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Three Chicago priests step aside from ministry amid investigations of inappropriate acts with adults

null / alphaspirit via Shutterstock.com.

Chicago, Ill., Sep 6, 2021 / 11:19 am (CNA).

Three priests in the Archdiocese of Chicago have been asked to step aside from ministry pending investigation of their inappropriate acts with fellow adults, which they have acknowledged.

Blase Cardinal Cupich sent letters Sept. 4 to parishes where the priests have been assigned, informing them of the decisions.

Fr. Orlando Flores Orea had an inappropriate relationship with a woman, while Frs. Pedro Campos and René Mena Beltrán each engaged in “inappropriate behaviour with an adult man”.

Each of the priests will “enter a period of prayer, spiritual healing and discernment,” and each “is cooperating with this direction,” the cardinal wrote.

Fr. Flores has served at St. Paul’s and at Ss. Genevieve and Stanislaus parishes. His relationship took place while he was at St. Genevieve’s.

Fr. Campos was serving as pastor of St Gerard Majella, St John the Baptist and Ascension-St Susana, and was previously at Our Lady of Nazareth and St. Kevin’s parish. The inappropriate behavior which is being investigated occurred while he was pastor at St. Kevin’s.

He was ordained a priest in 2002, and had been led to the Chicago archdiocese after being told about the city’s Casa Jesus program. The discernment house for prospective Latin American seminarians was suspended in 2016. That year, NBC 5 Chicago reported homosexual activity among Casa Jesus participants, and said that in 2015 three participants had been dismissed after visiting a gay bar.

Fr. Mena was serving as pastor of St. Gall and St. Simon parish.

Marking Labor Day, archbishop urges Catholics to pray and work for an economy that respects the common good

Archbishop Paul S. Coakley preaching during Mass in the cathedral in 2021. / Archdiocese of Oklahoma City

Denver Newsroom, Sep 6, 2021 / 06:00 am (CNA).

A US archbishop has urged Catholics to pray and work for an economy that respects the common good, as the country and the world continue to recover from the economic and human tolls of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“On this Labor Day, I express my gratitude to the many workers who have kept our country functioning during these trying times and worked under difficult and often underappreciated conditions. We also pray for those who lost or continue to lack resources or income,” Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City wrote in “A Dream for a Better Economy”.

Archbishop Coakley, chairman of the US Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, said he based his reflections on Pope Francis’ latest encyclical, Fratelli tutti, as well as on the 2020 event ​​”Economy of Francesco.”

While the US unemployment rate has dropped to nearly pre-pandemic levels, the pandemic greatly increased people’s vulnerability to exploitation. Reports of human trafficking and sexual exploitation increased throughout the pandemic, and many Americans remain unemployed or underemployed. As many as 43,000 minor children in the U.S. have lost a parent as a result of the pandemic, Archbishop Coakley noted. 

“It is our task not only to reflect on the present ills of our economy, but also to build consensus around human dignity and the common good, the bedrocks of Catholic social teaching, and to answer the Pope’s call to propose new and creative economic responses to human need, both locally and globally,” Archbishop Coakley wrote. 

Catholic parishes and aid agencies, Archbishop Coakley says, are largely responding to the pope’s call to be “islands of mercy in the midst of the sea of indifference” by aiding the poor and supporting essential workers. 

Pope Francis has repeatedly decried income inequality, and said in a late 2020 video message that "Once the present health crisis has passed, the worst reaction would be to fall even more deeply into feverish consumerism and forms of selfish self-protection."

Pope Francis considers employment to be the “biggest issue” in politics as it relates to reducing economic inequality, Archbishop Coakley said, and the bishops have emphasized the importance of creating jobs for those who are poor and marginalized, prioritizing organized labor and continued protection of workers’ rights. 

Pope Francis has observed that we sometimes justify our indifference for the poor “by looking the other way and living our lives as if they simply do not exist.”

“Not only are our actions insufficient, but our sight as well, when we ignore the poor and do not allow their pleas to touch our hearts. Let us accept together the challenge of reemerging from this crisis with an economy that works for all of God’s children,” Archbishop Coakley urged. 

Catholics should pray for those most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and if they are able, should offer to volunteer at their local parish or Catholic Charities site. 

“Finally, let us engage in building ‘a better kind of politics’ by entering into dialogue with elected officials, calling them to an authentic politics that is rooted in the dignity of the human person and promotes the common good,” Archbishop Coakley concluded.

Archbishop Cordileone raises issue of excommunication for abortion advocates

Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone / Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 5, 2021 / 18:07 pm (CNA).

