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Catholic migrant shelter calls ‘human smuggling’ accusations ‘utter nonsense’

Migrants mostly form Central America wait in line to cross the border at the Gateway International Bridge into the U.S. from Matamoros, Mexico, to Brownsville, Texas, on June 4, 2024. / Credit: CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 17, 2024 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

As Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is threatening to shut down a Catholic nonprofit known as Annunciation House for allegedly facilitating illegal border crossings from Mexico, a lawyer for the group has called the state’s claims “utter nonsense.”

Attorneys representing both sides argued before El Paso District Judge Francisco Dominguez in a hearing on Monday.

Jerome Wesevich, a lawyer with Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid (TRLA), which is representing Annunciation House, claimed that Paxton’s actions constitute an attack on the free exercise of religion and violate the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Rob Farquharson, an attorney with the Texas attorney general’s office, claimed that Annunciation House has been breaking portions of the Texas penal law that prohibits “knowingly encourag[ing] or induc[ing] a person to enter or remain in this country in violation of federal law by concealing, harboring, or shielding that person from detection.” 

He said the nonprofit has “expressly said that the federal government knows that undocumented persons reside at Annunciation House” and the shelter “publicizes its willingness to shelter [illegal] immigrants and yet the federal government does not prosecute.”

Meanwhile, Wesevich called the state’s accusations “utter nonsense,” saying that “there’s no legitimate dispute that Annunciation House serves undocumented persons as an expression of the Catholic faith and Jesus’ command to love one another, no exceptions.” 

“I would submit that if religious freedom does not allow Annunciation House to obey Jesus’ primary command to love another by providing a child a safe and warm place to sleep on a cold night, then there is no religious freedom in Texas,” Wesevich said. 

What is Annunciation House?

Located just a few minutes from the U.S.-Mexico border in El Paso, Annunciation House is a lay-run Catholic organization that offers migrants temporary shelter, food, and clothing and advocates on their behalf. 

The attorney general’s office first approached Annunciation House on Feb. 7 with concerns that it may be facilitating illegal immigration. Paxton’s office ordered the nonprofit to immediately turn over various documents and records to examine whether it is engaged in unlawful activities. 

On Feb. 20 Paxton filed a lawsuit against Annunciation House, accusing the nonprofit of being “engaged in the operation of an illegal stash house by potentially allowing others to use its real estate to engage in human smuggling.” 

Dominguez issued a temporary ruling in March in which he said that Paxton could not revoke Annunciation House’s license to operate or force it to turn over documents immediately.

In a court document filed by Paxton in May, he claimed to have “reviewed and obtained sworn testimony” indicating that the nonprofit is engaging in illegal immigration activities.

Paxton said the group’s “own sworn testimony” as part of ongoing legal proceedings show that Annunciation House “knowingly shelters illegal aliens” and “even goes into Mexico to retrieve aliens who[m] border patrol denied.”

In response, Annunciation House has called Paxton’s actions “illegal, immoral, and anti-faith” and his allegations “unfounded.” 

What happened at the hearing?

During the hearing, which according to Dominguez was held online due to “security concerns,” Farquharson claimed that the nonprofit’s refusal to comply with the order to turn over documents relating to its operations “demonstrates concealment, harboring, and shielding” of illegal activity.

He also claimed that Annunciation House has been violating the Emergency Food and Shelter Act’s requirement to keep daily logs of the migrants they serve.  

Dominguez pressed Farquharson on whether Paxton’s lawsuit diminishes Annunciation House’s Fourth Amendment right to freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures and to due process.

“Are you saying that Annunciation House, regardless of what they do or who they are harboring, to use your language, are you saying they have a diminished Fourth Amendment right?” the judge asked.

Farquharson responded that nonprofits are not guaranteed the same degree of Fourth Amendment protections as individuals.

Wesevich countered that “corporations have Fourth Amendment rights” and said that Paxton has no authority to shut Annunciation House down because “there has been no clear proof of any violation of law.”

“The attorney general is not looking for documents,” Wesevich said. “What the attorney general is looking for is an excuse to close Annunciation House.”

Wesevich went on to say that the “burden of proof of reasonableness” for Paxton’s records request “belongs only to the attorney general.”

TRLA held a press conference after the hearing during in which Wesevich said that Texas’ actions are “an obvious attack on Annunciation House’s fundamental right to practice the Catholic faith.”

Wesevich told CNA during the press conference that if Paxton were to be successful in his actions against Annunciation House the result would be “more people out on the streets” and “everywhere more chaos.”

“If the attorney general were successful, it would result in no decreased immigration whatsoever and only increased chaos,” he went on. “For us, for the business community, for the community at large, for the religious community, as well as for the government.”

What’s next?

Dominguez said during the hearing that he plans to issue a ruling in the next two weeks.

Wesevich said that though he is optimistic, he believes that Dominguez’s ruling will likely be appealed and that the case will go on to higher courts.

Paxton’s office did not reply to CNA’s request for comment.  

Catholic migrant shelter calls ‘human smuggling’ accusations ‘utter nonsense’

Migrants mostly form Central America wait in line to cross the border at the Gateway International Bridge into the U.S. from Matamoros, Mexico, to Brownsville, Texas, on June 4, 2024. / Credit: CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 17, 2024 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

As Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is threatening to shut down a Catholic nonprofit known as Annunciation House for allegedly facilitating illegal border crossings from Mexico, a lawyer for the group has called the state’s claims “utter nonsense.”

Attorneys representing both sides argued before El Paso District Judge Francisco Dominguez in a hearing on Monday.

