enforcement. I think, I can't imagine them ever, I can't imagine law enforcement ever endorsing Biden. He's got a hard time in a lot of ways, let's face it, but I can't imagine that ever happening. So we just about have everybody endorsing us in terms of law enforcement. And, you know, with the churches, you need some law enforcement to help you out also. But it's the fact that they're closed and they you know, bad things happen when they're closed. It's a very terrible situation, what they're doing to churches and these are governors that are radical left or Democrat, it's almost becoming the same thing. And I don't think they want churches open.

Tracy Sabol: What can be done to stop this vandalism? What do you think?

President Trump: Well, what you need is you need the law enforcement. It's areas usually run by radical left Democrats. I mean, where you have Republican leadership, where you have Republican governors and mayors, you don't have this problem. You have this problem where you have radical left Democrats in virtually every instance. So what you have to do is elect Republicans. And if you had a Republican, as an example, if Biden got in, you'd have Portland all over our country. It would be like Portland. These people are agitators. They're anarchists. You'd have that all over our country. You know, we stopped it, we stepped in and a lot of people said we were early. Well, let us let us be early. Better early than late. But we did a good job there. We did a great job in Seattle that would have been burned to the ground, frankly. But with Portland, and we didn't do our big job, we did a much smaller job. We had to protect our building, and our buildings, actually, a number of buildings. But the courthouse would have been burned down. The courthouse would have been destroyed if we didn't step in. People said, "Oh, we went early." Well, if we didn't go then, the courthouse would have been destroyed because Seattle was not protecting it. So you would have that situation all over the United States. And that's unacceptable.

Tracy Sabol: And, Mr. President, on top of mind for a lot of parents, including myself: the reopening of schools. I know you just tweeted about that. Can you talk about that?

President Trump: I want the schools open. First of all, children are unbelievably strong, right? Their immune system. Something's going on because out of thousands of deaths in New Jersey, thousands, because I just saw the statistics, many thousands of people died, one person under the age of 18. And that was a person I believe had diabetes on top of everything. So children just are, I guess I heard one doctor say, virtually they're immune from it. They have a strong, they have a very strong something, and they are not affected. And we have to open our schools. You know, there's a big danger to keeping people locked in. And they're also finding it's wonderful to use computers, but it's not a great way of learning. They now know that it's much better to be with a teacher on campus or in a school, that's much better than looking at a computer all day long. So we have to get our schools open. We have to get them open soon.

Tracy Sabol: And if there was one message you wanted to say to our viewers, what would it be right now?

President Trump: Well, I think anybody having to do with, frankly, religion, but certainly the Catholic Church, you have to be with President Trump when it comes to pro-life, when it comes to all of the things, these people are going to take all of your rights away, including Second Amendment, because, you know, Catholics like their Second Amendment. So I saved the Second Amendment. If I wasn't here, you wouldn't have a Second Amendment. And pro-life is your big thing and you won't be on that side of the issue, I guarantee, if the radical left, because they're going to take over, they're going to push him around like he was nothing.

Tracy Sabol: Well, thank you so much, Mr. President, for the time today.

 

Boston archdiocese pushes back after Trump says Boston bomber ‘deserves death’

CNA Staff, Aug 4, 2020 / 02:35 pm (CNA).-  

After President Donald Trump said Sunday that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, perpetrator of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, should be put to death, the Archdiocese of Boston said justice calls for life in prison, not the death penalty.

 “Catholic teaching does not support the taking of life as a means of achieving justice,” in Tsarnaev’s case, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Boston said.

“The incomprehensible suffering of so many caused by this heinous crime should appropriately be met with a sentence of imprisonment for life with no possibility of parole,” Terrence Donilon, a spokesman for the Boston archdiocese, told CNA Tuesday.

Donilon also acknowledged that the ongoing Tsarnaev appeal “has brought considerable further pain to the families and loved ones of those lost in the Marathon bombing and all the victims of that deliberate attack on innocent people.”

Remarks from the archdiocese came after Trump on Sunday tweeted that “rarely has anybody deserved the death penalty more than the Boston Bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.”

