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Wuerl cancels World Meeting of Families appearance

Washington D.C., Aug 18, 2018 / 08:35 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Archbishop of Washington has cancelled his scheduled participation at the Church’s World Meeting of Families, which will be held next week in Dublin, Ireland.

The cancellation comes after a week in which Washington’s archbishop, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, has faced heavy criticism for the way he managed priests who had been accused of sexual assault during his tenure of Bishop of Pittsburgh, from 1988 to 2006.

On Aug. 14, a Pennsylvania grand jury released its report on an 18-month investigation into seven decades of clerical sexual abuse allegations in six Pennsylvania dioceses, including Pittsburgh. The report raised serious questions about Wuerl’s handling of abuse cases, including one in which Wuerl authorized the transfer and continued ministry of a priest who had been accused of committing acts of sexual abuse decades earlier.

Wuerl has denied having had knowledge of the allegations at the time he authorized the transfer, but questions remain unanswered regarding his management of that case and others.

The cardinal has also recently faced questions related to what he might have known about the alleged sexually coercive behavior of his predecessor as Archbishop of Washington, former cardinal Theodore McCarrick. In recent months, McCarrick has faced allegations that he serially sexually abused two adolescent boys, and spent decades committing acts of sexual assault and coercion toward seminarians and young priests. In 2005 and and 2007, two New Jersey dioceses reached settlements with alleged victims of McCarrick.

Wuerl, who succeeded McCarrick as Archbishop of Washington in 2006, reports having had no knowledge of those settlements, or of any complaints about sexually abusive behavior on the part of McCarrick, who continued to live and minister in the Archdiocese of Washington subsequent to his retirement.

Wuerl has faced multiple calls for his resignation this week. In fact, the cardinal actually submitted a letter of resignation to Pope Francis in November 2015, upon turning 75, the age at which bishops customarily submit letters of resignation to the pope. While many insiders had expected Wuerl to remain in his post until the age of 80, it now seems likely that his resignation will be accepted before that time.

There has been no indication from the Vatican of when Wuerl’s resignation might be accepted. However, sources close to the cardinal speculate that he might remain in his position long enough to participate in initial discussions among U.S. bishops as they begin to address the fallout from the monumental sexual abuse crisis the Church is now facing.

 Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston also cancelled his participation this week in the World Meeting of Families. O’Malley withdrew from the event after announcing an investigation into allegations of sexual improprieties at the Archdiocese of Boston’s seminary.

The World Meeting of Families is organized by the Vatican’s Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life, which is headed by Cardinal Kevin Farrell, formerly the Bishop of Dallas, and before that an auxiliary bishop, under McCarrick, in the Archdiocese of Washington.

The World Meeting of Families will take place Aug. 21-26. Pope Francis will celebrate an open air Mass in Dublin’s Phoenix Park on Aug. 26.

Bishop Morlino: 'Homosexual subculture' is source of 'devastation' in the Church

Madison, Wis., Aug 18, 2018 / 02:21 pm (CNA).- In response to recent sexual abuse crises, the Bishop of Madison, Wisconsin, has said that the Catholic Church must renew its conviction to identify and reject sin, and admit that a homosexual culture among some clerics has caused great harm in the Church.

The bishop also called Catholics to join him in offering acts of reparation for the sins of sexual immorality among Catholic deacons, priests, and bishops.

“For too long we have diminished the reality of sin — we have refused to call a sin a sin — and we have excused sin in the name of a mistaken notion of mercy. In our efforts to be open to the world we have become all too willing to abandon the Way, the Truth, and the Life. In order to avoid causing offense we offer to ourselves and to others niceties and human consolation,” wrote Bishop Robert Morlino in a pastoral letter released Aug. 18.

“There must be no room left, no refuge for sin — either within our own lives, or within the lives of our communities. To be a refuge for sinners (which we should be), the Church must be a place where sinners can turn to be reconciled. In this I speak of all sin,” he added.

Morlino said that he had been sickened by reading the stories of sexual abuse contained in a report on clerical sexual abuse released Aug. 14 by a Pennsylvania grand jury, and by allegations against former cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who has been accused of serially sexually abusing two teenage boys, and of sexually assaulting and coercing priests and seminarians for several decades.