Jerome Wesevich, a lawyer with Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid (TRLA), which is representing Annunciation House, claimed that Paxton’s actions constitute an attack on the free exercise of religion and violate the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Rob Farquharson, an attorney with the Texas attorney general’s office, claimed that Annunciation House has been breaking portions of the Texas penal law that prohibits “knowingly encourag[ing] or induc[ing] a person to enter or remain in this country in violation of federal law by concealing, harboring, or shielding that person from detection.” 

He said the nonprofit has “expressly said that the federal government knows that undocumented persons reside at Annunciation House” and the shelter “publicizes its willingness to shelter [illegal] immigrants and yet the federal government does not prosecute.”

Meanwhile, Wesevich called the state’s accusations “utter nonsense,” saying that “there’s no legitimate dispute that Annunciation House serves undocumented persons as an expression of the Catholic faith and Jesus’ command to love one another, no exceptions.” 

“I would submit that if religious freedom does not allow Annunciation House to obey Jesus’ primary command to love another by providing a child a safe and warm place to sleep on a cold night, then there is no religious freedom in Texas,” Wesevich said. 

What is Annunciation House?

Located just a few minutes from the U.S.-Mexico border in El Paso, Annunciation House is a lay-run Catholic organization that offers migrants temporary shelter, food, and clothing and advocates on their behalf. 

The attorney general’s office first approached Annunciation House on Feb. 7 with concerns that it may be facilitating illegal immigration. Paxton’s office ordered the nonprofit to immediately turn over various documents and records to examine whether it is engaged in unlawful activities. 

On Feb. 20 Paxton filed a lawsuit against Annunciation House, accusing the nonprofit of being “engaged in the operation of an illegal stash house by potentially allowing others to use its real estate to engage in human smuggling.” 

Dominguez issued a temporary ruling in March in which he said that Paxton could not revoke Annunciation House’s license to operate or force it to turn over documents immediately.

In a court document filed by Paxton in May, he claimed to have “reviewed and obtained sworn testimony” indicating that the nonprofit is engaging in illegal immigration activities.

Paxton said the group’s “own sworn testimony” as part of ongoing legal proceedings show that Annunciation House “knowingly shelters illegal aliens” and “even goes into Mexico to retrieve aliens who[m] border patrol denied.”

In response, Annunciation House has called Paxton’s actions “illegal, immoral, and anti-faith” and his allegations “unfounded.” 

What happened at the hearing?

During the hearing, which according to Dominguez was held online due to “security concerns,” Farquharson claimed that the nonprofit’s refusal to comply with the order to turn over documents relating to its operations “demonstrates concealment, harboring, and shielding” of illegal activity.

He also claimed that Annunciation House has been violating the Emergency Food and Shelter Act’s requirement to keep daily logs of the migrants they serve.  

Dominguez pressed Farquharson on whether Paxton’s lawsuit diminishes Annunciation House’s Fourth Amendment right to freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures and to due process.

“Are you saying that Annunciation House, regardless of what they do or who they are harboring, to use your language, are you saying they have a diminished Fourth Amendment right?” the judge asked.

Farquharson responded that nonprofits are not guaranteed the same degree of Fourth Amendment protections as individuals.

Wesevich countered that “corporations have Fourth Amendment rights” and said that Paxton has no authority to shut Annunciation House down because “there has been no clear proof of any violation of law.”

“The attorney general is not looking for documents,” Wesevich said. “What the attorney general is looking for is an excuse to close Annunciation House.”

Wesevich went on to say that the “burden of proof of reasonableness” for Paxton’s records request “belongs only to the attorney general.”

TRLA held a press conference after the hearing during in which Wesevich said that Texas’ actions are “an obvious attack on Annunciation House’s fundamental right to practice the Catholic faith.”

Wesevich told CNA during the press conference that if Paxton were to be successful in his actions against Annunciation House the result would be “more people out on the streets” and “everywhere more chaos.”

“If the attorney general were successful, it would result in no decreased immigration whatsoever and only increased chaos,” he went on. “For us, for the business community, for the community at large, for the religious community, as well as for the government.”

What’s next?

Dominguez said during the hearing that he plans to issue a ruling in the next two weeks.

Wesevich said that though he is optimistic, he believes that Dominguez’s ruling will likely be appealed and that the case will go on to higher courts.

Paxton’s office did not reply to CNA’s request for comment.  

Schismatic Spanish nuns have last chance to avoid formal excommunication

null / Credit: Declausura Foundation

ACI Prensa Staff, Jun 17, 2024 / 17:15 pm (CNA).

The Archdiocese of Burgos in Spain has granted an extension to the Poor Clares of Belorado, giving them a new deadline of Friday, June 21, to appear before an ecclesiastical tribunal and retract their formal declaration that they are leaving the Catholic Church, the canonical crime of schism, which entails excommunication.

According to the Spanish newspaper ABC, three of the Poor Clares — Sister Isabel de la Trinidad, the abbess of the monastery, as well as Sister Sión and Sister Paz — had to appear before the ecclesiastical tribunal of the Archdiocese of Burgos at the latest on Sunday, June 16. However, through an email they requested an extension.

Another seven Poor Clares who no longer recognize the authority of the Catholic Church and consider “H.H. Pius XII as the last valid Supreme Pontiff,” also face a canonical process with a deadline that was originally different but now is the same date, June 21.

According to ABC’s sources at the Spanish archdiocese, “depending on what each of them says individually, and once the deadline has passed, an evaluation will be made and we will proceed accordingly.”

The Poor Clares of the convents in Belorado and Orduña — under the ecclesial authority of the Spanish archdioceses of Burgos and Vitoria — announced May 13 that they were no longer recognizing the authority of the Catholic bishops and that of Pope Francis and that they were placing themselves under the authority of a false excommunicated bishop named Pablo de Rojas.

