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Jesuits in Chile to compensate four victims of sexual abuse by former priest

cosma/Shutterstock.

Santiago, Chile, May 6, 2021 / 14:01 pm (CNA).

Four victims sexually abused by former priest Jaime Guzmán Astaburuaga will be compensated with 15 million pesos each (about $21,000).

The agreement signed in the presence of a notary April 27 came following a lawsuit for compensation for damages filed Aug. 10, 2020 by four former students of Saint Ignatius School, located in the El Bosque area of metro Santiago, against the Society of Jesus and the Saint Ignatius Foundation.

The plaintiffs had requested 120 million pesos ($171,000) for each victim. However, the Chilean newspaper La Tercera reported the victims apparently withdrew that demand in a letter.

The victims, Sebastian Milos Montes, 44, a businessman; Daniel Palacios Muñoz, 44, a sociologist; Allan Pineda García-Reyes, 45, a commercial engineer; and Juan Pablo Barros Castelblanco, 45, a journalist, detailed in the lawsuit the sexual harassment they suffered from Guzmán Astaburuaga, who was then a priest and teacher from 1986 to 1992, when the victims were in grade school.

The victims were represented by Juan Pablo Hermosilla, who was also the lawyer for the three victims of Fernando Karadima, a priest convicted and dismissed from the clerical state by the Vatican in January 2011. Hermosilla was also the attorney for Marcela Aranda, a theologian and the principal accuser of the late priest and former chaplain of Hogar de Cristo, Renato Poblete Barth.

Milos stated that although the victims are satisfied that Guzmán's responsibility in the incidents has been recognized and the form of reparation has been determined, there has been a “lack of transparency and information” regarding the investigation, which he said is "a fundamental part of the closing of this stage” of the process of reparations and so “we were willing for the financial compensation to be significantly less than that contemplated in the lawsuit." 

“In the next few days we should have everything well defined and when that happens a press conference will be held by the Society of Jesus, which we hope will be an act of historical recognition, which will serve as a form of reparation to all those harmed for years,” Milos explained.

Guzmán Astaburuaga was expelled from the priesthood and the Society of Jesus after the completion of the penal administrative process for the abuse of minors carried out by the Superior General of the Jesuits, Fr. Arturo Sosa, at the behest of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The congregation said the process began Nov. 7 and there were 81 complainants against Guzmán.

German Catholic bishops’ leader: We are not ‘schismatics’

Bishop Georg Bätzing of Limburg. / Bistum Limburg.

CNA Staff, May 6, 2021 / 13:50 pm (CNA).

The chairman of the German Catholic bishops’ conference has insisted that the country’s Catholics are not “schismatics” seeking to “detach ourselves as the German national Church from Rome.”

Bishop Georg Bätzing told ACI Stampa, CNA’s Italian-language news partner, that the Church in Germany remains close to Rome, despite tensions over same-sex blessings, Communion for Protestants, and the country’s “Synodal Way.”

He said: “It is absolutely clear that there are matters that we can only discuss at the level of the Universal Church. We will contribute from Germany with our reflections.”

“However, I would like to reject the accusation repeatedly used of us being schismatics or of wanting to detach ourselves as the German national Church from Rome. Our bond with Rome and the Holy Father is very tight.”

In the interview published May 6, the 60-year-old bishop of Limburg explained that the German hierarchy launched the “Synodal Way” in response to the clerical abuse crisis.

The multi-year process brings together bishops and lay people to discuss four main topics: the way power is exercised in the Church; sexual morality; the priesthood; and the role of women.

The German bishops initially said that the process would end with a series of “binding” votes -- raising concerns at the Vatican that the resolutions might challenge the Church’s teaching and discipline.

Bätzing pointed out that, in terms of church law, the “Synodal Way” is not technically a synod but rather “a sui generis format.”

He said: “The central question is: how can we talk about God today and come to a deeper faith? Faith can grow and deepen if we free ourselves from fears and mental closures, if we ask the questions and look for ways in which the Church today can be present for people.”

He suggested that Pope Francis encouraged German Catholics to address this question in his 2019 letter to the local Church.

In the letter, the pope warned German Catholics not to succumb to a particular “temptation.”

He said: “At the basis of this temptation, there is the belief that the best response to the many problems and shortcomings that exist is to reorganize things, change them and ‘put them back together’ to bring order and make ecclesial life easier by adapting it to the current logic or that of a particular group.”

In the interview, Bätzing explained that there is a “synodal forum” for each of the four major discussion topics.

“The work of the forums is still in progress, so I cannot predict today what suggestions and results they will lead to,” he said, adding that the forums are the setting for theological debates that will lead to resolutions to be voted on by the full Synodal Assembly, consisting of the bishops and members of the lay Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK).

The bishop was speaking ahead of a day of protest on May 10 against the Vatican’s recent “no” to blessings for same-sex couples.

The event, organized by Catholic pastoral workers, is known as “Segnungsgottesdiensten für Liebende,” or “blessing services for lovers.” Organizers hope that same-sex couples across Germany will take part in the event.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) published a “Responsum ad dubium” March 15 replying to the question, “does the Church have the power to give the blessing to unions of persons of the same sex?” The CDF answered, “Negative,” outlining its reasoning in an explanatory note and accompanying commentary.

Bätzing said last week that the day of protest was not a “helpful sign.”

The bishop told ACI Stampa that the issue of blessing same-sex couples was one of many topics to be addressed by the Synodal Way’s forum on sexual morality.

He said: “Homosexual couples, and couples who cannot and do not want to marry in the church, but who nevertheless desire the blessing of the Church, are part of our society and the Church.”

