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Daily Readings for Thursday, February 21, 2019

Reading 1: Genesis 9:1-13, Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 102:16-23, Gospel: Mark 8:27-33

St. Severian: Saint of the Day for Thursday, February 21, 2019

Bishop and martyr. The bishop of Scythopolis in Galilee. He attended the Council of Chalcedon (451) and took part in the complete triumph of the ...

St. Severian: Saint of the Day for Thursday, February 21, 2019

Bishop and martyr. The bishop of Scythopolis in Galilee. He attended the Council of Chalcedon (451) and took part in the complete triumph of the ...

A Night Prayer: Prayer of the Day for Thursday, February 21, 2019

Eternal Father, I desire to rest in Thy Heart this night. I make the intention of offering to Thee every beat of my heart, joining to ...

A Night Prayer: Prayer of the Day for Thursday, February 21, 2019

Eternal Father, I desire to rest in Thy Heart this night. I make the intention of offering to Thee every beat of my heart, joining to ...

Hoya no more: Georgetown rescinds McCarrick's honorary degree

Washington D.C., Feb 20, 2019 / 09:56 am (CNA).- Georgetown University announced on Tuesday that it would rescind the honorary Doctor of Humane Letters the school conferred on disgraced former archbishop Theodore McCarrick in December 2004.

“With the concurrence of our Board of Directors, Georgetown University is rescinding the honorary degree granted to Theodore McCarrick fourteen years ago,” said Georgetown University President John J. DeGioia in an email sent to the Georgetown University community Tuesday.

This is the first time the school has revoked an honorary degree.

“We are called to forge a new culture, to create a context in which the most vulnerable among us will be safe and protected, to create a context in which the abuse of power can be identified and eliminated. As a University, founded in the Jesuit tradition, we are uniquely positioned to respond to this call,” said DeGioia.

Similar to the University of Notre Dame, which rescinded an honorary degree from McCarrick on Saturday, Georgetown University had elected to wait until the conclusion of the canonical penal process against McCarrick before making a decision about his honorary degree. McCarrick was laicized and removed from the clerical state on Feb. 16.

DeGioia’s email, forwarded Feb. 20 to CNA, explained that a working group was created in the fall of 2018 to “examine a range of issues related to honorary degrees.”

“The Working Group has welcomed input from members of our community, and its work has helped to shape our response today,” said DeGioia.

A petition spearheaded by Georgetown undergraduates requesting that the school rescind honorary degrees from both McCarrick and Cardinal Donald Wuerl garnered over 1,300 signatures since it was launched in September. Georgetown has not revoked the honorary Doctor of Humane Letters the school conferred on Wuerl in 2014. Pope Francis accepted Wuerl’s resignation from the Archdiocese of Washington in October 2018.

Grace Laria, a senior at Georgetown who helped start the petition, met with the university’s working group, along with fellow Georgetown senior Julie Bevilacqua. The students urged the school to rescind the degrees.

In November, Laria and Bevilacqua spoke to CNA outside the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Fall General Assembly. The two were there with several other Georgetown students who are active in campus ministry. Laria told CNA that she had been inspired to travel to Baltimore to demand that the bishops demonstrate sort of initiative that indicates they “are willing to stand up for survivors and take action.”

Bevilacqua told CNA in November that she had been angered and hurt by the Church’s response to the sexual abuse crisis, and that she felt there was “a sense of urgency for some kind of action and for us to see some change.”

Supreme Court rejects appeal to make Texas bishops release abortion communications

Washington D.C., Feb 20, 2019 / 06:30 am (CNA).- The Supreme Court has rejected an appeal in the case Whole Woman’s Health v. Texas Catholic Conference et al, in which the abortion provider sought to force the Catholic bishops of Texas to hand over all internal communications related to abortion.

 

The Feb. 19 decision was the last in a series of setbacks for Whole Women’s Health as they tried to compel a massive disclosure of in-house documents by the Church in Texas, in response to the bishops' support for a law which would require the burial or cremation of all aborted children.

 

In a statement released to CNA, the Texas Conference of Catholic Bishops welcomed the decision by the Supreme Court which, they said was a vindication of their religious freedom rights.

 

“The bishops are very grateful the Supreme Court has upheld the ruling of the Fifth Circuit, which protects the private religious communications of the bishops from a fishing expedition by abortion providers seeking access to our ministry information,” said the statement.

 

A 2017 law passed in Texas required that the remains of unborn children must be buried or cremated rather than disposed of by other means, including be flushed into the sewer system or sent to landfills.

 

At the time the law was passed, the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops (TCCB) voiced their support for the legislation and offered free burials for the remains of aborted babies.

 

Whole Woman’s Health responded by subpoenaing the bishops and demanded access to all internal communications regarding abortion, including any theological and doctrinal debates on the issue. The subpoena was filed despite the bishops not being party to the suit.

 

The Texas bishops released more than 4,000 pages of external communications on abortion, but applied for emergency relief to preserve their private correspondence.

 

In July 2018, a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overruled the trial court’s application of the subpoena, and the full court declined to hear the case in August. Whole Women’s Health then applied to the Supreme Court, which rejected the appeal on Tuesday.

 

In the Fifth Circuit Court’s decision, the judges described the subpoena as going “to the heart of the constitutional protection of religious belief and practice as well as citizens’ right to advocate sensitive policies in the public square.”

 

The court said that the Catholic bishops were left with a “Hobson’s choice” of either “retreating from the public square or defending its position.”

 

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represented the Texas bishops in the case, released a statement praising the outcome.

 

Eric Rassbach, vice president and senior counsel at Becket said in the statement that the court “saw this appeal for what it was: a nasty attempt to intimidate the bishops and force them to withdraw their offer to bury every child aborted in Texas.”

 

“Abortion groups may think the bishops ‘troublesome,’ but it is wrong to weaponize the law to stop the bishops from standing up for their beliefs,” he said.

 

In an earlier comment on the Fifth Circuit’s decision, Rassbach noted that “Constant surveillance of religious groups is a hallmark of totalitarian societies, not a free people.”

There are alternatives to abortion, says Archdiocese of New York

New York City, N.Y., Feb 20, 2019 / 04:21 am (CNA).-
After a January law expanded abortion protections in New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York City has reaffirmed the Church’s promise to support any pregnant woman, regardless of her circumstances.

“We are enthusiastically committed – and have been for half a century – to providing women with a warm, embracing, life-giving alternative [to abortion],” the cardinal said.

Dolan spoke at a convent of the Sisters of Life in New York City on Feb. 18. Mother Mary Agnes Donovan, the order’s foundress, hosted the press conference, which reiterated Church’s dedication to pregnant women.

Dolan’s announcement followed the signing of a New York’s  Reproductive Health Act, which took place on Jan. 22, the anniversary of the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision.
The law limits abortions to the first 24 weeks of pregnancy but allows for abortions to be conducted later in gestation if the wellbeing of the mother is at risk. Some experts say that loophole will allow for practically unrestricted late-term abortion in the state.

The law also decriminalizes the procedure, and strips it of most regulations and safeguards. Non-doctors will now be permitted to perform abortions.

At the meeting on Monday, the cardinal expressed concern that these abortion expansions will influence women to think that abortion is the only viable option to a difficult pregnancy, according to the National Review.  

“We’re here. We love you. We welcome you. There is an alternative here,” he said.

Dolan said the Archdiocese of New York offers services to pregnant women confidentially.

“It does not matter what your marital status, religion, or immigration status might be,” he said.

“We are here to help, and all of our services are confidential. Any woman facing a difficult pregnancy and tempted to an abortion is assured of a warm welcome, encouragement, and loving support.”

The press conference included additional speakers like Christopher Bell, co-founder of Good Counsel homes in New York and New Jersey; Mother Donovan, who is also superior general for the Sisters of Life; and Dr. Anne Nolte, who runs the Gianna Center, which provides reproductive health to women.

Brhane Love, a mother and immigrant who struggled with her own pregnancy, also spoke at the event. Love spoke about the pressure she felt to abort. She said the Sisters of Life provided support in immigration, career, babysitting, and housing. She was introduced to the nuns after a man intercepted her on the way to Planned Parenthood.

“He took me to meet the sisters and I talked to them for hours. They told me they were with me, that I wasn’t alone, and that they would help me,” said Love, according to National Review.