The ecclesiastical court of the Archdiocese of Burgos recently announced that the actions taken by the Spanish Poor Clares constitute “the crime of schism, defined in the Code of Canon Law in accordance with Canon 751, the penalty for which is provided for in Canon 1364 § 1, and that it carries with it the expulsion from consecrated life.”

Canon 751 of the Code of Canon Law of the Catholic Church defines the crime of schism as “the refusal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church.”

Canon 1364 § 1 warns that the schismatic — as well as the apostate or the heretic — incurs “latae sententiae” excommunication (automatic), such that the ecclesial process opened against these Poor Clares could simply make official their state of excommunication or give them an opportunity to recant.

According to the Code of Canon Law, besides being excommunicated, the schismatic Poor Clares would be prohibited from “residing in a specific place or territory” and from “wearing the religious habit,” which means they would be forced to leave the convents where they currently reside.

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

New data shows more people traveling for abortions post-Dobbs

Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks to pro-life supporters before signing a law restricting abortion in Florida. / Credit: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 17, 2024 / 16:30 pm (CNA).

Although birth rate and fertility data have shown that pro-life laws throughout the country have saved thousands of preborn children’s lives, new data from the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute found that more women are also traveling out of their states to obtain abortions.

The data, which tracks month-to-month abortion numbers in the United States, found that more than 171,000 Americans traveled out of state to obtain abortions in 2023 — nearly twice as many as the number of people who did the same in 2019, according to the New York Times. Out-of-state abortion procedures accounted for about one-fifth of total abortions in 2023. These numbers include both surgical abortions and chemical abortions.

Although most people who traveled to obtain abortions went to a neighboring state, thousands crossed multiple state lines for abortions. Longer travel to get an abortion was more common for people who live in states with strong pro-life laws that are also surrounded by other states that have similar pro-life protections.

For example, 3,500 people from Louisiana traveled through multiple states to procure abortions in states like Florida, Illinois, and Georgia because both Louisiana and its neighbors prohibit most abortions.

Some states with more permissive abortion policies that border pro-life states have seen a large influx of people traveling from another state to receive abortions. For example, about 71% of the abortions performed in New Mexico in 2023 were on women who traveled from a state with strong pro-life laws, such as Texas. In 2020, only about 38% of New Mexico’s abortions were performed on women traveling from another state.

Other states with a large increase in out-of-state people seeking abortions included Illinois, Kansas, South Carolina, and North Carolina.

Michael New, a senior associate scholar at the pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute, told CNA that he believes the Guttmacher analysis is intended “to downplay the impact of protective pro-life laws and make pro-life policies appear ineffective.”

“It is true that some women circumvent pro-life laws by obtaining abortions in states where the laws are more permissive,” New said. “However, it is also true that a substantial body of birth data from Texas and other states that have recently enacted protective pro-life laws shows that recently enacted pro-life laws have saved thousands of lives.”

study last year by The Journal of the American Medical Association found that the state’s law that prohibits abortion after a fetal heartbeat can be detected led to nearly 9,800 more births over a nine-month period after it went into effect. Data published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier this year found that states with pro-life laws had slower declines in fertility rates than states that have permissive abortion laws.

“All of this is strong evidence that recently enforced pro-life laws have saved tens of thousands of lives,” New added.

Isaac Maddow-Zimet, a data scientist at the Guttmacher Institute and project lead for the Monthly Abortion Provision Study project, said in a statement that the “striking” findings from the new data are “how often people are traveling across multiple state lines to access abortion care.”

“Traveling for abortion care requires individuals to overcome huge financial and logistical barriers, and our findings show just how far people will travel to obtain the care they want and deserve,” Maddow-Zimet said. “Despite the amazing resiliency of abortion patients and providers, we can’t lose sight of the fact that this is neither normal nor acceptable: A person should not have to travel hundreds or thousands of miles to receive basic health care.”

Florida was another state to witness an increase in women traveling across state lines to obtain abortions. However, Guttmacher Vice President for Public Policy Kelly Baden noted in a statement that Florida’s law that outlaws abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected — which occurs at about six weeks of pregnancy — went into effect this May, which will mean Florida will no longer be a common destination for women traveling out of state to obtain abortions. 

“We see that a state’s abortion policies affect thousands of people beyond that state’s borders,” Baden said.

The Guttmacher Institute’s data estimates nearly 1.04 million clinician-provided abortions took place in the United States in 2023 in states that do not prohibit most abortions.

Tessa Cox, a senior research associate, and Mia Steupert, a research associate, both at the Lozier Institute, told CNA in a joint statement that “a handful of pro-abortion states have driven up abortion rates by enacting increasingly extreme policies, including shipments of unregulated mail-order abortion drugs and abortionist shield laws.”

“There is a tendency to oversimplify abortion travel and conclude that the increase is solely attributable to Dobbs, but we know this is a complicated issue with many factors in play — just look at pro-abortion New York, where the largest group of out-of-state residents is women from New Jersey, accounting for nearly 3,000 abortions in 2023, according to Guttmacher,” they said.

New data shows more people traveling for abortions post-Dobbs

Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks to pro-life supporters before signing a law restricting abortion in Florida. / Credit: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 17, 2024 / 16:30 pm (CNA).

Although birth rate and fertility data have shown that pro-life laws throughout the country have saved thousands of preborn children’s lives, new data from the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute found that more women are also traveling out of their states to obtain abortions.

The data, which tracks month-to-month abortion numbers in the United States, found that more than 171,000 Americans traveled out of state to obtain abortions in 2023 — nearly twice as many as the number of people who did the same in 2019, according to the New York Times. Out-of-state abortion procedures accounted for about one-fifth of total abortions in 2023. These numbers include both surgical abortions and chemical abortions.