“In Germany and in other parts of the Universal Church there has long been a discussion about how to further develop the Magisterium with sound arguments -- on the basis of the fundamental truths of faith and morals, the progress of theological reflection, and in a spirit of openness to the latest results of the human sciences and the life situations of people today.”

He continued: “There are no easy answers to such questions. For this reason, the Synodal Way is striving, particularly with respect to the topic of effective relationships, to discuss in a broad context that also considers the need, possibility, and limits of developing the Church’s magisterium. The perspectives presented by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith will find space in these debates.”

Asked whether he believed that the time was ripe for women deacons or priests, Bätzing said that the “Synodal Way” would address women’s role in the Church.

He expressed satisfaction at the growing number of women in leadership positions within German dioceses.

He said: “It is important to me to honestly mention the Church’s arguments as to why only men can enter sacramental ministry. I also realize that these arguments are becoming less and less convincing and that arguments have been developed in theology in favor of opening the sacramental ministry to women as well. This is why I often mention the female diaconate, because I see possibilities there.”

“Regarding the priestly ministry, popes from John Paul II onwards have said in unison that this question has already been answered.”

The bishop also commented on the debate in Germany over whether Protestants should be invited to receive Holy Communion in Catholic churches.

The CDF wrote to Bätzing in September 2020 criticizing an appeal by German theologians for intercommunion between Catholics and Protestants.

The Limburg bishop said that the current debate was not about a general invitation to Protestants to receive Communion, but rather about the Church’s approach to individual non-Catholic Christians who wish to receive the Eucharist.

He said: “I personally respect such a decision and do not deny Communion when someone presents themselves who believes what we Catholics believe and desires to receive the Lord.”

“It is not a question of generically extending the invitation to Communion to all non-Catholic Christians.”

He noted that canon law permits non-Catholics to receive Communion on certain occasions, as long as they fulfill a number of conditions.

“We must undoubtedly continue the theological dialogue on the importance of the Eucharist and Holy Communion. And fortunately, there are already clear convergences in recent years,” he said.

Asked what kind of decisions the Synodal Way would be able to make, the bishop said that all participants were responsible for its conclusions.

He commented: “The binding implementation will, depending on the topic, be up to the Holy See and/or the local bishop. I repeat again: the Church in Germany is an integral part of the universal Church. This is beyond dispute and is evident in a great many areas. And so it will continue to be.”

“That is why we will proceed on the basis of the principle of subsidiarity by evaluating, within the framework of the Synodal Way, which steps we as a local Church can freely regulate and decide. And we will make a distinction between these steps and what is possible only in unity with the Universal Church.”

He expressed confidence that the Synodal Way would not result in failure but “lead to decisions that will help ensure that faith can once again be an option for people, and the Good News of the Gospel acquire meaning and strength in people’s lives.”

He added: “We must not stop looking for credible ways to proclaim the Gospel today. I remain confident.”

Chad Pecknold, associate professor of systematic theology at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., told CNA that in his latest comments Bätzing was “proposing the impossible.”

“He holds an erroneous view of what ‘doctrinal development’ means, arguing that the Church must be brought ‘up to date’ with progressive social norms,” he said.

“The Church cannot bless sin, and it cannot change eternal truths which Christ delivered once for all. What Bishop Bätzing is hoping to ‘develop’ amounts to nothing less than a different ecclesiology. It is not a Catholic ecclesiology, and it is not a new ecclesiology he proposes, but one which resembles Liberal Protestantism.”

He continued: “That he stands in such open defiance of Pope Francis, and the Faith Itself, should be evidence enough that Bätzing’s ‘Synodal Way’ is really not a ‘way forward’ but a way out of communion with Rome.”

Asked in the interview if the Synodal Way could serve as a model for Catholics in other countries, Bätzing referred to Pope Francis’ “historic” 2015 speech, in which he said that God expects the Church of the third millennium to take the “path of synodality.”

Bätzing said: “Well before the Church in Germany, Australia took this path, followed by other bishops’ conferences, I'm thinking of Ireland, the Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM) and even us. The Italian bishops’ conference is considering how to follow a similar path.”

“You see, this is not a ‘German’ phenomenon but an interesting and valuable development of the local Churches -- each with its own particular traits -- within the community of the Universal Church.”

“Whether the Synodal Way is only a phase or whether it can become a permanent form for the life of the Church, this will be indicated to us by the Spirit of God, to whom we have entrusted ourselves by taking this path.”

Pope Francis to hold general audience with the public on May 12

Pope Francis arrives for his general audience in the San Damaso courtyard at the Vatican, Sept. 16, 2020. / Vatican Media. Other photos: Daniel Ibañez/CNA.

CNA Staff, May 6, 2021 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

Members of the public will be able to attend Pope Francis’ general audience next week after a six-month absence due to the coronavirus crisis.

The Prefecture of the Papal Household announced May 6 that the pope’s general audience next Wednesday will take place in the San Damaso Courtyard of the Apostolic Palace.

It said that people wishing to attend the May 12 audience will be able to access the interior courtyard via the Bronze Doors, located under the right-hand colonnade in St. Peter’s Square.

Pilgrims will be required to observe safety measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The courtyard has a capacity of around 500 or so socially distanced and masked participants.

The Prefecture of the Papal Household said that pilgrims will not need entrance tickets to attend the audience.

General audiences are usually held in either St. Peter’s Square or the Paul VI Audience Hall. But when the pandemic first struck Italy in March 2020, the pope transferred his general audiences to the library of the Apostolic Palace, where they took place without public access.

The first live-streamed general audience from the library occurred on March 11, 2020.

The Vatican experimented with holding the audiences in the San Damaso Courtyard in September last year. The first audience at the venue with members of the public took place on Sept. 2.

