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Supreme Court may hear another wedding cake case

Portland, Ore., Oct 23, 2018 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- Oregon bakers Aaron and Melissa Klein have appealed to the Supreme Court Oct. 23 after being fined $135,000 for refusing to make a wedding cake for a lesbian wedding.

 

The Kleins, who are practicing Christians, owned Sweet Cakes by Melissa, a bakery in Gresham, Oregon.

 

In January 2013, the couple declined to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding, citing their religious views. The women who had attempted to commission the cake filed a complaint with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, claiming discrimination based on their sexual orientation.

 

While the matter was pending, Aaron Klein posted the first page of the couple’s complaint--which contained their names and contact information--on the Sweet Cakes by Melissa Facebook page. The women say they received death threats as a result of the posting, which was taken down after one day.

 

The business shuttered in September 2013.

 

In April 2015, the Oregon labor bureau ordered the Kleins to pay damages to the plaintiffs. The couple initially attempted to raise the cost of the fine on the crowdfunding website GoFundMe, but their effort was taken down by the site, which cited a violation of their terms of service.

 

Lawyers in the case, Klein v. Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, petitioned the Supreme Court for certiorari on Monday, having exhausted all appeal options in Oregon. The Kleins claim that their First Amendment right to free speech was violated by the state’s decision.

 

Their prior appeal to the Oregon Supreme Court was rejected in June 2018.

 

Also in June, the Supreme Court issued a narrow ruling in favor of Colorado baker Jack Phillips, owner of the bakery Masterpiece Cakeshop, who refused to make a cake for a same-sex wedding. The court found that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had not respected Phillips’ sincerely-held religious beliefs when it ordered him to make a custom cake for a same-sex couple. Philips refuses to make custom cakes for other occasions he disagrees with, such as Halloween, bachelor parties, and divorce celebrations.

 

However, the narrow ruling applied only to Philips’ particular case, limiting its applicability to other religious liberty cases. Philips maintained he was willing and happy to sell a cake to any customer, but was not willing to custom-design a cake for an event that would violate his conscience.

 

Unlike Masterpiece Cakeshop, Sweet Cakes by Melissa only made customized cakes.

 

The Supreme Court has one month to respond to the Klein’s petition for certiorari, but they can extend this by 30 days if they need additional time. If the case were to be heard by the Supreme Court, a decision could be reached by the middle of next year.

Two pastors reinstated in Chile after abuse investigation

Rancagua, Chile, Oct 23, 2018 / 03:50 pm (ACI Prensa).- The Diocese of Rancagua announced it has restored two priests to ministry who were accused of sexual abuse after the investigations showed that the incidents reported against them “are not credible.”

The two priests are Aquiles Correa Reyes and Gino Bonomo Ugarte, both accused of belonging to a network of 14 priests known as “The Family,” allegedly involved in sexual misconduct and the sexual abuse of minors.

After failing to prove any associated crime, the priests were acquitted by civil courts Sept. 28.

The Apostolic Administrator of Rancagua, Bishop Fernando Ramos reinstated the priests in their position as pastors Oct. 18. Fr. Aquiles Correa returns to the Immaculate Conception Parish of the Company of Jesus in Graneros and Fr. Gino Bonomo rejoins Our Lady of the Rosary in Pumanque.

The preliminary investigations were conducted by Fr. Patricio Cavour Calderón, who remains responsible for investigating the other complaints against priests in the diocese.

“The Family” case became known after a former youth ministry coordinator in Rancagua, Elisa Fernández, told Channel 13 in May that in the last two years she went to see the local bishop Alejandro Goic four times to warn him about this group.

Bishop Goic then removed the 14 priests from ministry May 21. He was the president of the National Council for the Prevention of Abuse and Accompaniment of Victims but his resignation from that position was accepted by the Chilean bishops May 26 in the midst of the scandal. On June 28, Pope Francis accepted Goic's resignation as Bishop of Rancagua.

Two other priests accused of belonging to “The Family, ” Héctor Fuentes and Freddy Gorigoitia, submitted their resignation from the priesthood July 28.

 

This article was originally published by our Spanish language sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Analysis: Will LGBT debate define the youth synod?

