Accountability, transparency, due process still needed, abuse experts say

By Carol Glatz
ROME (CNS) – To help foster a wider discussion on work that still must be done to safeguard minors and vulnerable people in the Catholic Church, a canon law journal published a series of talks by experts regarding accountability, transparency and confidentiality in the handling of abuse allegations.
The talks were part of a seminar in December 2019 sponsored by the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors to address the topics as well as the seal of confession and the pontifical secret.
The “Periodica” journal of the faculty of canon law at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University published the talks at the end of 2020.

Carmel Rafferty and Ian Liwther protest clergy sexual abuse outside St. Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney in this July 18, 2008, file photo. Safeguarding experts have published proposals in the “Periodica” faculty canon law journal of the Pontifical Gregorian University to help foster more analysis and wider discussion on work still needed to safeguard minors and vulnerable people in the Catholic Church. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Among the suggestions for improvements, Archbishop Charles J. Scicluna, adjunct secretary of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said more could be done in supporting the rights of victims.
Pope Francis’ “Vos estis lux mundi” provides for the first time “a universal law that states that the victim has a right to be advised of the outcome of the investigation” concerning crimes allegedly committed by people in leadership, he wrote.
But “I would suggest that we also use this law by analogy for all other situations” by giving the same right to victims of people who are not just leaders but are members of the clergy or of religious orders, he wrote.
Another suggestion, he said, is to appoint “a safeguarding officer or other suitable person that keeps contact with the victim and informs the victim of the progress of the procedures,” including the outcomes of investigations, trials or extrajudicial processes, especially now that the “pontifical secret” has been removed.
Archbishop Scicluna said there should be a “procurator for the person aggrieved,” that is, a person designated to represent the victim in the church’s penal processes and share information with the victim.
Father John P. Beal, professor of canon law at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., said in his talk that past abuse scandals in the U.S. showed “how lack of transparency in church governance allowed these lapses in accountability to go unrecognized and unaddressed for decades.”
Restoring a sense of legitimacy to ecclesial governance will be ineffective, he wrote, “as long as the church’s accountability structures are judged inadequate by the faithful, and they will continue to be judged inadequate as long as they remain almost totally lacking in transparency.”
The “almost total lack of transparency that enshrouds the canonical penal process” and the administrative penal process, he said, makes it difficult to know if the accused and victims have been dealt with fairly.
This absence of transparency “is often justified by concern for the reputations of the accused and the victim. While there may be good reason to withhold from the public record the names of accusers and victims of sexual abuse, especially if they are still minors,” the name of those found guilty of abuse should be made public, he wrote.
Clear and public procedures would also help restore the reputation of those who have been wrongly accused instead of letting rumors fill the vacuum when investigations are not transparent or conclusive, he added.
“We in the United States have learned with much pain that efforts to ‘hush up’ unpleasant ecclesiastical business will ultimately fail,” Father Beal wrote.
The pope’s removal of the “pontifical secret” in cases involving the sexual abuse of minors by clerics allows bishops and other church authorities to provide “timely information to victims and affected communities of the faithful about the status, progress and outcomes of cases, while maintaining due confidentiality about matters that might jeopardize reputations or the progress of process,” he wrote.
Nevertheless, he wrote, more robust accountability for how diocesan bishops and other church authorities handle abuse cases “is still almost exclusively vertical, toward higher authorities, and not downward to the faithful.”
Until accountability is complemented by “a serious commitment to transparency on the part of all involved, they will do little to dispel the pervasive anger and cynicism among the faithful about the bishops’ handling of complaints of misconduct.”
Jesuit Father Damián Astigueta, professor of canon law at the Gregorian University, wrote that transparency does not mean universal or public access to sensitive or confidential information, but it is sharing information with those who have a right to see it.
Total and inappropriate public disclosure of certain information is often driven by a sense of guilt and a hope that “selling” a better image of the church will bring credibility, he said. The focus should be on justice for the entire community of faithful, fidelity to the Gospel value of truth and on professionalism rather than on what people think.
Authorities in charge of investigating and acting on accusations must seek the truth and follow the principles of real justice, which guarantees due process, the right of defense and presumption of innocence for the accused, he said.
Neville Owen, a retired supreme court judge from western Australia and a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, said equality before the law and the right to a fair trial would be better guaranteed by providing the reasons for how a case was decided.
Providing reasons for a decision is part of fairness, due process and justice, he said. It would let the parties know why they have won or lost; let them see whether their arguments were understood and accepted; facilitate accountability because decisions could be scrutinized; and help build a basis upon which similar cases will be decided in the future.

Catholic leaders speak out against violence targeting Asian Americans

By Carol Zimmermann
WASHINGTON (CNS) – In the days following the March 16 shootings in Atlanta that left eight people dead, including six Asian American women, protests and vigils took place around the country remembering the victims and calling for an end to a growing wave of anti-Asian racism and violence.
Two Jesuit universities, St. Louis University and Georgetown University, held vigils online that also included discussion on challenges faced by the Asian American/Pacific Islander community and ways to better advocate for them.