In the following weeks, Pope Francis sometimes sat close to attendees, many of whom he would spend a long time greeting individually before and after the event.

In October, the audiences were transferred to the Vatican’s larger Pope Paul VI Audience Hall and Pope Francis kept his distance from pilgrims.

The Vatican decided to move the audiences behind closed doors again when a person at the pope’s Oct. 21 audience was found to have been positive for COVID-19.

Pope Francis held his last Wednesday audience with the public on Oct. 28. He told participants that he would be staying up on the stage and not greeting each of them as he liked to do.

“I would very much like to come down and greet each one of you, but we must keep our distance, because if I come down, then a crowd immediately forms to greet me, and this is contrary to the measures and the precautions we must take in order to face this ‘lady’ that is called COVID and harms us so much,” he said.

Starting Nov. 4, the pope gave his general audience catechesis and greetings via live video from his study in the Apostolic Palace.

At the end of December and through January, Pope Francis also delivered his Sunday Angelus address via live stream.

But in February, he began once again to give the address from a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square, where groups of masked pilgrims typically stand some distance apart from each other to prevent the transmission of the virus.

At the end of his address on Feb. 7, he said: “I am happy to see you again gathered in the Square, even those habitué [regulars], the Spanish nuns here, who are always good; come rain or shine they are there! And also the young people of the Immaculate... All of you. I am pleased.”

‘We are ready to give up our lives’: 34 new Swiss Guards take oath to protect the pope

Swiss Guards at the ceremony in Vatican City's San Damaso Courtyard on May 6, 2021. / © EWTN News/Daniel Ibáñez/Vatican Pool

Vatican City, May 6, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

Thirty-four new Swiss Guards were sworn in Thursday in an elaborate ceremony in Vatican City in which the guards promised to protect the pope, even “sacrificing if necessary also my own life.”

Gian Andrea Bossi, a 20-year-old from Davos, Switzerland, was among the new Swiss Guards to take the oath on May 6.

“It is a great honor for me, for all of us. … We’ve prepared for weeks, for months for this day,” Bossi told EWTN News.

“I’ve always wanted to serve God in a way, and I wanted to serve the Catholic Church,” he said.

Gian Andrea Bossi, a 20-year-old Swiss Guard who was sworn-in on May 6, 2021. / Colm Flynn/EWTN News.
Gian Andrea Bossi, a 20-year-old Swiss Guard who was sworn-in on May 6, 2021. / Colm Flynn/EWTN News.

The swearing-in ceremony for one of the world’s oldest standing armies took place on the 494th anniversary of the Sack of Rome, the battle on May 6, 1527, in which 147 Swiss Guards lost their lives defending Pope Clement VII from mutinous troops of the Holy Roman Empire.

The ceremony began with three Swiss Guards blowing trumpets from the loggia, and then the guards marched to the sound of drums in a solemn procession.

/ © EWTN News/Daniel Ibáñez/Vatican Pool
/ © EWTN News/Daniel Ibáñez/Vatican Pool

Due to coronavirus restrictions, only the families of the guards and the press were allowed to attend the ceremony held in Vatican City’s San Damaso Courtyard. In 2020, at least 13 Swiss Guards tested positive for COVID-19.

As part of the schedule this year, the family members of the new guards prayed Vespers on the evening of May 5 in the church of Santa Maria della Pietà in the Vatican’s Teutonic College. Later, the “deposition of the crown” ceremony took place in commemoration of the guards who died during the Sack of Rome.

Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin also offered Mass with the Swiss Guards in St. Peter’s Basilica in the morning ahead of the swearing-in ceremony.

Swiss Guards attend Mass at St. Peter's Basilica on May 6, 2021. / Colm Flynn/EWTN News
Swiss Guards attend Mass at St. Peter's Basilica on May 6, 2021. / Colm Flynn/EWTN News

Gérald Crettaz, the father of one of the new Swiss Guards, 23-year-old Baptiste Crettaz, said that he was very proud of his son for taking the oath.

“In our current world, where everyone is quite selfish and self-centered, my son is committed to something bigger, something wider that doesn’t belong to him, but to everyone. I think it is fantastic and it is so generous,” Crettaz said.

During the ceremony itself, each new recruit approached the flag of the Swiss Guard as his name was called out. Firmly grasping the banner with his left hand, the new guard raised his right hand and opened three fingers as a sign of his faith in the Holy Trinity.

A new Swiss Guard makes his oath on May 6, 2021. / © EWTN News/Daniel Ibáñez/Vatican Pool
A new Swiss Guard makes his oath on May 6, 2021. / © EWTN News/Daniel Ibáñez/Vatican Pool

While holding up his fingers, the guard said aloud: “I, (name), swear diligently and faithfully to abide by all that has just been read out to me, so grant me God and so help me his saints.”

In English, the full oath reads: “I swear I will faithfully, loyally and honorably serve the Supreme Pontiff Francis and his legitimate successors, and also dedicate myself to them with all my strength, sacrificing if necessary also my life to defend them. I assume this same commitment with regard to the Sacred College of Cardinals whenever the see is vacant. Furthermore, I promise to the Commanding Captain and my other superiors respect, fidelity, and obedience. This I swear! May God and our Holy Patrons assist me!”

Swiss Guards march into San Damaso Courtyard May 6, 2021. / Courtney Mares/CNA
Swiss Guards march into San Damaso Courtyard May 6, 2021. / Courtney Mares/CNA

Swiss Guards -- known for their colorful striped Renaissance-era uniforms -- are responsible for Vatican security together with the Vatican gendarmes. The Vatican military was established by Pope Julius II in 1506.