“The Federal Government must again seek the Death Penalty in a do-over of that chapter of the original trial. Our Country cannot let the appellate decision stand.” the president added.

 

....and ruined. The Federal Government must again seek the Death Penalty in a do-over of that chapter of the original trial. Our Country cannot let the appellate decision stand. Also, it is ridiculous that this process is taking so long!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 2, 2020 Tsarnaev, 27, was in April 2015 convicted of using pressure cooker bombs to kill three people and injure nearly 300 more during the 2013 Boston marathon. His brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, perpetrated the bombing along with him, but was killed by police during the ensuing manhunt.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was sentenced to death, but that sentence was vacated by a federal appeals court July 30, because of concerns about juror impartiality. A new sentencing phase, with a new jury, has been ordered.

In his Aug. 2 tweets, the president noted that the court had said the Boston bombing was one of the worst domestic terrorist attacks since the September 11, 2001 bombings, and said “it is ridiculous that this process is taking so long!”

During Tsarnaev’s 2015 trial, the Catholic bishops of Massachusetts, including Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley, opposed the possibility of Tsarnaev’s execution.

“The defendant in this case has been neutralized and will never again have the ability to cause harm. Because of this, we, the Catholic Bishops of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, believe that society can do better than the death penalty,” the bishops said in a statement.

“The Church has taught that the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity are ‘rare, if not practically nonexistent.’ The Church’s teaching is further developing in recognition of the inherent dignity of all life as a gift from God. As Pope Francis has recently stated, ‘[The death penalty] is an offense against the inviolability of life and the dignity of the human person. When the death penalty is applied, it is not for a current act of oppression, but rather for an act committed in the past. It is also applied to persons whose current ability to cause harm is not current, as it has been neutralized – they are already deprived of their liberty.’”

In a June interview, Trump said that he is “totally in favor of the death penalty for heinous crimes, ok? That’s the way it is.”

Earlier this summer, the federal government resumed the execution of prisoners condemned to death, after a 17-year moratorium on federal executions.

On July 7, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Bishop William Medley of Owensboro, Kentucky, Bishop Oscar Solis of Salt Lake City, Bishop Thomas Zinkula of Davenport, Iowa, and Bishop Richard Pates who is the apostolic administrator of Joliet, Illinois, all joined more than 1,000 faith leaders in calling for a stop to scheduled executions of four federal death row inmates.

“As our country grapples with the COVID 19 pandemic, an economic crisis, and systemic racism in the criminal legal system, we should be focused on protecting and preserving life, not carrying out executions,” the faith leaders said.

On Tuesday, the Boston archdiocese told CNA it would pursue peace after the violence of the Boston bombings.

“We will continue to honor the memory of Martin Richard, Krystle Marie Campbell, Lü Lingzi, Sean A. Collier and Dennis Simmonds and the hundreds who suffered devastating injuries by a renewed commitment to root out violence and evil in our society by way of solidarity with Jesus’ call to love one another.”

 

Knights of Columbus prepare for first-ever virtual annual convention

CNA Staff, Aug 4, 2020 / 12:11 pm (CNA).- The 138th annual convention of the Knights of Columbus begins today— the first in the  organization’s history to not be held in-person.

The New Haven, Connecticut-based fraternal and charitable organization is encouraging its members to tune in to the convention online. Due to coronavirus restrictions, the gathering is being held virtually. Last year’s convention took place in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The convention comes a few months after the Vatican announced that Fr. Michael McGivney, founder of the Knights of Columbus, will be beatified following Pope Francis’ approval of a miracle attributed to his intercession.

Founded in New Haven in 1882, the Knights of Columbus was originally intended to assist widows and their families upon the deaths of their husbands. It has grown into a worldwide Catholic fraternal order, with more than 2 million members carrying out works of charity and evangelization across the globe. The Knights also offer life insurance policies to their members.

Fr. McGivney, the Knights’ founder, will be beatified on October 31, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints announced in late July.

During the past year, Knights around the world donated more than 77 million service hours and $187 million for worthy causes in their communities, including millions of dollars for persecuted Christians around the world, the organization says.

