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Denver archbishop discusses February Pope Francis meeting

Denver, Colo., Feb 24, 2020 / 12:06 am (CNA).- The Archbishop of Denver offered his impressions of a Feb. 10 meeting between some U.S. bishops and Pope Francis, at which the bishops’ discussion with the pope included some questions about the ministry of Fr. James Martin, and about a 2019 meeting between the pontiff and the priest.

Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver told CNA it was a “privilege” to meet with the pope and his fellow bishops of the U.S. bishops’ conference Region XIII, adding that “the meeting was a grace.”

“The Holy Father spoke very openly and freely with us regarding many topics,” Aquila said, acknowledging that the meeting “has now become a source of some controversy.”

Last week CNA reported that during the Feb. 10 meeting, Pope Francis discussed his Sept. 30 Vatican visit with Fr. James Martin, an American Jesuit who is well-known for speaking and writing about the Church’s ministry to people who identify themselves as LGBT.

Bishops who met with the pope this month told CNA that Pope Francis expressed frustration with the way his meeting with Martin was interpreted and framed by some journalists.

Since it was reported by CNA, those facts have been confirmed by additional bishops who were in the meeting: Archbishop John Wester and Bishop Steven Biegler.

In a Feb. 21 column published by the National Catholic Reporter, Archbishop John Wester added that the bishops’ discussion with the pope also addressed other aspects of Martin’s ministry, including questions about a recent speech Martin delivered to presidents of Catholic universities, “and his work in general with the LGBT community.”

Regarding the Sept. 30 meeting, some bishops told CNA that the pope’s frustration about the media’s framing of the event was evident in “both his words and his face,” while Wester wrote that, from his view, he did not think the pope had been “angry, upset or annoyed.”

For his part, Aquila told CNA that Pope Francis expressed frustration with the way his meeting with Martin was interpreted and framed by some journalists in a way that was clear, Aquila said, especially for “those who understand Italian.”

Pope Francis spoke in Italian during the meeting with U.S. bishops, and a translator offered English translations for bishops who required it.

Among accounts of the meeting from bishops who attended it, a difference of understanding has emerged regarding another point in the discussion of Martin’s ministry. Some bishops told CNA last week that the pope had said to their group that Martin had received some correction about the way the Sept. 30 visit was framed. But according to Wester, the pope did not say that Martin was given a correction.

“I vaguely remember some mention of people in leadership trying to clarify any misunderstandings about his ministry,” the archbishop wrote, while adding that he thought that reference had to do with another issue.

Reflecting on the meeting, which spanned more than two hours and, for some bishops, relied on a translator, Aquila told CNA that “I think it is reasonable that some remarks from the Holy Father would have been interpreted in different ways by different bishops.”

Wester, one of seven U.S. bishops to have endorsed “Building a Bridge,” Martin’s 2017 book on the Church and homosexuality, commented last week on the length of the meeting, and said it would be “difficult for anyone to remember with precision anything that was said” during the conversation.

From his perspective, Aquilla added that “all of us present at the meeting were making an effort to receive the pope in good faith,” even while bishops understood the pope on some points in differing ways.

Aquila emphasized to CNA the fruitful and open discussions with Pope Francis and the bishops.

“The most important part of the meeting was, of course, our unity with Pope Francis, the Vicar of Christ on Earth,” the archbishop said.


Catholic uni reform triggered California abortion mandate that violated federal law

Los Angeles, Calif., Feb 23, 2020 / 03:01 pm (CNA).- A California rule to require abortion coverage in health care plans now faces scrutiny from federal officials who say it violates the law. The controversial rule was a reaction to two Jesuit universities’ removal of abortion coverage, prompting Planned Parenthood and others to lobby state officials to block the effort.

“In 2013, Loyola Marymount University and Santa Clara University, two religiously affiliated universities in California, implemented changes to their employee health care plans to no longer provide elective abortion coverage,” the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights said in its Jan. 24 notice of violation to the State of California.

“Abortion providers and advocacy groups, including Planned Parenthood, learned of this development and pressured (California’s Department of Managed Health Care) to not only reverse its decision to allow the coverage changes, but also to make elective abortion coverage mandatory for all health care plans falling under (the department’s) jurisdiction,” the notice continued.