A girl in Atlanta holds a flower March 21, 2021, during a vigil at a makeshift memorial outside the Gold Spa following the deadly shootings March 16 at three day spas in metro Atlanta. (CNS photo/Shannon Stapleton, Reuters)

Catholic bishops and women religious also spoke out against the violence and renewed their calls to end racism.
“We must support all victims of violence and stand in solidarity with those who are vulnerable in our communities,” said Atlanta Archbishop Gregory J. Hartmayer in a March 17 statement.
He also pointed out many people “endure discrimination, aggression and violence every day of their lives,” and said Christians must work to protect the whole community, speaking up against aggression and actively pursuing an end to “racism and discrimination of every kind.”
Bishop Oscar A. Solis of Salt Lake City, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Island Affairs, echoed the Atlanta archbishop’s call to stand in solidarity with the vulnerable.
In a March 22 statement, he said the Atlanta shootings have “prompted national dialogue on addressing anti-Asian bias that has taken the form of numerous other acts of physical violence, verbal attacks and destruction of property against those of Asian descent over the last year that have left communities across the country traumatized.”
The bishop said he was deeply saddened the mass shooting has “tragically taken the lives of eight people and has renewed concerns about a rise of hostility against individuals of Asian descent.”
“As bishops, we decry any kind of hatred and violence, particularly based on race, ethnicity or sex,” he said. “We pray for the families and friends of those who were lost, and for their communities, who may feel unsafe and vulnerable at this time.”
Although the suspect, 21-year-old Robert Long of Woodstock, Georgia, has been arrested and charged with eight counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault for the shootings at three spas in the Atlanta metro area, he has not yet been charged with a hate crime.
Investigators are still looking into if the crimes were racially motivated or if, as Long claimed, they were committed to end his temptation because he is a sex addict.
The shootings touched a nerve across the country in response to a growing wave of anti-Asian violence, particularly since the outbreak of the coronavirus which began in Wuhan, China, last year and had often been referred to by former President Donald Trump as the “China virus” or “kung flu.”
The group AAPI Hate, an advocacy group that tracks hate incidents against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, said it had had received about 3,800 reports of hate incidents across the country since last March, up from its usual total of 100 incidents a year.
Days after the Atlanta shootings, President Joe Biden said he urged Congress to pass the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act. He said the measure would expedite the federal government’s response to hate crimes that have risen during the pandemic, support state and local governments to improve hate crimes reporting and make information on hate crimes more accessible to Asian American communities.

Returning from Iraq, pope talks about ‘risks’ taken on trip

By Cindy Wooden
ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT FROM IRAQ (CNS) – The Catholic Church’s commitment to dialogue with other churches and with other religions flows from the Gospel, but Pope Francis said he knows some Catholics disagree.
“Often you must take a risk” to promote harmony, he told reporters March 8 as he flew back to Rome from Baghdad. “There are some criticisms: ‘The pope isn’t courageous, he’s reckless.’ He’s doing things against Catholic doctrine. He’s a step away from heresy.’”
Still, he said, through prayer and listening to the advice of experts and aides, he has become convinced that God wants the church – and all humanity, for that matter – to continue promoting a sense of belonging to one human family.
And, he said, it does not matter if some religions, sects or groups seem further from sharing that vision.
“The rule of Jesus is love and charity,” the pope said. “But how many centuries did it take us to put that into practice?”
Preaching and living “human fraternity” – recognizing that all men and women, created by God, are members of the same human family and brothers and sisters to one another – is a process that requires effort, emphasis and repetition.
“You are human. You are a child of God. You are my brother or sister,” the pope said.

With sporadic violence continuing in Iraq, the pope’s trip March 5-8 involved a massive security operation with the deployment of thousands of police and military officers. Even the Vatican police and Swiss Guards wore bulletproof vests under their dark suits, an unusual practice on a papal trip.
But the other danger was posed by COVID-19 and the risk that people gathering to see the pope, who has been vaccinated, would create a surge in the already-rising number of cases in Iraq.
Pope Francis said the pandemic – not the security issue – was what made him repeatedly think, “maybe, maybe not” about the visit.
Decisions about foreign trips are “stewed over time,” the pope said. “I thought so much, prayed so much” about the Iraq trip because of the coronavirus pandemic, “and in the end I made the decision freely, but it came from within. And I said to myself the one who helped me decide this will take care of the people.”
And even though many experts do not expect the pandemic to be resolved by the fall, Pope Francis said he has promised to go to Budapest, Hungary, for a day in September to celebrate the closing Mass of the International Eucharistic Congress, which was postponed from 2020.
The other trip he would like to make soon, he said, is a visit to Lebanon.
Cardinal Bechara Rai, patriarch of the Maronite Catholic Church, even asked him to stop in Lebanon on the way to or from Iraq, the pope said, but doing that would seem like giving the Lebanese people “crumbs” given how they are suffering.
Asked about his meeting March 6 in Najaf with Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, an authority figure for Shiite Muslims in Iraq and around the world, Pope Francis described him as “a great man, a wise man, a man of God.”
The meeting, he said, “was good for my soul” and was another step on the path of promoting greater understanding and cooperation with Muslims.
The day after meeting the ayatollah, Pope Francis traveled to Mosul, a city terrorized and left largely in ruin by Islamic State militants who controlled the area from 2014 to 2017.
Even though he said he had seen photos of the ruined churches of Mosul, Pope Francis said standing amid the rubble was “unbelievable, unbelievable.”
But even more touching, he said, was the testimony of survivors, including of a mother who lost a son, who spoke about the importance of forgiveness and of rebuilding.
“We are so great at insulting people and condemning them,” he said, but too many people have forgotten the power of forgiving others.
Asked when, if ever, he will make a trip to Argentina, Pope Francis repeated that he imagined either dying or resigning and remaining in Rome, “my diocese.”
He joked that he had spent 76 years in Argentina and didn’t see why people wanted him to spend more time there.
But, denying he had what he termed “patrio-phobia,” he told reporters that he had planned a trip to Argentina, along with Chile, in November 2017. However, the trip was pushed back to January 2018 because of elections in Chile. And January in Argentina would have been just too warm.
“I don’t know if the trips will slow down now, but I can tell you that on this trip, I’ve felt more tired,” he said, adding that being 84 comes with some baggage.
However, he said, he does enjoy being with people, especially “after these months of imprisonment” because of the pandemic and the lockdown in Italy.
“I feel different when I am far from the people,” he said, adding that he would continue to follow the recommendations of government health authorities as far as holding general audiences or other events that could attract a large public.
“Closeness to the people of God” is an essential part of being a priest, the pope said. “The only ones who save us from pride are the holy people of God,” otherwise priests run the risk of acting like “an elite caste.”

