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Eucharistic processions to be held across the country for Corpus Christi this weekend

A few hundred Catholics marched through the streets of Washington, D.C., to publicly pray and adore the body of Christ during a eucharistic procession on Saturday, May 20, 2023. / Credit: Joe Portolano/CNA

Boston, Mass., Jun 9, 2023 / 14:10 pm (CNA).

Eucharist processions are being planned across the country this weekend in celebration of the solemnity of Corpus Christi, a more than 700-year-old feast day that commemorates the real presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

The processions occur as the Church in America enters its second phase of the U.S. bishops’ National Eucharistic Revival, a three-year initiative by the prelates to inspire belief in the Eucharist following a 2019 Pew Research study that suggested only about one-third of U.S. Catholics believe the Church’s teaching that the Eucharist is truly the body and blood of Jesus Christ.

The second phase of the revival, the Year of Parish Revival, is meant to foster eucharistic devotion at the parish level.

Below is a sampling of locations across the nation where eucharistic processions are being held in honor of the solemnity this weekend. Check your archdiocese/diocese or local parish website for processions near you.

In the Archdiocese of Boston on Sunday, June 11, a collaborative of three parishes in Brockton will be hosting at eucharistic procession at St. Edith Stein Parish Church following the 10:30 a.m. Mass.

In the Archdiocese of New York, Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Espaillat will be leading a large eucharistic procession along the Grand Concourse in the Bronx, heading southbound starting at 202nd Street and ending at 151st Street. The pastors of the West Bronx parishes will join him in leading the procession, which starts at 4 p.m. on Sunday. The procession will include English and Spanish prayers and songs. Espaillat recently led a eucharistic procession through the heart of Manhattan.

Archbishop of New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan will be leading a eucharistic procession in St. Patrick’s Cathedral following the 10:15 a.m. Mass on Sunday. That procession will take place inside the cathedral due to an unrelated parade taking place outside.

In the Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey, several processions are taking place on Sunday. Another procession at the Dominican Monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary in Summit begins at 4:30 p.m.

In the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen is hosting a Corpus Christi celebration Saturday, June 10, beginning with eucharistic adoration from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. A eucharistic procession will follow the 5 p.m. Mass celebrated by Auxiliary Bishop Adam Parker.

In the Archdiocese of Washington, the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, D.C., is hosting a procession Sunday beginning at 2:30 p.m. The procession will end with benediction at Immaculate Conception Church on 8th Street about a mile away.

The Archdiocese of Louisville, Kentucky, is inviting the faithful to participate in its eucharistic procession at the Cathedral of the Assumption in Louisville. The procession will take place following the 5:30 p.m. Mass on Sunday. 

In the Archdiocese St. Louis, a candlelight eucharistic procession will take place on Saturday beginning at St. Francis Xavier College Church in midtown St. Louis. Archbishop Mitchell Rozanski will lead that eucharistic procession from the church to the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis and finish with benediction at 8:30 p.m.

In the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, Texas, a eucharistic procession will be held at St. Bartholomew the Apostle Catholic Church following the Saturday 5 p.m. Mass. The church, in Katy, is expecting more than 250 people to join. St. Bartholomew had its tabernacle stolen in May of last year. An arrest was made, but the tabernacle was not recovered. 

Also on Saturday, there will be a eucharistic procession from St. Joseph Catholic Church to St. Stephen Catholic Church in Houston following a 9 a.m. Mass at St. Joseph’s.

In the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Christ the King Parish in Hollywood, California, is hosting a Sunday eucharistic procession following both its English Mass at 10:30 a.m. and its Spanish Mass at 12:30 p.m. The procession will go around the local streets.

In the Archdiocese of Portland, Oregon, there will be a procession on Sunday following the 11 a.m. Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. 

The Diocese of Fairbanks, Alaska, is holding a procession on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. from Sacred Heart Cathedral to Immaculate Conception Church. 

In the Diocese of Honolulu, Hawaii, Bishop Larry Silva is leading a eucharistic procession on Sunday following the 10:30 a.m. Mass at the Co-Cathedral of St. Theresa, in Honolulu, with adoration and benediction to follow.

Here’s what the bishops are saying about the Dodgers honoring an anti-Catholic group

The Los Angeles Dodgers are giving an award to a group of gay and transgender drag performers who mock the Catholic faith. / YouTube/Los Angeles Dodgers June 4, 2022, YouTube/60 Second Docs Dec. 27, 2021

Washington D.C., Jun 9, 2023 / 13:38 pm (CNA).

Prominent Catholics and other Christians, including baseball players and bishops, continue to denounce the Los Angeles Dodgers’ decision to honor an anti-Catholic drag group called the “Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence” at a game on June 16.