The 2014 California rules mandating abortion in health care plans were a response to a “pressure campaign,” the notice said. The HHS office ruled that these rules violated the Weldon Amendment, which bars federal funds to state or local governments if they discriminate against healthcare entities, including health insurance plans, that decline to pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions.

James G. Hanink, a philosophy professor who taught at Loyola Marymount University from 1976 to 2015, had discovered the abortion coverage in his employee health plan in the summer of 2013. Soon after, the university planned to drop the coverage.

“When LMU announced that it had dropped the abortion coverage, I thought that the school could still, if the light was shining on it, act on principle,” Hanink told CNA Feb. 20.

The health plan changes to remove abortion coverage initially won approval from state officials. However, the changes prompted significant protests from some faculty as well as lobbying from abortion advocates. After California mandated abortion coverage in health plans, the universities complied—despite Catholic teaching against cooperation with the provision of abortion.

Hanink lamented the continued coverage of abortion in Loyola Marymount University’s health plan. He said the university should again work to drop abortion coverage if federal officials bring an end to California’s ban on abortion-free health care plans.

“LMU should act in favor of human rights. Doing so, moreover, could help rebuild the badly tarnished Jesuit legacy,” said Hanink, whose scholarly focuses include the philosophical aspects of abortion, the personhood of the unborn human being, and the work of Jacques Maritain.

Hanink backed the Weldon Amendment action.

“Insofar as the action is effective, I strongly support it,” he told CNA. “I doubt, though, that it will be effective. State leadership is locked into pro-abortion policies. Litigation will be endless.”

However, Hanink was also sceptical towards his former employer’s actions.

“What LMU does has largely been a matter of public relations. In Southern California ‘the public’ is largely secular. It sees abortion coverage as a positive thing. LMU pretty much caves in.”

CNA contacted Loyola Marymount University and Santa Clara University for comment but did not receive a response by deadline.

Patrick J. Reilly, president of the Virginia-based Cardinal Newman Society, said the Weldon Amendment action against California was “very encouraging.”

“The California mandate was a brazen violation in need of enforcement, but pro-abortion politics got in the way. Without the Trump administration’s leadership on this, we would have never seen action,” said Reilly, whose organization focuses on strengthening Catholic fidelity in education.

“Abortion is not healthcare, and it certainly has no place in truly Catholic education,” he told CNA Feb. 21. “This is a mandate that no Catholic college should have obeyed. They should have fought the mandate all the way to the Supreme Court. But certainly, if the mandate is repealed, no faithful Catholic college should provide abortion coverage voluntarily.”

In 2013, Hanink told the National Catholic Register he thought “bureaucratic incompetence” was behind the inclusion of abortion coverage. The university had dropped the coverage in 1988 but it somehow returned to the health plan before 2013.

When California officials in 2014 required health plans to cover abortions, their mandate was so broad it did not exempt churches and religious communities.

In last month’s notice, federal authorities sided with complaints from two groups, Skyline Wesleyan Church of La Mesa and the Missionary Guadalupanas of the Holy Spirit. Both had objected to being forced to cover abortions.

The HHS Office of Civil Rights estimated that California’s abortion coverage mandate wrongly affected at least 35 employer groups serving over 28,000 enrollees, including 13 groups that met California’s definition of “religious employer.” It gave the state of California 30 days to comply with federal law, or face limits on federal HHS funds.

Some California authorities, like Gov. Gavin Newsom, voiced defiance.

“Despite a federal opinion four years ago confirming California’s compliance with the Weldon Amendment, the Trump Administration would rather rile up its base to score cheap political points and risk access to care for millions than do what’s right,” he said. “California will continue to protect a woman’s right to choose, and we won’t back down from defending reproductive freedom for everybody — full stop.”

In June 2016, Obama Administration officials rejected the California Catholic Conference’s federal complaint against the mandate. The HHS Office for Civil Rights said it found no violation of the Weldon Amendment.