The 2020 convention will begin with an opening Mass at 6:30 p.m. Eastern, celebrated by Archbishop Leonard Blair of the Archdiocese of Hartford. This will be followed by Supreme Knight Carl Anderson’s annual report, highlighting the group’s achievements and announcing new initiatives, at 8 p.m. Eastern.

The Mass is set to feature a message from Pope Francis, which the Vatican Secretariat of State delivered to the Knights in mid-July.

"His Holiness is grateful for these and for the many other countless ways in which the Knights of Columbus continue to bear prophetic witness to God's dream for a more fraternal, just and equitable world in which all are recognized as neighbors and no one is left behind,” the letter reads in part.

An annual memorial Mass will be offered for all deceased Knights of Columbus and their families on August 5 at 2 p.m. Eastern.

Among the Knights who died in the past year was former Supreme Knight Virgil Dechant, who passed away on Feb. 15, 2020, and was the Order's longest-serving supreme knight, holding office from 1977 to 2000, the organization said.

After the memorial Mass, the Knights will hold an awards ceremony to honor the members’ service. This will take place at 3:30 p.m. Eastern on August 5.

 

Researchers reverse: Gender surgery offers 'no advantage' to mental health

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Aug 4, 2020 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- The authors of a 2019 study which claimed so-called gender-transition surgery may improve the long-term mental health of recipients have issued a correction, nearly a year after publication. The authors now say they found “no advantage” to the mental health of those who received gender-transition surgery.

In October of 2019, the American Journal of Psychiatry published a report on the rates of mental health treatment among recipients of gender-transition surgery and hormone therapy. The report was entitled “Reduction in Mental Health Treatment Utilization Among Transgender Individuals After Gender-Affirming Surgeries.”

On Saturday, the authors of the study—Richard Bränström, Ph.D., and John E. Pachankis, Ph.D., issued a correction, saying that “the results demonstrated no advantage of surgery in relation to subsequent mood or anxiety disorder-related health care.”

The 2019 AJP report had originally claimed that, among persons who had received gender-transition surgery, the number of mental health treatment visits declined over time. Persons diagnosed with gender incongruence are at higher risk of mental health disorders, the report said; around six times more likely to seek treatment for a “mood and anxiety disorder” than members of the general population, and “more than six times as likely to have been hospitalized after a suicide attempt.”

However, the study had claimed that among those who had received gender-transition surgery, the “increased time since last gender-affirming surgery was associated with reduced mental health treatment.”

This, the 2019 report concluded, “lends support to the decision to provide gender-affirming surgeries to transgender individuals who seek them.”

That conclusion has now been reversed. 

Ryan Anderson, the William E. Simon Senior Research Fellow in American Principles and Public Policy at The Heritage Foundation, wrote on Monday that the correction was needed.

“So, the bottom line: The largest dataset on sex-reassignment procedures—both hormonal and surgical—reveals that such procedures do not bring the promised mental health benefits,” he said.

Additionally, Anderson pointed out, the authors’ correction revealed that recipients of gender-transition surgery were actually more likely to seek treatment for anxiety disorders:

“Individuals diagnosed with gender incongruence who had received gender-affirming surgery were more likely to be treated for anxiety disorders compared with individuals diagnosed with gender incongruence who had not received gender-affirming surgery.”

After the study was first published in the fall of 2019, some claimed that the study’s sample size was too small to make any conclusions.

Mark Regnerus, a sociology professor at the University of Texas critiqued the report’s findings, writing in the journal Public Discourse that the sample size of people who had experienced the long-term effects of gender-transition surgery was too small, as most of the cases of surgery were relatively recent.

He noted that the study was based on a survey of nearly 10 million Swedes, 2,679 of those surveyed had reported experiencing gender incongruence, and 1,018 had undergone gender-transition surgery.

However, of this population, only 19 people reported their last surgery as having occurred 10 or more years prior. So, Regnerus concluded, the report’s claim that the rate of people undergoing gender-transition surgery and subsequently seeking mental health treatment had declined over time was based on a sample of 19 people in a survey of nearly 10 million.