Vatican City, Oct 23, 2018 / 03:40 pm (CNA).- As the fifteenth ordinary general session of the Synod of Bishops draws to a close in Rome, the proposed text of the final document is expected to emerge presently.

The synod is meant to address the themes of young people, faith, and vocational discernment.

Throughout the synod, there has also been discussion about whether the final document will include new language for addressing people who experience same-sex attraction, as the synod’s working document, or instrumentum laboris, does.  

If “new language” is included in the final document, it is likely to become the focal point of Catholic and secular media attention after the document is released. Regardless of the richness or depth of the synod’s final text, for many the entire meeting might be summarized - or not - in four letters: LGBT.
 
A survey of news coverage shows that the question of LGBT language has already come to dominate media attention, and the public musings of many of the participants. And advocacy campaigns to include such language are clearly underway.

A matter of respect?

The use of the term “LGBT” in the synod’s working document caused a storm this spring. Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, the synod’s secretary general, initially said that the language was taken from a pre-synodal document created by young people during a preparatory meeting held in Rome March 19-24. The acronym did not, in fact, appear in the pre-synod document.
 
But while the inclusion of “LGBT” terminology has garnered attention, it has only gained public support from a small minority of synod participants.

During a press conference last week, Cardinal John Ribat of Papua New Guinea appeared to sum up that support. He said that the Church should speak to young people “in the language they are using.”

Young people want the Church to “call us and address us as this because this is who we are,” the cardinal said.

Ribat was echoing arguments by clerics and others who say that respect for Catholics who experience same-sex attraction requires addressing them as they address themselves.

Those arguments extend beyond the use of a specific acronym. They also apply to synod discussions about whether terms like “family” and “marriage” can and should be used in ways redefined by contemporary Western culture.

Some Catholics, and many outside the Church, wonder what the big deal is.

But for many bishops, the drive to use what is often cast as “respectful” or “inclusive” language actually brings with it – intentionally or otherwise – a raft of problems.

The first is the apparent conflation, as illustrated by Cardinal Ribat, of all young people with those who identify themselves with the “LGBT” movement. There are a great many young Catholics, including many who experience same-sex attraction, who oppose the political and cultural campaign pushing “sexual identity.” Indeed, beyond a few outliers given prominence by the synod’s secretariat, it is hard to see any real groundswell of support for the adoption of new language.

Furthermore, critics say that using LGBT language has become the shorthand for an effort to import the identity politics of the West into the Church’s thinking and language. Those in favor of adopting the acronym into the Church’s official vocabulary maintain that it represents no shift in Church teaching, only a posture of dialogue and respect.

What defines us?

Synod bishops seem to be uniformly interested in addressing the question of how to present the Church’s teaching on sexuality to young people raised in a culture defined by identity politics, which frames issues like same-sex marriage as a matters of “human rights.”

But the consensus breaks down around proposals that seem to adopt contemporary language of sexuality as language of identity.

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia used one of his interventions during the synod to highlight, in stark terms, what he sees as the fallacy behind the “LGBT” label.

“There is no such thing as an ‘LGBTQ Catholic’ or a ‘transgender Catholic’ or a ‘heterosexual Catholic,’” Chaput told the synod, “as if our sexual appetites defined who we are; as if these designations described discrete communities of differing but equal integrity within the real ecclesial community, the body of Jesus Christ.”

As many Western countries have learned in recent years, the fracturing of a common identity into smaller constituency bases comes with a direct loss of unity for the whole. In the context of the Church, some bishops argue, “sexual identity” language is not a question of inclusion or exclusion, but a matter ecclesiology and human dignity.

Some of the most ardent supporters of LGBT language in the Church have contended that adopting this vocabulary is an essential part of upholding the “dignity” of same-sex attracted Catholics. Fr. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and prominent supporter of this cause, has said that “People have a right to name themselves, and [LGBT] is the name they chose.”

Others, like Cardinal Wilfrid Napier of Durban, Africa’s most prominent cardinal and one of the synod’s most outspoken figures, have disputed this argument, pointing out that this kind of language elevates something the Church defines as a disordered inclination into a defining characteristic.

“Why define people by their sexual inclination or preference or practice? Especially when it runs counter to nature, the Church’s law, tradition and teaching?” Napier asked on Twitter.