“I love my daughter,” she added. “She changed my life. I am so happy.”

The Sisters of Life have helped almost 10,000 women since their religious community was founded in 1991. According to National Review, Mother Agnes said the sisters serve an estimated 600-1000 women a year, noting the number is growing.

As their ministry gain greater publicity, Mother Agnes expressed hope that more women will discover alternative options to abortion like the Sisters of Life provide. She said the sisters are there to work with women, providing encouragement and practical support.

“Standing in radical solidarity with a woman, during an unexpected or difficult pregnancy, the Sisters and the woman together find a pathway through fear, a path defined by realistic and ongoing emotional and practical support that she may respond with courage and dignity to one of life’s most difficult moments.”

 

Only God loves perfectly, Pope Francis says

Vatican City, Feb 20, 2019 / 04:09 am ().- Despite the best efforts of human beings, it is only God the Father who will never fall short in loving his children, Pope Francis said Wednesday.

“No one must doubt that he is the recipient of [the Father’s] love,” the pope said Feb. 20. “He loves us, he loves me, we can say. He loves us even if our father and our mother have not loved us, there is a God in heaven who loves us as nobody on this earth has ever done and will ever do.”

At his weekly general audience, Pope Francis continued his catechesis on the ‘Our Father,’ focusing on the start of the prayer and the words: “Our Father, who art in heaven...”

This means, he said, that though it is impossible to find perfect love on earth, among imperfect creatures, “there is another love, that of the Father ‘who is in heaven.’”

“This is a perfect love,” he commented. “If all our earthly loves also crumble, and there remains nothing but dust, there is always for all of us, burning, the unique love of God.”

Quoting the prophet Isaiah, he said: “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you.”

This expression of a Father “in heaven” is meant to express a difference, not a distance, he explained. It is a tireless love that never ends and is always within reach.

This contrasts with the love of human beings, he noted, who though trying their hardest to love others, will be forced to face the reality of their limitations, the “poverty of our forces,” and the difficulty of keeping promises that in a moment of grace may have seemed easy to achieve.

Noting the fashion of getting tattoos, the pope said that for God, it is like his people are “tattooed” on the palm of his hands; it cannot be erased.

“Therefore, do not be afraid!” he urged. “None of us is alone.”

Even if someone has the misfortune of having an earthly father who has forgotten them, they have not been denied “the fundamental experience of the Christian faith,” he said, “of knowing that you are a beloved child of God, and that there is nothing in life that can extinguish his passionate love for you.”

Colorado’s Catholic bishops will open abuse records for review

Denver, Colo., Feb 19, 2019 / 08:51 pm (CNA).- An agreement between Colorado’s attorney general and the state’s Catholic bishops aims to investigate clergy sex abuse of minors in the state’s Roman Catholic dioceses, the dioceses’ past handling of sex abuse, and current procedures and responses to abuse allegations.
 
“The damage inflicted upon young people and their families by sexual abuse, especially when it’s committed by a trusted person like a priest, is profound,” Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver said at a Feb. 19 press conference held with the Colorado attorney general.
 
This process will involve “painful moments” and “cannot ever fully restore what was lost,” the archbishop said.
 
“We pray that it will at least begin the healing process,” he said. Transparency for the Church’s history on child abuse is needed, said the archbishop, who hoped that the programs offer a “path to healing for survivors and their families.”
 
Also speaking at the press conference were Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser, who took office in January; Colorado’s immediate past attorney general Cynthia Coffman; and Father Randy Dollins, vicar general of the Denver Archdiocese. In addition to the Archdiocese of Denver, the Colorado Springs diocese and the Pueblo diocese are parties to the agreement.
 
“It’s well known that child sexual abuse is a societal-wide problem,” Weiser said. “It demands our attention and action. I am so pleased the Church today has recognized the need for transparency and reparations for survivors.”
 
The process involves an independent review of church records, a compensation process for victims, and a victims’ support service to aid their participation in the compensation program.
 
Robert Troyer, former U.S. Attorney for Colorado, will conduct the independent review. The agreement with the dioceses gives him “full access” to their files on sexual abuse of minors by diocesan clergy, according to a Feb. 19 joint statement from Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser and the Catholic bishops of Colorado.
 
The review will examine the records and policies of Colorado’s three Roman Catholic dioceses about the sexual abuse of minors. A public report will be drafted and released to the public. The review aims to ensure that there are “no known or suspected abusers in active ministry.”
 
The review aims to provide transparency regarding abuse in the Church and the dioceses’ historic responses. The report will analyze dioceses’ current policies and procedures for abuse prevention and their response to abuse allegations.
 
The independent review aims to provide “recognition of past wrongdoing” and an opportunity for healing. The report process is not a criminal investigation, but an “independent inquiry with the full cooperation of the Catholic Church.”
 
The joint statement from the attorney general and the bishops said that they are not aware of any previously unreported criminal conduct. Should the review find any abusers, they will be reported to law enforcement immediately.
 
The report is expected to be released by fall 2019. It will not identify victims by name to protect their privacy. It will name diocesan priests with “substantiated allegations” of sexually abusing minors. It will detail these substantiated allegations, including the assignments of abusive priests and the years of the alleged abuse.
 
Misconduct with minors described as “inappropriate but not illegal behavior,” will also be included in the report, but those accused of misconduct will not be named.
 
The term “diocesan priest” does not include religious order priests, who, according to the agreement, are “assigned, transferred, and subject to the control of their own religious orders and religious superiors,” and not subject to the governance of the Colorado dioceses.
 
While sexual misconduct with adults is not a focus of the report, if adult victims of abuse come forward, the attorney general’s office will support them, Weiser said.
 
Half the costs of Troyer’s independent review will be met by the three dioceses, and the rest by anonymous donors.
 
The Catholic dioceses will also fund “an independent, voluntary program that will compensate victims of abuse, regardless of when the abuse occurred,” the joint statement said.
 
The program will be developed by nationally recognized claims administrations experts, Kenneth R. Feinberg and Camille S. Biros.
 
They were involved in compensations in the wake of the Aurora, Colo. theater shooting in 2012 and have also been involved in Catholic sex abuse victims’ compensation programs in New York, New Jersey and other states.
 
Colorado’s bishops and the attorney general agreed that the program must accept claims through the public release of the independent review, as well as for “a reasonable period of time” after.
 
Former U.S. Sen. Hank Brown will chair an independent commission overseeing the reparations program.
 
The reparations program will be augmented by a victims’ support service that will be created to aid victims or survivors. The service will be staffed by professionals who can discuss the reparations, program, hear stories from abuse victims, answer possible claimants’ questions, and help support the submission of documentation to the program.
 
Coffman, Weiser’s predecessor as Colorado attorney general, initiated action investigating Catholic clergy sex abuse in Colorado in late 2018.
 
“There is a recognition that childhood sexual abuse is not specific to one institution,” Coffman said. “The spotlight is on the Catholic Church but this abuse is indicative of what has happened in other institutions. We want to shine a light on the activity.”
 
After a July Pennsylvania attorney general report compiled allegations against over 300 Catholic clergy, with over 1,000 reported victims, Coffman’s office began receiving calls from Colorado citizens who had suffered sexual abuse in the past. Some were abused in other states by priests who were no longer alive.
 
Representatives of the group Survivors’ Network of those Abused by Priests asked the Colorado attorney general to conduct a grand jury investigation into sex abuse of children in the Catholic Church in Colorado. The request was part of the group’s national effort to engage every state attorney general.
 
While some states’ attorneys general have the authority to launch such investigations, Colorado’s does not.
 
Coffman’s office began examining alternatives for uncovering previously undisclosed abuse involving Catholic priests. That effort drew a response from the Catholic bishops, who reached out to understand the effort. Her office discussed options on investigations.
 
Meeting with Aquila, Dollins, Bishop Stephen Jay Berg of Pueblo, and representatives of the Colorado Catholic Conference, Coffman said, “demonstrated their commitment to acknowledging past abuse by priests and moving forward with honesty and accountability.”
 
She voiced gratitude for their “cooperation and collaboration.”
 
Aquila referred questions about the Denver archdiocese’s current policy on abuse of minors to a website the archdiocese created to provide information.