Calling abortion “the most pressing human rights challenge of our time,” Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone on Sunday invoked the excommunication of prominent Catholic segregationists in the early 1960s as an example of a legitimate response to Catholic politicians who support “a great moral evil.”

In an op-ed published in the Washington Post, the leader of the Archdiocese of San Francisco pushed back against recent statements by Catholic politicians who have denounced a new state law in Texas that prohibits abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.

The op-ed does not mention any politicians by name, and it stops short of advocating excommunication for any specific pro-abortion politicians. President Joseph Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who live in the San Francisco archdiocese, are among the Catholic political leaders who have come out strongly against the Texas law.

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Dennis Callahan, Archdiocese of San Francisco/Public domain.
Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Dennis Callahan, Archdiocese of San Francisco/Public domain.

In the op-ed, Archbishop Cordileone draws a parallel between the abortion politics of today and the institutional racial discrimination that existed in the United States in the mid-20th century.

He specifically cited the example of Archbishop Joseph Rummel, an outspoken civil rights leader who led the Archdiocese of New Orleans from 1935 to 1964.

“Rummel did not ‘stay in his lane.’ Unlike several other bishops throughout this country’s history, he did not prioritize keeping parishioners and the public happy above advancing racial justice,” Archbishop Cordileone wrote. “Instead, he began a long, patient campaign of moral suasion to change the opinions of pro-segregation White Catholics.” 

Archbishop Rummel’s campaign included admitting two Black students to New Orleans’ Notre Dame Seminary in 1948. Three years later, he ordered the removal of “white” and “colored” signs from Catholic churches in his archdiocese. In 1953, he ordered an end to segregation in the archdiocese, and he formally integrated New Orleans’ Catholic schools in 1962.

“Many White Catholics were furious at this disruption of the long-entrenched segregationist status quo,” Archbishop Cordileone wrote. 

“They staged protests and boycotts. Rummel patiently sent letters urging a conversion of heart, but he was also willing to threaten opponents of desegregation with excommunication,” he continued. 

“On April 16, 1962, he followed through, excommunicating a former judge, a well-known writer and a segregationist community organizer. Two of the three later repented and died Catholics in good standing,” the archbishop wrote.

“Was that wrong? Was that weaponizing the Eucharist?” Archbishop Cordileone asked in the op-ed. “No. Rummel recognized that prominent, high-profile public advocacy for racism was scandalous: It violated core Catholic teachings and basic principles of justice, and also led others to sin.”

Archbishop Cordileone noted that Texas is providing $100 million to fund pregnancy centers, adoption agencies, and maternity homes while also providing mothers who want to keep their babies with free counseling, parenting help, diapers, formula and job training. 

“You cannot be a good Catholic and support expanding a government-approved right to kill innocent human beings. The answer to crisis pregnancies is not violence but love, for both mother and child,” he wrote.

“This is hardly inappropriate for a pastor to say,” Archbishop Cordileone concluded. “If anything, Catholic political leaders’ response to the situation in Texas highlights the need for us to say it all the louder.”

Why do Christians work? To glorify God and serve others, Long Island bishop says

Georges de La Tour's Joseph the Carpenter (c. 1642). / null

Rockville Centre, N.Y., Sep 5, 2021 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

Christian labor, whether in the workplace or at home, is a way to glorify God and evangelize the world by following the example of St. Joseph the Worker, Bishop John Barres of Rockville Centre said in his pastoral letter released ahead of the Labor Day weekend.

“Jesus, with calloused and gloriously scarred hands, never ceases to say to us, ‘Follow me!’ as he leads us as laborers into his fields ripe for harvest,” Barres said in his 12-page letter, "Our Holiness and Mission in the Changing World of Work". He reflected on the religious meaning of work, the possible mindsets and social practices that distort a true understanding of work, and what Christians can learn about work from Christ and the saints.

A Catholic spirituality of work has a missionary character, said the bishop.

“In every work setting throughout the world, sanctified work glorifies God and attracts people by its splendor and virtue,” he said. “We preach through the quality of our work, testifying not only to the importance of work well done but to the great work God accomplished at the beginning and is calling each of us to help bring to completion.”

According to Bishop Barres, “the Church proclaims the splendor of truth about human work that is meant to lead us through our labor for God’s glory and the service of others to holiness on earth and ultimately to eternal life.”

“Each precious human being created in the divine image must be given the opportunity to develop his or her latent talents for the common good of the whole human family,” he continued. “Likewise, when we recognize how working is part of human dignity, we become sensitive to all types of injustice that happen in the workplace or in society that frustrate this dignity.”