The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence are a national drag queen group that impersonates nuns and uses Catholic religious imagery and themes in protests and sexualized performances to raise awareness and money for LGBTQ+ causes. The performers call themselves nuns and regularly use the images of Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and women religious.

The Dodgers will be honoring the L.A. chapter of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence with a “Community Hero Award” before a game against the San Francisco Giants.

Here is what some of the country’s leading bishops are saying about the decision.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, New York City

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York, blasted the Dodgers’ decision to honor the drag group in an episode of his talk show “The Good Newsroom” on June 2.

Dolan pointed out that beloved former Dodgers who were devoutly religious such as Sandy Koufax, Tommy Lasorda, and Vin Scully would be outraged today.

“Sandy Koufax, a great Dodger, there was a guy that loved religion so much he wouldn’t pitch on Yom Kippur,” Dolan said. “Now the Dodgers … are honoring this viciously anti-Catholic group.”

“We here in New York are well aware of them,” Dolan said of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. “These are the ones that spit on Cardinal John O’Connor, these are the ones that threatened to desecrate the holy Eucharist, these are the ones who exposed themselves in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. We’re well aware of their antics. This isn’t some benevolent, humorous group.”

“You shouldn’t do this to any group,” Dolan added. “Why is the only group that they feel free to attack Catholics?”

Archbishop Jose Gomez, Los Angeles

Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, the archbishop of the city in which the anti-Catholic group is being honored, called on Catholics and people of goodwill to “stand against hate in any form” in a May 23 tweet.

“The decision to honor a group that clearly mocks the Catholic faith and makes light of the sincere and holy vocations of our women religious who are an integral part of our Church is what has caused disappointment, concern, anger, and dismay from our Catholic community,” the archdiocesan statement said.

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, San Francisco

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, the city whose team the Dodgers will compete against on June 16, stated that “we now know what gods the Dodger admin worships.”

“Our Catholic sisters devote themselves to serving others selflessly. Decent people would not mock & blaspheme them,” Cordileone said in a tweet on May 23. “So we now know what gods the Dodger admin worships. Open desecration & anti-Catholicism is not disqualifying. Disappointing but not surprising. Gird your loins.”

Archbishop Joseph Naumann, Kansas City

Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, called on the Kansas City Royals’ ownership to “communicate their disapproval to the Dodgers’ management for their actions that show disrespect for the Catholic faith,” in a May 31 statement.

Naumann also called on Major League Baseball to “not allow baseball to be used to advance ideologies that are offensive to many of their customers” so that fans could enjoy games “without having to be subjected to blasphemy and the mockery of the deeply held religious beliefs of many of its players and fans.”

“I am appalled and disgusted by the Dodgers honoring a group that calls themselves the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence,” Naumann added. “This group openly mocks Catholic beliefs, and their actions are nothing less than blasphemous.”

Naumann pointed out that former Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda was a supporter of women religious.

“When Tommy was managing the Dodgers,” Naumann said, “he would always give some of his complimentary tickets to Catholic religious sisters. The real heroines for the care of HIV-positive patients are groups like Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, who operated AIDS hospice care facilities.”

“Tommy Lasorda would be appalled by the Dodgers’ actions,” Naumann said.

Archbishop Paul Coakley, Oklahoma City

“There are more than 4 million Catholics in Los Angeles,” Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City said in a June 2 tweet. “The decision by the Dodgers to invite a group that seeks to openly disparage them and the millions of Catholics around the world is abhorrent and should be rescinded.” 

“This group specifically mocks the witness of religious sisters around the world who dedicate their lives to serving the poor and those in need,” Coakley added. “Would they allow mockery of other faiths — our Jewish or Muslim brothers and sisters? Of course not.”

Coakley also shared that during this month of the Sacred Heart, he would be praying for “the conversion of hearts” and called on Catholics and people of goodwill to join him in condemning “the vile mockery of any faith.”

Bishop Kevin Vann, Orange, California 

Bishop Kevin Vann of the Diocese of Orange, California, released a statement on May 22 condemning the Anaheim mayor’s decision to honor the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence at a June 7 Anaheim Angels game.

“The decision to openly embrace a group whose demeaning behavior is anti-Catholic and anti-Christian is misguided and disrespectful to the sisters of the Catholic Church who minister in Orange County and selflessly dedicate their lives to God’s underserved people,” the diocesan statement said. 

In a later tweet on June 7 the diocese said the mayor’s decision was “deeply offensive and divisive” and that “embracing this group provokes division in our community instead of fostering a unifying spirit.”

Bishop Robert Barron, Winona-Rochester, Minnesota

Bishop Robert Barron of Winona-Rochester called for a boycott against the Dodgers in a video he tweeted on May 25. 