At that time, leaders with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said the ruling was “contrary to the plain meaning of the law.” They said it was “shocking” that the federal government allowed California to force all employers, including churches, to fund and facilitate elective abortions.

The effort to remove abortion coverage from university health plans sparked division at the Catholic universities, the National Catholic Register reported in September 2013. A group of faculty members wrote to then-president David Burcham and then-chair of the board of trustees Kathleen Aikenhead objecting to the removal.

“LMU can either be a great American Catholic university in the Jesuit and Marymount traditions or it can be an institution that demands obedience to and conformity with Catholic doctrine; it cannot be both,” they said.

In 2013 the Santa Clara University chapter of the American Association of University Professors responded to the decision to drop abortion coverage, alleging that the decision “caused widespread concern on campus about the limitation of women's rights and the failure to follow established governance procedure.”

“The campus chapter was active in facilitating a campus response to the decision, including coordinating a special meeting of the Faculty Senate to consider a course of action,” the chapter’s website said.

Santa Clara University faculty voiced their rejection of the changes to the health care plan by a vote of 215 to 89 in December 2013, the California Lawyer magazine reported. Before the policy was revised in 2013, Santa Clara’s abortion coverage also applied to dependents of faculty and staff.

Reilly lamented the mindset among some faculty at Catholic schools.

“Bad actors within Jesuit universities are as much to blame for the California mandate as are state legislators, and Catholic families should take note of that when choosing a college,” he charged. “I wouldn’t want my tuition money paying for someone’s abortion coverage.”

“Pray for the conversion of hearts at these universities,” he told CNA. “Sadly, people who embrace gender ideology and the contraceptive mentality have a lock on the leadership of many large Catholic universities, where Catholic identity has steadily declined.”

Christopher Kaczor, a philosophy professor at Loyola Marymount, told CNA in August 2014 that California government officials’ scrutiny of abortion coverage in health plans was hindering Catholic colleges’ ability to be consistently Catholic.

“A Catholic university, if it is to retain its identity, must be distinctive in its fidelity to fundamental truths,” he said. Kaczor cited the Society of Jesus’ 2003 document “Standing for the Unborn,” saying that “the defense of human life prior to birth is a justice issue.”

Reilly saw some promise in the appointment of federal judges who tend to favor religious freedom.

“The political threat to Catholic education is enormous today, but our short-term hope rests with the courts, and our long-term hope depends on Catholic education itself, to form a new generation of virtuous leaders who will change the culture,” he said.

Kevin Eckery, a spokesman for the California Catholic Conference, told CNA Feb. 18 that the Missionary Guadalupanas sisters and the Catholic conference do not aim to start or continue a “culture war” or to revoke California’s federal funding. Rather, they just want their beliefs respected and a return to policy that allows abortion-free health plans.

“We’re interested in simply rolling back to the status quo that existed prior to 2014,” Eckery said.

Father's bid to halt 8th month abortion makes headlines in Colombia

Bogotá, Colombia, Feb 23, 2020 / 10:00 am (CNA).- A late term abortion case has made national headlines in Colombia after a father lost a court appeal to save the life of his unborn son.

Juan Pablo Medina became a national figure in Colombia in the first week of February, after he went public with his efforts to prevent his girlfriend from procuring the abortion of their eight-month-old unborn child.

The 25-year-old law student had dated his girlfriend, Angie Tatiana Palta, 22, for 14 months when they mutually agreed to have a baby together.

Medina says he supported Palta throughout the pregnancy, which was healthy. A Dec. 6 ultrasound with Medina present showed the baby, close to eight months old, doing fine and with no deformities.

But, he says, the situation changed when Palta's mother and family found out about the pregnancy on Dec. 27. Medina claims the family pressured Palta to have an abortion. He was then told that Palta was in the hospital, supposedly in critical condition, in great mental distress, and that the baby had deformities - grounds for abortion in Colombia. 

In a Jan. 31 interview with, Medina said “that seemed strange to me because the last ultrasound on Dec. 6 showed the baby was in optimal condition, which makes you wonder.” 

When he visited Palta in the hospital, he was told that the baby was fine and that Palta was requesting an abortion on the legal grounds of danger to her mental health. But, he said, the hospital's psychological evaluation indicated she was not suffering psychological trauma but was confused.  