Word change in missal doxology took effect on Ash Wednesday

By Catholic News Service
WASHINGTON (CNS) – A change in wording to the concluding doxology of orations in the Roman Missal, from “one God, for ever and ever” to “God, for ever and ever,” took effect on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 17.
A Feb. 4 memo to bishops from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Divine Worship said the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments wrote to the English-speaking bishops’ conferences in May 2020 to point out the current English translation that concludes “in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever” is “incorrect.”

An altar server holds a copy of the Roman Missal during Mass at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Alexandria, Va., in this 2011 file photo. (CNS photo/Nancy Phelan Wiechec)

“There is no mention of ‘one’ in the Latin, and ‘Deus’ in the Latin text refers to Christ. Therefore, the correct translation … is simply “in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever,” the memo said, adding that the prefect of the congregation “pointed out the importance of affirming this Christological truth amid the religious pluralism of today’s world.”
A copy of the memo was provided to Catholic News Service.
It said the correct translation was already reflected in the Roman Missal in other languages, including Misal Romano, the USCCB’s Spanish translation of the missal.
English translations of the Roman Missal for use by Catholics prior to the Second Vatican Council, such the St. Joseph’s Missal of the 1950s, “reflected the correct translation,” the memo noted. “However, when the postconciliar texts were published in English, the word ‘one’ was added.”
When the translation of the Roman Missal currently in use was underway in the 2000s, the International Commission on English in the Liturgy “pointed out the discrepancy to the congregation in Rome, but was told to retain the use of ‘one God’ in the new translation,” according to the memo.
After the doctrinal congregation’s directive last May, the USCCB’s Latin-rite bishops voted to amend the concluding doxology of orations, or “collects,” of the Roman Missal to reflect the change. The congregation confirmed the decision, as it had for the episcopal conferences of England and Wales, Ireland and Canada.
The translation change – “God, for ever and ever” – applies to other liturgical books, such as the Liturgy of the Hours, the memo said, adding that there is no need to publish new Roman Missals, because “it should not be difficult for the celebrant simply to omit the word ‘one’ when offering the prayer.”
But it added that publishers “are being informed of this change” and reprints or new editions of the Roman Missal will reflect the new translation, as will any worship aids for the faithful and other similar publications.

Society of the Divine Word marks 125 years of ministry in North America

By Dennis Sadowski
ASSISI, Italy (CNS) – Arriving in the United States as a refugee from Vietnam in 1980, Divine Word Father Quang Duc Dinh wasn’t sure what the future held.
“I was naive and innocent,” he told Catholic News Service.
Before long, he was able to begin seminary studies with the Society of the Divine Word, later becoming ordained in 1992.

Brother Wendelin Meyer, seen in an undated photo, was the first member of the missionary Society of the Divine Word to come to the United States, arriving Oct. 15, 1895, after a trip from Germany. He first came to the U.S. to bolster the society’s work at home by reaching out to German-speaking Catholics in New Jersey. (CNS photo/courtesy Society of the Divine Word) .