Candidates for the Pontifical Swiss Guard are required to meet strict requirements. Each recruit must be a Catholic unmarried male at least 5 feet, 8 inches tall and between the ages of 19 and 30. Swiss citizenship is required, as is a letter of good standing from the candidate’s parish priest.

“It is something that only we, Swiss people, can do, and it is important to show that there still are young people ready to be committed to promote some values,” new Swiss Guard Baptiste Crettaz said.

“The fact that we are ready to give up our life for the Holy Father represents a strong meaning,” he said.

The “deposition of the crown” Swiss Guard ceremony on May 5, 2021. / © EWTN News/Daniel Ibáñez/Vatican Pool
The “deposition of the crown” Swiss Guard ceremony on May 5, 2021. / © EWTN News/Daniel Ibáñez/Vatican Pool

The Vatican approved an expansion of the size of the Pontifical Swiss Guards three years ago from 110 to 135 men. Despite the new recruits, it remains the smallest army in the world.

“I am excited to see the Vatican, to get to know the pope … also to be closer to the Church, to the faith, to grow in the faith,” Bossi said.

“In the end it is to serve God, to serve the Church, to protect the faith and defend the pope,” he said.

Pope Francis received the new Swiss Guards in the Vatican Apostolic Palace ahead of the ceremony. The pope recalled that some former guards had discerned the priesthood after their service, while others went on to form their own families.

“I pray that those who begin their service now may also respond fully to Christ’s call, following him with faithful generosity,” he said.

“May these years that you will spend here be an occasion for a deepening of your faith and an even stronger love for the Church. I accompany you with my prayers and I thank you for choosing to make a few years of your life available to the Successor of Peter.”

EWTN’s Warsaw: Biden’s support for abortion, 'transgenderism,' ‘couldn’t be more disappointing’

Michael P. Warsaw, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of EWTN Global Catholic Network / EWTN

Washington D.C., May 6, 2021 / 11:00 am (CNA).

The head of the EWTN media network said that President Joe Biden’s first 100 days in office “couldn’t be more disappointing,” due to his policies contradicting the Church’s teachings on human life and sexuality.

“Sadly, during the second Catholic president’s brief time in the Oval Office, Biden’s policies show he intends to govern in complete opposition to fundamental Church teachings regarding human life and sexuality, despite his spokeswoman’s continual professions of the centrality of the president’s Catholic faith,” EWTN board chairman and CEO Michael Warsaw wrote in an April 30 publisher’s note in the National Catholic Register.

President Biden reached 100 days in office on April 29. He is only the second Catholic president in U.S. history.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki’s assertions that Biden is a “devout” or “practicing” Catholic” give problematic cover to the president’s “radical” policies on abortion and “LGBT” issues, Warsaw wrote.

“As Catholic commentator Fran Maier recently pointed out during a conference at Villanova University, ‘Biden’s rosary beads, his public nods to saints, and his attendance at Mass all serve to normalize his administration’s policies and actions that directly attack key Catholic beliefs on abortion, sex, family and marriage,’” Warsaw said.

Biden’s administration has acted to promote abortion and the “LGBT” agenda with surprising “haste and intensity,” Warsaw said of the president’s first 100 days.

Just eight days after he was inaugurated, Biden issued an executive order repealing the Mexico City Policy, and allowing for U.S. global health assistance to once again flow to international NGOs that perform or promote abortions.

“The move flouted repeated reminders from the U.S. bishops about how his [Biden’s] pro-abortion commitments conflict with the Church’s clear teaching about this preeminent moral issue of our time,” Warsaw wrote, “as well as Pope Francis’ repeated warnings about ‘modern forms of ideological colonization,’ including the exportation of a progressive agenda against the unborn.”

Biden – a Catholic president – enabled taxpayer funding of pro-abortion groups, and made U.S. Catholics complicit in such funding, Warsaw said.

“With the stroke of a pen, our nation’s Catholic president forced his fellow Catholics, and other Americans who abhor abortion on the grounds of their faith-based belief in the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death, to violate their consciences by making them complicit in funding the international abortion lobby,” Warsaw wrote.

Biden has also appointed Xavier Becerra as secretary of Health and Human Services, “a Catholic politician who dissents on abortion even more flagrantly than the president,” Warsaw noted.

The administration has already repealed a pro-life rule, allowing Title X federal family planning funding to go to clinics that refer for abortions and further requiring recipients to provide abortion counseling.

“Planned Parenthood will be by far the biggest beneficiary of the Title X money that is now poised to flood into the abortion industry,” Warsaw wrote.

The administration also allowed federally-funded research with aborted fetal tissue to resume at National Institutes of Health (NIH) facilities. It revoked an ethics advisory board set up by the Trump administration to review proposals for federally-funded fetal tissue research conducted outside NIH facilities.

“In effect, this move gives a green light to the evil trade in abortion-derived human body parts,” Warsaw said.

Biden has also contradicted Church teaching on sexuality by going “all-in for promotion of ‘transgenderism’ and other central elements of the ‘LGBT’ agenda,” Warsaw wrote.

The president issued an executive order upon taking office that redefined sex discrimination to include discrimination on the basis of “gender identity” and “sexual orientation.” Biden stated it was the policy of his administration to uphold federal civil rights protections against sex discrimination, and to extend the protections to these other classes.

“Along with facilitating destructive ‘gender-reassignment’ medical procedures — including for minors — and compromising women’s sports by allowing competition by biological males who identify as female, legal scholars warn that Biden’s policies will inevitably transgress against the conscience rights of Catholics and others who reject gender ideology,” Warsaw wrote.

Biden’s flurry of activity on these issues is an “aggressive and highly partisan mode of governance” that “flagrantly contradicts the central promise he made in his inaugural address — to govern as a unifier, not a divider,” Warsaw wrote.

