Browsing News Entries

Mexican bishops back repeal of statute of limitations for sexual abuse cases

Mexico City, Mexico, Feb 22, 2020 / 10:00 am (CNA).- The Church in Mexico has expressed its support for several bills to eliminate the statute of limitations for the sexual abuse of minors, which stands now at ten years. The bills were introduced in the country’s Federal Congress and would only apply to future, not past cases. 

The Mexican bishops do not anticipate that reported abuse cases will be comparable in number to those seen by the Church in the United States, and the Church in Mexico has not seen lawsuits filed on a comparable level.

Speaking to ACI Prensa, CNA's Spanish language news partner, Bishop Alfonso Miranda Guardiola, secretary general of the Mexican bishops' conference, said the country's bishops support lawmakers' efforts to eliminate the statute of limitations for the sexual abuse of minors and have been “respectfully proposing to members of the House and Senate to introduce this kind of proposal.”

“These new legislative proposals are a good thing for the nation,” he said, since “they are legal instruments to take actions, correct, eradicate the evil, care for the victims and prosecute the perpetrators,” Miranda said.

Mexico's House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill Feb. 6.  That bill would the Federal Criminal Code to sanction public officials who “cover up” the sexual abuse of minors. Anyone found guilty would be expelled from office and barred from holding public office in the future. 

The bill also eliminates the statute of limitations for public officials and has been sent on to the Senate for approval. 

Various legislators have also filed bills to eliminate the statute of limitations for pedophilia, including  pro-life senator Lilly Téllez, a member of President López Obrador's National Regeneration Movement Party (Morena). 

Téllez posted on Twitter that her proposal also seeks to double the sentence for child abusers with a close relationship to the victim. 

The senator's bill also states that abusers “lose any legal rights he or she has with the victim” and that “local legislatures would have to adjust their laws to comply with the aims of the initiative.”

Bishop Miranda called the sexual abuse of minors “a cancer worldwide” and said it occurs in the Church as well as “in the family, in one's own home, in education, sports, the arts, and many other environments.” 

“When an abuser does not face a civil criminal trial, possible new victims are put at risk, inside or outside the Church,” Miranda said.

Noting that a canonical trial can result in the laicization of an abuser priest, Miranda said that, if the statute of limitations prevents civil authorities from acting, the perpetrator “goes free with the possibility of getting into school or work environments etc. and putting new victims at risk.”

“We are very pleased with the progress these bills are making in the legislatures ,” Miranda said, “and reiterated that “those changes will help protect children, avoid abuse by whoever -- a priest or in the family or school environment -- and contribute to the healthy development of children.

A version of the story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Computer programming teen Carlo Acutis to be beatified 

Vatican City, Feb 22, 2020 / 08:30 am (CNA).- The Vatican announced Saturday the approval of a miracle attributed to the intercession of Venerable Carlo Acutis, an Italian teenager and computer programmer, who died in 2006.

The miracle involved the healing of a Brazilian child suffering from a rare congenital anatomic anomaly of the pancreas in 2013. The Medical Council of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes gave a positive opinion of the miracle last November.

With Pope Francis’ approval of the miracle promulgated by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints Feb. 21, Acutis can now be beatified.

The beatification is expected to take place in Assisi. Acutis is currently buried in Assisi’s Church of St. Mary Major.

Acutis, who died of leukemia at the age of 15, offered his suffering for the pope and for the Church. He was born in London on May 3, 1991 to Italian parents who soon returned to Milan. He was a pious child, attending daily Mass, frequently praying the rosary, and making weekly confessions.

In May 2019, Acutis’ mother, Antonia Salzano, told CNA Newsroom: “Jesus was the center of his day.” She said that priests and nuns would tell her that they could tell that the Lord had a special plan for her son.

“Carlo really had Jesus in his heart, really the pureness … When you are really pure of heart, you really touch people’s hearts,” she said.

Exceptionally gifted in working with computers, Acutis developed a website which catalogued Eucharistic miracles. This website was the genesis of The Eucharistic Miracles of the World, an international exhibition which highlights such occurrences.

Pope Francis also authorized the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to promulgate the decree regarding the approval of two other miracles.

One miracle attributed to 18th century Indian martyr Blessed Lazarus, also called Devasahayam, who converted from Hinduism to the Catholic faith and was severely persecuted.

The other approved miracle was through the intercession of Blessed Maria Francesca of Jesus, the missionary foundress of the Capuchin Tertiary Sisters of Loano, who died in Uruguay in 1904.