“Anti-Catholicism is the last acceptable prejudice in America, and we shouldn’t tolerate it,” Barron said in a tweet. “I’m a big baseball fan. I’ve even thrown out the first pitch at a Dodgers game. But I’d encourage my friends in L.A. to boycott the Dodgers. Let’s not just pray but make our voices heard in defense of our Catholic faith.” 

Bishop Michael Burbidge, Arlington, Virginia

“This is totally unacceptable and it’s so sad,” Bishop Michael Burbidge of the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, said in a June 5 episode of his “Walk Humbly Podcast.”

“This is not going to change until we stop supporting organizations like that. So, if I was a Dodgers season ticket holder I’d cancel my season tickets,” Burbidge added. “We have to be a strong voice and we cannot back down to this kind of discrimination.”

“They mock the Catholic faith, and why is it, it seems, that the only ones that can be subjected to this kind of public mockery and agitation and discrimination are Christians? It’s not tolerated with any other group,” Burbidge pointed out. “It’s deeply, deeply concerning.”

“I’m a baseball fan and I just hate seeing this kind of division coming into sports because sports is supposed to be a time when you can bring your family, you can relax, you can enjoy the game, you’re not dealing with all this political agenda,” Burbidge said.

Bishop James Conley, Lincoln, Nebraska

In a June 1 tweet, Nebraska’s Bishop James Conley said that the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence group “is slanderous toward our religious sisters and all women.”

The Dodgers’ decision to honor a group “that mocks Catholicism and all of Christianity,” Conley said, “is unwise and disappointing.”

“The Dodgers and MLB need to correct this decision,” Conley concluded.

Bishop Donald Hying, Madison, Wisconsin

In a May 26 tweet, Bishop Donald Hying of the Diocese of Madison, Wisconsin, said: “Let’s call this out for what it is: anti-Catholic bigotry and blasphemy against God.”

Bishop Joseph Strickland, Tyler, Texas

Bishop Joseph Strickland of the Diocese of Tyler, Texas, urged his followers to “please speak against this evil being promoted at Dodger Stadium,” in a May 24 tweet. 

Strickland will be leading a “prayerful procession” at Dodger Stadium the day of the game, June 16, according a June 5 report by LifeSite News. The event is being organized by a group called “Catholics for Catholics.” 

In another tweet on May 30, Strickland said: “Target, Kohl’s, Dodgers, the list grows. As for me and my house we will serve & honor Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God and oppose any group that denigrates His Sacred Name and Truth.”

Oklahoma Women’s College World Series champions say they find their joy in Christ

null / EHStockphoto / Shutterstock.

Denver Newsroom, Jun 9, 2023 / 13:15 pm (CNA).

The University of Oklahoma’s women’s softball team made history June 8 by becoming the second team to ever win three national titles in a row when they defeated Florida State 3-1 in the Women’s College World Series at USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City.

Head Coach Patty Gasso and several of the players are devoted Christians who boldly praise God and share their faith. Gasso has shared that she credits God in shifting her mindset from focusing on winning games to instead focusing on winning souls.

During a press conference on June 6 ahead of the three-game series against Florida State, several of the OU softball players told journalists that their joy is found in Christ.

Team captain Grace Lyons was asked by an ESPN reporter how the women handle pressure and maintain their joy.

She responded: “The only way that you can have a joy that doesn’t fade away is from the Lord. Any other type of joy is actually happiness that comes from circumstances and outcomes.”

“Joy from the Lord is really the only thing that can keep you motivated — just in a good mindset no matter the outcomes,” she added. 

Teammate Jayda Coleman said she agreed “1,000%” and shared how after winning the Women’s College World Series her freshman year she was happy but didn’t feel joy.

“I didn’t know what to do the next day. I didn’t know what to do that following week. I didn’t feel fulfilled and I had to find Christ,” Coleman said. 

She continued: “I think that is what makes our team so strong is that we’re not afraid to lose because it’s not the end of the world if we do lose — obviously we’ve worked our butts off to be here and we want to win — but it’s not the end of the world because our life is in Christ and that’s all that matters.”

Infielder Alyssa Brito explained the team’s “eye’s up” gesture they can be seen doing during games, which, she said, is the team’s way of “fixing our eyes on Christ.”

“You can’t find fulfillment in an outcome, whether it’s good or bad. And I think that’s why we’re so steady in what we do, and our love for each other, and our love for the game, because we know this game is giving us the opportunity to glorify God,” she added.

Brito was baptized in 2022 by two of her fellow teammates and said that once she turned to Jesus, and had her outlook on life changed by her relationship with Christ, she understood that she was living to “exemplify the Kingdom.”

“No matter the outcome, whether we get a trophy or not, this isn’t our home and I think that’s what’s amazing about it — we have so much more. We have an eternity of joy with our Father,” she said.