In response to these policies, Catholics now “have a double responsibility at this political moment,” Warsaw wrote.

“We need to highlight how Biden’s policies and actions in these areas are harming all Americans. We also need to highlight how they are undermining the Church, by making it seem that it’s possible to remain authentically Catholic while dissenting so fundamentally on such key moral issues,” he said.

EWTN Global Catholic Network is the largest religious media network in the world. EWTN’s 11 global TV channels are broadcast in multiple languages 24 hours a day, seven days a week to over 300 million television households in more than 145 countries and territories.

EWTN platforms also include radio services transmitted through SIRIUS/XM, iHeart Radio, and over 500 domestic and international AM & FM radio affiliates; a worldwide shortwave radio service; one of the largest Catholic websites in the U.S.; electronic and print news services, including Catholic News Agency, The National Catholic Register newspaper, and several global news wire services; as well as EWTN Publishing, its book publishing division.

 

 

The head of the EWTN media network said that President Joe Biden’s first 100 days in office “couldn’t be more disappointing,” due to his policies contradicting the Church’s teachings on human life and sexuality.

“Sadly, during the second Catholic president’s brief time in the Oval Office, Biden’s policies show he intends to govern in complete opposition to fundamental Church teachings regarding human life and sexuality, despite his spokeswoman’s continual professions of the centrality of the president’s Catholic faith,” EWTN board chairman and CEO Michael Warsaw wrote in an April 30 publisher’s note in the National Catholic Register.

President Biden reached 100 days in office on April 29. He is only the second Catholic president in U.S. history.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki’s assertions that Biden is a “devout” or “practicing” Catholic” give problematic cover to the president’s “radical” policies on abortion and “LGBT” issues, Warsaw wrote.

“As Catholic commentator Fran Maier recently pointed out during a conference at Villanova University, ‘Biden’s rosary beads, his public nods to saints, and his attendance at Mass all serve to normalize his administration’s policies and actions that directly attack key Catholic beliefs on abortion, sex, family and marriage,’” Warsaw said.

Biden’s administration has acted to promote abortion and the “LGBT” agenda with surprising “haste and intensity,” Warsaw said of the president’s first 100 days.

Just eight days after he was inaugurated, Biden issued an executive order repealing the Mexico City Policy, and allowing for U.S. global health assistance to once again flow to international NGOs that perform or promote abortions.

“The move flouted repeated reminders from the U.S. bishops about how his [Biden’s] pro-abortion commitments conflict with the Church’s clear teaching about this preeminent moral issue of our time,” Warsaw wrote, “as well as Pope Francis’ repeated warnings about ‘modern forms of ideological colonization,’ including the exportation of a progressive agenda against the unborn.”

Biden – a Catholic president – enabled taxpayer funding of pro-abortion groups, and made U.S. Catholics complicit in such funding, Warsaw said.

“With the stroke of a pen, our nation’s Catholic president forced his fellow Catholics, and other Americans who abhor abortion on the grounds of their faith-based belief in the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death, to violate their consciences by making them complicit in funding the international abortion lobby,” Warsaw wrote.

Biden has also appointed Xavier Becerra as secretary of Health and Human Services, “a Catholic politician who dissents on abortion even more flagrantly than the president,” Warsaw noted.

The administration has already repealed a pro-life rule, allowing Title X federal family planning funding to go to clinics that refer for abortions and further requiring recipients to provide abortion counseling.

“Planned Parenthood will be by far the biggest beneficiary of the Title X money that is now poised to flood into the abortion industry,” Warsaw wrote.

The administration also allowed federally-funded research with aborted fetal tissue to resume at National Institutes of Health (NIH) facilities. It revoked an ethics advisory board set up by the Trump administration to review proposals for federally-funded fetal tissue research conducted outside NIH facilities.

“In effect, this move gives a green light to the evil trade in abortion-derived human body parts,” Warsaw said.

Biden has also contradicted Church teaching on sexuality by going “all-in for promotion of ‘transgenderism’ and other central elements of the ‘LGBT’ agenda,” Warsaw wrote.

The president issued an executive order upon taking office that redefined sex discrimination to include discrimination on the basis of “gender identity” and “sexual orientation.” Biden stated it was the policy of his administration to uphold federal civil rights protections against sex discrimination, and to extend the protections to these other classes.

“Along with facilitating destructive ‘gender-reassignment’ medical procedures — including for minors — and compromising women’s sports by allowing competition by biological males who identify as female, legal scholars warn that Biden’s policies will inevitably transgress against the conscience rights of Catholics and others who reject gender ideology,” Warsaw wrote.

Biden’s flurry of activity on these issues is an “aggressive and highly partisan mode of governance” that “flagrantly contradicts the central promise he made in his inaugural address — to govern as a unifier, not a divider,” Warsaw wrote.

In response to these policies, Catholics now “have a double responsibility at this political moment,” Warsaw wrote.

“We need to highlight how Biden’s policies and actions in these areas are harming all Americans. We also need to highlight how they are undermining the Church, by making it seem that it’s possible to remain authentically Catholic while dissenting so fundamentally on such key moral issues,” he said.

EWTN Global Catholic Network is the largest religious media network in the world. EWTN’s 11 global TV channels are broadcast in multiple languages 24 hours a day, seven days a week to over 300 million television households in more than 145 countries and territories.

EWTN platforms also include radio services transmitted through SIRIUS/XM, iHeart Radio, and over 500 domestic and international AM & FM radio affiliates; a worldwide shortwave radio service; one of the largest Catholic websites in the U.S.; electronic and print news services, including Catholic News Agency, The National Catholic Register newspaper, and several global news wire services; as well as EWTN Publishing, its book publishing division.