Although most people who traveled to obtain abortions went to a neighboring state, thousands crossed multiple state lines for abortions. Longer travel to get an abortion was more common for people who live in states with strong pro-life laws that are also surrounded by other states that have similar pro-life protections.

For example, 3,500 people from Louisiana traveled through multiple states to procure abortions in states like Florida, Illinois, and Georgia because both Louisiana and its neighbors prohibit most abortions.

Some states with more permissive abortion policies that border pro-life states have seen a large influx of people traveling from another state to receive abortions. For example, about 71% of the abortions performed in New Mexico in 2023 were on women who traveled from a state with strong pro-life laws, such as Texas. In 2020, only about 38% of New Mexico’s abortions were performed on women traveling from another state.

Other states with a large increase in out-of-state people seeking abortions included Illinois, Kansas, South Carolina, and North Carolina.

Michael New, a senior associate scholar at the pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute, told CNA that he believes the Guttmacher analysis is intended “to downplay the impact of protective pro-life laws and make pro-life policies appear ineffective.”

“It is true that some women circumvent pro-life laws by obtaining abortions in states where the laws are more permissive,” New said. “However, it is also true that a substantial body of birth data from Texas and other states that have recently enacted protective pro-life laws shows that recently enacted pro-life laws have saved thousands of lives.”

study last year by The Journal of the American Medical Association found that the state’s law that prohibits abortion after a fetal heartbeat can be detected led to nearly 9,800 more births over a nine-month period after it went into effect. Data published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier this year found that states with pro-life laws had slower declines in fertility rates than states that have permissive abortion laws.

“All of this is strong evidence that recently enforced pro-life laws have saved tens of thousands of lives,” New added.

Isaac Maddow-Zimet, a data scientist at the Guttmacher Institute and project lead for the Monthly Abortion Provision Study project, said in a statement that the “striking” findings from the new data are “how often people are traveling across multiple state lines to access abortion care.”

“Traveling for abortion care requires individuals to overcome huge financial and logistical barriers, and our findings show just how far people will travel to obtain the care they want and deserve,” Maddow-Zimet said. “Despite the amazing resiliency of abortion patients and providers, we can’t lose sight of the fact that this is neither normal nor acceptable: A person should not have to travel hundreds or thousands of miles to receive basic health care.”

Florida was another state to witness an increase in women traveling across state lines to obtain abortions. However, Guttmacher Vice President for Public Policy Kelly Baden noted in a statement that Florida’s law that outlaws abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected — which occurs at about six weeks of pregnancy — went into effect this May, which will mean Florida will no longer be a common destination for women traveling out of state to obtain abortions. 

“We see that a state’s abortion policies affect thousands of people beyond that state’s borders,” Baden said.

The Guttmacher Institute’s data estimates nearly 1.04 million clinician-provided abortions took place in the United States in 2023 in states that do not prohibit most abortions.

Tessa Cox, a senior research associate, and Mia Steupert, a research associate, both at the Lozier Institute, told CNA in a joint statement that “a handful of pro-abortion states have driven up abortion rates by enacting increasingly extreme policies, including shipments of unregulated mail-order abortion drugs and abortionist shield laws.”

“There is a tendency to oversimplify abortion travel and conclude that the increase is solely attributable to Dobbs, but we know this is a complicated issue with many factors in play — just look at pro-abortion New York, where the largest group of out-of-state residents is women from New Jersey, accounting for nearly 3,000 abortions in 2023, according to Guttmacher,” they said.

‘The Mass is something sacred’: Argentina archbishop responds to political chants at Mass

“The Mass is to unite, the Mass is to make us brothers,” said Buenos Aires Archbishop Jorge Ignacio García Cuerva during Mass on Saturday, June 15, 2024. / Credit: Archdiocese of Buenos Aires

ACI Prensa Staff, Jun 17, 2024 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

In response to the controversy sparked by people chanting a political slogan during a Mass in the Argentine capital, the archbishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge Ignacio García Cuerva, was clear: “The Mass is something sacred.”

“The Eucharist is something sacred; that’s why the Mass is something sacred, because it is the very core of the faith of our people,” the prelate said while celebrating Mass on June 15 at the St. Ildephonsus Parish in Buenos Aires.

“Here we come to be nourished by unity, brotherhood, peace. That’s why it is not good to use the Mass to divide, to fragment, to be partisan,” he added.

Videos circulated recently showing Mass being interrupted by people chanting political slogans such as “the country is not for sale,” expressing opposition to the government of President Javier Milei.

The first occasion occurred on Sunday, June 9, when Passionist Father Carlos Saracini interrupted the Eucharistic celebration at Holy Cross Parish — apparently during the concluding doxology — by beginning the chant “the country is not for sale.” Many parishioners joined in, clapping to the rhythm of the chant.

A few days later, on June 14, near the end of the Mass presided by Gustavo Carrara, auxiliary bishop of Buenos Aires, the participants and at least one of the priests in the church began to chant “the country is not for sale.” The bishop, who interrupted the chanting to go on with the prayer, posted that same day an apology “to anyone who might feel offended.”

The archbishop of Buenos Aires pointed out that “it’s not good to use the Mass so that we end up separated as brothers. And it’s not good to count on the good faith of those who participate in the Eucharist or of the priests who are invited to preside over it so that what has happened in recent days happens, as happened yesterday to Bishop Gustavo Carrara. That’s why the Mass is something sacred.”

“The Mass is to unite us; the Mass is to make us brothers; the Mass is to nourish us and to be witnesses of the kingdom in the streets,” the Argentine archbishop said.

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

Catholic fathers talk fatherhood, family values, and threats to the African family

Alfred Magero, Matthew Njogu, and Edward Chaleh Nkamanyi are three Catholic fathers from Africa who recently shared insights about being a present dad, protecting their families amid threats to the African family, and being a model of family values for their children with ACI Africa, CNA's news partner in Africa. / Credit: Photos courtesy of ACI Africa

ACI Africa, Jun 17, 2024 / 12:37 pm (CNA).