Napier and others argue that the Church recognizes human beings not as they define themselves but as creatures made in God’s image. Baptism defines the Christian as a child of God and a member of the Body of Christ in the Church, they say.

Those bishops argue that the language of self-identification, while central to post-Enlightenment liberal thought, squares badly with Catholic theology because it insists that human beings are defined by their desires rather than by the fact that they are creatures made in the image of their creator.

LGBT terminology, they say, advances the idea of a “dignity of difference” rooted in a particular sexual desire, rather than common dignity derived from the unity of bearing God’s image.

Tempest in a Teapot?

While debate about an acronym might seem like a tempest in a teapot, many bishops argue that those four letters suggest a worldview in which man is defined in relation to himself and other people, but not God.

As one synod-watcher succinctly put it to CNA: “Paraphrasing James Carville – it’s the anthropology, stupid.”

Other bishops have sought to underscore the need for the synod move beyond a narrow debate about a particular kind of terminology.  

As the synod continues, and production of its final text looms, there is a feeling among many synod fathers that the issue of LGBT language is being driven by only a small minority of participants, and by a much larger force outside the synod hall.

Responding directly to a comment by Fr. Martin that the adoption of LGBT terminology was a key consideration for the synod, Cardinal Napier said that he didn’t know what synod Martin was talking about, as he could not recall the issue being mentioned more than two or three times, “one a forceful repudiation of the use of the term in Church documents.”

Nevertheless, some bishops say the language will end up in the document, even though it does not appear to have a clear base of support, either among the synod father or young Catholics.

One young synod observer told CNA that actual “dialogue” on the issue seemed one-sided, comparing the small group pushing for the inclusion of LGBT language to a “drum circle in a public park.”

“It’s a big noise from a small number of people, they talk a lot about inviting you in, there’s a lot of incessant repetition, and don’t they seem interested in hearing anything but the sounds they’re making.”

Nevertheless, during a press conference Oct. 23, Cardinal Luis Tagle said of LGBT language that his “hunch is that it will be there.”

“It is not a synod which pretends to provide all solutions and all answers, clear solutions and clear answers” Tagle added. “Life is not clear, and the life of young people now is really not clear.”

Still, other bishops have seemed to suggest that a more traditional anthropology will be reflected in the document.  

Archbishop Peter Comensoli of Melbourne, a member of the drafting committee for the final document, said last week that presenting Church teaching on sexuality is about recognizing that everyone is a sinner, and everyone needs to be found by God and receive his love.

“We are also the sinners who are called to be at the foot of the cross in our lives. So, in the sense of welcoming, of receiving, and of entering into the friendship of Christ, we also take our lives, me included, to the foot of the cross. And that’s every single person,” he said.

A discussion group led by Cardinal Oswald Gracias, noted that a “proclamation of chastity, as achievable and good for our young people” was conspicuously absent from the instrumentum laboris, suggesting that ought to be a focus of any discussion on sexuality.

Another group, led by Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, highlighted the “ideological colonization” by Western countries who tie economic and medical aid “an acquiescence to Western moral values in regard to sexuality and marriage,” something echoed recently by Cardinal Souraphiel of Ethiopia.

Some bishops seem to regard the whole matter as unhelpful distraction. As Chaput’s intervention noted, what is needed is “the confidence to preach Jesus Christ without hesitation or excuses to every generation, especially to the young.”

As the synod session nears its end, it remains to be seen whether the push for LGBT language will emerge in the final document. But despite media attention, it seems clear that a majority of synod bishops – perhaps even a “moral unanimity” – are looking for less talk of LGBT, and more talk of INRI.

Radical new UK abortion bill ‘unlikely’ to become law

London, England, Oct 23, 2018 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- Pro-life advocates have responded cautiously to a proposed new law to expand access to abortion nationwide and force legalization on Northern Ireland, where the practice remains illegal in all but exceptional cases.

 

The bill was proposed by a Labour Member of Parliament on Oct. 23.

 

Diana Johnson MP presented the motion as a Ten Minute Rule Bill, by which backbench MPs propose legislation to the House of Commons. It passed by a vote from 208-123, with fewer than half of members voting either for or against the bill.

 

Clare McCarthy, spokesperson for Right To Life UK, explained to CNA that “Ten Minute Rule Motions are generally used as profile raisers by MPs,” and that they “very rarely become law.”