Pope Francis prays for pandemic-stricken India

Pope Francis leads a prayer vigil at the Vatican, Oct. 3, 2015. / Mazur/catholicnews.org.uk.

CNA Staff, May 6, 2021 / 09:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said Thursday that he is praying for the people of India as they face a devastating coronavirus outbreak.

In a message dated May 6 to Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, the pope expressed his “heartfelt solidarity” with the country’s 1.3 billion population.

He wrote: “At this time when so many in India are suffering as a result of the present health emergency, I am writing to convey my heartfelt solidarity and spiritual closeness to all the Indian people, together with the assurance of my prayers that God will grant healing and consolation to everyone affected by this grave pandemic.”

“My thoughts go above all to the sick and their families, to those who care for them, and in particular to those who are mourning the loss of their loved ones.”

He continued: “I think too of the many doctors, nurses, hospital workers, ambulance drivers, and those working tirelessly to respond to the immediate needs of their brothers and sisters. With deep appreciation, I invoke upon all of them God’s gifts of perseverance, strength, and peace.”

India reported a daily high of 412,000 new infections on May 5. The country has recorded more than 21 million cases of COVID-19 and over 230,000 deaths as of May 6, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center,

Actual infection and death rates could be higher than those shown in the official statistics, with medical staff at some hospitals reporting shortages of oxygen required to keep patients alive.

The outbreak has had a profound impact on India’s Catholic minority. Local media have reported that at least 14 Catholic priests died of COVID-19 in the country between April 20 and April 23, and five priests died in 24 hours in the western state of Gujarat on April 17.

Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, an auxiliary bishop of Ranchi archdiocese, in Jharkhand state, said last week that he had driven priests with COVID-19 to hospital because no ambulances were available.

He held back tears as he described the dire health situation in his eastern diocese in an interview with Colm Flynn of EWTN News.

“I have seven priests in hospital right now, and those are the lucky ones who found a hospital bed. I have another seven seminarians who are sick, lying in their beds in a house close to the hospital. I took them to a house for the aging because there was no place in the hospital,” Mascarenhas said.

“I lost a priest, 30 years old, just one year of ordination ... five days ago. And it hurts,” the bishop said, recalling that he was with the young priest and “fed him coconut water until the last.”

Catholic aid groups, including Catholic Relief Services and Caritas India, are mobilizing relief efforts.

Concluding his message to Cardinal Gracias, the pope said: “In a particular way, I am united to the Catholic community in your country, with gratitude for its works of charity and fraternal solidarity carried out in the service of all; I think especially of the generosity shown by so many committed young people.”

“I join you in commending to the Lord’s infinite mercy the faithful who have lost their lives, not least the great numbers of priests and men and women religious.”

“In these days of immense grief, may we all be consoled in the hope born of Easter and our unshakeable faith in Christ’s promise of resurrection and new life.”

Swedish hospital praised for halting gender-transitioning for children under 16

Juanje Garrido/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., May 6, 2021 / 08:15 am (CNA).

Swedish doctors will no longer prescribe hormones or drugs to halt or delay puberty for children under the age of 16 as part of gender-transitioning procedures. 

The Karolinska University Hospital, which treats minors with gender dysphoria, announced in March that as of April 1, 2021, they would not be providing “puberty blocking” drugs or cross-sex hormones to children under the age of 16. The decision was reported in English-speaking media on May 5.

A statement from the hospital, translated from Swedish, cited concerns about long-term effects of the drugs and hormone procedures, as well as questions about the fully informed consent of patients under the age of 16. 

Ryan Anderson, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, praised the changes and called for additional protections for children with gender dysphoria. Anderson has authored a book critical of the transgender movement, “When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment.”

“Prudent legislation is needed to prevent adults from interfering with a child’s normal, natural bodily development. ‘Gender affirmation’ procedures violate sound medical ethics,” Anderson told CNA on Wednesday. 

“These procedures are entirely experimental. There is not a single long-term prospective study of the long-term consequences of blocking an otherwise physically healthy child from undergoing normal pubertal development,” he said. 

The hospital’s statement cited the December 2020 Bell v. Tavistock decision, where the High Court of Justice for England and Wales found that it was “highly unlikely” that children under the age of 13 could give fully informed consent to receiving puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones; the court added that it was “very doubtful” that children ages 14 and 15 could give full consent to the procedures. 

Minors between the age of 16 and 18 who wish to receive hormone treatments may do so only in clinical trial settings approved by an institutional review board, the hospital said. 

The hospital further stated that children with gender dysphoria will still be able to receive psychological and psychiatric care under the new policies. All minors currently receiving cross-sex hormonal treatments and puberty blockers will be assessed for future treatment, and should be informed as well as possible of the risks of gender-transitioning procedures, the hospital said.

Anderson claimed it is “profoundly unethical to intervene in the normal physical development of a child as part of ‘affirming’ a ‘gender identity’ at odds with bodily sex.”  

“While puberty-blocking drugs may be an appropriate treatment for precocious puberty—the early onset of puberty—in order to delay puberty to a biologically appropriate age, that is not what is going on here,” he said. “The use of puberty blockers to delay or permanently block natural biological puberty is unethical and violates the bodily integrity of children.”

Among the side effects reported by those who were prescribed Lupron, a prostate cancer drug that is also used to delay or halt puberty, include infertility, osteoporosis, and cardiovascular disease. 

“Adults should not interfere with the natural, healthy development of the bodies and minds of children,” said Anderson, who added that “Children must be provided with the time and space to develop to maturity.”

This marks a departure from the “Dutch protocol” for treating minors with gender dysphoria. The protocol allows for certain preteen adolescents to be given drugs to halt or delay the progression of puberty, followed by the possible application of cross-sex hormones in their teen years. 