On the occasion of Father’s Day 2024, a day focused on the celebration of fatherhood, four Catholic men from different African countries recently shared their experiences of impacting the lives of their children.

The Catholic fathers — who hail from Cameroon, Kenya, and Nigeria — talk about the importance of “being present,” of protecting their families amid threats to the African family, and of being a model of family values for their children, who they believe someday will become parents as well.

Tony Nnachetta, 68: Fatherhood is a full-time enterprise

Tony Nnachetta shares a moment with Pope Francis. The married father of four is a parishioner in the Catholic Archdiocese of Onitsha. Credit: Photo courtesy of ACI Africa
Tony Nnachetta shares a moment with Pope Francis. The married father of four is a parishioner in the Catholic Archdiocese of Onitsha. Credit: Photo courtesy of ACI Africa

Tony Nnachetta is a married father of four who attends the Church of the Assumption Parish in Nigeria’s Archdiocese of Lagos. Nnachetta has been a parishioner there for 40 years, and he was wed there 38 years ago. A member of the Grand Knights of St. Mulumba, he originally hails from the Archdiocese of Onitsha.

I got married to my friend after we dated for four years. I was looking forward to fatherhood and I was mentally prepared for it. Here are the lessons I have learned along my fatherhood journey.

First, being a father means you watch your children grow and become independent. You watch them get to a point in their lives where they can engage in a debate with you and even disagree with you.

Fatherhood is a long process. You would be fortunate to go through the entire process and maybe see your children’s children. I have seen mine achieve excellence in school and even leave home and go across the world as they sought to become independent.

Wherever your children go, what is important for them is what they take away from home — what they take from mommy and daddy. I have always told mine to “remember the child of who you are.” This means that they are not allowed to break the Christian values in our family. 

I taught them to always stand for the truth and never to flow with the tide. We have encouraged them to always say what they mean. These days, they have jokingly turned around the statement and they tell me, “Remember the dad of who you are,” and we laugh about it.

You can’t always be there to take the bullet for them, but you can support them through prayers. Our family relies a lot on the intercession of the saints. We call ourselves a family of Jesuits because the school my children went to is under the patronage of St. Ignatius of Loyola.

My own patron saint is St. Anthony of Padua and my wife’s is St. Rita of Cascia. All the years, these saints have kept us well protected.

Fatherhood is a full-time engagement. It is not like you can be a father in the morning and take a break in the evening. You worry about your children even when they are grown and have left your home. They preoccupy you everywhere. You wonder whether they are warm and if they have had their meal. But all this brings a father immense joy.

Young fathers in Africa are overburdened by poverty. Because of poverty they don’t have a way to help their families. Others are scared to enter the marriage institution. Poverty has made young men weak and helpless. Some are leaving their young families and going to faraway places outside the continent to make a living. 

Poverty is eroding family values because some fathers do what they do, including stealing, for their children to survive. In doing so, they are setting a bad example for their children …

It is important for our leaders to confront this situation. They must accept that they have let us down.

Matthew Njogu, 75: Tips on being a present dad

Matthew Njogu is the moderator of the Catholic Men Association at St. Austin's Msongari Parish of Kenya’s Archdiocese of Nairobi. His children are now adults. Credit: Photo courtesy of ACI Africa
Matthew Njogu is the moderator of the Catholic Men Association at St. Austin's Msongari Parish of Kenya’s Archdiocese of Nairobi. His children are now adults. Credit: Photo courtesy of ACI Africa

Njogu is the moderator of the Catholic Men Association at St. Austin's Msongari Parish in Kenya’s Archdiocese of Nairobi. His children are now grown up and he offers the following insights on being a present father.

Fathers need to be present in the lives of their children. For a long time, it was assumed that it was the mother’s responsibility to take care of the young children; fathers kept off. But being absent in the lives of your children hurts your relationship with them. They end up growing up without you having any impact on their lives.

Unfortunately, some fathers assume that fatherhood ends at providing material things... They don’t pay attention to their children’s growth milestones. And when they eventually try to establish a connection, they find that the children are already all grown without knowing anything about their fathers.

Simple things like dropping your children off at school help you connect with them. While stuck in traffic on the way to school, you can talk about things that will help you understand your child and for him to know you.

Always try as much as possible to have dinner with your children and help them with schoolwork. And always try to make up for the time you don’t spend with them.

Edward Chaleh Nkamanyi, 53: Raising a Christ-like family

Edward Chaleh Nkamanyia runs a medical college in Doula, Cameroon. He is a father of two, though he tells ACI Africa that he is “a father of many” as he takes care of several orphans and other vulnerable children. Credit: Photo courtesy of ACI Africa
Edward Chaleh Nkamanyia runs a medical college in Doula, Cameroon. He is a father of two, though he tells ACI Africa that he is “a father of many” as he takes care of several orphans and other vulnerable children. Credit: Photo courtesy of ACI Africa

Nkamanyi runs a medical college in Doula, Cameroon. He is a father of two children ages 16 and 20. He tells ACI Africa that he is “a father of many,” as he takes care of several orphans and other vulnerable children. Here are his insights into nurturing a Christ-like family.

It is the joy of every responsible young man to be called “daddy” or “papa.” Having a Christ-like family is the greatest gift for a father; a family like that of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus.

My appeal for Catholic fathers is to hold their families firmly, to provide for them, and to protect them from all dangers in the contemporary society, where values are being eroded.

I don’t believe that being a father is a challenging task. God already gave us the innate potential to be fathers. I believe that God can’t give you a role that you can’t perform.