After Palta was discharged from the hospital, Medina lost all contact with her for eight days, prompting him to take legal action to protect his unborn child. Medina filed a criminal complaint alleging attempted homicide, and made an emergency appeal for guardianship of the child. He bought a crib and other necessities, anticipating the need to care for the baby as a single father.

On Jan. 31, Medina posted on Twitter that he was trying to save his son, whom he had named Juan Sebastián, or JuanSe for short. The hashtag #SalvemosaJuanSe (Let's save JuanSe) was soon trending among Colombians on Twitter. 

Medina was interviewed by on the same day, and the story became headline national news.

In the interview, Medina said Palta was unwilling to talk and that he had lost all contact with her. Through contact with relatives, Medina said he learned that Palta intended to abort because she was “not ready to welcome the child, wants to finish her career and doesn't have the financial means.”

Meanwhile, Palta went to a ProFamilia abortion clinic, which claimed that she was “in psychological distress and was having suicidal thoughts and so on,” Medina said.

He told Blu Radio Feb. 11 that he only found out she had procured the abortion on Feb. 7, when he reviewed the case file for the criminal complaint he had filed. 

As a law student who suspended his studies to deal with the situation, Medina had lost his emergency appeal for guardianship. The judge in the case requested the psychological examination from Palta's healthcare provider which had earlier determined she was not experiencing psychological trauma but was confused. Instead, ProFamila sent the judge a psychological evaluation conducted by a gynecologist, not by a psychologist or a psychiatrist, who verified that an abortion could be done on the grounds of the mental health of the mother. 

The judge ruled that that evaluation was insufficient and ordered a new one. However, ProFamilia, an affiliate of International Federation of Planned Parenthood, ignored the order and went ahead with the abortion, claiming it was a “fundamental right” and that, according to National Health Services guidelines, it should normally be done within five days.

In a Feb. 11 statement, the Colombian bishops' conference said that “in addition to the pain of knowing that Juan Sebastián was already past seven months gestation and that he was in perfect health, we have been perplexed by how the institutions of this country did not guarantee the rights of the father who persistently and tenaciously fought for the life of his son through the applicable channels.”

“We join the suffering of Juan Sebastián's family, especially that of his parents, and the pain that so many brothers feel for this tragic event.”

The bishops also called abortion “an injustice that cries out to heaven.”

Prayer vigils and rallies were held outside ProFamilia clinics Feb. 11 in Bogotá, Cartagena, Medellín, and other cities.

Jesús Magaña, president of the United for Life platform, told ACI Prensa, CNA's Spanish language news partner, that “we're in a very serious situation promoted and supported by seven judges on the Constitutional Court.” 

Magaña said that “it's impossible for this to continue happening.” 

“We call on the Congress of the Republic of Colombia to take action on the matter and we call on the Constitutional Court to stop its judicial activism and once again respect the Constitution.”

Medina want to know what happened to his son's body and wants to recover it for a Christian burial.

Columbia’s Constitutional Court legalized abortion in 2006 in cases of rape, fetal deformities and when a doctor determines there is a risk to the life or health of the mother. In a 2018 ruling, the court affirmed its 2006 decision, and declared abortion to be a “human right,” and asked the government to issue further regulations defining the legal circumstances for abortions to be performed. The Ministry of Health is currently working on developing those regulations.

Natalia Bernal Cano, a doctor of constitutional law, filed two lawsuits last year seeking to recognize the unborn as having human rights and to completely ban abortion on the grounds that it “does serious harm to the babies and the pregnant mothers” involved.

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

Pope Francis: Ask God for the strength to love your enemies

Bari, Italy, Feb 23, 2020 / 09:00 am (CNA).- Ask God for the grace to love your enemies, Pope Francis said Sunday in a homily in the Italian city of Bari.

“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. This is the Christian innovation. It is the Christian difference,” Pope Francis said Feb. 23.

“Ask God for the strength to love. Say to Him: ‘Lord, help me to love, teach me to forgive. I cannot do it alone, I need you.’ … We need to pray more frequently for the grace to live the essence of the Gospel, to be truly Christian,” the pope said.