“But my own sickness at the stories is quickly put into perspective when I recall the fact that many individuals have lived through them for years. For them, these are not stories, they are indeed realities. To them I turn and say, again, I am sorry for what you have suffered and what you continue to suffer in your mind and in your heart,” he wrote.

The bishop was particularly candid in his assessment of the cause of those problems: “In the specific situations at hand, we are talking about deviant sexual — almost exclusively homosexual — acts by clerics. We’re also talking about homosexual propositions and abuses against seminarians and young priests by powerful priests, bishops, and cardinals. We are talking about acts and actions which are not only in violation of the sacred promises made by some, in short, sacrilege, but also are in violation of the natural moral law for all. To call it anything else would be deceitful and would only ignore the problem further.”

"There has been a great deal of effort to keep separate acts which fall under the category of now-culturally-acceptable acts of homosexuality from the publically-deplorable acts of pedophilia. That is to say, until recently the problems of the Church have been painted purely as problems of pedophilia — this despite clear evidence to the contrary," he added.

"It is time to be honest that the problems are both and they are more. To fall into the trap of parsing problems according to what society might find acceptable or unacceptable is ignoring the fact that the Church has never held ANY of it to be acceptable — neither the abuse of children, nor any use of one’s sexuality outside of the marital relationship, nor the sin of sodomy, nor the entering of clerics into intimate sexual relationships at all, nor the abuse and coercion by those with authority," he wrote.

Morlino said that McCarrick was guilty of abusing power "for the sake of homosexual gratification." 

“It is time to admit that there is a homosexual subculture within the hierarchy of the Catholic Church that is wreaking great devastation in the vineyard of the Lord. The Church’s teaching is clear that the homosexual inclination is not in itself sinful, but it is intrinsically disordered in a way that renders any man stably afflicted by it unfit to be a priest,” he added.

Morlino wrote to seminarians of his diocese that they should immediately notify him of any sexual abuse, coercion, or sexual immorality they might experience or witness in their seminaries.

“I will address it swiftly and vigorously. I will not stand for this in my diocese or anywhere I send men for formation,” he wrote, adding that he expects seminaries to address sexual immorality directly.

To the priests of Madison, the bishop explained his expectation that each one “live out your priesthood as a holy priest, a hard working priest, and a pure and happy priest — as Christ Himself is calling you to do. And by extension, live a chaste and celibate life so that you can completely give your life to Christ, the Church, and the people whom he has called you to serve. God will give you the graces to do so.”

He likewise called priests to notify him of abuse or sexual immorality they might become aware of.

Morlino also wrote to lay Catholics, asking them to bring forward any instance of clerical sexual abuse or immorality they might be aware of. The bishop promised to hold priests and seminarians accountable to chaste standards of behavior, and to call for reform in the Church.

The bishop asked lay Catholics to “assist in keeping us accountable to civil authorities, the faithful in the pews, and to God Almighty, not only to protect children and the youth from sexual predators in the Church, but our seminarians, university students, and all the faithful as well. I promise to put any victim and their sufferings before that of the personal and professional reputation of a priest, or any Church employee, guilty of abuse.”

The bishop concluded his letter with a call to holiness and prayer.

“More than anything else, we as a Church must cease our acceptance of sin and evil. We must cast out sin from our own lives and run toward holiness. We must refuse to be silent in the face of sin and evil in our families and communities and we must demand from our pastors — myself included — that they themselves are striving day in and day out for holiness. We must do this always with loving respect for individuals but with a clear understanding that true love can never exist without truth.”

“I ask you all to join me and the entire clergy of the Diocese of Madison in making public and private acts of reparation to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and to the Immaculate Heart of Mary for all the sins of sexual depravity committed by members of the clergy and episcopacy,” he wrote.

He added that he would be offering a public Mass of reparation in the diocese and explained that on Sept. 19, 21, and 22, the traditional “ember days” of the Church, he would be fasting “in reparation for the sins and outrages committed by members of the clergy and episcopacy and I invite all the faithful to do the same.”