The bishop’s letter reflected on some of the hardships of working life.

“Our work often requires a type of death to self, when we need to get up early for a long commute, deal with bosses or colleagues who try our patience, or have to endure the difficulties of layoffs or unemployment,” he said. “But those can all be openings to the realization that the Risen Lord Jesus seeks to accompany us in our work.”

Bishop Barres’ Rockville Centre diocese includes much of Long Island. It is one of the most populous dioceses in the U.S., serving 1.5 million Catholics. Among his spiritual reflections in his pastoral letter, the bishop noted the importance of human work for the celebration of the Eucharist at Mass.

“Human hands shape and create that ordinary bread that is transformed into the Bread of Life. Human feet traditionally crushed the grapes that are transformed ultimately into the Blood of Christ,” he said. “The central mystery of our Catholic life and liturgy – the transubstantiation of bread and wine into the Real Presence, the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ – presupposes and incorporates the human work that prepares the elements that will be consecrated.”

“Indeed, all noble work performed by Christians united to Christ by sanctifying grace is presented on the paten at Holy Mass and raised up to heaven and made holy in Christ,” Bishop Barres added.

He emphasized the role of St. Joseph the Worker, who “was chosen by God the Father to be the mentor of Christ the Worker.”

“Christ learned how to be a carpenter at St. Joseph’s side and under his guidance. Christ’s understanding of work reflected St. Joseph’s patient mentorship in the craft of building,” said the bishop. “Like St. Joseph, Jesus lived his hidden life immersed in the working world. His thoughts and eventually his teachings were close to the everyday reality of people at work.”

Bishop Barres cited Christ's parables which invoked the work of shepherds, farmers, sowers, cooks, servants, stewards, fishermen, merchants, and laborers. “Some of the most memorable people in the Gospels are described not by name but by the work they do, like the woman at the well drawing water,” he said.

Many saints are the patrons of different kinds of labor and are “eloquent models of how the Catholic Church views work as a source of personal sanctification and the sanctification of others,” said the bishop. His letter cited the examples of Opus Dei founder St. Josemaria Escriva, teenage computer expert Blessed Carlo Acutis, and St. Oscar Romero, who worked in construction at a young age before entering seminary.

Bishop Barres noted the role of work in family life. Parents teach their children to clean their rooms, to repair their bicycles, to do yard work, to prepare food, to do their homework, and to do other household chores. He discussed the kind of paid work done by teenagers, describing it as “key means to form their character” and a way of “serving others and making genuine contributions to the Church and the world.”

The Labor Day pastoral letter further considered the example of St. Joseph the Worker.

“From St. Joseph, we can all learn the virtues of maturity, reliability, responsibility, industriousness, integrity, initiative, self-sacrifice, self-mastery, teamwork, optimism, humility, contemplative concentration, and charity in our labor,” said the bishop. “He grounds us in the ethical compass of the Ten Commandments and the moral virtues of prudence, fortitude, justice and temperance.”

For Bishop Barres, the virtues of St. Joseph are suggested “in the quiet but indispensable labors of so many immigrants,” noting that Joseph too was a migrant, taking his family to Egypt and back.

“As he mentored Jesus, so St. Joseph desires to mentor us who are brothers and sisters of Jesus and therefore members of the Holy Family. He wants to train us in his virtues. He wants to instruct us how to live our spiritual fatherhood or motherhood to the full. We must simply ‘go to Joseph’ to receive his wisdom.”

Bishop Barres’ letter asked Catholics to pray for each other and for the whole Church, “that each of us may apprentice ourselves to St. Joseph and learn from him, as Jesus did, how to convert our daily labor, whatever form it takes, into opportunities to cooperate with God in the ongoing perfection of creation and the continued harvest of the redemption.”

The bishop said unemployment is not only an important economic problem but “a profoundly dehumanizing one that can deprive millions of a sense of moral worth through making them feel useless.”

“We pray for all those out of work that, through St. Joseph’s intercession, they may find dignified jobs by which they can develop their gifts, serve others and provide for their and others’ needs,” said Bishop Barres. He also voiced prayers for those who cannot work due to illness or old age, saying they can learn from St. Joseph “how to collaborate interiorly in the work of redemption by uniting themselves to the extraordinary work Jesus did on Calvary when the hands that used to build were hammered to wood.”

Bishop Barres reflected on the major changes in work life caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Those who were forced to work from home, he said, found themselves experiencing “the work-life flow that would have characterized the holy house and workshop of Nazareth.”