Today, at 59, he’s the provincial superior of the society’s Chicago province and helping other young men become missionaries to the world.
Father Dinh’s story is one that illustrates the missionary outreach work of the society: to bring the good news of Jesus to others, especially poor and marginalized people, as envisioned by its founder in Steyl, Holland, St. Arnold Janssen, who was canonized in 2003.
The Society of the Divine Word observed its 125th anniversary of the arrival of its first member in the United States Oct. 15. To mark the milestone, the society unveiled an online exhibit at
It takes viewers through the history of the order’s evolution from one man, Brother Wendelin Meyer – who volunteered to travel to the U.S. in the missionary spirit – through the most recent years that find priests of the order’s three U.S. provinces ministering in poor and marginalized communities around the world.
Titled “Empowered by the Word,” the exhibit recaps hallmark moments in the society’s U.S. ministries: the opening of a technical school for orphans in Techny, Illinois, outside of Chicago; the founding of the first seminary to train African American men who wished to become priests and brothers in Mississippi; and the broadening of outreach to marginalized communities in Appalachia beginning in the 1970s, which continues today.
“We serve the poor, minorities and marginalized people,” Father Dinh said.
The Vietnamese priest is a portrait of the multicultural spirit of the society. He is one of about 90 Vietnamese Divine Word priests trained in the U.S. He heads a province of more than 200 priests and brothers of 30 nationalities who serve in parishes in parts of Canada, the United States and several Caribbean island nations. Priests of the society’s Western and Southern U.S. provinces also serve widely.
Worldwide, the society has more than 6,000 members in 80 countries.
Brother Meyer arrived in Hoboken, New Jersey, Oct. 15, 1895, seeking German-speaking immigrants, a prime market for the society’s publications. He came to North America to bolster the society’s work at home. He sold magazines and pamphlets to finance his ministry while giving the newcomers a connection with their homeland.
During a trip to Chicago as the society looked for a new location to build its ministry, Brother Meyer learned that a 360-acre farm north of the city – owned by a German Catholic orphanage – was for sale. The property eventually was purchased and became the site of a trade school of orphan boys. It was there that the locale of Techny was born.
Techny today encompasses only the society’s Chicago Province property. It is within the town of Northbrook in Chicago’s sprawling northern suburbs.
Over the years, the society expanded. In 1909, the society opened St. Mary’s Seminary in Techny. It was the first Roman Catholic major seminary for missionaries in the U.S. Other seminaries followed.
Sacred Heart College in Greenville, Mississippi, opened in 1920 as the first seminary for forming African American priests. Within three years, it moved 300 miles south to Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, becoming known as St. Augustine Seminary.

The original home of missionaries in Bay St. Louis, Miss., is seen in 1920 on a page of an online exhibit marking the 125th anniversary of the arrival of the first Society of Divine Word missionary in the United States. The society later opened St. Augustine Seminary in Bay St. Louis as a successor to its Sacred Heart Seminary in Greenville, Miss., which the order established as the first institution for forming African American men wishing to become priests or brothers. (CNS photo/courtesy Society of the Divine Word)

Other schools and seminaries followed in places such as Girard, Pennsylvania; Duxbury, Massachusetts; Bordentown, New Jersey; Conesus, New York; East Troy, Wisconsin; Perrysburg, Ohio; and Granby, Quebec. Divine Word College in Epworth, Iowa, educates men and women for missionary service as priests, brothers, sisters and lay ministers today.
Father Dinh said the society’s work in the U.S. has welcomed the opportunity to reach out to marginalized people. For example, Divine Word priests ministered to German Americans who were targeted for discrimination during both world wars, Japanese Americans interred during World War II, and African Americans who struggled generations after slavery ended.
Today, Father Dinh said, the effort focuses in many U.S. communities on Latino newcomers as well as immigrants from Poland and elsewhere. In Appalachia today, food programs benefit poor children. And in Jamaica, Antigua and elsewhere, Divine Word priests live in poverty like the people they serve.
The work continues to stem from the prophetic vision Brother Meyer first saw when he arrived in New Jersey, Father Dinh explained.
“It’s part of God’s plan,” he said. “It’s unfolding in history right now.”

(Follow Sadowski on Twitter: @DennisSadowski)

Beatified teen showed that heaven is ‘attainable goal,’

By Junno Arocho Esteves
ASSISI, Italy (CNS) – Thousands sang and applauded as Italian teen Carlo Acutis was beatified in a town dear to him and to many Christians around the world: Assisi.
During the Oct. 10 beatification Mass, Italian Cardinal Agostino Vallini, the papal legate for the Basilicas of St. Francis and St. Mary of the Angels in Assisi, read Pope Francis’ apostolic letter proclaiming Acutis’ “blessed,” the step before canonization.
“With our apostolic authority, we grant that the venerable servant of God, Carlo Acutis, layman, who, with the enthusiasm of youth, cultivated a friendship with our Lord Jesus, placing the Eucharist and the witness of charity at the center of his life, henceforth shall be called blessed,” the pope decreed.
After the reading of the apostolic letter, the newly beatified teen’s parents, Andrea Acutis and Antonia Salzano, processed toward the altar carrying a reliquary containing their son’s heart.
The reliquary was engraved with one of the teen’s well-known quotes: “The Eucharist is my highway to heaven.”
Pilgrims flocked both to the Basilica of St. Francis for the beatification Mass as well as to the Shrine of the Renunciation at the Church of St. Mary Major, where the newly beatified teen’s remains were on display for veneration.
Men and women, boys and girls passed by the tomb quietly, some stopping to pray the “Our Father.” A young toddler blew a kiss goodbye to the young blessed as she passed by.