Prior to the new policy changes, Karolinska provided gender-transition procedures, including surgeries, to children and adults. In October 2019, a Swedish investigative television show reported that the hospital performed a double mastectomy on children as young as 14 years old.

Pope Francis sends video message to Argentina for feast of Our Lady of Lujan

Pope Francis touches a statue of Our Lady of Luján at his general audience in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace Dec. 2, 2020. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, May 6, 2021 / 07:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis sent a video message to Argentina Thursday ahead of the feast of Our Lady of Luján.

“I wish to be close to you … when all you bishops will gather to pray the rosary for the health of the Argentine people. I will accompany you from here,” Pope Francis said in the video published on May 6.

Our Lady of Luján is the patron saint of Argentina. Since 1630, the 14-inch terracotta statue of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception has been venerated by the Argentine people.

When Pope Francis served as the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, he used to make frequent pilgrimages to the Basilica of Our Lady of Luján, where he would also hear confessions, according to Vatican News.

“Remember all that the Virgin has accomplished in your homeland. Let yourselves be accompanied by her, and accompany her in her journey,” the pope said in the message.

The feast of Our Lady of Luján, on May 8, commemorates how the icon first came to the city of Luján in the 17th century.

As a Portuguese ranch owner tried to take the statue from Buenos Aires via caravan to his ranch, the oxen pulling the statue’s cart stopped moving near the Luján river about 42 miles northwest of Buenos Aires.

After much failed coaxing, the ox-driver unloaded the image and found that the oxen moved again. The caravan took this as a sign that the Virgin Mary wanted the statue to be venerated at that place. Our Lady of Luján is now honored as the foundress of the city of Luján.

Many miracles have been attributed to Our Lady of Luján’s intercession. Pope Leo XIII honored the statue in 1886 with a papal coronation. Pope Pius XI declared Our Lady of Luján patroness of Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay in 1930.

On the May 8 feast day, the Basilica of Our Lady of Luján will lead Pope Francis’ rosary prayer marathon, which is taking place throughout May.

The pope noted that Church leadership in Argentina is also using the feast to convene together to prepare for the celebrations leading up to the 400-year anniversary of the Marian image in 2030.

“It is a very long journey, but one that goes by quickly, one that must be done,” he said. “A journey to commemorate what the Virgin did there, she wanted to stay there. A journey of memory, of years and years of pilgrimage, of searching, of miracles, of daughters and sons who journey to see the mother.”

“May God bless you all and may the Virgin keep you. And please, do not forget to pray for me,” he said.

Pope Francis: Migrants bearing brunt of ‘aggressive’ nationalism and ‘radical individualism’

Pope Francis washes the feet of migrants and refugees during Holy Thursday Mass March 24, 2016. / L'Osservatore Romano.

CNA Staff, May 6, 2021 / 06:10 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said Thursday that “aggressive forms of nationalism and radical individualism,” exposed during the pandemic, are having a severe impact on migrants worldwide.

In his message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, issued May 6, he said that the coronavirus crisis had highlighted the deep divisions between human beings.

“Our ‘we,’ both in the wider world and within the Church, is crumbling and cracking due to myopic and aggressive forms of nationalism and radical individualism,” he said.

“And the highest price is being paid by those who most easily become viewed as others: foreigners, migrants, the marginalized, those living on the existential peripheries.”

The World Day of Migrants and Refugees, instituted in 1914 by Pope Pius X, is celebrated annually on the last Sunday in September. This year it falls on Sept. 26.

In his message for the day’s 107th commemoration, entitled “Towards an ever wider ‘we’,” Pope Francis addressed what he called a “twofold appeal,” to Catholics and the wider world, to embrace those on the margins.

He urged Catholics “to make the Church become ever more inclusive.”

“In our day,” he wrote, “the Church is called to go out into the streets of every existential periphery in order to heal wounds and to seek out the straying, without prejudice or fear, without proselytizing, but ready to widen her tent to embrace everyone.”

“Among those dwelling in those existential peripheries, we find many migrants and refugees, displaced persons and victims of trafficking, to whom the Lord wants his love to be manifested and his salvation preached.”

He appealed to those outside the Church to work with Catholics to build “a future of justice and peace.”

“Our societies will have a ‘colorful’ future, enriched by diversity and by cultural exchanges. Consequently, we must even now learn to live together in harmony and peace,” he commented.

He continued: “Today’s migration movements offer an opportunity for us to overcome our fears and let ourselves be enriched by the diversity of each person’s gifts. Then, if we so desire, we can transform borders into privileged places of encounter, where the miracle of an ever wider ‘we’ can come about.”

The pope argued that greater solidarity was also necessary “to ensure the proper care of our common home.”

He said: “Ours must be a personal and collective commitment that cares for all our brothers and sisters who continue to suffer, even as we work towards a more sustainable, balanced and inclusive development.”

“A commitment that makes no distinction between natives and foreigners, between residents and guests, since it is a matter of a treasure we hold in common, from whose care and benefits no one should be excluded.”

In an intervention prepared for a Vatican press conference launching the pope’s message, Cardinal Michael Czerny noted that the text developed themes in the pope’s latest encyclical, Fratelli tutti.

Referring to the pandemic, he said: “We are all suffering in different ways. What happens when the survivors in a lifeboat must all help to row to shore? What if some take more than their share of the rations, leaving others too weak to row? The risk is that everyone will perish, the well-fed and the starving alike.”

Czerny, the under-secretary of the Migrants and Refugees Section of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, added: “Widening the Good Samaritan attitude -- overcoming selfishness and caring for all -- is essential to survival.”