Regnerus wrote that “if a mere three additional cases among these 19 had sought mental health treatment in 2015, there would appear to be no discernible overall effect of surgery on subsequent mental health.”

The data in the study revealed the limitations of finding the long-term effects of gender-transition surgery, he told CNA, as its use is a recent phenomenon.

“There is a declining number with each passing year, meaning simply that the practice of such surgery is far more common recently than it was several years ago,” Regnerus said in a written statement to CNA in November, noting that the small sample size was not the fault of the authors, but simply reflected the “reality” of what remain historically untested procedures.

“It’s important to keep some perspective here—how national debates and discourses are being driven by quite small shares of the population,” Regnerus told CNA.

Catholic Charities give $400 million in aid, double PPP loans received

CNA Staff, Aug 4, 2020 / 11:00 am (CNA).- Catholic Charities affiliates across the country have distributed more than double the amount of money they received from Payroll Protection Program loans in emergency assistance, to help those impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

“The generosity of corporate donors, foundations, and individuals has been overwhelming,” said Sr. Donna Markham, the president and CEO of Catholic Charities USA, in a release Monday. 

Over the last four months, Catholic Charities distributed nearly $400 million in relief aid in the form of food, rental assistance, personal protective equipment, baby supplies, and quarantine housing. Catholic Charities affiliates are located in most dioceses throughout the country, and, including areas of the country hardest-hit during the pandemic, many have opened pop-up food pantries to assist those in need. 

In Washington, DC, Catholic Charities distributed bags of groceries and hot meals to residents of one of the communities hardest-hit by coronavirus.

A July reported from the Associated Press criticized the fact that Catholic parishes, dioceses, and other organizations had received approximately $1.4 billion in Payroll Protection Program loans. The Payroll Protection Program was designed to help employers pay the salaries of employees amidst the economic downturn and the forced closing of businesses. 

Catholic Charities affiliates received an estimated $100-$200 million in PPP loans, enabling the organizations to keep staff on payroll and continue distributing aid. 

Sr. Donna expressed her gratitude at the workers who stayed on to help out, even when doing so is potentially dangerous. 

“I remain edified by so many Catholic Charities staff and volunteers who work tirelessly on the front lines--often at great personal risk--to maintain the distribution of critical supplies,” she said. She referred to these workers as being “truly the embodiment of the Good Samaritan.”

Ahead of Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombing anniversary, USCCB prays for peace

CNA Staff, Aug 4, 2020 / 12:00 am (CNA).-  

Just days ahead of the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II, the president of the U.S. bishop’s conference mourned the loss of innocent lives in the attacks, lamented the long-term suffering caused by the bombs, and prayed for peace among nations.

“My brother bishops and I mourn with the Japanese people for the innocent lives that were taken and the generations that have continued to suffer the public health and environmental consequences of these tragic attacks,” Archbishop Jose Gomez said in a July 30 statement.

The world's only wartime uses of nuclear weapons took place in 1945's Aug. 6 U.S. attack on Hiroshima and Aug. 9 U.S. attack on Nagasaki.

The Hiroshima attack killed around 80,000 people instantly and may have caused about 130,000 deaths, mostly civilians. The attack on Nagasaki instantly killed about 40,000, and destroyed a third of the city.

Pope Francis has spoken out against the use of nuclear weapons multiple times, including during a November 2019 visit to Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

“How can we propose peace if we constantly invoke the threat of nuclear war as a legitimate recourse for the resolution of conflicts?” Pope Francis asked Nov. 24, 2019 in Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park. “May the abyss of pain endured here remind us of boundaries that must never be crossed. A true peace can only be an unarmed peace,” he added.

Since St. John Paul II’s visit to Japan in 1981, the Catholic Church in Japan has annually observed Ten Days of Prayer for Peace beginning Aug. 6.

The U.S. bishops’ conference Committee for International Justice and Peace issued a statement on July 13, encouraging Catholics in the United States to join Japan in prayer by offering intentions of peace at Mass on Sunday, Aug. 9. The committee has also compiled resources for further reflection, study and prayer for the occasion on its website.