“No matter what, my sisters in Christ will be there with me in the end when we’re with our king,” Brito concluded.

Pope Francis making normal progress in recovery from abdominal surgery

Pope Francis at his general audience in St. Peter's Square on May 17, 2023. / Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Jun 9, 2023 / 05:18 am (CNA).

Pope Francis is “steadily improving” two days after he underwent abdominal surgery to correct an incisional hernia, a Vatican spokesman said Friday.

According to Matteo Bruni, the pope rested during the night and on the morning of June 9 was able to eat breakfast and move from his hospital bed to an armchair.

“The medical team reports that the clinical picture is steadily improving and the postoperative progress is normal,” he said in a brief statement released shortly before 1 p.m. Rome time.

He added that Pope Francis was able to read the newspaper and do some work.

Francis underwent a three-hour surgery for an incisional hernia on June 7. A team of surgeons removed scar tissue and operated on a hernia in the pope’s abdominal wall at the site of a previous surgical incision.

Dr. Sergio Alfieri, the pope’s main surgeon, said at a press conference shortly after the operation that Francis had been experiencing increasing pain for several months due to the hernia and decided on June 6 to undergo the surgery to correct it.

The 86-year-old Francis has been hospitalized three times in the past two years.

He was hospitalized for four days in March for a lung infection and has also dealt this year with a recurrence of diverticulitis, a painful inflammation of bulges in the large intestine for which he was operated on in July 2021.

Religious leaders around the world have expressed their well-wishes and prayers for Pope Francis as he recovers in the hospital.

The family of a baby baptized by the pope at the end of March sent a poster to Pope Francis.

Francis baptized Miguel Angel when he visited the pediatric oncology ward of Gemelli Hospital while he was hospitalized for a lung infection.

“We just want to thank you for blessing our brother and wish from the bottom of our hearts that you get better,” the poster said in Spanish.

The pope has also been sent a get-well card from children being treated at the Vatican-connected Bambino Gesù Hospital in Rome.

Petition in Mexico demands religious freedom, protection of priests and churches

The Mexican platform Actívate (Get Active) delivered 10,400 signatures to the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) on June 6, 2023. / Credit: Actívate

ACI Prensa Staff, Jun 8, 2023 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

The Mexican platform Actívate (Get Active) delivered 10,400 signatures to the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) demanding that a protocol be drawn up to guarantee religious freedom and to prevent and punish attacks against Catholic priests, laypeople, and churches.

The campaign asks the CNDH that the protocol specify “how to take action against violent acts against churches or their ministers of worship.”

In addition, the petition demands that the authorities be trained “on the protection of this human right” and that the protocol should detail “the measures that will be taken in the places or persons where human rights were violated.”

According to its website, the CNDH “is an autonomous public agency of the Mexican State,” which “is not under any other authority” and whose mission is to defend and promote “the human rights recognized in the Mexican Constitution, international treaties, and the laws.”

The functions of the CNDH include “formulating public recommendations” as well as “developing and executing preventive programs in the field of human rights.”

The commission is also to “formulate programs and propose actions in coordination with the competent agencies that promote compliance within the national territory with the international treaties, conventions, and agreements signed and ratified by Mexico in the field of human rights.” 

Uriel Esqueda and Hugo Rico, who came to the CNDH headquarters in Mexico City on behalf of Actívate, demanded “that the authorities get their act together.”

“We want the autonomous agencies, the institutions, the government on all levels, to get their act together to guarantee that any citizen and religious leader of whatever religion they may be can worship as they choose or exercise their ministry without fear,” a statement from the platform explains.

According to a report by the Multimedia Catholic Center, between 1990 and 2022, 63 priests were murdered in Mexico, including the archbishop of Guadalajara, Cardinal Juan Jesús Posadas Ocampo, who was gunned down in broad daylight in the parking lot of the Guadalajara International Airport in 1993.

During the current six-year term of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, in the midst of historic homicide figures for the country, nine priests have been murdered.

Most recently, Augustinian priest Javier García Villafaña was shot to death in his car on the Cuitzeo-Huandacareo highway in the Mexican state of Michoacán on May 22.

The day before, a knife-wielding 80-year-old man tried to kill the archbishop of Durango, Faustino Armendáriz, inside the cathedral sacristy after Mass was over.

In addition, various churches have been the target of robberies, desecration, and attacks in different parts of the country.

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

Father James Jackson pleads guilty in child pornography case

Father James Jackson, FSSP, delivers the homily at the funeral Mass for slain Boulder police officer Eric Talley on March 29, 2021, at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Denver, Colorado / Screenshot of FSSP YouTube video

Providence, R.I., Jun 8, 2023 / 16:50 pm (CNA).

Traditional Latin Mass priest Father James Jackson pleaded guilty to a federal child pornography charge Thursday and now must wait to find out how long he might spend in prison.