Both Blessed Lazarus and Blessed Maria Francesca of Jesus can now be canonized as saints. Their canonization dates have yet to be announced.

The Vatican decree also recognized the martyrdom of a Jesuit priest, Fr. Rutilio Grande García, and two lay companions, who were killed in El Salvador. Grande, a close friend of St. Oscar Romero, was shot by a right-wing death squad while traveling in a car on March 12, 1977.

The heroic virtues of Servants of God Mario Hiriart Pulido, a Chilean engineer and lay member of the Secular Institute for the Schoenstatt Brothers of Mary who died in Wisconsin in 1964, was also approved by the pope, along with the heroic virtues of three Italian priests: Fr. Emilio Venturini, Fr. Pirro Scavizzi, and Fr. Emilio Recchia.

Dominicans open hospital in Peru to serve the poor

Lima, Peru, Feb 22, 2020 / 06:01 am (CNA).- A Dominican province in Peru has converted its formation house for aspirants in Lima into a hospital.

The Hospital of the Charity of Saint Martin de Porres was blessed at a dedication ceremony Jan. 23.

The hospital is headed by Fr. Luis Enrique Ramírez Camacho and Fr. Rómulo Vásquez Gavidia, the current prior provincial.

Speaking to ACI Prensa, CNA's Spanish language news partner, Ramírez explained the inspiration for the hospital came from the charitable example of both their founder St. Dominic and St. Martin de Porres.

The Dominicans did not want “just to devote ourselves to academic and intellectual affairs but also to dedicate ourselves to serving those most in need.”

Ramirez said that for years they have been conducting free healthcare campaigns but that they wanted  to do something “more concrete and developed,” which led to the idea of the new hospital.

“Everything the Church does in general and that we Dominicans do in particular is done on a non-profit basis (…)  Charity is ultimately the guide that all we, in general, Catholic Christians, are called to. And St. Martin de Porres set a particularly great example that we are invited to follow,” said Ramírez. “I think he understood perfectly what our father St. Dominic did,” he added.

Ramirez encouraged the hospital's staff  always to bear in mind the humanity of the people they are serving, that “this is a human being who is suffering, who came to where you are to get relief.”

“Let us hope that here in our small hospital of the Charity of Saint Martin De Porres that people really experience that, just as St. Martin recognized in the suffering and needy person the face of our Lord Jesus who needs us,” he said.

The hospital's director, Dr.  Valiery Cersso Vergara, recalled that St. Martin de Porres "didn't hesitate to transform the Saint Dominic convent where he worked into an infirmary,” and that the saint “had a deep sense of charity. And that is what charity is, to look after other people, for their health and well-being … That's what struck me when they called on me to set up the hospital.”

“Specialists will be coming here who are going to give their time to care for people in complete charity and it's that sense of charity that leads us to the quality of the healthcare services,” Cersso said.

The hospital operates on a management model that allows it to cover the cost of caring for low income people. Some of the staff will work for less than what they normally receive, while others are able to work pro bono.  

“That is the meaning of the Hospital of the Charity of St. Martin de Porres,”  Ramirez explained, adding that added that “the charges are very moderate, but if the social worker determines that someone really can't pay, then there's a way to be treated for free.”

L’Arche reports sexual misconduct by founder Jean Vanier 

Paris, France, Feb 22, 2020 / 06:00 am (CNA).- L’Arche International published the results Saturday of an independent investigation detailing sexual misconduct by its founder Jean Vanier with six women without disabilities in the context of spiritual direction.

“We are shocked by these discoveries and unreservedly condemn these actions, which are in total contradiction with the values Jean Vanier claimed and are incompatible with the basic rules of respect and integrity of persons, and contrary to the fundamental principles on which L’Arche is based,” the leaders of L’Arche International, Stephan Posner and Stacy Cates-Carney, wrote in a letter to L’Arche federation Feb. 22.

Vanier was the founder of L’Arche, an international community of individuals with intellectual disabilities and their supporters, and of Faith and Light, an ecumenical Christian association of prayer and friendship for those with intellectual disabilities and their families.

The report found that none of the abused women were intellectually disabled.

L’Arche commissioned GCPS, an independent U.K. consultancy specializing in the reporting of exploitation and abuse last April to investigate Vanier’s link to Fr. Thomas Philippe, an abusive Dominican priest sanctioned by Church authorities in 1956, whom Vanier described as his “spiritual mentor.”