 

By proposing this bill, McCarthy said that Johnson “appears to be trying to give the impression that there is support in Parliament for her radical proposals, ahead of bringing forward an amendment to a future government bill.”

 

Although the bill was passed through the initial legislative stages, the House of Commons is unlikely to allocate additional time to debate or advance the bill, Right To Life UK told CNA.

 

“Even though this motion has a slim chance of becoming law, pro-life groups all over the UK will recognize the risk posed by this extreme measure which threatens the safety of women and their babies,” said McCarthy.

 

“They will now commit themselves to ensuring its defeat so that women and babies receive the genuine care and support that they need.”

 

In addition to forcing legal abortion on Northern Ireland, where local legislation prohibits it except as a life-saving measure for the mother, the proposed bill would establish some of the world’s most permissive abortion laws throughout the United Kingdom.

 

The bill would make void the Abortion Act 1967, which established a 24-week limit on the procedure throughout Great Britain, and requires women to get approval from two doctors before undergoing an abortion.

 

According to Conservative MP Fiona Bruce, the proposed changes are “not only unconstitutional” but also “untimely” given the state of relations between England and Northern Ireland.

 

Speaking in debate over the bill, Bruce warned that its passage would “set a dangerous constitutional precedent of interference” that would “completely undermine the substance and spirit of the Good Friday Agreement.”

 

Bruce also raised the point that people living in Northern Ireland do not appear to want legal abortion. In 2016, a majority of people living in the province voted to keep their current abortion law. Recent polling by ComRes shows that about two thirds of Northern Irish women believed that it was up to Northern Ireland--and not MPs throughout the rest of the UK--to decide if, and when, abortion were to be made legal.

 

This number was even higher amongst people between the ages of 18 and 34, with 70 percent saying that the British parliament should not dictate abortion law in Northern Ireland.

 

Additional ComRes polling has suggested that many people in the UK are uncomfortable with the country’s current abortion laws. A total of 70 percent of people surveyed were in favor of lowering the UK’s current limit of 24 weeks, which is among the most permissive in Europe.

 

Over nine out of 10 women surveyed said they support an explicit ban on sex- selective abortion.

Parma eparchy says August attack didn’t happen, places priest on leave

Parma, Ohio, Oct 23, 2018 / 02:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Ruthenian Eparchy of Parma has announced that a priest who was reportedly attacked in August has been placed on administrative leave due to a credible accusation of sexual misconduct with a minor.

Fr. Basil Hutsko is accused of misconduct alleged to have occurred 35 years ago (or in 1983), the eparchy stated.

“Though Father Basil Hutsko denies the accusation, Bishop Milan Lach, SJ, having heard from the priest, the Review Board, and the Promotor [sic] of Justice, has found the accusation to be credible,” the eparchy said. “A finding that the accusation is credible is not a finding of guilt,” it added.

In August, Hutsko had been reported to have been attacked at his parish. The eparchy’s statement said that attack did not take take place.

The eparchy “has recently verified with a member of Father Basil Hutsko’s immediate family that the incident Father Basil Hutsko reported on Aug. 20, 2018, did not occur,” the statement said.

An August statement attributed to the eparchial chancery which was widely shared on Facebook said Fr. Hutsko “was attacked and knocked unconscious” in the altar server's sacristy at his parish after celebrating the Divine Liturgy.

That statement said the priest was choked and his head slammed to the ground, making him lose consciousness. According to the statement, the attacker said, “This is for all the kids.”

Fr. Hutsko, 64, was serving as pastor of St. Michael parish in Merrillville, Ind., immediately south of Gary.

The August statement was signed by Fr. Thomas J. Loya, who is pastor of Annunciation Byzantine Catholic Church in Homer Glen, Ill.

A source close to Fr. Hutsko confirmed that the priest was hospitalized in August, but did not have additional knowledge about the incident.

Jeff Rice, spokesman for the Merrillville police, told the Chicago Tribune Fr. Hutsko had been “definitely bruised and banged up.”

The police department alerted the FBI about the supposed incident.

Later in August, the eparchy said that an abuse complaint had been made against Fr. Hutsko in 2004, but it was not deemed credible. The complaint was made by a woman who said the priest had abused her as a child between 1979 and 1983.