In a plea agreement he signed ahead of his scheduled June 20 trial, Jackson, 68, a priest of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP), admitted to a single charge of receipt of child pornography. U.S. District Court Judge William Smith, sitting in Providence, Rhode Island, set a sentencing date of Sept. 11.

Prosecutors will seek the mandatory minimum of five years in prison and will move to dismiss a second count of possession of child pornography, Jim Rosenberg, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, told CNA. Each charge carried a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine.

The priest must still face pending criminal charges related to a child pornography investigation in Kansas, authorities there have said.

Jackson, then just three months into his assignment as pastor of St. Mary’s Church in Providence, was arrested on Oct. 30, 2021, after an investigation by a state computer crimes task force. Jackson previously served at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church in Littleton, Colorado.

According to an affidavit, investigators obtained a warrant to search his rectory in Providence where they found large amounts of child sex abuse material stored on an external hard drive in an office near Jackson’s bedroom.

Jackson’s order issued a statement Thursday following his guilty plea. 

“The North American Province of the Fraternity of St. Peter is aware that on June 8, 2023, Fr. James Jackson entered a guilty plea in exchange for a reduced sentence. The Fraternity of St. Peter pledges to cooperate with civil and ecclesiastical authorities in this case,” the statement said.

“Fr. Jackson has not had faculties to function publicly as a priest since his arrest in October 2021. Until Fr. Jackson was arrested, the Fraternity of St. Peter was not aware of anything in his words or behavior that could give rise to suspicion concerning such actions,” the statement said. “Crimes of this type are execrable, and Catholics should pray for the victims of pornography and work to put an end to its industry.”

Jackson appeared in court June 8 wearing a light brown prison outfit over a brown long-sleeve shirt. He wore glasses and had a white beard. One of Jackson’s supporters was present in the courtroom.

During the hearing, Jackson listened quietly as Assistant U.S. Attorney John McAdams presented the government’s case against him, describing in detail several videos of child pornography that were in the priest’s possession.

When questioned by the judge if he had heard and agreed with the facts presented, he responded, “Yes, your honor.”

Asked how he wished to plead to the charge, Jackson responded, “Guilty, your honor.”

Jackson’s supporters rallied around the priest after his arrest, contributing tens of thousands of dollars for his defense.

Kansas charges pending

The Kansas investigation of Jackson, conducted by a local police department in Overland Park, began sometime after he was allowed to return to the midwestern state to live with a relative while waiting for the federal charges to be adjudicated.

Officer John Lacy, a spokesman for the Overland Park Police Department, told CNA in May that Jackson would be charged with a crime once the charges in Rhode Island were adjudicated. He said that an investigation was ongoing but he would not elaborate on the nature of the charge.

Lacy said that the state charge would be brought by the Johnson County District Attorney’s Office in Olathe, Kansas.

In response to the Kansas investigation, Jackson’s federal probation officer issued a petition to the U.S. District Court in Providence alleging that the priest broke the conditions of his pretrial release that allowed him to live in Leawood, Kansas, with his sister.

U.S. marshals arrested Jackson in Kansas in July 2022 and brought him back to the Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls, Rhode Island.

At an Oct. 3 hearing in U.S. District Court in Providence, Jackson admitted that the government could prove that he violated the condition of his pretrial release prohibiting him from “possessing any materials including videos, magazines, photographs, computer-generated depictions, or any other forms that depict sexually explicit conduct involving children,” Rosenberg, the U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman, told CNA.

Jackson also admitted that the government could prove that he violated the condition prohibiting him from having access to more than one internet-connected device, the spokesman said.

“To be very clear — he did NOT admit that he committed the new crime, only that the government could establish probable cause that he did,” Rosenberg emphasized in an email to CNA.

Fort Worth Diocese releases photos allegedly showing drug use at Carmelite monastery

An Arlington, Texas, police car. / Credit: WFFA News 8 Dallas/Screen shot

Washington D.C., Jun 8, 2023 / 16:32 pm (CNA).

Charges and countercharges of illegal activity have further escalated a bitter public dispute between the Diocese of Fort Worth and a monastery of Carmelite nuns in Arlington, Texas.

In the latest salvo in what has become a protracted legal and public relations battle was launched by the diocese on Wednesday when it released a pair of photographs that purportedly show cannabis and marijuana products inside the Monastery of the Most Holy Trinity.

Diocesan spokesman Pat Svacina said in Wednesday’s release that the diocese “is in communication” with the Arlington Police Department regarding “serious concerns it has regarding the use of marijuana and edibles at the monastery.” 

The monastery’s attorney, Matthew Bobo, denied the allegations related to drug use, calling them “absolutely ridiculous” and “without merit.”

