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Wash. Supreme Court strikes down death penalty as arbitrary, racially biased

Olympia, Wash., Oct 12, 2018 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- The use of the death penalty is arbitrary, racially biased and unconstitutional, the Washington state Supreme Court has said in a unanimous decision barring its use.

The ruling was issued Oct. 11 and makes the state one of twenty to halt the use of death penalty. The result was welcomed by Washington’s Catholic bishops.

“We applaud the unanimous state Supreme Court decision issued today finding the death penalty unconstitutional,” Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle said in a statement Thursday.

“The Catholic Church’s consistent belief is that every human life is sacred from conception until natural death – it is this principle that has energized our efforts for decades to abolish the death penalty.”

The court ruling commutes the sentences of eight men currently on death row to life in prison, the Associated Press reports.

A five-judge majority on the Supreme Court said the evidence presented showed that death penalty sentences had been “imposed in an arbitrary and racially biased manner,” though the justices did not rule that execution is an inherently wrong penalty.

“We are confident that the association between race and the death penalty is not attributed to random chance,” said the decision, authored by Chief Justice Mary Fairhurst. “Our capital punishment law lacks ‘fundamental fairness.’"

Besides the race of the defendant, other arbitrary criteria in the application of the death penalty included factors such as location of the crime, county of residence, and even available budgetary resources.

The decision came in response to the appeal of Allen Eugene Gregory, an African-American man convicted of the 1996 rape, robbery and murder of waitress Geneine Harshfield. Gregory, now 46, was sentenced to death in 2001.

Earlier this year, working through the Washington State Catholic Conference, the bishops provided testimony backing legislation to repeal the death penalty. The bishops cited flaws in the sentencing process across the U.S., including 161 exonerations for people sentenced to death since 1973 and instances where innocent people have been executed.

 

Pope Francis has approved stronger Catholic opposition to the death penalty. On Aug. 2 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a papally-approved revision of a section of the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the death penalty.

 

Quoting Pope Francis’ words in a speech of Oct. 11, 2017, the section now states, in part, that “the Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that ‘the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person,’ and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide.”

 

Reasons for the change, the paragraph says, include the increasing effectiveness of detention systems; growing understanding of the unchanging dignity of the person; and leaving open the possibility of the prisoner’s conversion.

Defense lawyers have argued that Washington state’s worst mass murderers and serial killers had received life sentences instead of the death penalty, highlighting this as proof of arbitrary application of capital punishment.

Other death penalty critics drew on University of Washington sociologists’ findings, the Associated Press reported. While prosecutors are not more likely to seek the death penalty when the defendant is African-American, juries were about four times more likely to favor imposing the death penalty on black defendants.

Four other justices on the court concurred with the majority conclusion in a separate decision saying that other state constitutional factors “compel this result.”

Republican State Sen. Mike Padden had previously voted against death penalty repeal and was critical of the Supreme Court decision. While capital punishment should be rarely used, he said, “I do think it should be an option in the most heinous cases.”

Hannah Cox, national manager of Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, was among the supporters of the decision.

“This decision will save Washington state taxpayers millions of dollars that would otherwise be wasted,” Cox said. “Conservatives in Washington state and across the country increasingly realize the death penalty is a failed government program that does not value life, threatens innocent people, and wastes money.”

The court’s majority decision left open the option for the legislature to enact a “carefully drafted statute” allowing the death penalty but said it cannot create “a system that offends constitutional rights.”

State Attorney General Bob Ferguson said he would propose legislation to repeal the death penalty and replace it with life in prison without the possibility of parole.

“We should act quickly to remove the death penalty from state law once and for all,” he said in a statement.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee had imposed a moratorium on the death penalty in 2014.

Robert Dunham, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Death Penalty Information Center, told the Associated Press the use of the death penalty is becoming “increasingly geographically isolated” in  southern and southwestern states.

Texas has executed 108 prisoners since 2010, the most of any state. Florida has executed 28 over the same period, followed by Georgia and Oklahoma as the next most common users of capital punishment.

While court decisions, legislative actions or moratoria have halted the death penalty in many states, New Hampshire and Nebraska voters have overturned such decisions by veto or referendum.

 

Editorial Note: This story has been updated with additional content.