“Some sins, like some demons, can only be driven out by prayer and fasting,” he wrote.

 

After roadblocks, film on abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell releases preview

Washington D.C., Aug 18, 2018 / 06:04 am (CNA).- The trial of a Philadelphia abortion doctor, whose shoddy clinics and gruesome practices led to his conviction of three counts of murder and one count of involuntary manslaughter, is the subject of a movie due to be released in October.

A trailer previews the movie “Gosnell: America’s Biggest Serial Killer”, a crowd-funded project produced by a team of filmmakers and journalists, some of whom were present for the trial which concluded in 2013.

The name takes its title from the grand jury report in the trial, which detailed the crimes and grisly malpractices of abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell’s clinics, including the snipping of the necks of more than 100 babies who had survived abortion.

The film was given the green light to show in U.S. theaters after the producers settled with Judge Jeffrey Minehart, who was involved in the original Gosnell trial and sued to block the film’s release, arguing that he was portrayed in the film as “Philadelphia’s liberal corrupt government.”

The film’s producers told The Hollywood Reporter that it had been “a really hard road” but that they are anticipating the movie to show in as many as 750 theaters throughout the country.

“No matter what your stance is on abortion, you will have a more informed opinion after you see Gosnell,” director Nick Searcy said.

The filmmakers have said they are hoping to avoid an R-rating by alluding to, but not directly showing, some of the most gruesome details of Gosnell’s practices.

"The fanatic subject matter poses a risk," executive producer John Sullivan told The Hollywood Reporter. "We were very careful not to make it too graphic. Gosnell saving feet of infants in jars as trophies plays a role, and you’ll see him take scissors out, but that part plays out as theater of the mind."

After reportedly being kicked off of crowdfunding site Kickstarter because of the film’s anti-abortion content, the multi-million dollar project was crowdfunded on Indiegogo, and was one of the most successfully crowdfunded films of all time, according to Gosnell producers.

“Almost 30,000 people donated over $2.3m in 45 days. When it ended it was the most successful crowdfunding campaign on the Indiegogo website,” the producers note on their website. “We want to thank all of our funders who helped make this project such a success. We literally could not have done it without you. This is your movie.”

Phelim McAleer, one of the film’s producers and a journalist who covered the Gosnell trial, said in an introductory video to the film that part of the motivation for the movie was the lack of attention to the trial in the mainstream media.

“The media have basically ignored his crime and his trial,” he said.

“He ran an abortion clinic in Philadelphia where he delivered live, viable babies and then murdered these newborns by severing their spinal cords with scissors.”

"I've been on hard films before, but this one was particularly difficult," Sullivan told The Hollywood Reporter. "Hollywood is afraid of this content. It's a true story the media tried to ignore from the very beginning, so I wasn’t surprised to see Hollywood ignore us."

During Gosnell's trial, one Philadelphia-area reporter took photos of the courtroom showing that the courtroom benches reserved from the press were empty.

National media covered the case only after pro-life advocates launched a social media campaign to raise awareness about the case.

Gosnell's clinic had not been subject to oversight by the state of Pennsylvania since 1993. A federal drug raid in 2010 uncovered blood-stained rooms and filthy equipment.

According to the grand jury report, the clinic stored aborted fetuses in a basement freezer in plastic food containers and bags next to staff lunches. Gosnell kept severed feet of unborn babies preserved in specimen jars, allegedly for future identification or DNA samples.

Staff allegedly sent women to give birth into toilets, a doctor allegedly spread sexually transmitted infections to women through poor sanitary standards, and a 15-year-old staffer administered anesthesia to patients. The clinic also allegedly gave preferential treatment to white patients.

In addition to the counts of first degree murder, the abortion doctor was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the death of a patient who died of an overdose in 2009.

Prosecutors had sought a third-degree murder charge in her case, saying Gosnell let his untrained and unlicensed staff give the 41-year-old Bhutanese immigrant woman a fatal combination of drugs.

Several of Gosnell’s former employees have pleaded guilty to murder and other charges. Gosnell himself is now serving several life sentences.