Pope Francis offered Mass in Bari for the conclusion of the “Mediterranean, Frontier of Peace" meeting of bishops from 19 Mediterranean countries, which took place Feb. 19-23. An estimated 40,000 people attended the pope’s Sunday Mass in Bari’s Piazza Libertà.

In his homily, the pope said that Christ on the cross perfectly lived out God’s command to Moses in the Book of Leviticus chapter 19: “Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy.”

“He did not point a finger at those who wrongfully condemned him and put him to a cruel death, but opened his arms to them on the cross. And he forgave those who drove the nails into his wrists,” Francis said. “If we want to be disciples of Christ, if we want to call ourselves Christians, this is the only way.”

“Having been loved by God, we are called to love in return; having been forgiven, we are called to forgive; having been touched by love, we are called to love without waiting for others to love first; having been saved graciously, we are called to seek no benefit from the good we do,” he said.

Pope Francis said that “the worship of God” contradicts the “culture of hatred.” He said one can fight this culture of hatred by not giving into the “cult of complaint.”

“How many times do we complain about the things that we lack, about the things that go wrong! Jesus knows about all the things that don’t work. He knows that there is always going to be someone who dislikes us. Or someone who makes our life miserable. All he asks us to do is pray and love,” he said.

“This is the revolution of Jesus, the greatest revolution in history: from hating our enemy to loving our enemy; from the cult of complaint to the culture of gift. If we belong to Jesus, this is the road we are called to take,” Pope Francis said.

The only kind of “Christian extremism” is “the extremism of love,” he said.

Pope Francis said that there is no getting around the Lord’s command to “love your enemies” because Jesus is “direct and clear … His words are deliberate and precise.”

The pope said that some people may think that they cannot “survive in this world” if they love and forgive in a world where “the logic of power prevails and people seem to be concerned only with themselves.”

“As Saint Paul told us in the second reading: ‘Let no one deceive himself... For the wisdom of this world is folly with God.’ God sees what we cannot see. He knows how to win. He knows that evil can only be conquered by goodness,” he said.

He added: “Jesus, with his limitless love, raises the bar of our humanity.”

“Today let us choose love, whatever the cost, even if it means going against the tide. Let us not yield to the thinking of this world, or content ourselves with half measures,” Pope Francis said. “Then we will be true Christians and our world will be more human.”

Pope Francis on Middle East: War should never be considered normal

Bari, Italy, Feb 23, 2020 / 07:00 am (CNA).- War is madness, Pope Francis told bishops gathered in the Italian city of Bari Sunday in a speech that warned against populist sentiments and condemned countries that sell weapons that fund wars in the Middle East.

“War can never be mistaken for normality or accepted as an inescapable way to regulate divergences and opposing interests. Never,” Pope Francis said Feb. 23 in Bari, Italy.

“The international community has been content with military interventions, whereas it should have built institutions that can guarantee equal opportunities and enable citizens to assume their responsibility for the common good,” he said.

The pope also denounced “the serious sin of hypocrisy” committed by “many countries,” who at international conferences and meetings “talk about peace and then sell weapons to countries that are at war.”

Pope Francis addressed more than 50 bishops from 19 Mediterranean countries gathered in the coastal city of Bari for the “Mediterranean, Frontier of Peace" meeting taking place Feb. 19-23.

The Italian bishops conference who organized the five-day meeting have described it as a “synod” for bishops from North Africa, the Middle East, and Europe to discuss issues pertinent to the Mediterranean region.

Pope Francis, who traveled by helicopter to participate in the last day of the meeting, used the opportunity to underline the importance of working toward peace through dialogue in the Middle East and North Africa.

“The Mediterranean region is currently threatened by outbreaks of instability and conflict, both in the Middle East and different countries of North Africa, as well as between various ethnic, religious or confessional groups,” he said. “Nor can we overlook the still unresolved conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, with the danger of inequitable solutions and, hence, a prelude to new crises.”

“The preaching of the Gospel cannot be detached from commitment to the common good; it impels us to act tirelessly as peacemakers,” Pope Francis said.