Wash. Supreme Court strikes down death penalty as arbitrary, racially biased

Olympia, Wash., Oct 12, 2018 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- The use of the death penalty is arbitrary, racially biased and unconstitutional, the Washington state Supreme Court has said in a unanimous decision barring its use.

The ruling was issued Oct. 11 and makes the state one of twenty to halt the use of death penalty. The result was welcomed by Washington’s Catholic bishops.

“We applaud the unanimous state Supreme Court decision issued today finding the death penalty unconstitutional,” Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle said in a statement Thursday.

“The Catholic Church’s consistent belief is that every human life is sacred from conception until natural death – it is this principle that has energized our efforts for decades to abolish the death penalty.”

The court ruling commutes the sentences of eight men currently on death row to life in prison, the Associated Press reports.

A five-judge majority on the Supreme Court said the evidence presented showed that death penalty sentences had been “imposed in an arbitrary and racially biased manner,” though the justices did not rule that execution is an inherently wrong penalty.

“We are confident that the association between race and the death penalty is not attributed to random chance,” said the decision, authored by Chief Justice Mary Fairhurst. “Our capital punishment law lacks ‘fundamental fairness.’"

Besides the race of the defendant, other arbitrary criteria in the application of the death penalty included factors such as location of the crime, county of residence, and even available budgetary resources.

The decision came in response to the appeal of Allen Eugene Gregory, an African-American man convicted of the 1996 rape, robbery and murder of waitress Geneine Harshfield. Gregory, now 46, was sentenced to death in 2001.

Earlier this year, working through the Washington State Catholic Conference, the bishops provided testimony backing legislation to repeal the death penalty. The bishops cited flaws in the sentencing process across the U.S., including 161 exonerations for people sentenced to death since 1973 and instances where innocent people have been executed.

 

Pope Francis has approved stronger Catholic opposition to the death penalty. On Aug. 2 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a papally-approved revision of a section of the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the death penalty.

 

Quoting Pope Francis’ words in a speech of Oct. 11, 2017, the section now states, in part, that “the Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that ‘the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person,’ and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide.”

 

Reasons for the change, the paragraph says, include the increasing effectiveness of detention systems; growing understanding of the unchanging dignity of the person; and leaving open the possibility of the prisoner’s conversion.

Defense lawyers have argued that Washington state’s worst mass murderers and serial killers had received life sentences instead of the death penalty, highlighting this as proof of arbitrary application of capital punishment.

Other death penalty critics drew on University of Washington sociologists’ findings, the Associated Press reported. While prosecutors are not more likely to seek the death penalty when the defendant is African-American, juries were about four times more likely to favor imposing the death penalty on black defendants.

Four other justices on the court concurred with the majority conclusion in a separate decision saying that other state constitutional factors “compel this result.”

Republican State Sen. Mike Padden had previously voted against death penalty repeal and was critical of the Supreme Court decision. While capital punishment should be rarely used, he said, “I do think it should be an option in the most heinous cases.”

Hannah Cox, national manager of Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, was among the supporters of the decision.

“This decision will save Washington state taxpayers millions of dollars that would otherwise be wasted,” Cox said. “Conservatives in Washington state and across the country increasingly realize the death penalty is a failed government program that does not value life, threatens innocent people, and wastes money.”

The court’s majority decision left open the option for the legislature to enact a “carefully drafted statute” allowing the death penalty but said it cannot create “a system that offends constitutional rights.”

State Attorney General Bob Ferguson said he would propose legislation to repeal the death penalty and replace it with life in prison without the possibility of parole.

“We should act quickly to remove the death penalty from state law once and for all,” he said in a statement.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee had imposed a moratorium on the death penalty in 2014.

Robert Dunham, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Death Penalty Information Center, told the Associated Press the use of the death penalty is becoming “increasingly geographically isolated” in  southern and southwestern states.

Texas has executed 108 prisoners since 2010, the most of any state. Florida has executed 28 over the same period, followed by Georgia and Oklahoma as the next most common users of capital punishment.

While court decisions, legislative actions or moratoria have halted the death penalty in many states, New Hampshire and Nebraska voters have overturned such decisions by veto or referendum.

 

Editorial Note: This story has been updated with additional content.

Cardinal O’Malley expands sex abuse investigation to include all Boston seminaries

Boston, Mass., Oct 12, 2018 / 11:47 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Archdiocese of Boston announced Thursday that it is expanding its sex abuse investigation to include all three of its seminaries.