The Diocese of Fort Worth on June 7, 2023, released photographs that purportedly show cannabis and marijuana products inside the Monastery of the Most Holy Trinity in Arlington, Texas. Credit: Diocese of Fort Worth
The Diocese of Fort Worth on June 7, 2023, released photographs that purportedly show cannabis and marijuana products inside the Monastery of the Most Holy Trinity in Arlington, Texas. Credit: Diocese of Fort Worth

The dispute between the monastery and the diocese began in April when Olson launched a canonical investigation into an alleged sexual affair between the monastery’s prioress, Reverend Mother Teresa Gerlach, and an unnamed priest from outside the diocese. 

The diocese called the alleged misconduct “grave” but has not publicized the exact nature of the affair. On June 1 the bishop issued a decree dismissing Gerlach from religious life.

Following the diocese’s investigation, the monastery filed a civil lawsuit on May 3 seeking $1 million in damages. The nuns further challenged Olson’s authority to conduct the investigation, arguing they were subject only to the Vatican. 

The monastery is alleging that Olson and diocesan officials abused their power and engaged in criminal behavior during their investigation. 

Monastery says police are investigating diocese

Hours before the diocese released the photos to the press, the monastery’s attorney announced the Arlington Police Department and the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office have launched a criminal investigation of the actions taken against the Carmelite Monastery of the Most Holy Trinity by the diocese and Fort Worth Bishop Michael Olson.

The Tarrant County Sheriff's Office told CNA Friday that they are not involved in any investigation of the diocese's actions.

"The Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office is in no way involved in this investigation and that is an inaccurate statement. The Arlington Police Department is the lead investigating agency," said Robbie Hoy, press officer for the Tarrant County Sheriff's Office.

Svacina, in his press statement, denied that anyone with the diocese engaged in criminal activity during their investigation of the monastery, calling the accusation an “attempt to embarrass Bishop Olson and undermine his authority.”

According to Svacina, Bobo’s press release announcing the police investigation is “yet another transparent attempt to spread baseless and outrageous accusations regarding Bishop Olson’s legitimate investigation.” 

Meanwhile, Bobo said the criminal investigation of Olson “continues unabated.” 

Tim Ciesco, a spokesman for the Arlington Police Department, confirmed with CNA that the department has launched an investigation of Olson at the monastery’s behest. 

In response to allegations raised in a letter received on May 31, the Arlington Police “launched an investigation to determine whether any criminal offenses have occurred, which is standard anytime a criminal complaint is made,” Ciesco said. 

Ciesco added that “detectives are in the early stages of the investigation.”

Diocese releases photos to the press 

Svacina said the images purporting to show drug use in the monastery, which he said were obtained by the diocese “within the last few weeks,” were taken by “a confidential informant within the monastery.”

The metadata for an image labeled “Monasery Photo 1” indicates that it was taken at 12:59 p.m. on Feb. 17 by an iPhone 12 Pro Max. Metadate from the second photo indicates the image was created on June 8.

“The photograph speaks for itself and raises serious questions that the bishop is tirelessly working to address with law enforcement and in private in accordance with canonical norms and within his authority as bishop of the Diocese of Fort Worth and as Pontifical Commissary,” Svacina said.

The Diocese of Fort Worth on June 7, 2023, released photographs that purportedly show cannabis and marijuana products inside the Monastery of the Most Holy Trinity in Arlington, Texas. Credit: Diocese of Fort Worth
The Diocese of Fort Worth on June 7, 2023, released photographs that purportedly show cannabis and marijuana products inside the Monastery of the Most Holy Trinity in Arlington, Texas. Credit: Diocese of Fort Worth

Svacina added that the bishop is in contact with the Arlington police about the monastery regarding “other issues that the diocese will address at another time and in a proper forum.” Bobo called the images “a juvenile, low-level public relations stunt by the diocese to attempt to misdirect the attention from the real issues that Bishop Olson faces with the ongoing criminal investigation.” 

He called them “anonymously-sourced photos that could have easily been staged and doctored by anyone, and from anywhere.” 

Allegations of abuse of power

Gerlach, 43, has been a nun at Holy Trinity Monastery for 25 years and is currently suffering from serious medical issues that have confined her to a wheelchair, according to her attorney.

The monastery’s civil lawsuit against the diocese accuses the bishop of forcing Gerlach to turn over her computer, iPad, and cell phone, as well as the monastery’s private correspondence, documents, medical records, and donor lists.   

On May 31 the Vatican’s Dicastery for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life appointed Olson the “pontifical commissary,” making him the pope’s representative in the matter. The following day Olson issued a decree dismissing Gerlach from religious life. 

Bobo, the monastery’s attorney, told CNA that Gerlach plans to appeal the bishop’s decision to dismiss her.