Fr. Hutsko has also served at parishes in Cleveland, Dayton, and Marblehead, Ohio, and Sterling Heights, Michigan.

The Parma eparchy has also placed on administrative leave Fr. Stephen Muth, in response to a recent credible accusation of sexual misconduct involving a vulnerable adult.

“The Eparchy of Parma is committed to protecting children and helping to heal victims of abuse,” the chancery stated. “We are deeply sorry for the pain suffered by survivors of abuse due to actions of some members of the clergy.”

Pope Francis lauds wisdom of old age

Vatican City, Oct 23, 2018 / 01:01 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis spoke about the wisdom and knowledge of the faith older people can share with the young at a book presentation Tuesday.

“One of the virtues of grandparents is that they have seen many things in their lives,” the pope said Oct. 23. “I advise [grandparents to have] a lot of love, a lot of tenderness… and prayers” for the young people in their lives who have left the faith.

“The faith is transmitted always in dialect. The dialect of the home, the dialect of friendship,” he said.

Pope Francis answered a series of questions from both young and elderly people at the presentation of a book published in Italian and English, called “Sharing the Wisdom of Time.”

It consists of interviews with older people from around the world and includes the responses of Pope Francis to 31 of the testimonies, as relayed in conversations with Jesuit Fr. Antonio Spadaro, editor of the Italian journal “La Civilta Cattolica.”

Among those who asked a question was the film director Martin Scorsese, who recalled his childhood growing up in the Catholic faith and attending St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City.

Scorsese said he was fortunate to have loving parents and a priest who became a mentor to him in his formative years. In a time when the world seems to be “marked by evil” and “we see the painful human failings of the institutional Church, how do we old people help young people stay in the faith? How can we help the Church in this endeavor?” he asked Francis.

The pope said that people must teach that cruelty is wrong, that torture “is the destruction of human dignity.” He also emphasized the gift of tears, which he said is “human and Christian and softens the heart.”

“And closeness between young people and old people,” he said.

To a question from a 26-year-old Italian woman about the “culture of waste,” and the pressures of individualism and competition, he said, the most mature young people “are those who go on the way with service and risk.”

He also said “a gesture of open and outstretched hand comes to my mind,” encouraging youth to “get your hands dirty.”

Congressman asks House to protect religious minorities in Iraq

Washington D.C., Oct 23, 2018 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- Congressman Jeff Fortenberry introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives Oct. 5 a security resolution intended to protect religious minorities in northern Iraq.

“Much is at stake. Iraq and the region risk losing entire minority communities and, with them, the centuries-old healthy pluralism that played the quiet but essential role of holding people of diverse faiths together,” Fortenberry said in an Oct. 17 statement.

Assistance for Iraqi Christians, Yazidis, and other communities victimized by the Islamic State must be combined with a plan for local security to facilitate the safe return of these minorities to their homelands, the resolution says.

The Christian and Yazidi minorities of northern Iraq were decimated by the Islamic State in 2014. Iraq’s Christian community once numbered 1.5 million, but today less than 200,000 Christians remain.

Fortenberry called on the U.S. government to “develop a coordinated and implementable plan for a stabilization and security mission in the region,” which incorporates local security forces and police units with “regularized national military structures.”

“Re-securitization is necessary to ensure the success of our humanitarian support for restoring the once-rich tapestry of ethnic and religious diversity that existed in the region,” he continued.

The Nebraska congressman traveled to northern Iraq last summer with USAID Administrator Mark Green and Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback, on a trip evaluating how U.S. aid money is being applied through multilateral organizations, such as the U.N., and assessing the situation of Iraqi minorities on the ground.

“Without a new security apparatus,” economic aid “will not be sustainable,” Fortenberry told CNA after that trip.

Christian and Yazidi communities in northern Iraq need security as they rebuild, he said.

USAID announced Oct. 16 that it is increasing assistance to religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq by around $45 million. This new commitment brings the total amount in planned and active efforts in support of minority communities in northern Iraq to more than $239 million.

Last week USAID leader Mark Green met with Vatican officials to discuss development and recovery efforts in Iraq.

During the Rome visit, Green told CNA that he hopes USAID’s efforts are “strengthening the capacity of organizations on the ground for the long run.”