“Those of us working among family members were able more easily to see for whom we were working,” he said. Those forced to work at home alone could sense the importance of having coworkers and customers present. Those furloughed might have learned about “the gift of work” and how so many people could be left jobless by a phenomenon that no one could imagine at the start of 2020.

The bishop’s letter included some warnings. Many philosophies and mindsets about work should be seen as “expressions of a culture of death.” He noted the history of slavery in the U.S., the mistreatment of workers in the industrial revolution, and the sex and labor trafficking that continues today.

“The underlying premise that our self-worth and human dignity are defined by our net-worth ultimately results in tragedy and self-destruction,” he said. “Sadly, many today are tempted to value themselves, not according to the judgment of God and value of their immaterial soul, but according to their value in the employment market.”

For the unemployed, this mentality is a cause of depression. For the employed, this can mean viewing work as “merely a means to a paycheck or to underwriting the few hours of freedom from work that they look forward to on the weekend.”

The workaholic, the bishop warned, “makes work a false god, a golden calf, an idol that can erode and destroy his or her marriage, family and faith life.”

“It is possible to work too hard and too much, forgetting that work is by its nature relational, tied to the love and service of others,” he said. The duty to keep the Sabbath holy is not only about Sunday Mass, because it also maintains a biblical practice of work-life balance.

Bishop Barres also criticized “unbridled capitalism,” which he depicted as a situation in which “profit becomes the only goal of an enterprise” and “monopolies distort the market by driving out competition at the expense of consumers, instrumentalizes both the worker and the consumer when corporate financiers seek money and power for their own sake.”

“Without a legal framework to promote and protect the common good and a foundation in virtue to foster respect for human dignity, capitalist forces distort the market economy, revealing a woefully inadequate approach that Pope Francis calls an ‘economy that kills’,” said Bishop Barres.

Several Catholic events were scheduled for Labor Day. These included Wilton Cardinal Gregory of Washington’s celebration of the National Labor Day Mass at Our Lady, Queen of the Americas in the District of Columbia.

Pope Francis, in a June 17 video to the International Labor Organization’s World of Work Summit, cited his predecessor Pius XI, whose 1931 encyclical Quadragesimo anno “denounced the asymmetry between workers and entrepreneurs as a flagrant injustice that gave carte blanche and means to capital.”

The pope said the trade union movement must face the challenges of innovation and resist internal corruption. It must not forget its “prophetic” call to “expose the powerful who trample on the rights of the most vulnerable workers” and “defend the cause of foreigners, the least and the rejected.”

Papal Foundation's new executive director hopes to expand philanthropic giving

David Savage, who became executive director of the Papal Foundation July 12, 2021. / The Papal Foundation

Philadelphia, Pa., Sep 4, 2021 / 06:00 am (CNA).

The Papal Foundation recently named David Savage to the role of executive director. Savage, who has a background in marketing and nonprofit leadership, will be responsible for addressing Pope Francis’ priorities for relief, education, and services for vulnerable and underserved communities around the world.

“As Catholics we’re called to love our neighbor, and that means all people, whether they are Catholic or not, and whether they are next door, or half-way around the world,” said Savage, who has 25 years of executive experience in direct-to-consumer marketing. “What I love about our Church is that we are universal.  And what I love about The Papal Foundation is that its reach is global. So we are united with those on every continent.”

The Papal Foundation, founded in 1988, awards grants and scholarships for initiatives such as shelter for homeless adults and children; support for hospitals and health facilities; seminaries and scholarships to prepare future leaders; relief for victims of natural disasters; services for refugees and immigrants; pro-life programs and education; and care for aging priests and religious. Since its inception more than 30 years ago, the organization has awarded more than $190 million in 121 countries. 

“As Americans, we are some of the most financially blessed humans on the planet, we have a special responsibility to help those in need and to help build up the Church all around the world,” Savage said.  

Savage’s previous experience will “greatly benefit our organization,” said Sean Cardinal O’Malley of Boston, chairman of The Papal Foundation Board of Trustees, in a release. Cardinal O’Malley also said he is happy to have Savage at the helm to “build the resources that the Foundation deploys to care for the needy in developing nations around the globe.”

Savage said, “The Foundation serves the universal Church and those without resources by building and renovating churches, hospitals and schools. Monies to build these environments are so impactful, because they help deliver more of Christ’s love and more hope in those places, where it can be shared and spread as much as possible.”

President of The Papal Foundation’s Board of Directors, Eustace Mita, said Savage has the “business acumen we searched for” and that he is “passionate about his Catholic faith,” in the release. 