It is unfortunate that many young men are choosing to be absentee fathers. From what I have seen, many children raised by a single parent end up adopting wayward behaviors.

Alfred Magero, 48: Being a present dad in a low-income setting

Alfred Magero belongs to the Catholic Men's Association group of St. Joseph the Worker Kangemi Catholic Parish of in the Nairobi Archdiocese. The father of three has been married for 29 years. Credit: Photo courtesy of ACI Africa
Alfred Magero belongs to the Catholic Men's Association group of St. Joseph the Worker Kangemi Catholic Parish of in the Nairobi Archdiocese. The father of three has been married for 29 years. Credit: Photo courtesy of ACI Africa

Magero belongs to the Catholic Men’s Association group of St. Joseph the Worker Kangemi Parish of the Archdiocese of Nairobi. The father of three has been married for 29 years and shares his experience and that of other Catholic dads raising their children in a low-income neighborhood.

I am raising my children to become God-fearing adults. This is not an easy task in the community in which we live, where there is a lot of poverty, drunkenness, and other characteristics typical of a low-income [neighborhood].

Many fathers rarely interact with their children since their main focus is to provide for their families. They leave for work before their children wake up and come back at night when the children have already gone to bed.

The young men and boys we are raising are experiencing a different environment from ours when we were growing up. With the whole world brought to them on the palm of their hand by a simple tap on the phone, this generation is dangerously exposed. They need us, their fathers, to constantly give them direction. They need us to be their role models. 

They need us to constantly remind them that they are in Africa and that they should not adopt alien cultures, especially those bound to destroy the family.

As fathers, we must remind our young ones to uphold African values that kept the family unit and the society glued together. Africans knew the importance of loving and caring for each other. Unfortunately, this value is being eroded, and in its place, now we have individualism. Older men in families would educate young men to be responsible adults. Unfortunately, we no longer have this kind of education.

This article was first published by ACI Africa, CNA’s Africa news partner in Africa, and has been adapted by CNA. 

Vatican library to award NFTs to donors in ‘experimental project’

A view of the Vatican Apostolic Library in 2021. / Credit: Franco Origlia/Getty Images

Rome Newsroom, Jun 17, 2024 / 11:00 am (CNA).

The Vatican library announced Monday that it will expand its use of Web3 technologies by awarding nontransferable NFTs (nonfungible tokens) to supporters of the manuscript collections.

For the time being, the project, considered “experimental,” only applies to Italian donors to the Vatican Apostolic Library. A trial was first launched in Japan in February 2023.

According to the library, which preserves roughly 180,000 manuscripts and more than 1.5 million printed books, Italians who share about the NFT project on their social media accounts through July 16 will receive a “Silver NFT” through which they can access a special collection of high-resolution images of 15 manuscripts of the library. 

Financial supporters of the project, instead, will receive a “Gold NFT” giving them access to high-resolution images of all 21 manuscripts in the special collection.

The Vatican has partnered with the Japanese multinational company NTT DATA to expand “the Vatican Library’s online community by connecting the cultural institution with its supporters through Web3 technology,” according to a June 17 press release from the Vatican Library.

The future of the project, the Vatican said, may include the ability to visit the library through immersive extended reality (XR) experiences, like augmented or virtual reality.

“I believe that our heritage requires special attention and dedication geared toward preservation and promotion,” Salesian Father Mauro Mantovani, prefect of the Vatican Apostolic Library, said this week.

“NTT DATA,” he continued, “has played an important role in supporting the Vatican Library’s mission to make its unique collections accessible to the public, regardless of origin, culture, religion, politics, or ideology, while nurturing scientific research and development.”

The papal library, in its current form, dates to the 14th century, though there is evidence the Catholic Church has had a library and archive from as early as the 300s.

The Web3 project continues the papal library’s efforts to make ancient documents more accessible to the public.

The Vatican launched a new website for the library in 2020 with improved search functions and easier access to digital reproductions of digitized manuscripts, inventories, archival materials, coins, medals, and incunabula, which are books printed in Europe before the 16th century.

According to its website, the Vatican Library “preserves over 180,000 manuscripts (including archival units), 1,600,000 printed books, about 9,000 incunabula, over 300,000 coins and medals, more than 150,000 prints, thousands of drawings and engravings, and over 200,000 photographs.”

The Apostolic Library is located in Vatican City in a building dating to the late 16th century.

Will Harvard return an alleged third-century relic of St. Sebastian to the Church?

Harvard University. / Credit: Jon Bilous/Shutterstock

Boston, Mass., Jun 17, 2024 / 07:00 am (CNA).

As Harvard University undergoes the process of returning some of the thousands of Indigenous human remains in its possession to those with cultural, ancestral, or religious ties to them, one Catholic group is calling on the university to return a sacred first-class relic of St. Sebastian to the Catholic Church.

“The appropriate location for a relic of St. Sebastian is a Catholic church, chapel, or shrine, not the library of a secular university,” C.J. Doyle, executive director of the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts, told the College Fix in May. 

“Harvard should do the right thing and donate it to a local Catholic church,” he said.

In a statement to CNA, Harvard Library spokeswoman Kerry Conley said the relic was acquired by the school through a purchase from an antiquarian bookseller in 2021. 

The bone relic, in a medallion reliquary, is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity by the Catholic Church with two illegible signatures, according to its description on Harvard Library’s website.

The coat of arms of Bishop Nicola Angelo Maria Landini, titular bishop of Porphyreon — which is present-day Jieh, Lebanon — and vicar general of the Vatican Curia are on the certificate, which is dated Oct. 12, 1774. 

A cartouche on the reliquary says “S. Simonii Ap,” indicating that “it might have previously held a relic of St. Simon the Zealot,” the description says.