The hope, Green said, is to “continue to build up this part of Iraq, so that families say, ‘my future is here, I can live here, my children can go to school here, there will be the kinds of jobs that keep them here.’”

A young Iraqi Catholic, Safa al Abbia, participated in the 2018 Synod of Bishops on young people, the faith, and vocational discernment as an auditor.

Al Abbia told the Synod bishops that the main challenge facing young people in Iraq is “peace and stability and their right to live in dignity.”

In his intervention, Al Abbia said that he will never forget the face of his friends who told him, ‘See you next week,’ after Mass. He never saw again because they were “burned under the fire of the bombed car.”

He asked for prayers for Iraq and said, “Don’t forget us because we have a wonderful group of young people that are steadfast in their faith, salt to the earth as Jesus said.”

 

US bishops to hold retreat following abuse scandals

Washington D.C., Oct 23, 2018 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- The bishops of the United States will meet for a week-long retreat to reflect upon the current situation facing the Church in America. The meeting will take place early next year.

 

In a statement issued by the US bishops’ conference Oct. 23, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, USCCB president and Archbishop of Galveston-Houston, said that Pope Francis had offered the services of his personal preacher to direct the retreat.

 

“The Holy Father has kindly offered the preacher to the Papal Household, Reverend Raniero Cantalamessa, O.F.M. Cap., to serve as the retreat director as we come together to pray on the intense matters before us. For this, I am grateful,” DiNardo said.

 

The bishops will gather and at the University of St. Mary of the Lake in Mundelein, Illinois, from January 2-8. The university houses the primary seminary for the Archdiocese of Chicago, often referred to simply as the Mundelein Seminary.

 

DiNardo also expressed his gratitude to Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago for offering to host the event.

 

It was Pope Francis who first suggested that American bishops hold a retreat as they consider how to respond to the still ongoing sexual abuse crises facing the Church.

 

On Sept. 13, Cardinal DiNardo met with Pope Francis in Rome, together with other leaders from the USCCB, to discuss the various scandals unfolding in the United States. DiNardo also met with the pope earlier this month in what the US bishops’ conference described as a “regularly scheduled visit” to the Curia.

 

The announcement of the retreat comes as the American bishops prepare to meet in Baltimore in November for the general assembly of the US bishops’ conference. That meeting is widely expected to focus on how the Church can respond to the fallout of the scandal surrounding Archbishop Theodore McCarrick and the growing number of investigations into allegations of clerical sexual abuse in different states.

 

Authorities in 14 different states, including the District of Columbia, have either announced or already begun investigations into the abuse of minors. Federal authorities in Pennsylvania have also opened an investigation into the dioceses of that state.

 

In September, the USCCB Administrative Committee announced a series of policies aimed at both addressing the sexual abuse crisis and increasing accountability and transparency in how bishops dealt with allegations, including against themselves. These included a proposed  third-party reporting mechanism for accusations, a code of conduct for bishops, and new protocols for bishops who either resign or are removed from office following abuse allegations.

Cardinal highlights human trafficking and women's issues at synod

Vatican City, Oct 23, 2018 / 11:00 am (CNA).- Women in Burma are working to end human trafficking, Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon said Tuesday. The cardinal called the issue a big problem for the country and one which shifts focus from other conversations on women at the synod on young people, faith, and vocations.

Burma is also known as Myanmar, a name which the U.S. government and many pro-democracy activists oppose, because they say it was illegally imposed on the country by its military dictatorship.

“The situation of the young people here in Europe and in Asia is quite different. In Myanmar, the women, with the help of some religious congregations and the Church, are focusing especially on how to save the young girls and women from human trafficking,” Bo said during a press conference Oct. 23.

The Burmese cardinal said that his homeland sees high levels of human trafficking into Thailand and China, and that China’s “one child policy” had created a demand for the illegal trade in women and girls.

In addition to highlighting the “practical level” aid the Church was working to provide to at-risk women, Bo also noted other serious issues faced by young people in his country like poverty, drug use, and a lack of education.

At the same press conference, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila said he had noticed the synod assembly has been “especially sensitive to listening to the feminine voice.” His comments came in response to a question about the extent to which women were allowed to participate in the synodal sessions, running from Oct. 3-28.

Tagle said the testimonies inside the synod hall from young women auditors, young women religious, and women experts have given “a much-needed expansion of horizon.”

“When we talk about diversity, it’s not only about cultures but also about the different voice of women,” he said.

The Bishop of Dolisie in the Republic of Congo, Bienvenu Manamika Bafouakouahou, said that though synod themes have not been “Euro-centric” in and of themselves, for him, coming from Africa, there are “some aspects that do not affect us directly.”

He mentioned the ongoing debate about the use of so-called LGBT language in Church document as an example. He said this topic is being addressed in Africa, but “it is not a priority right now” the way it is in Europe.

Cardinal Tagle said he does not think the discussions have been too Western-focused, though every language “has its own terminology.”

Asked whether the recently reformed procedures had proven effective, Tagle said that questions about synodal processes had been “a burning question” at the end of every synod.

The Filipino cardinal said in the past Benedict XVI had tried to make the process more concise, holding a synod assembly for only two weeks, instead of the 25 days of the current meeting. Tagle recalled that at the end of the sessions people said they had to rush, and that it was not enough time. “But now there are three weeks and people say it’s too long,” he said with a laugh.

He joked that if he were God, he would not know how to answer people’s prayers, since some pray for a shorter synod and others pray for a longer synod.

DC attorney general announces abuse investigation

Washington D.C., Oct 23, 2018 / 09:47 am (CNA).- The District of Columbia's attorney general has opened an investigation into clerical sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Washington. The announcement was made during a Mayor-Council breakfast meeting on Oct. 23.

 

A statement released by DC attorney general Karl Racinev said that “while we generally don’t talk publicly about our confidential enforcement activity, I can report that our office has launched a civil investigation into whether the Archdiocese – which is a nonprofit institution – violated the District’s Nonprofit Act by potentially covering up allegations of sexual abuse of minors.”

 

Racine told the breakfast meeting that “according to the law, nonprofits are required to work for a public purpose; if they are in fact covering up child sex abuse, that is clearly not in the public interest.”

 

CNA contacted the attorney general’s office and asked if the investigation was in response to allegations it had received, or if it was a proactive step being taken on the AG’s own initiative. A spokesperson for the attorney general’s office declined to comment and said they were not prepared to answer “detailed questions” about the announcement.  

 

Racine previously stated in a radio interview in August that he had received considerable pressure from the public to open such an investigation.

 

The Archdiocese of Washington is currently led by Cardinal Donald Wuerl as interim-administrator pending the appointment of a successor by Pope Francis.

 

A spokesman for the archdiocese told CNA that archdiocesan officials met with the attorney general last month and stressed their eagerness to engage in a collaborative and cooperative process.

 

The spokesman also said that the archdiocese encouraged the attorney general to consider a wider investigation into all bodies with a child protection mandate, including other charities and public schools, in the interests of the public good. “Clearly the attorney general has decided to go another way,” the spokesman said.

 

On Oct. 15, the Archdiocese of Washington released a list of clergy who had been credibly accused of sexual abuse. At the time of that release, the archdiocese stressed that no priest currently in ministry had been accused of sexual abuse, and that no credible allegations had been received concerning the abuse of minors in nearly twenty years.

 

News of the attorney general’s investigation comes only one day after the opening of a special hotline for residents of the district to report allegations of clerical sexual abuse. That line was announced Monday, Oct. 22 by federal prosecutors at the Superior Court Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.

 

Following the publication of the Pennsylvania grand jury report in July, attorneys general in several states have announced similar inquiries, including in Michigan, Missouri, Maryland, New York, and New Jersey. Last week, federal prosecutors served subpoenas to the dioceses of Pennsylvania, opening a new investigation into clerical sexual abuse in that state.

 

The Washington attorney general specifically emphasised the trend, saying in his remarks Tuesday that “our investigation brings the count of states with open investigations to 14.”

 

The Archdiocese of Washington is home to nearly 700,000 Catholics, six Catholic colleges and universities, and 93 Catholic schools.

 

As the last archdiocese to be led by former cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Washington has been the subject of considerable attention and scrutiny during a summer in which several different sexual abuse scandals have unfolded at once.

 

Despite accusations of sexual abuse or harassment against McCarrick concerning his time in several dioceses in New York and New Jersey, no public accusations have been made concerning his time in Washington, either while archbishop or in retirement.