“To be able to wake up every morning and work to help impact so many around the world - what a gift and opportunity!” said Savage, who became executive director July 12. 

Donors to The Papal Foundation become Stewards to St. Peter with a pledge to give $1 million dollars over the course of 10 years, with a minimum contribution of $100,000 per year. 

“My top goals are to exponentially grow the Foundation’s financial resources so that more monies can be put to work around the world to build the Church and our Faith, educating, feeding, housing, and helping heal people,” Savage said. “In order to grow the Foundation’s resources, we need to raise the profile of the Foundation here in the U.S. to attract more Catholic philanthropists to our mission.” 

Previously, Savage worked for Content Watch Holdings, Inc. He also served on the board of directors for the Catholic Leadership Institute and the Theology of the Body Institute. He is a longtime supporter of FOCUS, the Sisters of Life, Generation Life, and St. Norbert Catholic Church and School in Paoli, Pennsylvania.

‘We took the direct hit’: Louisiana diocese in ‘some crisis’ a week after Ida

Damage from Hurricane Ida / Diocese of Houma-Thibodeaux

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 3, 2021 / 16:15 pm (CNA).

Nearly a week after Hurricane Ida made landfall in Louisiana, the Diocese of Houma-Thibodeaux is still without electricity. Many parts of the diocese do not have running water, and hospitals that were not damaged in the storm are currently overcrowded. 

One thing that is not lacking, however, is a reliance on God.

“We've taken a significant blow and we just need some help right now,” Bishop Shelton Fabre of Houma-Thibodeaux told CNA in an interview on Friday.  

“And we trust that that help will come and that God will provide. So, you go forward and hope.”

“Hope and goodwill,” he said, is enough. 

“It has to be enough,” he said. “And we journey forward with that hope and, and those expressions of goodwill.” 

Fabre told CNA that he is “trusting in the Lord” and that he is “getting through it.” 

“I have shed tears for the plight of the people whom I serve. I believe in the Lord, and right now I am trying to do all that I can pastorally to provide for the needs of the people here in the Diocese of Houma-Thibodeaux,” said Fabre. 

Hurricane Ida made landfall last week as a category 4 hurricane with sustained winds of up to 150 miles per hour. It was one of the strongest hurricanes in U.S. history at landfall, the Washington Post reported. 

The Diocese of Houma-Thibodeaux lies in the southeastern portion of Louisiana, and is one of the seven Catholic dioceses in the state. 

In the southern part of the diocese, a majority of homes were left uninhabitable by the storm. Of the diocese’s 39 churches nearly all, 36, were damaged in the storm. Some of the churches suffered severe damage. 

“We took the direct hit,” explained Fabre. “We got the worst winds and it has just been very, very, catastrophic. There’s lots of damage, particularly in the southern part of the diocese, where you get closer to the Gulf of Mexico, but the effect stretches across the two counties that are the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux.”

Recovery and rebuilding from Hurricane Ida will take quite a long time. 

“I see small steps with regard to recovery, very small, small steps,” said Fabre. 

“I'm not saying we're not still in some crisis situation–we are–but you look for the small steps and you celebrate the small ways that God manifests His love for us, His presence with us,” he said. 

Fabre said that Catholic Charities from other dioceses–particularly the Diocese of Lake Charles and the Diocese of Lafayette–have been assisting with the clean-up and recovery efforts, along with Catholic Charities USA and his own diocese’s Catholic Charities. 

Right now, the priority is getting food and water to people, and meeting other basic needs. He said he was “very, very proud” of the work that has been done in spite of the circumstances. 

“And I'm grateful for the support of so many,” he said. “I've had my moments, but we are doing what needs to be done to meet the needs of the people. And we are trusting in the Lord and relying on His mercy.” 

Although the physical damage from the storm was extensive, Fabre said that he was “grateful” that unlike in other storms, there was not a widespread loss of life due to Hurricane Ida. Hurricane Ida made landfall on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which killed over 1,500 people. 

And despite the significant losses, Fabre explained to CNA that he has been thankful for the outpouring of support his diocese has received. Anyone who wishes to help, he said, can do so by contacting the Catholic Charities of Houma-Thibodeaux, as by praying for the diocese. 

“We're grateful for the good people who have come forward to help us,” he said. 

“And hopefully there will be more people coming forward to help us because we will need the help. We'll need their prayers and their financial assistance and assistance in helping us to rebuild this really, really beautiful part of the kingdom of God that is the Diocese of Houma-Thibodeaux.”