In his July 30 statement, Gomez noted that the bishops of the U.S. “join our voice with Pope Francis and call on our national and world leaders to persevere in their efforts to abolish these weapons of mass destruction, which threaten the existence of the human race and our planet.”

“We ask our Blessed Mother Mary, the Queen of Peace, to pray for the human family, and for each one of us. Remembering the violence and injustice of the past, may we commit ourselves to being peacemakers as Jesus Christ calls us to be. Let us always seek the path of peace and seek alternatives to the use of war as a way to settle differences between nations and peoples.”

Obama alum running for Congress denies defrauding progressive Catholic group

Denver Newsroom, Aug 3, 2020 / 07:15 pm (CNA).-  

The former executive director of a progressive Catholic political advocacy organization, who is now vying for a Congressional seat in Tennessee, has denied a former board member's allegations that he defrauded the organization and eventually left it bankrupt.

“I’m speaking publicly now, with very little interest in scoring points. I’m simply here to speak on the record, to establish a fact pattern, to help explain to the public the disappointing experience I have had with Chris Hale,” said James Salt, a former board member of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, in a livestream announcement Aug. 3.

Hale told CNA Monday night that “the idea that I drove the organization into bankruptcy or defrauded it is just fundamentally not true. I kept the organization going.”

Hale is running in the Democratic primary in Tennessee’s 4th Congressional District. His opponent in that race, Noelle Bivens, hosted a livestreamed event with Salt on Monday evening, after local media reported that Hale is accused of misusing email lists from his former employer to fundraise for his own benefit.

Salt said the political advocacy group, which aimed to advance Democratic candidates and policy initiatives by appealing to Catholics, was financially and legally harmed by Hale’s leadership of the organization.

“My job is simply to be on the record saying he did a great disservice to everyone who has worked with him.”

After Hale was hired as executive director of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good in 2013, Salt said, “we began to see a pattern of Chris obfuscating and avoiding any kind of accountability.”

Eventually, Salt said, Hale lied about filing financial records, and once told colleagues he was having surgery, which was apparently not true, in order to excuse missed work.

Hale was fired from the group in 2017, Salt said, and the group was dissolved. Hale disputed that he was fired, saying he left on good terms with the board, because he was ready to “move on and have different adventures in life.”

He is accused of leaving with the organization’s mailing and email donor lists, and using them after he was fired to fundraise for an initiative he started later that year, called The Francis Project.

According to documents obtained by the Murfreesboro Voice, Hale was asked repeatedly to stop using those lists for fundraising, but continued to do so as late as December 2019.

In a Jan. 24 letter to Washington, D.C’s attorney general, Lawyers for Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, and the related Catholics United organization, said that The Francis Project was not actually a non-profit, but was instead a trade name connected to a Washington, DC for-profit corporation incorporated by Hale, and registered as “Christopher Hale.”

Catholics United said in its letter it was concerned that Hale’s previous affiliation with the group, “which supported policy initiatives consistent with Catholic social teachings, could mislead email recipients to believe they are making tax-deductible contributions to the Organization directly or to a similar religious nonprofit group.”

The group asked the District of Columbia’s attorney general “to review this matter and take all steps necessary to investigate and stop Mr. Hale from continuing his deceitful and fraudulent fundraising tactics.”

“Mr. Hale’s dishonest actions undermine the values of integrity and trust that are crucial in the charitable fundraising process,” the group said.

Hale told CNA Monday night that he did not take any lists from the organization. Rather, he said, he came in with a mailing list obtained from work he'd done before he was hired at Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, and he'd been told when he was hired that he would retain ownership of that list.

He said that was the mailing list he used for his next project, The Francis Project, that he only added personal contacts after he began working at Catholics in the Alliance for the Common Good, and there were no addtions from his former employer's database.

Hale said he made that agreement with Fred Rotondaro, who as chairman of the board at Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, hired him. Rotondaro died in June 2017.

The Francis Project, Hale said, is “a small group of folks trying to build an advocacy group focused on young Catholics, millennial Catholics, in public life. It never really got feet under it because there was no one who wanted to do it full-time.”

Hale said the Francis Project sent out newsletters and spiritual reflections, and did “advocacy work, petition work especially, on particular issues of Catholic social teaching in the context of the Trump administration.”