“Gosnell” opens in theaters throughout the country on Oct. 12 through GVN Releasing. It stars Dean Cain as Detective James “Woody” Wood, the main detective on the case, and Earl Billings as Dr. Kermit Gosnell.

Dan Burke appointed president, COO of EWTN News 

Irondale, Ala., Aug 17, 2018 / 03:20 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- EWTN Global Catholic Network announced Friday that Daniel Burke has been named President and Chief Operating Officer of EWTN News, Inc. Burke has been until now Executive Director of EWTN’s National Catholic Register.

The appointment is effective immediately. In his new role, Burke will oversee and direct EWTN’s global news operations, including EWTN News Nightly with Lauren Ashburn, The World Over with Raymond Arroyo, EWTN Pro-Life Weekly, Force for Good, the Washington, D.C. News Production group, The National Catholic Register, Catholic News Agency, the ACI Group, ChurchPop, and EWTN’s Vatican Bureau.

In a statement, Burke said that EWTN Foundress Mother Angelica “changed the face of Catholicism in America as she advanced the Gospel through her use of the media.”

Today, Mother Angelica’s legacy continues through EWTN, he said, and Catholic news contributes to the network’s mission of worldwide evangelization.  

“I am honored to play a small role in this great work of God and look forward to serving the vital mission of EWTN News as we engage and examine the events of the day through the lens of the teachings of the Church.”

Burke will report directly to Michael Warsaw, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of EWTN, according to a press release issued by the network.

“Over the past several years, EWTN has focused a great deal of effort on creating a global Catholic news platform through television, radio, print and digital,” said Warsaw in a statement.

“Dan Burke is a perfect choice to lead these operations,” Warsaw said. “He is uniquely suited to help facilitate cooperation and editorial collaboration across our multiple outlets. I am confident this will result in a greatly strengthened position for all of our news operations.”

Burke has been employed by EWTN since the network acquired the National Catholic Register in 2011.

Before joining the National Catholic Register, he worked in global strategy development, organizational development, and business and technology consulting. He has written or edited 11 books on Catholic spirituality, and he founded the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, which teaches graduate-level courses in spirituality to priests, religious and laity.

EWTN Global Catholic Network was launched in 1981 by Mother Angelica of the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration. The largest religious media network in the world, it reaches more than 275 million television households in more than 145 countries and territories.

In addition to 11 television channels in multiple languages, EWTN platforms include radio services through shortwave and satellite radio, SIRIUS/XM, iHeart Radio, and over 500 AM & FM affiliates. EWTN publishes the National Catholic Register, operates a religious goods catalogue, and in 2015 formed EWTN Publishing in a joint venture with Sophia Institute Press. Catholic News Agency is also part of the EWTN family.

US bishops express anguish over abuse reports, encourage change in Church

Washington D.C., Aug 17, 2018 / 03:12 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- After a grand jury found thousands of alleged instances of sexual abuse in six of Pennsylvania’s Catholic dioceses, numerous U.S. bishops have called for renewal and change in face of these heartbreaking events.

Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles, vice president of U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the Church in the U.S. is in “a sad and confusing time.”

In his homily for the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Aug. 15, the archbishop asked the Blessed Mother to intercede for greater purity and renewed love inside the Church.

“Let us ask the intercession of our Blessed Mother Mary, the Mother of the Church. May she help us to have the courage we need to purify the Church and renew our love for holiness and our devotion to Jesus Christ and his Gospel.”

An 884-page grand jury report was released Aug. 14. The report states more than 1,000 victims had been sexually abused by some 300 priests over a span of seven decades. The report also points to the efforts to conceal or ignore the abuse by Church authorities.

Archbishop Gomez said now is the time for prayers and repentance in the Church, encouraging actions of forgiveness and healing.

“This is a time now for prayer and repentance and a time for examining our conscience, especially for those of us who are bishops and priests. And all of us need to pray for every person who has been hurt by the Church, and we need to work to help them heal.”

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia said the report should also ignite a just anger, not an unhealthy rage, and he compared it to Christ's actions toward the moneychangers in the temple.