Fired over transgender pronoun mandate, Virginia teacher appeals to state supreme court

Peter Vlaming / Alliance Defending Freedom

Washington D.C., Sep 3, 2021 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

A Virginia teacher fired for not using the “preferred pronoun” of a self-identified transgender student has appealed his case to the state supreme court.

Peter Vlaming, who taught French in Virginia’s West Point school district for seven years, was suspended and subsequently fired in 2018 for not using a male pronoun to refer to a female student who identified as a transgender male. Vlaming claimed he could not do for religious reasons.

He sued the district in September 2019, but the Circuit Court for the County of King William court dismissed his case. Vlaming on Friday appealed to the state supreme court, which had recently ruled in favor of another teacher outspoken against a local transgender policy.

“Peter has every right to fight this unlawful decision by the school board, and we will be defending him every step of the way,” said Tyson Langhofer, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) – which represents Vlaming. Langhofer also directs ADF’s Center for Academic Freedom.

After one of Vlaming’s female students began to identify as a male at the end of the 2017-18 school year, the student’s parent requested that Vlaming use the student’s preferred name and pronoun in the fall 2018 semester.

He used the student’s preferred name, but declined to use the student’s preferred pronoun out of conscience, ADF said. The superintendent ordered him to use the student’s preferred male pronoun anyway, and Vlaming in 2018 was fired for refusing to comply.

“Peter went above and beyond to treat this student with respect, including using the student’s preferred masculine name and avoiding pronoun usage in the student’s presence,” Langhofer said. “This was never about anything Peter said—or didn’t say—it is about a school demanding total conformity in utter disregard of Peter’s efforts and his freedoms under Virginia law.”

Vlaming sued the school board in 2019 for allegedly violating his rights under state law.

If forced to comply with the school board’s policy, Vlaming would have to “communicate that gender identity, rather than biological reality, fundamentally shapes and defines who we are as humans, that our sex can change, and that a woman who identifies as a man really is a man,” his complaint states.

According to the defendants – the school board, superintendent, and school principal –Vlaming defied “repeated requests from the student and his parent and repeated directives, verbal and written, by his superiors” to refer to the student with male pronouns.

“Additionally, the Plaintiff continued to use female pronouns to refer to the student – both in the student’s presence and in the presence of other students who reported the behavior to the student,” according to a 2019 court document filed by the defendants in federal court.

In a meeting with the student, Vlaming allegedly said he was “mourning the girl” the student “used to be.”

In another case, Virginia’s Supreme Court on Aug. 30 ruled in favor of Byron “Tanner” Cross, a physical education teacher at Leesburg Elementary School in the Loudoun County Public School District.

Cross had been suspended in May, after he spoke out against the district’s proposed “preferred pronoun” policy. The court on Monday ruled that he should be reinstated to his position.

Contradicting past statements, Biden says he doesn’t believe life begins at conception

Joe Biden / lev radin/Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 3, 2021 / 12:01 pm (CNA).

President Joe Biden (D) said on Friday, Sept. 3, that he does not believe life begins at conception - contradicting his previous statements on when life begins.

Biden answered a reporter’s question on abortion on Friday, after addressing the August jobs numbers at the White House. “I respect those who believe life begins at the moment of conception,” Biden said. “I don’t agree, but I respect that. I’m not going to impose that on people.” 

Biden’s declaration that he does not believe life begins at conception is contrary to what he has stated in the past. 

At the 2012 vice presidential debate against Republican nominee Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), Biden stated plainly that he believed life began at conception. 

"Life begins at conception, that's the Church's judgment. I accept it in my personal life," he said. "But I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians and Muslims and Jews, and I just refuse to impose that on others, unlike my friend here, the congressman.”

Biden said at the time that he does “not believe that we have a right to tell other people that, women, that they can't control their body. It's a decision between them and their doctor, in my view, and the Supreme Court. I'm not going to interfere with that.”

In a September 2008 interview, shortly before he was elected vice president, Biden said that he was “prepared as a matter of faith to accept that life begins at the moment of conception.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 2270 states, “Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception.”

On Friday afternoon, Bishop Donald Hying of Madison responded to Biden's comments on Twitter, "People always claimed that President Biden was personally opposed to abortion."

"Today, we’ve all learned the painful and disturbing truth," he said.

Biden was asked by a reporter to speak to women in Texas, following the state’s pro-life law going into effect on Wednesday. The law bans abortion after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, which can be as early as the sixth week of a pregnancy. It allows for people to report illegal abortions, and is enforced through private lawsuits.

Biden was asked what, if anything, his administration could do to “protect abortion rights on a federal level.” 