“It was never intended to be a full-fledged group with wings beyond doing its humble work of putting out the newsletters, the daily reflections, some educational trainings and some targeted petition and advocacy work on particular issues that were of importance in Catholic social teaching.”

“We never filed as a non-profit because we never were a non-profit. We did advocacy work. None of our donations were ever considered tax deductible because they weren’t,” he added. Hale said that solicitations from the group did not suggest or imply that donations would be tax-deductible.

Hale said that he would consult with legal counsel, in response to a request from CNA to review the financial records of The Francis Project.

“It is a private organization, it is not a public non-profit.”

An archived version of the Francis Project website makes requests for donations, and opportunities to sign up for various mailing lists, including those mentioned by Hale.

Hale ran for Congress in the same Congressional district in 2018, but lost in the Democratic primary. He has been projected by some political observers to win the 2020 primary, but is generally not projected to unseat the district's incumbent Republican congressman. The district is heavily Republican, and has been represented by physician Scott DesJarlais since 2011. DesJarlais won nearly 64% of the vote in the district’s 2018 election.

Hale has in the past identified himself as a “pro-life Democrat,” and told CNA Monday night he considers himself to be pro-life, but his campaign website notes his support for Roe vs. Wade and his intention to “increase the reproductive freedom of women.”

While Hale on his website says he wants to “pursue policies that reduce the need for abortion,” he affirms his intention to support legal protection for abortion, pledging that “as a Member of Congress, I will always protect a women's constitutional right to reproductive choice.”

Bivens, Hale's primary opponent, said Monday night that she does not know if he will remain in the race. While she acknowledged that some in the district have voted already by mail, “going into a general with Chris Hale as the nominee would be a nightmare.”

Hale told CNA he has no plans to leave the race.

“With over 3,300 donors, 300 volunteers, 900 signs in voters’ yards, and top supporters in every precinct in this community, we are running the strongest grassroots campaign rural Tennessee has ever seen. We didn’t just outraise Congressman DesJarlais by a record-breaking 5:1 margin, we out-organized him 100:1. The voters of Tennessee are hungry for a new Congressman who’ll bring hospitals, health care, good jobs, living wages, and generational change to Tennessee.”

“I’m going to win this this election on Thursday and then on November 3.”

Hale said that he believes Salt's motivations for making allegations against him are purely political.

“I have become a pinball in a battle. But also, James Salt is a Bernie Sanders supporter. He’s a good man, he is a far-out Bernie Sanders supporter. My opponent is also a Bernie Sanders supporter,” Hale said, noting that allegations against him came just days before his primary election against Bivens.

“We’re three days out from an election. If this was such a contentious and bombshell legal issue, why is James waiting until three days before the election and then doing so in the context of a press conference with my opponent?”

Hale also told CNA Salt's denunciation of him is ”intensely personal” and said that Salt was jealous of the work he had done with Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good. He also said he had faced challenges with Salt because they differed on policy, and that there was division within the organization over worldview and strategy.

The candidate is cofounder of the Millennial Journal, and worked in 2012 as part of the Catholic outreach team in the reelection campaign of President Barack Obama.

Salt himself has been involved in controversy surrounding Catholics United.

Ahead of the 2012 election, Salt, then-executive director of Catholics United, said in a letter to pastors of Florida Catholic churches the group had recruited a network of volunteers to monitor election-related speech in churches for reputed illegal political activity. Local Catholic leaders said this appeared to be “an attempt to silence pastors on issues that are of concern to the Church this election season.”

Eventually Florida’s bishops urged pastors not to sign a pledge circulated by the group to “keep politics out of the pulpits.”

Salt previously served in faith outreach for the Kansas Democratic Party and did messaging work under then-Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a staunch pro-abortion rights advocate. Salt served on the 2012 Democratic Party Platform Committee.

Catholics in Alliance and Catholics United, which effectively merged in 2015, were both founded in the wake of then-Sen. John Kerry’s defeat in the 2004 presidential election campaigns. This loss was in part attributed to the failure of Democrats to sway religious voters.