His archdiocese experienced similar reports on abuse in 2005 and 2011, he said, noting the “The anger Philadelphians felt toward the Archdiocese was likewise well placed.” Similarly, he said, this recent event calls for an anger which needs to be controlled and fruitful.

“Anger is also a righteous and necessary response – but it needs to be an anger that bears good fruit; an anger guided by clear thinking, prudence, and a desire for real justice. That kind of anger all of us should feel this week and carry with us into the days ahead.”

For his archdiocese, he said, anger motivated change. Since the abuse had been made known, the archdiocese has taught an estimated 100,000 laypeople and clergy to recognize and report abuse.

An Aug. 15 statement from the bishops of New Jersey dioceses acknowledged “that media accounts of the details contained in Pennsylvania’s grand jury report show a heartbreaking departure from our fundamental belief in the dignity and value of every child. As a Church, our calling remains unchanged - to help children in our care encounter leaders who exemplify God’s commandment to love and protect the most vulnerable.”

“As Bishops, we hold that every parent and every child deserve a safe environment to learn and explore their faith. Every space where teaching, worship, and ministry take place must provide this safe environment. There must be no compromise on this principle. The children entrusted to our care are treasures.”

The New Jersey bishops said they will “remain vigilant to ensure that not one child will ever be abused on our watch,” adding that the state's dioceses have conducted background checks on all personnel who have regular contact with minors.

“We thank law enforcement agencies, child protection advocates and victims themselves who have helped us move beyond compliance to creating the safest environments for learning and worship. We are deeply thankful for those who have joined our efforts to extend both healing and hope to every victim and their family. We renew our commitment to foster healing and seek forgiveness.”

The bishops of New Jersey's dioceses urged “anyone who was abused by clergy to come forward to civil authorities.”

Cardinal Seán O’Malley of Boston said that while many sexual offenders have answered for their crimes, there are areas in need of improvement.

“While many perpetrators have been held accountable in one way or another for their crimes, we have yet to establish clear and transparent systems of accountability and consequence for Church leadership whose failures have allowed these crimes to occur.”

“The Church must embrace spiritual conversion and demand legal transparency and pastoral accountability for all who carry out its mission,” he added. “The way we prepare priests, the way we exercise pastoral leadership and the way we cooperate with civil authorities; all these have to be consistently better than has been the case.”

This will not be an easy task, admitted the cardinal. He said Catholics and others in society are frustrated with Church leadership. However, he promised there is still hope.

“I am not without hope and do not succumb to despondent acceptance that our failures cannot be corrected. As the Church we have the responsibility to help people not to lose hope, that was Jesus’ message to all those he ministered to, especially in times of great trial.”

“There is too much good in the Church and in our faith to lose hope. Often it is survivors who courageously teach us we cannot lose hope.”

Investigation launched into sexual harassment claims at Philadelphia seminary

Philadelphia, Pa., Aug 17, 2018 / 12:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Bishop Timothy Senior, auxiliary bishop of Philadelphia, has announced that the archdiocese is investigating a claim of sexual harassment made by a former student at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.

In a letter sent this week to the priests and deacons of the archdiocese, the bishop said that the allegations concerned actions by a former student against another during the 2010-11 academic year.
 
The investigation was confirmed in a statement made by the archdiocese Aug. 16.

John Monaco, a former student at St. Charles Borromeo, made the allegations public in an online account posted Aug. 9.
 
Monaco enrolled in St. John’s Seminary in Boston several years after leaving Philadelphia's seminary, and has also detailed alleged “abuse and misconduct” there. His account of Boston's seminary included an allegation of excessive drinking by priests who, he said, would invite a “clique” of seminarians to their rooms for private parties.

Last week, Cardinal Séan O’Malley announced a “full independent inquiry” into allegations of misconduct in St. John’s.
 
The investigation at St. Charles Borromeo comes in the wake of the ongoing scandal surrounding Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, who is accused of sexually abusing minors and of sexually harassing seminarians during his time in ministry. On Aug. 17, new allegations emerged concerning a “homosexual subculture” among seminarians in his former archdiocese of Newark.
 