The president said that he has been and will continue to be “a strong supporter of Roe v. Wade,” the 1973 Supreme Court ruling which legalized abortion nationwide. 

Biden said that the Texas law “sort of creates a vigilante system” which rewards people who report illegal abortions. 

“I know this sounds ridiculous, almost un-American, what we’re talking about,” he said. 

While the president said that he “respected the views” of people “who don’t support Roe v. Wade,” he emphasized that he did not agree with them. He said that he had asked the Department of Justice to investigate if anything could be done to prevent “independent actions of individuals” enforcing the Texas Heartbeat Act.

“I don’t know enough to give you an answer yet,” Biden told the reporter. “I’ve asked for that to be checked.”

On Wednesday evening, the Supreme Court declined a petition to block the Texas law in a 5-4 decision. The court did not rule on the law itself, but rather refused to grant a stay that would block the law from going into effect. 

Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett all ruled to deny the abortion providers’ petition to block the law. Chief Justice John Roberts, as well as Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor, all dissented from the decision.

The following day, Biden directed his administration to examine “what steps the Federal Government can take to ensure that women in Texas have access to safe and legal abortions.”

This article was updated on Sept. 3 with Bishop Hying's tweet.

Former cardinal Theodore McCarrick makes first court appearance, pleads not guilty

Theodore McCarrick arrives at Dedham District Court on Friday morning, Sept. 3 for his 9 a.m. arraignment / Andrew Bukuras/CNA

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 3, 2021 / 07:48 am (CNA).

Former cardinal Theodore McCarrick pleaded ‘not guilty’ on Friday to several charges of sexual assault, while appearing for the first time in a Massachusetts court.

McCarrick, 91, has been charged with three counts of indecent assault and battery on a person over the age of 14, incidents which allegedly took place in the 1970s. Each of the three criminal charges carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. 

He appeared for his arraignment on Friday in Dedham District Court, accompanied by his attorney Katherine Zimmerl, of the firm Coburn & Greenbaum. The court entered a "not guilty" plea on his behalf. McCarrick’s next court date is Oct. 28, and his bail was set at $5,000.

Under conditions stated by Judge Michael J. Pomarole, McCarrick is not allowed to leave the United States and must surrender his passport. He may not have contact with anyone under the age of 18.

Once a high-ranking and influential U.S. prelate with an impressive international resume, McCarrick resigned from the College of Cardinals in July 2018 following a past allegation of sex abuse against a teenager that the New York archdiocese deemed credible. In February 2019, Pope Francis laicized McCarrick after a canonical investigation found him guilty of “solicitation in the Sacrament of Confession, and sins against the Sixth Commandment with minors and with adults, with the aggravating factor of the abuse of power.” 

“Today’s arraignment provides hope for many clergy sex abuse victims and survivors that justice will prevail, truth will be told and children will be kept safe,” said Mitchell Garabedian, attorney for the alleged victim of McCarrick, after the arraignment on Friday.

“My client, a courageous clergy sexual abuse survivor, is strong and is ready to face Cardinal McCarrick in court and proceed throughout the entire trial,” Garabedian said. “This day for my client is very emotional. He’s been waiting for this day for decades. And he is just riding an emotional roller coaster right now.”

After reporters asked if his client would speak with the press, Garabedian replied, “no not at this time.”

McCarrick’s criminal charges stem from a series of sexual assaults alleged to have taken place on June 8, 1974 at Wellesley College. According to court documents, McCarrick assaulted the alleged victim at the wedding reception of his brother. The alleged victim was 16 at the time.

It is unknown where McCarrick will be staying until his next day in court. The original criminal complaint listed McCarrick's address as a location in Dittmer, Missouri, which is the site of the Vianney Renewal Center. 

The center is a treatment facility run by the Servants of the Paraclete, which, according to its website, provides "a safe and supportive environment for the rehabilitation and reconciliation of priests and religious brothers." The Servants of the Paraclete have long operated centers for the treatment of priests and religious.

Sept. 3 marks the first time the disgraced ex-prelate has stepped foot in criminal court since accusations of long-standing sexual misconduct first came to light three years ago.

In June 2018, McCarrick was removed from ministry following an allegation that he sexually abused a minor in 1974. He resigned from the College of Cardinals on July 28, 2018, becoming the first-ever cardinal to resign due to accusations of sexual abuse. Allegations of serial sexual abuse of minors, seminarians, and priests soon followed, and it was revealed that several dioceses had paid settlements to men who were abused by McCarrick. 