The relic is located in Houghton Library in its special collection stacks, an area only available to staff and researchers by request.

Conley said that, although the university listed the relic in a 2022 report detailing human remains located in Harvard museum collections, the object “has not been tested and we do not know whether it is indeed human, nor can we say whether it dates from the third century.”

“It was included in the university’s report because the documentation it accompanied purported the bone to be human; however, there is no genetic testing or carbon dating to affirm that claim,” she said.

Who is St. Sebastian?

In Pope Francis’ March 2019 postsynodal apostolic exhortation Christus Vivit, the Holy Father spoke of St. Sebastian as a role model for young people.

“In the third century, St. Sebastian was a young captain of the Praetorian Guard. It is said that he spoke constantly of Christ and tried to convert his companions, to the point that he was ordered to renounce his faith,” the Holy Father wrote.

“Since he refused, he was shot with arrows, yet he survived and continued to proclaim Christ fearlessly. In the end, Sebastian was flogged to death,” the pope wrote.

The early Church martyr is the patron saint of archers and athletes.

Is the relic real?

There are many purported relics that are actually not real relics at all, according to Sean Pilcher, an expert on relics and director of Sacra, an organization that promotes the veneration of relics while repairing and authenticating them.

“The question is less about whether it is actual human remains because there’s basically no doubt that it’s human remains. The question is: ‘Is it the relic that it purports to be? Are the bones in the reliquary the bones of that saint or is it a forgery?’” Pilcher told CNA in a phone call.

Pilcher, who has worked with thousands of relics, said he wouldn’t be able to authenticate the purported St. Sebastian relic at Harvard from afar. 

“I’d have to examine and compare the sources, find out where it came from, look at the seal and the document and some other tangibles about the relic,” he said.

Should Harvard return the relic?

If the relic is authentic, does Harvard have an obligation to transfer it to the Catholic Church?

In an email to CNA, Father Carlos Martins, another relic expert and director of Treasures of the Church, said “yes.”

“Yes, as would any organization that comes into possession of something held deeply sacred by a church or by another organization, such as a nation,” he wrote.

“Imagine if an individual somehow came into legal ownership of the original copy of the Declaration of Independence,” Martins wrote. “While it might be tempting for him to keep it — or even sell it for the great sum it would fetch — the noble, honorable, and moral thing to do is to return it to the people of the United States.”

“Great sensitivity and self-transcendence must be exercised whenever something is held to be sacred by others,” the priest said. 

“What is sacred is not just important. It is part of the very identity of the people who hold it to be such. It is a grave injustice for the object to be profaned or even just alienated from those people.”

Will Harvard give the relic to the Church?

A policy set by Harvard in 2022 put in place a process for the return of human remains and other sacred objects possessed by the university but notes that returns would be on a “case-by-case basis.”

Claimants must approach the university and provide evidence of “standing” for their request of the object or remains, the policy says. 

“Claims should demonstrate the significance of the object to the claimant, a category that could include sacred, cultural, religious, national, communal, or historical importance. How does the absence of the item affect the claimant community? Does the significance or other attribute of the item make it unsuitable for display and/or continued research? Are there other claimants?” the policy says.

As of June 7, no one has reached out to Harvard requesting the St. Sebastian relic, according to Conley. 

The Archdiocese of Boston did not respond to a request for comment about the alleged relic at Harvard. 

Harvard’s policy for the return of human remains is an extension of the school’s commitment to fulfill its legal obligation as outlined in federal law via the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990 (NAGPRA). That law provides for the return of Native American human remains and cultural objects to the Native peoples.

Holly Jensen, a Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences spokeswoman, told Harvard’s student university newspaper in February that the school’s Peabody Museum has repatriated over 40% of its more than 10,000 held Indigenous “ancestors” under NAGPRA.

The Peabody Museum wrote on its website that “to address return of cultural items beyond NAGPRA, Harvard University published guidelines on the Consideration of Claims for the Return of Items in Harvard University Collections (2022),” which is the name of the policy.

Relics in other museums

According to Pilcher, the problem of relics in secular places is wider than just Harvard: “Any art museum of reasonable size in a large American city possesses sacred relics.”

In the Art Institute of Chicago, there is a relic of St. Christina. The museum also has relics of St. Anne, Sts. Bernward and Godehard of Hildesheim, St. Anianus, and St. Lawrence.

In the Cleveland Museum of Art, there is another bone relic of St. Sebastian. And in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, there is a copper reliquary from Italy that is purported to hold the tooth of St. Mary Magdalene.

Some reliquaries in American museums appear to still be holding objects inside them, such as this one from the Detroit Institute of Arts. However, its online exhibit does not specify whether the relic is still held within.

Martins said that relics “possess an innate sacredness” and are forbidden to be sold under canon laws.

“They are not sacramentals (e.g., rosaries, water, scapulars, crucifixes) that are blessed and become holy through the blessing (i.e., water that is blessed is called holy water),” he said. 

“Relics are holy in and of themselves simply by being what they are — an object associated with a saint, who is a ‘temple of the Holy Spirit,’” he said.

Will Harvard return an alleged third-century relic of St. Sebastian to the Church?

Harvard University. / Credit: Jon Bilous/Shutterstock

Boston, Mass., Jun 17, 2024 / 07:00 am (CNA).

As Harvard University undergoes the process of returning some of the thousands of Indigenous human remains in its possession to those with cultural, ancestral, or religious ties to them, one Catholic group is calling on the university to return a sacred first-class relic of St. Sebastian to the Catholic Church.

“The appropriate location for a relic of St. Sebastian is a Catholic church, chapel, or shrine, not the library of a secular university,” C.J. Doyle, executive director of the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts, told the College Fix in May. 

“Harvard should do the right thing and donate it to a local Catholic church,” he said.