During the investigation, the inquiry received “credible and consistent testimonies” from six adult women without disabilities that Jean Vanier initiated sexual behaviors with them often “in the context of spiritual accompaniment” over the period of more than 30 years from 1970 to 2005, according to the L’Arche summary report of the investigation’s findings.

“The women each report that Jean Vanier initiated sexual behaviours with them, usually in the context of spiritual accompaniment. Some of these women have been deeply wounded by these experiences. Jean Vanier asked each of the women to keep the nature of these events secret. They had no prior knowledge of each other’s experiences, but these women reported similar facts associated with highly unusual spiritual or mystical explanations used to justify these sexual behaviours,” a L’Arche International report summary states.

This behavior follows the pattern of sexually inappropriate behavior demonstrated by Fr. Philippe, the report finds. The Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith (CDF) confirmed and completed in December 2019 elements in the inquiry relating to the trial of Fr. Philippe, who died in 1993, and Vanier’s knowledge of the misconduct.

According to archived letters studied in the report, the CDF directed in 1956 that Jean Vanier be informed of the Church’s condemnation of Philippe’s conduct and “mystical doctrine.”

Vanier denied in 2015 and 2016 that he had any knowledge of Fr. Thomas Philippe’s abusive behavior.

Tina Bovermann, the executive director of L’Arche USA, said the results of independent inquiry caused her “pain and resolve.”

“Pain, because of the suffering of innocent lives. Pain, because of the hurt that it might create in you, members and friends. Resolve, because truth matters. Resolve, because the value of every person matters. Always. Unconditionally. Particularly when marginalized and silenced for many years,” Bovermann said in a statement.

She emphasized that the inquiry found no misconduct related to L’Arche in the United States.

Until the late 1990s, Vanier oversaw the entire L’Arche organization, which grew into 154 communities and more than 10,000 members. He penned 30 books, was feted with awards and honors from governments around the globe, and became a sought after speaker. He was a member of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Laity.

Vanier died in May 2019 at the age of 90 after a protracted battle with cancer.

L’Arche International has set up an additional centralized reporting procedure for any further information that people may wish to report. This information will be received by a task force composed of people outside of L’Arche.

“We will continue to develop and implement our safeguarding policies and procedures so that they become an integral part of our community life and contribute to the safety and growth of all our members,” Posner and Cates-Carney said.

“In the weeks and months to come, we will be asking our leaders to organize spaces for dialogue and support so that any and all members with or without disabilities will have the opportunity to express their feelings, thoughts and questions,” they stated.

Fr. Emil Kapaun's path to sainthood to face Vatican milestone in March

Wichita, Kan., Feb 22, 2020 / 05:00 am (CNA).- A Kansas priest recalls the holy deeds of Servant of God Emil Kapaun, a POW and chaplain during the Korean War, whose path to sainthood will meet a major milestone next month.

Bishops and cardinals from the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints will vote March 10 to on whether the process to declare Kapaun a saint should progress to the next stage of advancement.

Kapaun was named in 1993 a “Servant of God,” the first designation on the way to being declared a saint. To be declared “venerable” is the second step in the canonization process, a step which Kapaun could reach next month.

Father John Hotze, the postulator for Kapaun’s cause, said the priest, whom he described as an average man from Kansas, is an example of stewardship and selflessness.

If Kapaun does become a saint, “then there's hope for each and every one of us to be a saint, also,” Hotze said.

“He was just an average guy. He was just a poor Kansas farm boy. He had nothing, and he was able to use what little he had in service to others,” he said.

“He used all of his time and talent and treasure in service to God and in service to others.”

Kapaun, who was born during the Great Depression in Pilsen, Kansas; was ordained a priest in 1940 and began ministry as a parish priest in his hometown.

During World War II Kapaun would offer the sacraments at the nearby Harrington Army Air Field until he became a full-time army chaplain in 1944.  He was stationed in India and Burma for the duration of the war. There, he offered soldiers the sacraments, and, Hotz said, served his unit with a selfless attitude.

“I was speaking to his brother Eugene once, and his brother said that he thought [Emil] always had that missionary spirit in his heart.”

“He said that he thought one of the reasons why [Emil] asked to become a chaplain was because he knew that that would be part of this missionary life,” he said. 
 
Hotze described Kapaun as a “soldier’s chaplain” who would do anything for his men.