The investigation will now include Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary and Redemptoris Mater Seminary, along with St. John’s Seminary, which has been under investigation since August after two of its seminarians filed abuse claims.

In his announcement of the expansion, Cardinal Sean O’Malley said that the decision to include the other two seminaries came about in consultations about the investigation into St. John’s.

“While the initial review was specific to St. John's, I have concluded that to meet the generally expected levels of transparency and accountability, it is best to expand the review to include all three seminaries,” O’Malley said.

“I want to reassure the seminary communities and the wider public that these are institutions committed to the highest standards of integrity, respect and safety for our seminarians, faculty and staff,” he added.

It is not known if there were additional accusations brought forward involving the additional seminaries. CNA asked the Archdiocese of Boston whether additional allegations have been made; the archdiocese referred CNA back to its statement issued Oct. 10.

An updated version of the statement includes a Frequently Asked Questions section, which poses the question: “Why include all three seminaries if the initial issue involved only Saint John’s Seminary?”

The answer to that question provided by the Archdiocese states: “While the issues pertained to St. John’s Seminary, the Cardinal wants to reassure the Catholic community and wider public that we owe it to future generations of seminarians that all three of our seminaries meet the highest level of exceptionalism and holiness for priestly formation.”

On August 10 of this year, O’Malley announced a major investigation into St. John’s Seminary in the Archdiocese of Boston, following allegations made by two former seminarians on social media. The cardinal also announced that the rector of the seminary, Monsignor James Moroney, had been placed on immediate leave to allow for a “fully independent inquiry.”

At that time, O’Malley said the two men who had brought the accusations forward had “witnessed and experienced activities which are directly contrary to the moral standards and requirements of formation for the Catholic priesthood” and that they would be taken seriously.

O’Malley, who also serves as the President of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, also announced in his Oct. 11 statement a change in the committee that will be conducting the investigation.

He said that the scope of the new investigation would be too broad for the original committee, and added the members of the original committee all had ties to St. John’s which might have compromised their objectivity.

“For these several reasons I have decided to engage (the lawfirm of) Yurko, Salvesen and Remz to conduct the review of the Archdiocesan seminaries,” O’Malley said.

“The review will be led by former U.S. Attorney Donald K. Stern, with the assistance of Doug Salvesen and others at the firm. Yurko, Salvesen and Remz has significant experience with the process of review that we seek and does not have an existing relationship with any of the seminaries or the Archdiocese of Boston.”

O'Malley encouraged anyone with relevant information to contact the investigating firm directly.

An independent report highlighting concerns, and steps to address them, will be issued once the investigation has been completed, O’Malley noted.

He added that the investigation will be done in such a way as to allow for “as little disruption as possible to the academic year now underway at the seminaries.”

He said that the Archdiocese is “blessed” to have its three seminaries, and that he looked forward to ordaining the largest number of new priests in more than two decades for the Archdiocese in the upcoming ordinations for the class of 2019.

He also noted that while he encourages everyone to pray for religious vocations, the role of the laity is also vital in the Church.

“In times such as we are experiencing it is of ever greater importance that we embrace the dedication, commitment and experience of the laity if we are to provide the path for our future priests to serve as witnesses of the love and mercy of Jesus.”

 

 

Cardinal O’Malley expands sex abuse investigation to include all Boston seminaries

Boston, Mass., Oct 12, 2018 / 11:47 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Archdiocese of Boston announced Thursday that it is expanding its sex abuse investigation to include all three of its seminaries.

The investigation will now include Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary and Redemptoris Mater Seminary, along with St. John’s Seminary, which has been under investigation since August after two of its seminarians filed abuse claims.

In his announcement of the expansion, Cardinal Sean O’Malley said that the decision to include the other two seminaries came about in consultations about the investigation into St. John’s.

“While the initial review was specific to St. John's, I have concluded that to meet the generally expected levels of transparency and accountability, it is best to expand the review to include all three seminaries,” O’Malley said.

“I want to reassure the seminary communities and the wider public that these are institutions committed to the highest standards of integrity, respect and safety for our seminarians, faculty and staff,” he added.

It is not known if there were additional accusations brought forward involving the additional seminaries. CNA asked the Archdiocese of Boston whether additional allegations have been made; the archdiocese referred CNA back to its statement issued Oct. 10.

An updated version of the statement includes a Frequently Asked Questions section, which poses the question: “Why include all three seminaries if the initial issue involved only Saint John’s Seminary?”

The answer to that question provided by the Archdiocese states: “While the issues pertained to St. John’s Seminary, the Cardinal wants to reassure the Catholic community and wider public that we owe it to future generations of seminarians that all three of our seminaries meet the highest level of exceptionalism and holiness for priestly formation.”

On August 10 of this year, O’Malley announced a major investigation into St. John’s Seminary in the Archdiocese of Boston, following allegations made by two former seminarians on social media. The cardinal also announced that the rector of the seminary, Monsignor James Moroney, had been placed on immediate leave to allow for a “fully independent inquiry.”

At that time, O’Malley said the two men who had brought the accusations forward had “witnessed and experienced activities which are directly contrary to the moral standards and requirements of formation for the Catholic priesthood” and that they would be taken seriously.

O’Malley, who also serves as the President of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, also announced in his Oct. 11 statement a change in the committee that will be conducting the investigation.

He said that the scope of the new investigation would be too broad for the original committee, and added the members of the original committee all had ties to St. John’s which might have compromised their objectivity.

“For these several reasons I have decided to engage (the lawfirm of) Yurko, Salvesen and Remz to conduct the review of the Archdiocesan seminaries,” O’Malley said.

“The review will be led by former U.S. Attorney Donald K. Stern, with the assistance of Doug Salvesen and others at the firm. Yurko, Salvesen and Remz has significant experience with the process of review that we seek and does not have an existing relationship with any of the seminaries or the Archdiocese of Boston.”

O'Malley encouraged anyone with relevant information to contact the investigating firm directly.

An independent report highlighting concerns, and steps to address them, will be issued once the investigation has been completed, O’Malley noted.

He added that the investigation will be done in such a way as to allow for “as little disruption as possible to the academic year now underway at the seminaries.”

He said that the Archdiocese is “blessed” to have its three seminaries, and that he looked forward to ordaining the largest number of new priests in more than two decades for the Archdiocese in the upcoming ordinations for the class of 2019.

He also noted that while he encourages everyone to pray for religious vocations, the role of the laity is also vital in the Church.

“In times such as we are experiencing it is of ever greater importance that we embrace the dedication, commitment and experience of the laity if we are to provide the path for our future priests to serve as witnesses of the love and mercy of Jesus.”

 

 

USAID and Knights of Columbus in agreement to help Mid East Christians

Washington D.C., Oct 12, 2018 / 11:00 am (CNA).- The Knights of Columbus have signed an agreement with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to cooperate in assisting religious minorities in the Middle East rebuild their communities following the persecution and genocide of the Islamic State.

The joint effort was agreed in a memorandum of understanding announced Oct. 12 and will begin in Iraq, before being rolled out throughout the region.

Andrew Walther, Vice President for Strategic Communications for the Knights of Columbus, said that the agreement was an important advance in helping the Christian communities who had suffered under IS.

“This memorandum is important in itself,” he told CNA. “But it is also illustrative of a wider engagement with, commitment to, and prioritization of persecuted communities in the region by USAID - not only Christians but Yazidis, Shi’a Muslims and others.”

Carl Anderson, the Supreme Knight and head of the Catholic fraternal order, released a statement Friday welcoming the news.

“The Knights of Columbus is pleased to work together with USAID in the important work being done to stabilize these communities and hope that our joint and combined efforts will bring hope and concrete improvement to the situation confronting minority communities targeted by ISIS,” Anderson said.

“Vice President Mike Pence and [USAID] Administrator Mark Green are to be commended for working to ensure that these communities are not overlooked by American government assistance.”

USAID plans to work closely with the Knights, and local faith and community leaders, to deliver aid rapidly to persecuted communities, according the memorandum signed Friday.

“Crucially,” the document states, “the support will flow directly to individuals and households most in need of help.”

In the agreement, USAID recognized “the unique expertise and relationships of trust that organizations like Knights of Columbus has forged with local and faith-based organizations in the region.”

According to the memorandum, partnerships with the Knights and similar organizations will form a crucial part of delivering the Genocide Recovery and Persecution Response Program in the Middle East announced last year by Vice President Mike Pence.

Andrew Walther explained that these partnership had historical roots.

“Almost exactly 100 years ago there was a real public-private partnership in the United States to help ensure the survival of Christian communities being persecuted throughout the Ottoman Empire,” he said.

“Under the Wilson administration, several organizations including, in a modest way, the Knights partnered with the government to deliver aid to these communities under threat. Reviving this historical cooperation will make our combined efforts that much more effective for the benefit of those Christians struggling to survive in their own land.”

USAID is responsible for delivering the program and currently has more than $195 million in planned and active efforts to support rebuilding in northern Iraq.

In addition to advocacy work on behalf of persecuted minorities, the Knights of Columbus Charities has committed more than $20 million in aid to the region since 2014. An additional $5 million is expected to be committed over the next six months.

Two years ago, the Knights produced a report detailing IS atrocities in the region. That report was instrumental in successive U.S. secretaries of state designating the treatment of religious minorities in the region by Islamic State as genocide.

The memorandum also committed both organizations to “enhance our collective response to vulnerable populations to help preserve and promote pluralism in the Middle East” through assistance to a number of communities hit hard by IS, including Yazidis, Christians, Shi’a Muslims, and other ethnic and religious communities.

“Our work with USAID is intended to help these populations survive and prosper in lands they have called home for centuries, and even millennia. We cannot allow ISIS to succeed in driving them out,” Anderson said.

USAID has partnered with religious communities and organizations in carrying out its work since its establishment in the 1960s.

Aid to the persecuted Christian communities in Iraq was one of the central focuses of the the Knight of Columbus’ annual convention held in August.

Report on campus ministry highlights opportunity and unmet needs

Washington D.C., Oct 11, 2018 / 05:15 pm (CNA).- The benefits and drawbacks of different Catholic campus ministry models were the focus of a new U.S. bishops’ report released Oct. 9. The report also highlighted a lack of a Catholic presence especially at community colleges.

“Catholic campus ministry provides a unique opportunity to meet and engage young adults and adults at every phase of Church life and testimony,” Bishop John M. Quinn of Winona-Rochester, Minn. and Auxiliary Bishop Fernand Cheri of the Archdiocese of New Orleans said in the report’s forward.

“Our ministry must center on people, for we are forming men and women to be people that reflect Christ to each other and to the world,” said the two bishops.

There is a Catholic presence at about 25 percent of the more than 3,000 four-year colleges and universities in the U.S. Among the country’s 1,500 community colleges, only one in 60 have a Catholic presence.

Bishop Quinn chairs the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Education, while Bishop Cheri is episcopal liaison to the Catholic Campus Ministry Association. The report includes a pastoral synthesis and proposed action plan from the two bishops.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat of Education commissioned the study, titled “A National Study on Campus Catholic Ministry,” with the goal of advancing Catholic identity in higher education and to renew the vision of Catholic campus ministry across the country, the U.S. bishops’ conference said.

“Catholic campus ministers need to reach far more campuses than they currently serve,” said the report. “Community colleges present a particularly urgent need.”

The report said there is a need to increase the quality of campus ministry as well as the number of campuses and students served.

The study had a 56 percent response rate among the estimated 1,911 campus ministers in the U.S. in 2017. It drew on the experience of campus ministers at public, private and Catholic institutions as well as mission officers, faculty members, missionaries, bishops and other stakeholders. These numbers included more than 500 missionaries with Fellowship of Catholic University Students, as well as St. Paul’s Outreach missionaries.

Only two percent of respondents served at community colleges.

The study examined the demographics of campus ministers. Overall, 69 percent are lay people, with 31 percent ordained and religious. Only five percent are religious sisters. Of the ordained and religious, the median age is 54 years old, compared to the overall median age of 35. Lay campus ministers have a median age of 29 years old. Overall, about 60 percent have a ministry-related degree.

The report considered the diversity of models of ministry, whether based at an office, parish, student center, a diocese, a multi-campus effort, or missionary. There are also different pastoral styles of campus ministry.

The report indicated some difference in emphasis between the missionary organization model and office-based campus ministry. Missionaries are usually recent college graduates serving within other pastoral models. These groups emphasize relationship and service to Catholic students through mentoring, small Bible studies, or community households.

The office-based model mainly exists on Catholic campuses. These offices are well-staffed with long-term employees significantly more likely to have a graduate degree. Such offices serve the whole campus, including Catholic and non-Catholic students, faculty and staff.

For the report’s authors, the variety of ministry models reflect the Catholic Church’s own diversity and complexity.

“While no one model captures the fullness of the Catholic faith, collectively these models represent the incredible breadth of the Catholic faith,” the report said. “This diversity of models offers a variety of paths to encounter Christ, simultaneously calling for greater respect and appreciation among campus ministers as well as for honest ministerial self-assessment.”

The report also noted that some students find conversion in devotional practices, while others find it through service, and that ministers should be aware that the practices they find nourishing for their faith may not resonate with all students.

It noted the need for pastoral sensitivity towards the spiritual needs of students and the campus community, including estranged Catholics, “seekers,” devout non-Christians, and student leaders.

Vocational discernment is one of the least common activities offered to students, and campus ministers rank vocational discernment and spiritual direction among the lowest in significance for students’ spiritual growth, the report found.

The report said campus ministers must continue to improve their abilities, especially in areas that are not directly faith-related like administration, organization and budgeting.

“All campus ministers should be given educational access to foundational and ongoing training and formation necessary for responsible ministry in a campus setting,” said the report.

The report authors were surprised by the number of ministers without regular spiritual direction. Almost sixty percent receive spiritual direction monthly or more, one-fifth receive it less than monthly, and sixteen percent receive none at all.

The bishops’ Committee on Catholic Education has backed several recommendations for campus ministry, including an update of national standards; an update and redesign of the certification process for campus ministers; and guidelines for the formation and ongoing professional development of campus ministers in cooperation with the Alliance for Campus Ministry.

Thousands of Catholic students gather for Mass and winter coat drive in Minnesota

Minneapolis, Minn., Oct 11, 2018 / 03:13 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Thousands of young Catholic students gathered for Mass, music, and a winter clothing drive on Wednesday morning in a stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Drawing children from 79 Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, 12,000 students attended the second annual Mass of the Holy Spirit on Oct 10.

In celebration of the new school year, the students assembled to participate in worship and listen to Christian music like the rock group Sonar and rapper Connor Flanagan. The event also included Coats for Kids, a donation drive aiming to collect 12,000 winter coats for Minnesota kids.

The Mass was celebrated by Archbishop Bernard Hebda of Saint Paul and Minneapolis. In his homily, he encouraged all the students to put their faith into practice.

“Every day in every one of our excellent Catholic schools, we have the chance to practice. We practice what it means to be like Christ, to live as Christ lived, to see the world through his eyes,” Hebda said.

The archbishop began his sermon recalling the victory of the Minnesota Vikings over the New Orleans Saints in a football game earlier this year. The bishop said that in that game, when quarterback Case Keenum threw a 61-yard game-winning pass to wide receiver Stefon Diggs, the play was not a random miracle but the result of practice and careful planning.

He encouraged the students to be studious but also to live the faith with action. He further added that this may be achieved by pursuing little moments with great love.

“Our schools are great places for learning the drills, for sharpening the skills, for building our stamina, for learning what true Christ-like success feels like so that on game day we are going to be ready to step up and put our faith into action,” he said.

“It might be something as small as a smile to a classmate who’s down, or sharing some of our Doritos or broccoli at lunch. It might be helping a new student feel at home in your school, when they struggle with English because they have just arrived in our country.”

He said it may even be simple appreciative gestures to the teachers, lunch ladies, and other faculty members of the school, and he then led the students in an applause for school employees.

This Christ-like faith takes practice, he said, but it also involves the preparation of a coach, noting the instruction and guidance of the Holy Spirit.

“It’s the Holy Spirit, who like the best coach, breathes life into all our efforts, who inspires us to do our best, to practice what it means to be a good Christian, and to put our Catholic values into action,” he said.

At the end of his homily, Archbishop Hebda led the congregation of students to repeat after him the following prayer to the Holy Spirit, asking for greater sanctification.  

“Oh Holy Spirit, come into my life and school this year, help me become the loving person I was created to be. I want to be more like Christ and to put my faith into action. Prepare me for greatness, help me to know Jesus and develop my God given talents, and then use me as you will so that I might serve my brothers and sisters, and always give glory to you, to Jesus, and to our Heavenly Father.”