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s announcement also follows the release of a grand jury report into six other Pennsylvania dioceses. That report followed an 18 month investigation and contained the names of 300 priests accused of sexual abuse. Writing in response to that report’s release, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia said that anger by the faithful was understandable and for Church leaders “the only acceptable responses are grief and support for the victims, and comprehensive efforts to ensure that such things never recur.”
 
Speaking to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Monaco said that “it was painful to go back and re-experience the memories, but I am glad that I came forward …. A seminary should never be a place where a man does not feel that he can be protected and grow in holiness.”
 
Monaco's allegations about the seminary in Philadelphia concern the behavior of seminarians, one of whom was expelled, Monaco said, after complaints about him were lodged with a seminary administrator. He alleged in one online posting that a report of being groped by a fellow seminarian was not met sufficient attention when brought to a different seminary administrator.

In a statement made Aug. 16, Ken Gavin, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, said that the archdiocese had “recently became aware of allegations of sexual harassment by one seminarian of another.”
 
“In keeping with the long-term policy of the seminary and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, this allegation was turned over the Archdiocesan Office of Investigations for appropriate handling in light of policy and applicable law. As it is an active investigation, we are not able to comment upon it further.”

Ed. note: This story was edited Aug. 20 for clarity regarding Monaco's accounts.

After welcoming pro-lifers, Missouri Democrats quickly backtrack

Jefferson City, Mo., Aug 17, 2018 / 11:11 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Missouri Democratic leaders have voted to remove language acknowledging different views of abortion from their party platform, drawing criticism from pro-life Democrats who say they deserve to be recognized and the move could harm the party’s prospects this November.

Kristen Day, president of Democrats for Life of America, said the actions of state party chairman Stephen Webber “send the message that pro-life Missourians are unwelcome in the party.”

“If that is his intention, then he should state it clearly and explicitly in an official statement,” Day said Aug. 11. “Missouri pro-life Democrats are real Democrats who support labor and helped to defeat the right-to-work proposition this week. They support health care, a living wage, and a host of other issues on which all Democrats agree. We want to be in this party, and we will wait for a clear statement from Chairman Webber on where we stand.”

The previous party platform language was approved at a June meeting of the state party platform committee by a 31-25 vote, the St. Louis-based newspaper The Riverfront Times reports.

“We respect the conscience of each Missourian and recognize that members of our party have deeply held and sometimes differing positions on issues of personal conscience, such as abortion,” said the added language. “We recognize the diversity of views as a source of strength and we welcome into our ranks all Missourians who may hold different positions on this issue.”

The Missouri Democratic Party’s central committee voted to remove the platform language on Aug. 11. It then added language saying the party opposes “any efforts to limit access to reproductive health care” and backs “a woman’s right to choose and the right of every person to their own bodily autonomy and to be free from government intrusion in medical decisions, including a decision to carry a pregnancy to term.”

The central committee also added a preamble stating that the platform reflects the party’s values, though candidates must articulate their own policy positions.

“We made a mistake,” said St. Louis alderwoman Annie Rice, “Abortion is a legal healthcare procedure, and as a party we must support access.”

Rice tried and failed to block the change to the platform in June.

Webber, the party chairman, said the platform discussion wasn’t contentious, telling the Kansas City Star “We got it right, and the final product is something that can unify the whole party.”

Day, however, made the case for acknowledging Democratic voters who oppose abortion.

“Pro-life Democrats have stayed in the shadows and have been taken for granted long enough. We must be recognized and heard,” she said. “Right now, we are hearing that current leaders of the Democratic Party do not want us and we should look elsewhere.”

She said the unilateral removal of ratified platform language is “very unusual.”

“It makes you wonder about the kind of pressure supposedly ‘progressive’ groups exerted and why,” Day said. “They know that this removal will cause chaos.”

Day defended the platform language proposed in June by former Missouri State Rep. Joan Barry.

“Joan didn’t ask for much,” said Day. “She put forth a reasonable amendment that merely made a point of recognizing that while some Democrats do not agree with the party position on abortion, they should be treated with respect and included in the party.”

At the August central committee vote, Barry abstained. She said she was disappointed by the change but was committed to electing Democrats in the upcoming elections.