Known as the site where a young St. Francis renounced his father’s inheritance and embraced poverty, the shrine – like the city of Assisi and St. Francis himself – held a special place in Acutis’ heart.
The teen loved St. Francis “very much,” his mother, Antonia Salzano, told Catholic News Service Oct. 9. St. Francis “was a very Eucharistic soul who used to attend Mass twice a day,” and her son sought to imitate that same Eucharistic devotion throughout his brief life.
Archbishop Domenico Sorrentino of Assisi reflected on the link between the two saintly figures, and proclaimed that by “providential design, (St.) Francis and (Blessed) Carlo are now inseparable.”
“Carlo’s life – always united to Jesus – his love for the Eucharist, his devotion to the Holy Virgin, his making friends with the poor, brought him closer to the spirituality of the Poor One,” St. Francis, Archbishop Sorrentino said at the end of Mass. “Both invite us to live according to the Gospel.”
The liturgy was held inside the Basilica of St. Francis, but measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 meant that most of those attending sat outside on seats set three-feet apart, watching on big screens.
Many young men and women came to Assisi for the beatification. For many of them, the fact that a normal teen could be beatified was a source of hope and inspiration.
“With his life, Carlo made me see that despite the small or even great difficulties – like his illness – that we could live a full and happy life if we keep our eyes looking up toward heaven,” said 19-year-old Rosanna, who was among those attending the beatification.
In his homily, Cardinal Vallini said that Acutis’ beatification “in the land of Francis of Assisi is good news, a strong proclamation that a young man of our time, one like many, was conquered by Christ and became a beacon of light for those who want to know him and follow his example.”
Reflecting on the teen’s life, Cardinal Vallini said that like most young people his age, Carlo was a “normal, simple, spontaneous, friendly” teenager who used modern forms of communication to transmit the “values and beauty of the Gospel.”
For him, “the internet was not just a means of escape, but a space for dialogue, knowledge, sharing and mutual respect that was to be used responsibly, without becoming slaves to it and rejecting digital bullying,” the cardinal said.
Cardinal Vallini said that Blessed Acutis was a model of virtue for young men and women today, reminding them not to seek “gratification only in ephemeral successes but in the perennial values that Jesus proposes in the Gospel.”
“He gave witness that faith does not distance us from life but immerses us more deeply in it and showed us the concrete way to live the joy of the Gospel,” the cardinal said. “It is up to us to follow it, attracted by the fascinating experience of Blessed Carlo, so that our lives may also shine with light and hope.”

(Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju)

Vatican reaffirms, clarifies church teachings on end-of-life care

By Carol Glatz
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – With the legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia in many countries, and questions concerning what is morally permissible regarding end-of-life care, the Vatican’s doctrinal office released a 25-page letter offering “a moral and practical clarification” on the care of vulnerable patients.
“The church is convinced of the necessity to reaffirm as definitive teaching that euthanasia is a crime against human life because, in this act, one chooses directly to cause the death of another innocent human being,” the document said.
Titled, “’Samaritanus bonus,’ on the Care of Persons in the Critical and Terminal Phases of Life,” the letter by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was approved by Pope Francis in June, and released to the public Sept. 22.
A new, “systematic pronouncement by the Holy See” was deemed necessary given a growing, global trend in legalizing euthanasia and assisted suicide, and changing attitudes and rules that harm the dignity of vulnerable patients, Cardinal Luis Ladaria, congregation prefect, said at a Vatican news conference Sept. 22.
It was also necessary to reaffirm church teaching regarding the administration of the sacraments to and pastoral care of patients who expressly request a medical end to their life, he said.

A patient is pictured in a file photo chatting with a nun at Rosary Hill Home, a Dominican-run facility in Hawthorne, N.Y., that provides palliative care to people with incurable cancer and have financial need. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