Because the priest’s jeep had been damaged, Kapaun would often ride his bicycle, meeting men even at battlefield front lines, and following the sound of gunshots to find out if he was 

“[The soldiers] would all look up to see where Father Kapaun was at because, they said, as soon as they heard the gunfire, … they knew that he would be on his bicycle …  [Kapaun] knew that's where he would be needed,” he said.

After World War II ended, Kapaun used his GI bill to study history and education at the Catholic University of America. He returned home as pastor of his boyhood parish briefly and served at a few other parishes until the army had need of him.

In 1948, the United States issued a call for military chaplains to return to service. Kapaun jumped at the chance. He was then sent to Texas, Washington, and Japan, before being deployed to Korea.

Hotze said that many of the men serving in the same unit viewed him as a saint. He said Tibor Rubun, a Jewish soldier, was once worried during an attack when Kapaun comforted him and began praying with him using the Hebrew Scriptures.

During the Battle of Unsan in November of 1950, Kapaun worked tirelessly to comfort the suffering and retrieve the wounded from the battlefield. One of the soldiers he retrieved was a wounded Chinese soldier, who helped him negotiate a surrender after he was surrounded by enemy troops. Kapaun was taken as a prisoner of war.

Hotze said Kapaun also saved Herbert Miller’s life, a man who had been shot and then wounded by a grenade, which broke his ankle and shredded his legs with shrapnel. Korean soldiers would kill any U.S. prisoners who could not walk to the camp, so Kapaun carried Miller 30 miles on a prisoners’ march.

Kapaun was then taken to prison camp number five in Pyoktong, a bombed-out village used as a detainment center. The soldiers at the camp were severely mistreated, facing malnourishment, dysentery, and a lack of warm clothing to counter an extremely cold winter. Kapaun would do all he could for the soldiers, washing their soiled clothes, retrieving fresh water, and attending to their wounds

When he developed pneumonia and a blood clot in his leg, the chaplain was denied medical treatment. He died in 1951.

“[He was] taken away to the hospital. The men called it the death house because you didn't come out of it alive. When they took you there, they didn't give you any water or they didn't give you any food or anything,” Hotze said.

“He wound up dying there and...the men talked about how there was not a dry eye in the camp.”

For his bravery at Unsan, Kapaun was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor by President Obama in 2013. The medal is the United States’ highest military award for bravery.

Hotze said Catholics today are still influenced and inspired by Kapaun. He said every June pilgrims march from Wichita to Kapaun’s hometown of Pilsen. They make the 60 mile walk in commemoration of the priest and his march to the prison camps. The pilgrimage last summer gathered about 200 people.

Hotze emphasized two aspects of Kapaun’s spirituality. He said Kapaun dedicated himself to the service of others and he did so joyfully.

“I think his willingness to serve is probably one of the most appealing things, and, another thing was that this willingness to serve, that he did it with joy.”

“He had every right ... to resent the situation that he was in, in his life or the difficulties that he was facing but he never did. He never was angry. He was never resentful or hateful.”

 

After LGBT teachers resign, Seattle archbishop says teachers must be Gospel witnesses

Seattle, Wash., Feb 21, 2020 / 06:04 pm (CNA).- After students at a Catholic high school in Washington state staged protests in support of two teachers who resigned their posts in order to civilly marry their same-sex partners, the Archbishop of Seattle said that teachers in Catholic schools must live Catholic doctrine.

“Pastors and church leaders need to be clear about the church’s teaching, while at the same time refraining from making judgments, taking into consideration the complexity of people’s lived situations. We are always called to compassion as we journey with our people. The end goal of walking together in faith is to help people embrace the fullness of the Gospel message and integrate the faith more deeply into their lives,” Archbishop Paul Etienne of Seattle said in a statement Feb. 19.

“Those who teach in our schools are required to uphold our teaching in the classroom and to model it in their personal lives. We recognize and support the right of each individual to make choices. We also understand that some choices have particular consequences for those who represent the church in an official capacity,” the archbishop added.

The statement came after Michelle Beattie and Paul Danforth of Kennedy Catholic High School in Burien, Washington voluntarily resigned last week, according to school officials, although the teachers later retained an attorney. They have not opened legal action against the school, and have not yet spoken out publicly, but their attorney has said the teachers expected the Archdiocese of Seattle to terminate the employment.