“For our part, brothers, let us speak out to demand that government leaders protect minorities and religious freedom. The persecution experienced above all – but not only – by Christian communities is a heart-rending fact that cannot leave us indifferent,” he said.

The pope also spoke out on behalf of migrants and refugees, including the many who have died while attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea by boat in recent years.

“What use is a society of constant technological progress, if it becomes increasingly indifferent to its members in need? In preaching the Gospel, we hand on a way of thinking that respects each person by our unremitting effort to make the Church a sign of special care for the vulnerable and the poor,” he said.

“In the Mediterranean region, these include all who are fleeing war or who have left their homelands in search of a humanly dignified life. The number of these brothers and sisters – forced to abandon their loved ones and their lands, and to face conditions of extreme insecurity – has risen as a result of spreading conflicts and increasingly dramatic environmental and climatic conditions,” Francis added.

The pope called on the bishops to see the “cemetery” of the Mediterranean Sea as “a place of future resurrection” for the entire region.

“We can never resign ourselves to the fact that someone who seeks hope by way of the sea can die without receiving help, or that someone from afar can fall prey to sexual exploitation, be underpaid or recruited by gangs,” he said.

Pope Francis said that a sense of fear of “what is instrumentally painted as an invasion” fuels the rejection of others.

“The rhetoric of the clash of civilizations only serves to justify violence and fuel hatred,” he added.

“Of course, hospitality and dignified integration are stages of a difficult process; however, it is unthinkable to be able to face it by raising walls. It frightens me when I listen to some speeches by some leaders of the new forms of populism, and it makes me hear speeches that sowed fear and then hatred in the 1930s of the last century,” Pope Francis said.

“All too often, history has known conflicts and struggles based on the distorted notion that we are defending God by opposing anyone who does not share our set of beliefs,” he said. “Indeed, extremism and fundamentalism deny the dignity of the human person and his or her religious freedom, and thus lead to moral decline and the spread of an antagonistic view of human relationships.”

To counter this, the pope said: “we need to develop a theology of acceptance and dialogue leading to a renewed understanding and proclamation of the teaching of Scripture.”

Francis said that amid deep divisions in societies, Catholics are called to offer witness of unity.

“Just as Jesus lived and worked in a context of differing cultures and beliefs, so we find ourselves in a multifaceted environment scarred by divisions and forms of inequality that lead to instability. Amid deep fault lines and economic, religious, confessional and political conflicts, we are called to offer our witness to unity and peace. We do so prompted by our faith and membership in the Church, seeking to understand the contribution that we, as disciples of the Lord, can make to all the men and women of the Mediterranean region,” he said.

Pope Francis met the Mediterranean bishops in Bari’s Basilica of St. Nicholas, where he prayed in the crypt, venerating the relics of the saint.

In his Angelus address in Bari, Pope Francis prayed particularly for the people of Syria who have suffered from many years of war.

“While we are gathered here to pray and reflect on peace and the fate of the peoples facing the Mediterranean, on the other side of this sea, particularly in the northwest of Syria, a huge tragedy is taking place,” he said.

Violence in northwestern Syrian province of Idlib has displaced more than half a million people, primarily women and children, since December. Pope Francis has repeatedly called for peaceful negotiation and humanitarian protections during the Russian-backed Syrian government’s offensive Idlib, Syria’s last rebel-held territory, which borders Turkey.

The pope said Feb. 23 that the international community has been silent in the face of the tears of suffering children, and called on all actors involved to “put aside calculations and interests to safeguard the lives of civilians and many innocent children who pay the consequences.”

Pope Francis told the Italian bishops that war is madness because “it is crazy to destroy houses, bridges, factories, hospitals, and to kill people and destroy resources rather than building human and economic relationships.”

“There is no reasonable alternative to peace, because every attempt at exploitation or supremacy demeans both its author and its target. It shows a myopic grasp of reality, since it can offer no future to either of the two. War is thus the failure of every plan, human and divine,” the pope said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Computer programming teen Carlo Acutis to be beatified 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dominicans open hospital in Peru to serve the poor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

L’Arche reports sexual misconduct by founder Jean Vanier 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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