In a statement to CNA, Harvard Library spokeswoman Kerry Conley said the relic was acquired by the school through a purchase from an antiquarian bookseller in 2021. 

The bone relic, in a medallion reliquary, is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity by the Catholic Church with two illegible signatures, according to its description on Harvard Library’s website.

The coat of arms of Bishop Nicola Angelo Maria Landini, titular bishop of Porphyreon — which is present-day Jieh, Lebanon — and vicar general of the Vatican Curia are on the certificate, which is dated Oct. 12, 1774. 

A cartouche on the reliquary says “S. Simonii Ap,” indicating that “it might have previously held a relic of St. Simon the Zealot,” the description says.

The relic is located in Houghton Library in its special collection stacks, an area only available to staff and researchers by request.

Conley said that, although the university listed the relic in a 2022 report detailing human remains located in Harvard museum collections, the object “has not been tested and we do not know whether it is indeed human, nor can we say whether it dates from the third century.”

“It was included in the university’s report because the documentation it accompanied purported the bone to be human; however, there is no genetic testing or carbon dating to affirm that claim,” she said.

Who is St. Sebastian?

In Pope Francis’ March 2019 postsynodal apostolic exhortation Christus Vivit, the Holy Father spoke of St. Sebastian as a role model for young people.

“In the third century, St. Sebastian was a young captain of the Praetorian Guard. It is said that he spoke constantly of Christ and tried to convert his companions, to the point that he was ordered to renounce his faith,” the Holy Father wrote.

“Since he refused, he was shot with arrows, yet he survived and continued to proclaim Christ fearlessly. In the end, Sebastian was flogged to death,” the pope wrote.

The early Church martyr is the patron saint of archers and athletes.

Is the relic real?

There are many purported relics that are actually not real relics at all, according to Sean Pilcher, an expert on relics and director of Sacra, an organization that promotes the veneration of relics while repairing and authenticating them.

“The question is less about whether it is actual human remains because there’s basically no doubt that it’s human remains. The question is: ‘Is it the relic that it purports to be? Are the bones in the reliquary the bones of that saint or is it a forgery?’” Pilcher told CNA in a phone call.

Pilcher, who has worked with thousands of relics, said he wouldn’t be able to authenticate the purported St. Sebastian relic at Harvard from afar. 

“I’d have to examine and compare the sources, find out where it came from, look at the seal and the document and some other tangibles about the relic,” he said.

Should Harvard return the relic?

If the relic is authentic, does Harvard have an obligation to transfer it to the Catholic Church?

In an email to CNA, Father Carlos Martins, another relic expert and director of Treasures of the Church, said “yes.”

“Yes, as would any organization that comes into possession of something held deeply sacred by a church or by another organization, such as a nation,” he wrote.

“Imagine if an individual somehow came into legal ownership of the original copy of the Declaration of Independence,” Martins wrote. “While it might be tempting for him to keep it — or even sell it for the great sum it would fetch — the noble, honorable, and moral thing to do is to return it to the people of the United States.”

“Great sensitivity and self-transcendence must be exercised whenever something is held to be sacred by others,” the priest said. 

“What is sacred is not just important. It is part of the very identity of the people who hold it to be such. It is a grave injustice for the object to be profaned or even just alienated from those people.”

Will Harvard give the relic to the Church?

A policy set by Harvard in 2022 put in place a process for the return of human remains and other sacred objects possessed by the university but notes that returns would be on a “case-by-case basis.”

Claimants must approach the university and provide evidence of “standing” for their request of the object or remains, the policy says. 

“Claims should demonstrate the significance of the object to the claimant, a category that could include sacred, cultural, religious, national, communal, or historical importance. How does the absence of the item affect the claimant community? Does the significance or other attribute of the item make it unsuitable for display and/or continued research? Are there other claimants?” the policy says.

As of June 7, no one has reached out to Harvard requesting the St. Sebastian relic, according to Conley. 

The Archdiocese of Boston did not respond to a request for comment about the alleged relic at Harvard. 

Harvard’s policy for the return of human remains is an extension of the school’s commitment to fulfill its legal obligation as outlined in federal law via the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990 (NAGPRA). That law provides for the return of Native American human remains and cultural objects to the Native peoples.

Holly Jensen, a Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences spokeswoman, told Harvard’s student university newspaper in February that the school’s Peabody Museum has repatriated over 40% of its more than 10,000 held Indigenous “ancestors” under NAGPRA.

The Peabody Museum wrote on its website that “to address return of cultural items beyond NAGPRA, Harvard University published guidelines on the Consideration of Claims for the Return of Items in Harvard University Collections (2022),” which is the name of the policy.

Relics in other museums

According to Pilcher, the problem of relics in secular places is wider than just Harvard: “Any art museum of reasonable size in a large American city possesses sacred relics.”

In the Art Institute of Chicago, there is a relic of St. Christina. The museum also has relics of St. Anne, Sts. Bernward and Godehard of Hildesheim, St. Anianus, and St. Lawrence.

In the Cleveland Museum of Art, there is another bone relic of St. Sebastian. And in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, there is a copper reliquary from Italy that is purported to hold the tooth of St. Mary Magdalene.

Some reliquaries in American museums appear to still be holding objects inside them, such as this one from the Detroit Institute of Arts. However, its online exhibit does not specify whether the relic is still held within.

Martins said that relics “possess an innate sacredness” and are forbidden to be sold under canon laws.

“They are not sacramentals (e.g., rosaries, water, scapulars, crucifixes) that are blessed and become holy through the blessing (i.e., water that is blessed is called holy water),” he said. 

“Relics are holy in and of themselves simply by being what they are — an object associated with a saint, who is a ‘temple of the Holy Spirit,’” he said.