During the press conference, a video campaign for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees was presented, featuring Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso describing the situation on the border between Mexico and the United States.

He said: “I’ve found the most rewarding opportunities of my life serving here at the border. I’ve learned that borders can be vibrant places of encounter and welcome -- encounters that enrich us. I’ve learned that we are all interconnected as one human family. We stand or fall together. We build walls and fences which divide us. Today people of faith need to be bridge builders.”

Speaking via video link, Bishop Paul McAleenan, an auxiliary bishop of the English diocese of Westminster, said that the pope’s message offered encouragement to Catholics in the U.K.

He said: “Pope Francis draws our attention to the interconnectedness of humanity: my decisions and actions here affect others who are far away.”

“Three areas in particular directly affect the human family today. The decision of the United Kingdom to reduce its aid budget compounds the suffering of the world’s poorest. Nations engaging in the arms trade bring endless misery to those in places of conflict. Our contribution to the climate emergency results in droughts, disasters and displacement thousands of miles away. Understanding the reasons for migration must include the acknowledgement that we are not blameless.”

Also speaking via video link, Sarah Teather, director of the Jesuit Refugee Service UK, said that in her work she witnessed the lack of solidarity that Pope Francis described in his message.

“Faced with those who fled their homes and sought sanctuary, the asylum system builds walls of suspicion to stop them receiving the protection they need,” she explained.

“It detains them and enforces destitution. Destitution makes many vulnerable to abuse and exploitation, and they speak of the sense of losing themselves through years struggling at the margins.”

She highlighted the success of a project in which religious congregations and families welcome homeless asylum seekers into their homes.

She said: “Together, they create a counter-culture to the hostile public policies that render people homeless and marginalized.”

“In small, concrete ways, we can all participate in this shared project to recompose a common human family. For there are treasures to be found when we strive together to break down walls that divide us. The dream of one human family is a dream worth realizing.”

Pope Francis closed his World Day of Migrants and Refugees message with an appeal to people to “dream together” of a better future for all humanity.

He concluded with a prayer:

Holy, beloved Father,
your Son Jesus taught us
that there is great rejoicing in heaven
whenever someone lost is found,
whenever someone excluded, rejected or discarded
is gathered into our “we”,
which thus becomes ever wider.

We ask you to grant the followers of Jesus,
and all people of good will,
the grace to do your will on earth.
Bless each act of welcome and outreach
that draws those in exile
into the “we” of community and of the Church,
so that our earth may truly become
what you yourself created it to be:
the common home of all our brothers and sisters. Amen.

‘Security consultant’ says Cardinal Becciu asked her to compile ‘files’ on Vatican personnel

St. Peter's Dome. / dade72 via Shutterstock.

Rome, Italy, May 6, 2021 / 05:05 am (CNA).

Cecilia Marogna, a self-styled security consultant under investigation by the Vatican for embezzlement, has claimed that Cardinal Angelo Becciu asked her to create dossiers of incriminating information on Vatican personnel.

In an interview aired on the Italian investigative news program “Report” May 3, Marogna alleged that she was asked to create “dossieraggio,” an Italian neologism meaning a file or dossier of confidential information on a person, especially for the purpose of blackmail.

Marogna claimed that the request came from Cardinal Becciu, then the number two at the Secretariat of State.

Asked if these files were to be compiled also on people inside the Vatican, Marogna responded: “Also, yes. Then there was a discussion of the immoral conduct of some prelates.”

A lawyer for Cardinal Becciu, reached by CNA on Thursday, said there was “no official response” to Marogna’s claims at this time.

In the program, Marogna was asked if she was part of “in short, a parallel secret service,” which she affirmed, adding that it worked “in interaction with other parallel international secret services.”

“Sounds like a spy film…” the journalist said, to which Marogna responded with a smile, “Yeah, the discussion is this, exactly.”

Marogna has been under investigation by the Vatican since reports emerged last year that she received hundreds of thousands of euros from the Vatican’s Secretariat of State in connection with Becciu, and that she had spent the money on luxury goods and vacations.

Marogna acknowledged receiving the money but insisted that the funds went to her Vatican security consultancy work and salary.

Media have claimed that the payments were made under the direction of Becciu, the former sostituto of the Secretariat of State and a fellow Sardinian. Becciu, who was stripped of the rights and privileges of a cardinal by Pope Francis in September 2020, has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

Marogna was arrested in Milan last year on an international warrant issued by the Vatican through Interpol. She was released from jail after 17 days and an extradition request by the Vatican was dropped in January.

The Vatican also announced in January that a trial would begin soon against Marogna for alleged embezzlement, but no notifications about the state of the trial have been given since then.

In March, it was reported that Marogna also faces charges in Slovenia on suspicion that she used her Slovenia-registered companies to launder money illegally obtained from the Vatican.

In the May 3 program, details of Marogna’s connection with members of Italy’s secret service were also reported. Marogna claimed to have at one time worked in “cooperation” with Luciano Carta, then the director of Italy’s foreign intelligence service, the AISE. The program claimed that Becciu directed her to create relationships with the heads of Italy’s secret services.

The program also touched on Marogna’s long-standing involvement with an Italian masonic political organization known as the Roosevelt Movement. Marogna confirmed the connection, defending it as “for professional formation, obviously, yes.”

On April 2, 2016, Marogna was appointed as a member of the particular secretariat for relations with groups, associations, and relevant subjects of civil society within the Roosevelt Movement.

Marogna is close to the founder and president of the Roosevelt Movement, Gioele Magaldi, who is a mason of the Grand Orient of Italy and a “worshipful master,” a senior officer of a masonic lodge.

Magaldi wrote several articles online last year in defense of Marogna when she was jailed in Milan.