In 2008 then-Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput charged that Catholics United had “confused the natural priorities of Catholic social teaching, undermined the progress pro-lifers have made, and provided an excuse for some Catholics to abandon the abortion issue instead of fighting within their parties and at the ballot box to protect the unborn.”

Catholics in Alliance itself received at least $450,000 in funding from the Open Society Foundations, then known as the Open Society Institute, from 2006 to 2010. An internal foundations document from 2009 cited the group’s key role in influencing Barack Obama’s controversial 2009 Notre Dame speech, and praised its campaigns that “broadened the agenda” of Catholic voters to see abortion as just one of several election issues.

Catholics United also received funding from the Gill Foundation, founded by savvy LGBT strategist and millionaire Tim Gill. The group was listed as a partner on the website of the Arcus Foundation, which has funded dissenting Catholic groups and other religious organizations to advocate on LGBT issues as well as for stricter limits on religious freedom.

Ahead of the 2016 elections, Wikileaks posted 2012 emails apparently involving Hillary Clinton campaign chief John Podesta, at a time of significant Catholic controversy over mandatory health plan coverage of contraception.

Podesta’s email responded to Sandy Newman’s suggestion of a “Catholic Spring” revolution within the Church which, in Newman’s vivid words, “Catholics themselves demand the end of a middle ages dictatorship and the beginning of a little democracy and respect for gender equality in the Catholic church.”

Podesta, a former chief of staff for President Bill Clinton, replied: “We created Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good to organize for a moment like this. But I think it lacks the leadership to do so now. Likewise Catholics United. Like most Spring movements, I think this one will have to be bottom up.”

According to Open Society Foundations internal documents from 2009, the departure of Catholics in Alliance co-founder Alexia Kelley to join the Obama White House left the group “without strong leadership.” Kelley eventually became president and CEO of the influential philanthropy consortium Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities.

 

This report was edited at 8:55 Mountain Time to include comments from Christopher Hale, and subsequently updated at 9:00 am on Aug. 4.

 

 

Citing impact of COVID, Camden diocese suspends participation in abuse victim fund

CNA Staff, Aug 3, 2020 / 05:21 pm (CNA).- The Diocese of Camden, New Jersey said July 31 it will suspend its participation in an independent compensation program for minor victims of clerical abuse, citing a “precipitous decline in revenue resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“[The diocese] is fast approaching a point where it will not be able to continue to borrow the funds necessary to pay the amounts awarded by the Program,” the diocese said in a July 31 statement.

The five dioceses of New Jersey announced in February 2019 the creation of the Independent Victim Compensation Program (IVCP) for victims of sexual abuse as minors by clerics in the state.

The Camden diocese began its participation in the program during June 2019. Although awards to victims already made by the program’s administrators will be paid, the diocese is instituting a moratorium on further determinations or awards, it said.

“These steps are necessary in order to maintain the critical programs that the Diocese of Camden continues to provide for the communities it serves which, now more than ever, are so essential,” the statement continued.

After agreeing on and receiving a settlement through the IVCP, an abuse victim cannot then pursue additional legal action against the diocese. All settlements are funded by the dioceses themselves.

“The program provides victims with an attractive alternative to litigation,” a statement from the IVCP read announcing its creation, adding that it would give abuse survivors a “speedy and transparent process to resolve their claims with a significantly lower level of proof and corroboration than required in a court of law.”

The Camden diocese did not respond to CNA’s request for further details about the diocese’s financial situation.

Victims’ compensation experts Kenneth Feinberg and Camille Biros administer New Jersey’s IVCP program. Feinberg and Biros have also been involved in the creation of compensation programs for abuse survivors in New York and Pennsylvania.

Among these programs, the IVCP is unique in being a statewide program that involves every diocese agreeing to follow the same compensation protocol.

The program does not handle claims of sexual abuse involving adults, including seminarians.

In its July 31 statement, the Camden diocese said it has paid financial settlements of more than $10 million to abuse victims since 1990.

Elsewhere, the Diocese of Erie, Pennsylvania suspended payments to its independent compensation program in April, citing the financial impact of the coronavirus.