“In order to receive absolution in the sacrament of penance, as well as with the anointing of the sick and the viaticum,” he said, the patients must demonstrate their intention to reverse their decision to end their life and to cancel their registration with any group appointed to grant their desire for euthanasia or assisted suicide.
In the letter’s section on “Pastoral discernment toward those who request euthanasia or assisted suicide,” it said a “priest could administer the sacraments to an unconscious person ‘sub condicione’ if, on the basis of some signal given by the patient beforehand, he can presume his or her repentance.”
The church’s ministers can still accompany patients who have made these end-of-life directives, it added, by showing “a willingness to listen and to help, together with a deeper explanation of the nature of the sacrament, in order to provide the opportunity to desire and choose the sacrament up to the last moment.”
It is important to carefully look for “adequate signs of conversion, so that the faithful can reasonably ask for the reception of the sacraments. To delay absolution is a medicinal act of the church, intended not to condemn, but to lead the sinner to conversion,” it said.
However, it added, “those who spiritually assist these persons should avoid any gesture, such as remaining until the euthanasia is performed, that could be interpreted as approval of this action.”
Chaplains, too, must show care “in the health care systems where euthanasia is practiced, for they must not give scandal by behaving in a manner that makes them complicit in the termination of human life,” the letter said.
Another warning in the letter regarded medical end-of-life protocols, such as “do not resuscitate orders” or “physician orders for life-sustaining treatment” and any of their variations.
These protocols “were initially thought of as instruments to avoid aggressive medical treatment in the terminal phases of life. Today, these protocols cause serious problems regarding the duty to protect the life of patients in the most critical stages of sickness,” it said.
On the one hand, it said, “medical staff feel increasingly bound by the self-determination expressed in patient declarations that deprive physicians of their freedom and duty to safeguard life even where they could do so.”
“On the other hand, in some health care settings, concerns have recently arisen about the widely reported abuse of such protocols viewed in a euthanistic perspective with the result that neither patients nor families are consulted in final decisions about care,” it said.
“This happens above all in the countries where, with the legalization of euthanasia, wide margins of ambiguity are left open in end-of-life law regarding the meaning of obligations to provide care.”
The church, however, “is obliged to intervene in order to exclude once again all ambiguity in the teaching of the magisterium concerning euthanasia and assisted suicide, even where these practices have been legalized,” it said.
Euthanasia involves “an action or an omission which of itself or by intention causes death, in order that all pain may in this way be eliminated.”
Its definition depends on “the intention of the will and in the methods used,” it added.
The letter reaffirmed that “any formal or immediate material cooperation in such an act is a grave sin against human life,” making euthanasia “an act of homicide that no end can justify and that does not tolerate any form of complicity or active or passive collaboration.”
For that reason, “those who approve laws of euthanasia and assisted suicide, therefore, become accomplices of a grave sin that others will execute. They are also guilty of scandal because by such laws they contribute to the distortion of conscience, even among the faithful.”
The letter also underlined a patient’s right to decline aggressive medical treatment and “die with the greatest possible serenity and with one’s proper human and Christian dignity intact” when approaching the natural end of life.
“The renunciation of treatments that would only provide a precarious and painful prolongation of life can also mean respect for the will of the dying person as expressed in advanced directives for treatment, excluding however every act of a euthanistic or suicidal nature,” it said.
However, it also underlined the rights of physicians as never being “a mere executor of the will of patients or their legal representatives, but retains the right and obligation to withdraw at will from any course of action contrary to the moral good discerned by conscience.”
Other aspects of end-of-life care the letter detailed included: the obligation to provide basic care of nutrition and hydration; the need for holistic palliative care; support for families and hospice care; the required accompaniment and care for unborn and newly-born children diagnosed with a terminal disease; the use of “deep palliative sedation”; obligation of care for patients in a “vegetative state” or with minimal consciousness; and conscientious objection by health care workers.

‘Together Strong: Life Unites’ is theme of March for Life set for Jan. 29

By Kurt Jensen
The Sept. 10 announcement of the theme for the March for Life – “Together Strong: Life Unites” – made it clear the annual national event, in some form, will proceed next Jan. 29.
But details of how the march, rally and pro-life conference, which together have drawn as many as 100,000 participants in past years, will cope with COVID-19 self-quarantine restrictions in the District of Columbia were not part of the announcement.
Asked on EWTN’s “Pro-Life Weekly” program that evening about whether people should start making plans, Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund, said: “You know, everybody has to make that decision on their own. You know, considering their own situations, et cetera.”

WASHINGTON – Pictured left to right, Cole Turner, Isabelle Comfort, Maggie Henderson and Alexia Balderas of the Catholic Campus Ministry of Mississippi State at the 2020 March for Life event. March for Life is set to take place on Jan. 29, 2021 with the theme ‘Together Strong: Life Unites.’ (Photo courtesy of Meg Ferguson)

She added, “But I certainly would be (making plans), and I obviously will be there this year. I think that standing for life and standing for inherent human dignity of every life from conception to natural death is all the more important this year when there is so much unrest, so much division in our country. We need to show that we are stronger together and that love and life unite us. They make us stronger.”
In July, Mancini had said “we will continue to discern throughout this year what steps should be taken,” regarding pandemic restrictions.
Social distancing and masks aren’t the issue. Washington health authorities require a 14-day self-quarantine for visitors “participating in nonessential travel” from high-risk areas. The quarantine is adjusted every two weeks, and as of Sept. 8, was extended to visitors from 30 states.
That’s a particular obstacle for the many high school and college groups who arrive on long-distance bus rides which have, over the decades, become the pulse of the event.
“If D.C. is still requiring a two-week quarantine for out-of-state travelers, I don’t see a way for us to attend,” said Ed Konieczka, assistant director of university ministry at the University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota. “We are taking care of the details that we can, and recognizing which things are out of our control.”
The university typically sends around 200 students and staff members to the march, and in 2018, some 20 students flanked President Donald Trump in the Rose Garden at the White House when he addressed the Mall rally on a video link. This past January, Trump addressed the rally in person, becoming the first president to do so.
The alternative to a Washington trip, Konieczka said, will be a rally that day in Bismarck. “We have been approached by the Diocese of Bismarck with a request to coordinate efforts to have the biggest March for Life event ever at our state capital. We have a shared vision for a large event, where any of our students unable to travel to D.C. will join with members of the diocese.”
Planners of state marches face the same uncertainty. “Right now with COVID and the restrictions, we are playing it by ear in Chicago,” said Denise Zabor, office manager for Illinois Right to Life.
March for Life has taken place in Washington every January since 1974. It’s always held on a date near the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s 1973 rulings, Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, which legalized abortion on demand.