A statement from the school last week praised the teachers as "highly capable, gifted and qualified teachers who have served our community with dedication and humility. Their loss will be felt deeply by their students and the entire community. We are thankful to Paul and Michelle for their years of service."

Some students at the high school staged a sit-in and a walkout on Feb. 18 in support of the teachers.  Students, as well as parents and alumni of the school, also staged a protest outside the diocesan chancery in Seattle.

Michael Prato, president of Kennedy Catholic, said in a statement that the two teachers approached him in November 2019 to share their desire to civilly marry their same-sex partners. 

The teachers had voluntarily signed a covenant agreement to “live and model the Catholic faith in accord with Church teaching,” Prato said. In light of the agreement they signed, both chose to resign, he said.

“I hired these teachers and I care about them very much. I still do,” Prato said.

“I wanted to make sure they felt supported, and so we discussed several options including the possibility of finishing out the school year.”

He said he gave the teachers the option to select the date they wanted to resign, and they indicated they wished to resign prior to the winter break in February. He said they also worked out a transition plan and financial package for the teachers.

In the United States, various Catholic schools and dioceses have faced lawsuits from employees who have been fired after contracting civil same-sex marriages in violation of the diocesan or school policy.

The Catholic Church teaches that while homosexual inclinations are not sinful, homosexual acts “are contrary to the natural law...under no circumstances can they be approved.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church goes on to say that people with “deep-seated homosexual tendencies” should be “accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”

However, in 2003, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said that “in those situations where homosexual unions have been legally recognized or have been given the legal status and rights belonging to marriage, clear and emphatic opposition is a duty.”

“One must refrain from any kind of formal cooperation in the enactment or application of such gravely unjust laws and, as far as possible, from material cooperation on the level of their application. In this area, everyone can exercise the right to conscientious objection,” the CDF added.

 

 

 

 

Santa Fe archbishop weighs in on papal discussion of Fr. James Martin

Vatican City, Feb 21, 2020 / 04:06 pm (CNA).- Archbishop John Wester of Santa Fe has offered his recollections of a meeting between Pope Francis and the American Southwest, especially as regards a discussion during the meeting of Fr. James Martin, SJ.

CNA reported Feb. 20 that Martin was discussed during a Feb. 10 meeting between the pope and bishops of the USCCB’s Region XIII, who were with the pope as part of their ad limina visit.

Martin, an American Jesuit, is well known for his writing and speaking on LGBT issues and the Church. His work has been a subject of controversy; it is criticized by some bishops and praised by others.

Wester confirmed that Martin and his Sept. 30 visit to the pope had been discussed in the meeting, in a Feb. 21 commentary published by the National Catholic Reporter.

The Santa Fe archbishop, who was appointed to his post in 2015, is one of seven U.S. bishops to have endorsed “Building a Bridge,” Martin’s 2017 book on the Church and homosexuality.

“This courageous work is necessary reading for all who wish to build up the Christian community and to give witness to the Gospel message of inclusion,” Wester wrote of Martin’s book.

In his Feb. 21 commentary, the archbishop indicated that a broader discussion of Martin had taken place than was previously reported. Wester said bishops raised to the pope questions about a recent speech Martin delivered to the presidents of Catholic universities, “and his work in general with the LGBT community.”

The pope’s visit with Martin “was only mentioned in passing and was not the main point of the questions” bishops raised to the pope about Martin, Wester wrote.

The archbishop did not indicate what he saw as the “main point” of the bishops’ questions, nor did he indicate the response of Pope Francis to questions raised about the issues he mentioned.

While it would be “difficult for anyone to remember with precision anything that was said” in such a lengthy meeting, Wester said that he did not recall “the pope saying or implying that he was unhappy with Father Martin or his ministry.”

Regarding the pope’s visit with Martin, one bishop told CNA Feb. 20 that Pope Francis “made his displeasure clear” about the way the meeting was interpreted, and framed by some journalists.

Wester’s commentary confirmed that report. The archbishop added that from his viewpoint, “it was not Father Martin the Pope was talking about, but the way others tried to use that encounter, one way or the other.”

The Archbishop of Santa Fe did take issue with a bishop who told CNA that “the Holy Father's disposition was very clear, he was most displeased about the whole subject of Fr. Martin and how their encounter had been used. He was very expressive, both his words and his face -  his anger was very clear, he felt he'd been used."

Speaking of that bishop’s description, Wester said “the language subtlety, yet incorrectly, leads the reader to believe that Father Martin was the issue while in fact, it was how others used their meeting that was in play.” Wester said he did not think the pope had been “angry, upset or annoyed.”

In his commentary, Wester disagreed with reports from other bishops that the pope said Martin had received some correction about the way the Sept. 30 visit was framed.

"Not at all true from my vantage point," Wester said.

Wester conceded that there was some discussion of raising issues with Martin's superiors, though he was not specific about what was said.

“I vaguely remember some mention of people in leadership trying to clarify any misunderstandings about his ministry,” the archbishop wrote. Wester said he thought that reference had to do with an article Martin had written in America Magazine, and not with the pope's meeting with Martin, although he did not indicate what factors led him to that conclusion.

Martin himself, after Wester’s commentary was published, tweeted that he has “never heard anything negative from Jesuit superiors, nor was I ever given a ‘talking to.’”

The archbishop said he could not recall other aspects of reports about the meeting.

“I believe that I have an obligation to offer my perspective on those matters contained in the CNA article about Father James Martin, SJ, since my understanding of the facts differs from what was reported anonymously,” Wester concluded.

The bishops who spoke with CNA reported that Martin’s work in regards to the LGBT community was also discussed with the heads of numerous Vatican congregations, and that some officials expressed concern about aspects of the priest’s work. Wester did not comment on those reports.

 

Parts of Notre-Dame plaza, crypt expected to reopen this spring

Paris, France, Feb 21, 2020 / 04:01 pm (CNA).- French officials are hopeful that parts of the plaza of Notre-Dame de Paris, as well as the church’s crypt, will be re-opened roughly a year after a fire ravaged the roof and much of the interior of the cathedral.

Emmanuel Grégoire, deputy mayor of Paris, said the internationally cherished cathedral’s plaza and crypt should reopen sometime before the summer “if everything goes OK,” the New York Times reported.

Officials told the New York Times that these parts of the cathedral and the surrounding area have thus far remained closed due to lead contamination from the rubble of the burnt roof and spire, which collapsed in the fire.

According to French government information, obtained by the New York Times, lead levels on the cathedral’s plaza following the fire were as high as 1,300 times above French safety guidelines, and on other surrounding areas lead levels were 955 times above safety regulations.

“Obviously this depends on whether the site has been properly cleaned up, but we have been doing regular lead checks,” Karen Taïeb, also a deputy mayor for Paris, told the New York Times. If all goes well, she said the plaza and crypt could be opened as early as the end of March.

On April 15 last year, a fire started in the center of the cathedral’s roof and nearly destroyed the entire building before it was put out.

The church receives more than 12 million visitors each year.

The roof had been undergoing restorative work at the time of the fire, and in the subsequent months, fire officials said they believed either malfunctioning electrical work or an abandoned cigarette butt from a worker caused the fire.

Most of the church’s sacred and artistic treasures, including the Eucharist and a relic of the crown of thorns, were rescued during the fire thanks to a planned rescue strategy that was in place for just such emergencies.

President Emmanuel Macron vowed to restore the cathedral within five years following the fire, and nearly $1 billion has been pledged towards its restoration from private donors.

Last summer the French government passed a bill organizing how the restoration funds would be distributed, though debates about whether the cathedral will be restored as it was are ongoing.

Since the adoption of the 1905 law on separation of church and state, which formalized laïcité (a strict form of public secularism), religious buildings in France have been property of the state.

Fla. bishops laud parental consent for abortion bill as it goes to governor

Tallahassee, Fla., Feb 21, 2020 / 03:21 pm (CNA).- The Florida bishops applauded Thursday the passage through both houses of the state legislature of a bill requiring parental consent for minors seeking to procure abortion. The governor has said he intends to sign the bill.

The Florida House of Representatives passed SB 404 by a 75-43 vote Feb. 20. It had cleared the Senate by a 23-17 vote earlier this month.

“We praise our state’s legislative leaders for advancing this pro-life legislation, especially bill sponsors, Senator Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland) and Representative Erin Grall (R-Vero Beach), who took on the difficult task of guiding it through the committee process and onto the floor of the Senate and House,” the Florida bishops' conference said Feb. 20.

“We also commend the Democratic lawmakers who courageously crossed party lines and voted to ensure vital protections for parents and their children.”

The bill would require minors to received notarized approval from a parent or guardian, or to get consent from a judge after a hearing, before procuring an abortion.

Under the bill, minors seeking an abortion will be required to receive notarized approval from at least one parent, guardian, or from a judge. Doctors who perform abortions without the parental consent of a girl under 18 would face up to five years in prison for a third-degree felony.

The permission requirement would not apply in cases of “medical emergencies” when there is not sufficient time to obtain written permission from a parent.

The bishops noted that “Parental consent is required prior to a minor's medical treatment in most every instance, this includes simple medical interventions such as taking an aspirin or getting one’s ears pierced. This legislation is a common-sense measure that holds abortion to the same consent requirements as most every other medical decision involving a child.”

Ingrid Delgado, associate director for social concerns and respect life for the Florida bishops' conference, commented that “standards that relate to children's health care should apply especially in the context of abortion, which critically affects the lives of two children.”

Rep. James Bush, D-Miami, voted for the measure, calling it “a good bill for our children,” the Tallahassee Democrat reported.

Rep. Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach, a sponsor of the measure, said: “It is indisputable that abortion ends a life, and the decision to end a life is permanent and life-altering not only for the baby, but for the girl, the father and the family.”

Those opposed to the bill said it will create more difficulties for young girls who are already in a desperate situation, the Tallahassee Democrat reported.

Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen, R-Fort Myers, said that “we don't live in a Utopia where parents always love and advise their children and young girls never get pregnant.”

The Florida legislature first enacted a parental consent law in 1979, but the state Supreme Court struck it down a decade later, saying it violated privacy rights.

Governor Ron DeSantis has said he thinks parental consent “deserves to be reconsidered” at the court, adding that parents “want to be involved with what’s going on with their kids.”

The Florida House passed a similar bill last year, but it failed to make it out of Senate committees for full debate.

Existing Florida law requires a minor seeking to procure abortion to give notice to their parent, or a judge.

According to the Tallahassee Democrat, 1,398 minors, 193 of whom notified a judge rather than her parents, procured abortion in the state in 2018.

Twenty-six states require parental consent for a minor's abortion.

Sri Lankan cardinal calls for full investigation into Easter bombings

Colombo, Sri Lanka, Feb 21, 2020 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the Archbishop of Colombo, Sri Lanka, has called for a full investigation into the bombing attacks on Easter Sunday 2019, and introduced a program to pray for the victims of the attacks. 

“The people of this country have a right to know the truth about the Easter bomb attacks,” said Ranjith on Feb. 18. “We hope that our political leaders will work to fulfill that obligation.” 

The Easter bomb attacks killed 259 people and injured more than 500. Two Catholic churches, one evangelical Christian church, four hotels, and a housing complex were hit by a total of nine suicide bombers. 

The suicide bombers, who were all Sri Lankan citizens, belonged to an Islamist group known as the National Thowheeth Jama’ath. They attacked the three churches in the middle of Easter Sunday services. 

"Anybody who had dealings with these people who set off the bombs, even their bank accounts and their telephone calls, has to be investigated," the cardinal said.  

Ranjith has criticised past inquiries into the attacks. 

“It is difficult for us to say what happened based on the reports of former government commissions. We believe [the commissions] may have worked to cover up what happened,” said Ranjith. 

“We are pleased with the new presidential commission. They are trying to explain every aspect of the issue.” 

Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who assumed office in November 2019, has worked with Ranjith on the investigation into the attacks, and asked him to appoint a representative to the commission. Ranjith did not nominate a representative, and instead appeared before the commission himself on December 6 and 7. 

Ranjith said that he wished to represent the concerns of both the victims and the country’s Catholic community. The Archdiocese of Colombo, which he leads, is the only Catholic diocese in the country and also includes the Maldive islands. Christians make up approximately 7% of Sri Lanka’s population, but roughly eight out of 10 Christians in Sri Lanka are Catholic. 

In addition to the request for a further investigation, Ranjith also announced prayer services to mark the anniversary of the attack. 

“It is the responsibility of the Archdiocese of Colombo to never forget all those who lost their lives in this tragic attack on that day,” he said. 

Two of the prayer services will be held at St. Anthony’s Shrine in Kotahena and St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo, the locations of the attacks. 

Ranjith has been increasingly critical of the Sri Lankan authorities’ failure to prevent the attacks. It has been reported that Indian intelligence services repeatedly warned Sri Lanka about the possibility of an attack occurring on Easter Sunday, including the morning of the attacks. 

“Nobody took serious note,” said Ranjith in June. “This disaster could have been prevented because if I knew that there was an attack planned I would have closed the churches and told the people to go home.”