Court documents obtained by CNA show that the monastery is accusing Olson and the diocese of theft, defamation, and “abusing their power, inflicting moral violence and psychological distress” on the nuns.

The civil hearing is set for June 23. 

Though the diocese says that Gerlach admitted to the misconduct and concluded that she is guilty, Bobo said the prioress was under the influence of pain medication related to a surgery when she is alleged to have admitted to the affair and “has not admitted to any grave misconduct.”

Parents of priest in Cuba attacked with machetes in home invasion

Father Leandro NaunHung. / Credit: Youth Praise Sta Clara de Asis/Facebook

ACI Prensa Staff, Jun 8, 2023 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

On June 6, three young men armed with machetes entered the home of the parents of Father Leandro NaunHung in Santiago de Cuba, injuring both elderly adults with machetes.

NaunHung posted on June 7 an update on Facebook on his parents’ health, stating that his mother “only received minor blows” according to a medical examination.

The priest said his father had to undergo emergency surgery at the Saturnino Lora Provincial Hospital after being hit on the head with a machete, which fractured his skull. 

“The blow to the head doesn’t seem to have seriously harmed him, but subsequent developments are under observation,” he reported.

“Thanks to all my friends and people of goodwill who through social media, like the Good Samaritan, have accompanied, prayed, encouraged, and given strength through hundreds of messages full of love and faith,” the priest added.

In a statement to ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, NaunHung indicated that the attack against his parents took place at midnight on June 6 at their home located in the Santa Bárbara neighborhood.

According to the priest, that night his mother got up to get a drink of water and found herself in the kitchen in front of three masked youths eating food from the refrigerator. The assailants beat her after a failed attempt to wound her with a machete.

Hearing her cries for help, the woman’s husband immediately went to the kitchen, but the criminals rushed at him and struck him in the head with a machete. After the attack, the perpetrators fled.

Reflecting on the causes of the crime, NaunHun said that the “crisis and hardships that the people are experiencing” in Cuba is what “brings out all the worst in unscrupulous individuals.”

“While many are concerned with helping each other more, the shortages diminish the humanity in the weakest elements of society,” the priest told ACI Prensa June 7.

The archbishop of Santiago de Cuba, Dionisio García, referred to the incident in a June 6 statement.

The prelate encouraged the faithful to pray to God to stop the “escalation of violence” in the country and so that the people living in the cities and homes on the island might have a “decent and safe life.”

“Let us pray that God may give strength to this family and heal the wounded. May the Virgin of Charity cover them with her mantle, heal the injured and comfort them with her motherly love,” he added.

According to the opposition newspaper El Diario de Cuba, the island is currently experiencing an “excessive increase in assaults, robberies, thefts, and murders that Cubans expose through social media.”

The newspaper also criticized that “the official press and the authorities are silent about the problem and only report a small fraction” of the incidents.

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

Pope Francis stable, receives poster from family of baby he baptized in hospital in March

A photograph shows an outside view of the Gemelli hospital in Rome on June 8, 2023, where Pope Francis has been hospitalized following an operation for an abdominal hernia on June 7. / Credit: Photo by ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP via Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 8, 2023 / 14:50 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis spent the day after undergoing abdominal surgery resting, Vatican Press Office spokesman Matteo Bruni shared in a statement Thursday at 7:15 p.m. Rome time.

According to Bruni, medical staff caring for the pope shared that he is showing stable respiratory and blood flow parameters and his “postoperative course is regular.” He ate and drank nothing except water.

The pontiff was able to receive the Eucharist in the afternoon, marking the solemnity of Corpus Christi, Bruni said.

The Vatican’s end-of-day statement also said that “among the many messages of closeness” the pope received, “he was struck by the affection of the family of little Miguel Angel,” whom Francis baptized during his visit to the pediatric oncology ward while staying at Gemelli Hospital in March.

The family sent Francis a poster thanking him for blessing Miguel Angel and wishing him a speedy recovery.

The family of a baby whom Pope Francis baptized during his stay in March 2023 sent the pope a poster June 8, 2023, thanking him for blessing baby Miguel Angel and wishing him a speedy recovery. Credit: Vatican Media
The family of a baby whom Pope Francis baptized during his stay in March 2023 sent the pope a poster June 8, 2023, thanking him for blessing baby Miguel Angel and wishing him a speedy recovery. Credit: Vatican Media

“We just want to thank you for blessing our brother and wish from the bottom of our hearts that you get better,” the poster said in Spanish. “We would love to meet you in person and spend an afternoon together and so you could get to know our family better, your family because now you are part of our lives.”

The message concluded by saying: “We love you a lot” and “Get well soon.”

The pope was so moved he wanted to thank Miguel Angel’s mother “personally with a short phone call,” Bruni said.