Pro-life advocates gather outside the U.S. Supreme Court Jan. 27, 2017, during the annual March for Life in Washington. Officials with the March for Life organization in Washington announced Sept. 10, 2020, the theme for the 2021 national rally and march marking the Roe anniversary will be “Together Strong: Life Unites.” The event will take place in some form Jan. 29. (CNS photo/Leslie E. Kossoff)

“I believe it’s the rallying point for all of pro-life America,” said Dave Bereit, the founder of 40 Days for Life, who co-hosted the theme announcement with Mancini.
The announcement video included a cameo from Vice President Mike Pence, a longtime supporter of the March for Life, who said: “Stand for life. Because life is winning.”
On Sept. 3, the Trump campaign, in a letter to a coalition calling itself “Pro-Life Voices for Trump,” cited how the president has been “transforming the federal judiciary” by appointing federal judges and Supreme Court justices “who would not legislate an abortion agenda from the bench.”
The letter also promised to work for the passage of what’s called the “pain-capable” abortion ban, which has criminal penalties for abortions performed when an unborn child is in at least the 20th week of gestation; supporters of the measure cite scientific research showing a fetus at that stage can feel pain. Passage has been blocked by House Democrats and the threat of a Democratic filibuster in the Senate.
Trump also expressed support for the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act sponsored by Mississippi Republican Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi, which would codify an end to federal funding for abortion such as that received by Planned Parenthood.

(Editor’s Note: The March for Life website,, provides visitors to the site a way to sign up for updates on the Jan. 29 event.)

Annual audit shows more than 4,400 allegations of clergy abuse reported

By Catholic News Service
WASHINGTON (CNS) – More than 4,400 allegations of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy were reported during the year ending June 30, 2019, a significant jump from the previous auditing period, according to a report on diocesan and eparchial compliance with the U.S. bishops’ “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.”
Released June 25, the 17th annual report from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection states that 4,220 child sexual abuse survivors filed 4,434 allegations. In the 2017-2018 audit period, 1,381 survivors filed 1,451 allegations.
While the number jumped, the report said only 37 allegations involved current minors. Of these, the report said, eight allegations were substantiated, seven were unsubstantiated, six were unable to be proven, 12 remained under investigation, three were referred to religious orders and one was referred to another diocese.
The report attributed 37% of the new allegations to lawsuits, the introduction of victim compensation programs by dioceses and eparchies, and bankruptcies. An additional 3% of allegations emerged after a review of clergy personnel files, according to the report.
The allegations involved 2,982 clerics, including 2,623 priests, 46 deacons, 260 unknown persons and 53 others.
A breakdown of the allegations shows that 1,034 were substantiated, 147 were unsubstantiated, 1,434 were unable to be proven and 956 remained under investigation. Another 863 allegations were classified as “other,” meaning they were referred to a provincial superior when involving a cleric from a religious order or their status was “unknown.”
Conducted by StoneBridge Business Partners of Rochester, New York, the report covers the year from July 1, 2018, through June 30, 2019. The firm’s auditors visited 64 dioceses and eparchies and collected data from 130 more.
The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, based at Georgetown University in Washington, gathers data for the annual audit report.
The report comes as the U.S. bishops have taken steps in response to Pope Francis’ “motu proprio” “Vos Estis Lux Mundi” (“You are the Light of the World”), which was issued after the first global meeting of bishops to discuss the protection of minors in February 2019.
The papal document set new rules and procedures to hold bishops and religious superiors are accountable for abuse allegations made against them for committing abuse or mishandling abuse claims.
The U.S. bishops at their fall general assembly in November affirmed their episcopal commitment to hold themselves accountable for the handling of abuse claims. They have since implemented the Catholic Bishops Abuse Reporting Service to accept sexual misconduct allegations against bishops and eparchs.
The mechanism incorporates a website and a toll-free telephone number through which individuals can file reports regarding a bishop.
Despite such steps, Francesco Cesareo, chair of the all-lay National Review Board for the Protection of Children and Young People, noted that questions remain about whether the “audit is sufficiently adequate to determine if a culture of safety within dioceses has taken root.”
In a letter to Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez, USCCB president, that accompanied the report, Cesareo said revelations of episcopal wrongdoing, the establishment of compensation programs for abuse survivors, and a growing desire among laity for greater involvement in addressing clerical abuse led to questions arising about the audit process.
He said evidence in the audits also shows continuing “signs of complacency and lack of diligence on the part of some dioceses.”
Cesareo also commended 27 of the dioceses visited by StoneBridge auditors for conducting parish and school audits, a step that is not required under the charter.
He said review board members continue to believe such audits are important. “Until this occurs and every diocese implements parish audits, it is difficult to conclude that a diocese has indeed established a culture of safety,” he wrote.
In a preface to the report, Archbishop Gomez, apologized to everyone who has “endured abuse at the hands of someone in the church” and said a “pastoral commitment” remains for “helping every victim-survivor find healing and hope.”