“Diversity has been a matter of strength in this party,” Barry told the Kansas City Star. “I just felt that we needed to be sure pro-life Democrats are recognized as members of the party. Some people in the electorate don’t believe that you can be pro-life and be a Democrat. But that’s not true. We are Democrats. And I’ll do everything I can to help the party this fall.”

Pro-abortion rights groups praised the platform change.

Alison Dreith, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri, characterized the previous platform language as “anti-choice.”

“The Democratic Party’s overwhelming vote to re-prioritize reproductive freedom has put the party back on track just in time to pick up wins in November,” she said.

Rachel Sweet, who is regional director of public policy and organizing for Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes, welcomed the change, saying, ”Democrats across the state have let their party leaders know that a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions is non-negotiable.”

After the June vote, Sweet had said “Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes will hold accountable any party or candidate who doesn’t believe in every person’s right to make their own personal medical decisions without government interference,” the Kansas City Star reported.

Day compared the previous language to the 1996 national Democratic Party platform language included by U.S. Rep. Tony Hall (D-Ohio). She characterized the language as non-combative. While it suggested the party has an official position on abortion, it also suggested “that the party does not want to lose the votes of Democrats who may disagree on that one position.”

The platform change could have political consequences for Democrats, Day argued. She cited the competitive race facing incumbent U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri), who backs legal abortion but has said she welcomes votes opposed to abortion. According to Day, the McCaskill race could have a pivotal role in determining the outcome of U.S. Supreme Court nominations and even impeachment of President Donald Trump.

“Missouri Party Chairman Stephen Webber thinks that the best way to support Senator McCaskill and other Democrats in Missouri is to create an unnecessary battle over abortion,” charged Day.

Day said that efforts to silence pro-life Democrats have produced poor results for the party in Missouri. Democratic legislators have been in the minority in both houses of the state legislature since 2002, they hold only two of Missouri’s eight Congressional seats, and Democrats “have a difficult time winning seats outside the urban cores,” she argued.

“If I were the party chairman, I would try to decipher what was going wrong and try to unite the party, not highlight the divisive issue of abortion by reversing a moderate amendment that says we are a big-tent party,” Day said.

 

 

Appeals court protects Texas bishops' communications in abortion case

Austin, Texas, Aug 17, 2018 / 10:30 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The privacy and religious freedom of Texas bishops and other religious groups was upheld by the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans, after the bishops’ internal communications were subpoenaed by an abortion group.

In the 2016 case Whole Woman’s Health v. Smith, an abortion group sued the state of Texas, challenging a law that would require abortion facilities to bury or cremate aborted fetal remains.

As of now, remains can be disposed of through incineration or disinfection and then discharged into a landfill, disposed of into sewer systems, or any other “approved alternate treatment process, provided that the process renders the item as unrecognizable, followed by deposition in a sanitary landfill.”  

The Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops (TCCB) voiced their support for the state of Texas and offered free burials for the remains of aborted babies. Whole Woman’s Health responded by subpoenaing the bishops - although they had not been named in the lawsuit - and demanded access to all internal communications regarding abortion, including any theological and doctrinal debates on the issue.

The bishops released more than 4,000 pages of abortion-related communications with outside individuals, but did not turn over private, internal communications between bishops on the matter, and appealed for emergency protection of these communications.  

In June, a three-judge panel of a federal appeals court protected the bishops’ emails and communications, after which Woman’s Health appealed for a full court hearing.

The bishops’ right to protect their internal communications from government interference or opposition groups was again upheld by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans yesterday.  

“It turns out that suing the Good Samaritan was a bad idea,” Eric Rassbach, vice president and senior counsel at The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, said in a statement. Becket has represented the bishops in court.

“The Church should not have been dragged into this lawsuit solely because it offered free burials for babies. We’re glad the full Fifth Circuit recognized that.”

A final decision on the original lawsuit will come from Federal District Judge David Ezra at a yet unspecified date.

'Shame and sorrow' – Holy See responds to Pennsylvania report

Vatican City, Aug 16, 2018 / 02:33 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Holy See on Thursday denounced sexual abuse and called for accountability for both perpetrators and leaders who covered up their crimes, following the release of a report detailing alleged clerical abuse in Pennsylvania.