 

Texas dioceses make joint pledge to release lists of accused clergy

Austin, Texas, Oct 11, 2018 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- All 15 Catholic dioceses in Texas plan to release names of clergy who have been credibly accused of sexually abusing a minor, according to a release from the Texas Conference of Catholic Bishops. The release will include all accusations dating back to the 1950s.

In an Oct. 10 statement released by the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops, Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller of San Antonio said that, because of the size of the state, compiling comprehensive lists will take some time.

Texas has 8.5 million Catholics in 1,320 parishes.

All dioceses plan to publish their lists by Jan. 31, 2019 and they will be updated as new information becomes available.

"Every bishop in our state has made a statement expressing his concern for all who have been hurt and I want to express my personal sorrow at such fundamental violations of trust that have happened,” said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston. “We are completely committed to eradicating the evil of sexual abuse in the church and promoting healing among the faithful and those injured by this crime.”

The Diocese of Fort Worth was the first diocese in Texas to begin publishing an updated list of clergy accused of sexual abuse. After first publicly identifying credibly accused priests in 2005, the list has been continually updated since 2007. The list currently contains the names of 15 priests, one permanent deacon, and one religious brother.

“Jesus shows how central and essential the respectful care and protection of the child and vulnerable are to the mission that He has entrusted to His Church, a mission that continues in the contemporary world,” Bishop Michael Olsen of Fort Worth wrote in a statement supporting the TCCB’s announcement.

“I maintain a zero-tolerance policy for sexual abuse of minors because ministry in the Church is a grace from God that carries with it sober responsibility, not a right to be claimed by anyone as an entitlement.

Information on how to report abuse in Texas can be found at http://txcatholic.org/how-to-report.

Wisconsin man sentenced for trying to induce girlfriend to abortion

Madison, Wis., Oct 11, 2018 / 04:01 am (CNA).- A Wisconsin man was sentenced to 22 years in prison Oct. 9 for spiking his pregnant girlfriend’s drink with an abortion-inducing drug, in an attempt to induce a miscarriage. His girlfriend reportedly never drank the concoction, but miscarried weeks later.

Manishkumar Patel, 45, and his girlfriend had gone out for ice cream when his girlfriend noticed an unusual powder in her smoothie. Two lab reports confirmed that the powder was the abortion-inducing drug mifepristone.

Patel was reportedly charged for the crime in 2007 but went on the run to India for a decade, before being finally arrested in New York in 2017, according to local media.

“I have had plenty of time to think about what I did,” Patel said during the sentencing as reported by the Post Crescent. “I have no excuse or explanation for my actions.”

Patel also said he didn’t want another child because he and his then-girlfriend already had a son with a debilitating medical condition.

“I was convinced my unborn child would suffer the same fate,” he said. “This did not excuse what I did.”

County Judge John Des Jardins, who handed down Patel’s sentence, said he had to consider the severity of the crime and the impact it had on the victims, including the unborn child. The judge also sentenced Patel to four years extended supervision following the 22 years in jail.

In Wisconsin the attempted homicide charge carries a maximum sentence of 60 years in prison.

US congressional report documents 'dire human rights situation' in China

Washington D.C., Oct 10, 2018 / 04:50 pm (CNA).- A new congressional report slams China’s Communist Party for increasing its repressive control over many aspects of Chinese society, and for its numerous extreme and unprecedented human rights violations that may constitute crimes against humanity.

The report states that it “highlights the dire human rights situation inside China and the continued downward trajectory by virtually every measure, since Xi Jinping” came to power, first as the Communist Party’s general secretary and now as its president.

Published Oct. 10, the report was prepared and released by the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, which is chaired by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and co-chaired by Rep. Christopher Smith (R-NJ). The commission was created in 2000 to monitor human rights and rule of law developments in China.  

In a press conference at the report’s release, Rubio said that that mandate “remains pressing and urgently necessary” in the face of the Communist Party’s current human rights violations.

Key themes found in the report were the “unprecedented repression of ethnic minorities...which may constitute crimes against humanity, a dramatic increase of Communist party control over government, society and business, and the third is the increasing use of technology as a tool of oppression,” Rubio said.