Pope Francis sentenced McCarrick to a life of prayer and penance in 2018, pending the outcome of a canonical process. The canonical process concluded on Feb. 16, 2019, with McCarrick being found guilty of “solicitation in the Sacrament of Confession, and sins against the Sixth Commandment with minors and with adults, with the aggravating factor of the abuse of power.” 

He was subsequently dismissed from the clerical state.

McCarrick was ordained a priest in 1958 and was consecrated as an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of New York in 1977. He was named as the first bishop of the newly-created Diocese of Metuchen in 1981. 

In 1986, McCarrick was appointed archbishop of Newark, where he stayed for the next 15 years. He was elevated to the College of Cardinals on February 21, 2001, just under two months after he was installed as the archbishop of Washington. McCarrick retired from active ministry in 2006, at the age of 75. 

An earlier version of this story reported that McCarrick verbally stated his “not guilty” plea. The plea was entered on his behalf.

This story was updated on Sept. 3 with additional information.

Lawsuits bring additional sexual battery allegations against Theodore McCarrick

Theodore McCarrick. / US Institute of Peace (CC BY NC 2.0)

Newark, N.J., Sep 2, 2021 / 18:19 pm (CNA).

Theodore McCarrick, a disgraced former cardinal, is facing criminal charges of sexual abuse of a minor, with his first court date scheduled for Friday. On Monday, a California-based law firm filed two additional lawsuits against McCarrick.

The first of the new lawsuits, brought by an anonymous former employee of the Archdiocese of Newark, alleges that McCarrick “engaged in unpermitted sexual contact” with the employee at Newark’s Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in 1991. 

The second lawsuit was brought by Fr. Lauro Sedlmayer, who alleges that McCarrick “engaged in unpermitted sexual contact” with him, also in 1991. 

Fr. Sedlmayer, an immigrant from Brazil, alleges that he was invited repeatedly to stay at McCarrick’s beach house, and that he accepted the offer in the summer of 1991. At the beach house, Fr. Sedlmayer alleges, McCarrick sexually assaulted him on at least three occasions. McCarrick was Archbishop of Newark at the time. 

Fr. Sedlmayer filed a lawsuit in 2011 alleging that he told Metuchen’s bishop at the time, Edward Hughes, about McCarrick’s misconduct, and that Bishop Hughes allegedly did not act on the allegations and told Fr. Sedlmayer to “forgive him.” A Metuchen spokeswoman told the Washington Post that the diocese reviewed its files and has no record of a complaint from Fr. Sedlmayer to Bishop Hughes.

Around 2009, Fr. Sedlmayer was himself accused of inappropriate conduct of both a sexual and financial nature, which he denies. He retired in 2018. 

Among other charges, both lawsuits accuse McCarrick of sexual battery and the Newark archdiocese of gross negligence. Fr. Sedlmayer’s lawsuit also accuses McCarrick of fraud and misrepresentation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. 

McCarrick, 91, is currently charged with three counts of indecent assault and battery on a person over the age of 14, according to court documents filed July 28 in District Court in Dedham, Mass.

McCarrick is scheduled to appear in court Sept. 3 for his arraignment to answer the charges. Each of the three criminal charges carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

Long a powerful and high-profile Catholic leader in the United States with an impressive international resume, McCarrick was dismissed from the clerical state by Pope Francis in 2019, after the Vatican conducted an expedited canonical investigation and found McCarrick guilty of “solicitation in the Sacrament of Confession, and sins against the Sixth Commandment with minors and with adults, with the aggravating factor of the abuse of power.”

The current charges of abuse of a minor stem from a series of sexual assaults alleged to have taken place on June 8, 1974 during the wedding reception of the alleged victim's brother. McCarrick allegedly sexually assaulted a sixteen-year-old boy outside near some bushes on a college campus and in a small coat room. 

McCarrick was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of New York in 1958, and became auxiliary bishop of the archdiocese in 1977. He became in 1981 Bishop of Metuchen, then Archbishop of Newark in 1986, and in 2001 Archbishop of Washington, whence he retired in 2006.

He became a cardinal in 2001, but resigned from the College of Cardinals after it emerged in June 2018 that he had been credibly accused of sexually assaulting a minor. Allegations of serial sexual abuse of minors, seminarians, and priests soon followed, and McCarrick was dismissed from the clerical state in February 2019.

McCarrick’s public disgrace in 2018 and dismissal from the clerical state a year later shocked Catholics in the United States and around the world, and triggered an international crisis of credibility for the Church’s hierarchy, leading to Pope Francis calling a meeting of the world’s bishops in 2019 to address problems of sexual abuse and accountability in the Church.