“The abuses described in the report are criminal and morally reprehensible,” said the statement, released Aug. 16.

“Those acts were betrayals of trust that robbed survivors of their dignity and their faith. The Church must learn hard lessons from its past, and there should be accountability for both abusers and those who permitted abuse to occur.”

The statement responded to a grand jury report in Pennsylvania that was released earlier this week following an 18-month investigation into alleged instances of abuse spanning several decades. The report detailed allegations against some 300 priests, from more than 1,000 victims, in the dioceses of Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, and Scranton.

Pope Francis takes the subject of abuse seriously, the statement said, stressing that “The Holy See condemns unequivocally the sexual abuse of minors.”

“The Holy Father understands well how much these crimes can shake the faith and the spirit of believers and reiterates the call to make every effort to create a safe environment for minors and vulnerable adults in the Church and in all of society,” it said.

“Victims should know that the Pope is on their side. Those who have suffered are his priority, and the Church wants to listen to them to root out this tragic horror that destroys the lives of the innocent.”

The Holy See noted that most allegations mentioned in the report are from before the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, adopted by the US bishops in 2002 to prevent clerical abuse.

“By finding almost no cases after 2002, the Grand Jury’s conclusions are consistent with previous studies showing that Catholic Church reforms in the United States drastically reduced the incidence of clergy child abuse,” the Holy See said.

The statement encouraged “continued reform and vigilance at all levels of the Catholic Church, to help ensure the protection of minors and vulnerable adults from harm.” It also emphasized the importance of adhering to civil law, including abuse reporting requirements.

 

Pope Francis entrusts those who are suffering to the Virgin Mary

Vatican City, Aug 15, 2018 / 07:53 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On the Feast of the Assumption of Mary into Heaven, Pope Francis entrusted any person who is suffering, in mind or body, to the care of the Mother of God.

Invoking “Mary, Consoler of the afflicted,” the pope entrusted to her “the anguish and torment of those who, in so many parts of the world, suffer in body and spirit.”

“Receive our heavenly Mother for all comfort, courage and serenity,” he said Aug. 15.

Speaking after the recitation of the Angelus for the feast day, he said he was thinking, in particular, of the victims of a bridge collapse in Genoa, Italy, Tuesday, and led those present in praying a ‘Hail Mary’ together.

As of Wednesday afternoon, at least 16 people were injured and 39 confirmed dead, with more missing, after a bridge making up a part of one of Italy’s major highways collapsed in a storm Aug. 14.

According to CNN, Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced Aug. 14 that “structural failure” is the working theory for the cause of the collapse.

“While I entrust the people who have lost their lives to the mercy of God, I express my spiritual closeness to their families, the wounded, the displaced and all those who suffer because of this tragic event,” the pope said.

Before the Angelus, Francis reflected on Mary’s life, noting that she lived even ordinary activities in unity with her son, Jesus Christ.

“The life of the Madonna took place like that of a common woman of her time: she prayed, ran the family and the house, attended synagogue... But every daily action was carried out by her always in total union with Jesus,” he said.

He said her union with Jesus reached its pinnacle on Calvary: “in love, in compassion, and in the suffering of the heart” and for this reason, “God has given her a full participation also in the resurrection of Jesus.”

“Today the Church invites us to contemplate this mystery: it shows us that God wants to save the whole man, soul and body,” he said.

Quoting St. Irenaeus, who said, “the glory of God is the living man, and the life of man is the vision of God,” Francis noted that, one day, at the resurrection of the dead, the bodies of those who have died will be reunited with their souls, as was Mary’s.

“If we have lived this way, in the joyous service of God, which is expressed also in generous service to [our] brothers, our destiny, on the day of the resurrection, will be similar to that of our heavenly Mother,” he said.

The “resurrection of the flesh,” as it is sometimes called, which will happen at Christ’s second coming, is “a cornerstone of our faith,” Francis explained.

“The wonderful reality of the Assumption of Mary manifests and confirms the unity of the human person and reminds us that we are called to serve and glorify God with all our being, soul and body,” he said.