Francis underwent a three-hour surgery for an incisional hernia on June 7. A team of surgeons operated on a hernia in the pope’s abdominal wall at the site of a previous surgical incision.

Dr. Sergio Alfieri, the director of the hospital’s abdominal surgery department, said at a press conference immediately following the surgery that Francis had been experiencing pain for several months due to the hernia and decided on June 6 to undergo the surgery to correct it.

The 86-year-old pope has been hospitalized three times in the past two years.

He was hospitalized for four days in March for a lung infection and has also dealt this year with a recurrence of diverticulitis, a painful inflammation of bulges in the large intestine following his operation in July 2021.

Bruni told journalists earlier on June 8 that the pope’s routine follow-up examinations were good and that he would continue to rest in Rome’s Gemelli Hospital.

Pope Francis is expected to remain in Gemelli Hospital for several days. The Vatican has canceled all of the pope’s scheduled audiences through June 18.

Catholic bishop condemns abortion curriculum in Northern Ireland’s schools

Pro-life protesters outsider the Belfast High Court as Northern Ireland abortion laws were being challenged in Belfast, U.K., Oct. 3, 2019. / meandering images/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Jun 8, 2023 / 14:30 pm (CNA).

A Catholic bishop in Northern Ireland condemned new regulations in the country that will require schools to discuss abortion access in the classroom.

Bishop Donal McKeown of the Diocese of Derry, which covers parts of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, told CNA, “I am hugely concerned at this illiberal attack on the right of Catholic schools to offer their own ethos and worldview as they try to help children prepare for mature relationships in a fragmenting world.”

In an interview with BBC Radio McKeown said that promoting abortion in schools amounts to the government’s endorsement of a particular ideology that many might find objectionable. 

“I don’t think you need to impose a duty on schools, that come from a range of different backgrounds, an obligation to provide information as if abortion and that whole area is somehow or other a value-free thing,” McKeown said during the interview.

“This is a new ideology that says: ‘This is the right way to do it, that we must worship on the altar of human rights and everything else must be sacrificed in the service of that.’”

The new regulations were handed down by Northern Ireland Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris. They require that information about abortion access and the legal right to abortion in the country be part of the “relationship and sexuality education” curriculum in post-primary education, which deals with children aged 11 and older.

In a statement, Heaton-Harris said the new regulations mirror the approach taken in England “about the prevention of early pregnancy and access to abortion.” 

The regulations require that post-primary schools “make age-appropriate, comprehensive and scientifically accurate education on sexual and reproductive health and rights, a compulsory component of curriculum for adolescents, covering prevention of early pregnancy and access to abortion in Northern Ireland, and monitor its implementation.”

McKeown said the new rules “impose a particular worldview on the education of children in Northern Ireland” and could cause schools to be penalized if they refuse to adhere to the new abortion education requirements. 

“I am really concerned this seems to be a decision by the secretary of state that will impose a particular way of approaching the issue on all schools,” McKeown said.

Bishop McKeown told CNA that he is primarily concerned with three things.

First, he said Heaton-Harris imposed the rules on all Northern Irish schools “without any consultation with stakeholders and educationalists” despite “45% of children attend[ing] Catholic schools, which remain very popular because of their academic standards and strong community ethos.”

Secondly, he said “this is an ideological imposition in schools which are trying to support the development of children’s maturity, very often in situations where they experience domestic instability, pornography and huge social media pressures.” And thirdly, he said the inclusion of this instruction “is based on the dogmatic secular belief that abortion and contraception are purely ‘health-related’ without any moral context.”

The Department of Education must issue guidance by Jan. 1, 2024, on the content and the delivery of the new regulations, and every Board of Governors and principal of a grant-aided school must adhere to the guidance. It also requires the Department of Education to provide a report on the implementation by Sept. 1, 2026, regarding its implementation.

Heaton-Harris noted in his statement that parents will still have the right to opt their children out of these classes, which he said follows the approach of England and Scotland. 

“I recognize the sensitivity of this topic and that some parents may wish to teach their child about sex education themselves, or make alternative arrangements for sex education to be provided in line with their religious or other beliefs,” his statement read. “In recognition of this, the regulations also place a duty on the Department of Education to introduce a mechanism to ensure that a pupil may be withdrawn from education on sexual and reproductive health and rights, or elements of that education, at the request of a parent.”

Heaton-Harris also said that instruction about abortion should be provided to children “in a factual way that does not advocate, or oppose, a particular view on the moral and ethical considerations of abortion or contraception.”

Northern Ireland expanded access to abortion in 2019. Abortion is legal up to 12 weeks’ gestation without the need to provide a reason. It is legal up to 24 weeks of pregnancy with some conditions but allows women to cite a potential risk to their mental health as a justification in those later stages of pregnancy.