Rubio emphasized that the report was not criticizing the Chinese people nor its culture, but rather the Chinese Communist Party, which rules China’s government.

Of particular concern, the report notes, is the “mass, arbitrary, internment of as many as 1 million or more Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities in ‘political reeducation’ camps in western China.”

Local Chinese officials in these areas have been found using “alarming” rhetoric in reference to these minorities, calling them “tumors” or “weeds” that must be eradicated or killed, the commission found.

“Reports indicate that this may be the largest incarceration of an ethnic minority population since World War II, and that it may constitute crimes against humanity,” the commission stated in its report.

Human rights activists have harshly criticized the camps for their goals of “thought transformation” which aim to extend control over the religious and social practices of the minority populations held there, including banning beards, veils, and “unusual” names.

In regards to religious freedom in China, the commission noted that it “continued to observe widespread and systematic violation of the principles of religious freedom during the 2018 reporting year, as Chinese authorities exercised broad discretion over religious practice,” despite guarantees of religious freedom in Chinese and international law.  
 
One of the most concerning trends regarding Chinese religious freedom is the Communist party’s policy of “sinicization”, which means that government officials “develop and promote policies aimed at shaping religious practice in China to promote and assimilate to a Chinese cultural (and Party) identity.”

The Catholic Church in China remains divided, with about 6 million of the country’s 10.5 million Catholics belonging to Party-approved Catholic congregations.

The other 4.5 million Catholics comprise what is often referred to as the “underground” Catholic Church in China, who are dubious of Party-sanctioned and elected bishops and their teachings “because they believe legitimate ecclesiastical authority can be conferred only by the Pope’s mandate, and they also object to affiliation with the patriotic religious association for Chinese Catholics, the Catholic Patriotic Association (CPA).”

In a controversial effort aimed at unifying the Church in China, the Vatican announced in September that Pope Francis had recognized seven illicitly ordained bishops after the signing of a provisional deal with the Chinese government over the nomination of bishops. Under the deal, the Chinese government can propose candidates as part of the nomination process, but the Pope must give final approval.

Many Chinese Catholics and religious freedom experts have expressed doubts about whether the deal will actually bring unity, or whether it will further encourage the Party’s control over the Church in China and further divide Chinese Catholics. Leading up to the deal in June through August of this year, officials dismantled a popular Catholic pilgrimage site and destroyed two Catholic churches, and issued instructions to dioceses to report on local plans for implementation of a five-year plan to “sinicize” Catholicism in China, the commission found.

The commission also slammed China’s ongoing family planning restrictions for continuing to coerce women and families despite having the recent expansion to a two-child policy.

“The amended PRC Population and Family Planning Law and provincial-level regulations continued to limit couples’ freedom to build their families as they see fit, and include provisions that require couples to be married to have children and limit them to bearing two children,” the report states.

“Officials reportedly continued to enforce compliance with family planning policies using methods including heavy fines, job termination, detention, and abortion,” the commission noted. “Coercive controls imposed on Chinese women and their families, and additional abuses engendered by China’s population and family planning system, violate standards set forth in the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the 1994 Programme of Action of the Cairo International Conference on Population and Development.”

China was a state participant in the negotiation and adoption of both programs.

Furthermore, studies have found that the two-child policy in China did not have the intended effect of spurring population growth in the country, and population experts have recommended that the Chinese government expand to a three-child policy, or end “all birth restrictions, abolish ‘social compensation fees,’ and offer incentives or supporting policies, such as tax breaks and subsidies, to encourage couples to have more children.”

Other areas of concern addressed in the report included the status of women, public health, political prisoners, freedom of expression and workers rights, among other things.

“The ever-expanding scope of domestic repression documented in the pages that follow directly affects an increasing number of Chinese citizens, stirring resentment, dissent, and even activism in unlikely places,” Rubio and Smith noted in the report’s summary.

“As American policymakers revisit the assumptions that previously informed U.S.-China relations, and seek to chart a new path forward, it is vital that our foreign policy prioritizes the promotion of universal human rights and the protection of basic human dignity, principles the Chinese Communist Party is actively trying to redefine,” they said.

These efforts “have merit on their own accord, and they are also inextricably linked to vital U.S. national interests, including regional stability in the Indo-Pacific, the future of young and emerging democracies in our hemisphere, and the strength of our own civic institutions domestically.”