This is the cover of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection annual report on dioceses’ compliance with the USCCB’s “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.” It was released June 25, 2020. (CNS photo/USCCB)

Citing the 37 allegations from current minors, Archbishop Gomez described that a key finding of the report is that “new cases of sexual misconduct by priests involving minors are rare today in the Catholic Church in the United States.”
Three dioceses were found in noncompliance with the charter:
– The Diocese of Oakland, California, for failing to evaluate the background of a visiting priest; the diocese later addressed the shortcoming.
– The Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia for not having a functioning review board; the archeparchy addressed the issue by naming new members and convening the body.
– The St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Catholic Eparchy, based in Chicago, for not having a working review board.
Three other entities chose not to participate including the Syro-Malankara Catholic Eparchy of St. Mary Queen of Peace of the U.S. and Canada, based in New York; the Chaldean Eparchy of St. Peter the Apostle, based in El Cajon, California; and the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of St. Nicholas of Chicago.
Under canon law, dioceses and eparchies cannot be required to participate in the audit, but it is strongly recommended that they do.
The audit collected information regarding the gender of those reporting abuse, the age when abuse is alleged to have started and the year an alleged offense occurred or began.
The data show that 82% of survivors were male and 18% were female. For 22% of survivors, the alleged abuse began at age 9, 59% from age 10 to 14, 19% from 15 to 17.
When the time frame of an alleged incident could be determined, auditors found that 57% of new accusations occurred or began before 1975, 41% occurred from 1975 to 1999 and 2% have occurred since 2000.
In addition, 88% of alleged perpetrators were priests who had been ordained for the diocese or eparchy in which the abuse was alleged to have occurred. And 57% of the 1,391 priests and deacons identified as alleged offenders had already been identified in reports from previous years, the report said.
Dioceses, eparchies and religious institutes reported paying out $281,611,817 for costs related to allegations during the audit year. The amount includes payments for allegations reported in previous years. The payout figure is just under the amount reported the previous year.

(Editor’s Note: The full annual report on compliance with the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People” of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops can be found online at

Knights ‘praying for years’ for beatification

By Kurt Jensen
WASHINGTON (CNS) – Father Michael McGivney, the founder of the Knights of Columbus, may be an ideal prospective saint for the current age, said Carl A. Anderson, supreme knight of the international fraternal order.
“We’ve been praying for years for this to occur, and finally this day has arrived,” he told Catholic News Service May 27.
First, he’s a pro-life hero. The miracle recognized by the Vatican paving the way for his beatification occurred in 2015 and involved an U.S. baby, still in utero, with a life-threatening condition that, under most circumstances, could have led to an abortion.
He was found to be healed after his family prayed to Father McGivney. “The Vatican likes to be the one to discuss more details than that,” Anderson said.
The Vatican announced early May 27 that Pope Francis, who met with the board of directors of the Knights of Columbus in February, had signed the decree recognizing the miracle through the intercession of Father McGivney. Once he is beatified, he will be given the title “Blessed.”
Father McGivney (1852-1890), ordained a priest for what is now the Archdiocese of Hartford, Connecticut, founded the Knights of Columbus at St. Mary’s Church in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1882. The fraternal order for Catholic men has become the largest lay Catholic organization in the world with 2 million members and sponsors a wide range of educational, charitable and religious activities.

Pope Francis has approved a miracle attributed to the intercession of Father Michael McGivney, founder of the Knights of Columbus, clearing the way for his beatification. Father McGivney is pictured in an undated portrait. (CNS file photo)

The initial work on his sainthood cause began in 1982 on the Knights’ centenary. His cause was formally opened in Hartford in 1997, and he was given the title “servant of God.” In March 2008, the Catholic Church recognized the priest heroically lived the Christian virtues, so he was given the title “venerable.”
His beatification ceremony will be held in Connecticut sometime this fall – like all other events, scheduling is uncertain because of the COVID-19 pandemic – “and sometime after that, we’ll be looking for another miracle,” Anderson said.
Generally, two miracles attributed to the candidate’s intercession are required for sainthood – one for beatification and the second for canonization.
Father McGivney, who will be the first American parish priest to be beatified and has long been a hero of working-class Catholics, can be viewed as a martyr of a pandemic. When he died from pneumonia complications at age 38 in 1890, it was during an outbreak of influenza known as the Russian flu in Thomaston, Connecticut. Some recent evidence, according to the Knights, indicates the outbreak may have been the result of a coronavirus.
Anderson praised Father McGivney’s modesty and “dedication to charity and unity and the way he embodied the good Samaritan” after founding the Knights of Columbus, originally a service organization to help widows and orphans, in New Haven. At the time, Father McGivney, the son of Irish immigrants, who was born in Waterbury, Connecticut, was an assistant pastor at St. Mary’s Parish. He is buried in New Haven.
“Father McGivney did not want to be the leader of the Knights of Columbus,” Anderson observed. “He was at first the group’s secretary and then the chaplain.”
Further, Father McGivney’s legacy also includes “the empowerment of the laity” through service projects, Anderson said. “His work anticipated the Second Vatican Council. He created a universal call to holiness that gave the laity a way to be more faithful Catholics. He provided a mechanism for them to go into society and make a difference.”

(Editor’s Note: The Knights have set up a new website for Father McGivney’s sainthood cause: