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Prosecute pornographers for obscenity, Congressmen tell AG

Washington D.C., Dec 6, 2019 / 04:30 pm (CNA).- Four members of Congress have requested that the Department of Justice (DOJ) use obscenity laws already on the statute book to prosecute major pornography producers and distributors.

In a letter to the DOJ provided to National Review, Reps. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.), Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), and Brian Babin (R-Tex.) all warned of an “explosion in pornography” that is fueling violence against women, human trafficking, and child pornography.  

The members asked Attorney General William Barr to bring back the Obscenity Prosecution Task Force in the DOJ’s Criminal Justice Division. The task force, founded in 2005 under the George W. Bush administration, was responsible for invesitgating and prosecuting producers of hard core pornography under obscentiy laws. The task force was dissolved by Eric Holder, Attorney General under President Barack Obama, in 2011.

Rep. Banks, who led the letters signatories, said in a statement provided to CNA that the internet and other technologies have brought about convenience, but that has a “dark side” to it.

“Anyone connected to the Internet – including children – has on-demand access to billions of photos and videos of people having sex or committing other lewd acts,” Banks stated.

“The prevalence of pornography in our society has consequences, especially for our children. It’s time we start talking about it,” Banks said.

Obscenity laws are already on the books forbidding obscene pornography online, on TV, at motels, and through retail, but the laws need to be enforced, the letter says.

“Given the pervasiveness of obscenity, it’s our recommendation that you declare the prosecution of obscene pornography a criminal justice priority and urge your U.S. Attorneys to bring prosecutions against the major producers and distributors of such material,” the letter stated.

Pornography has been declared a “public health crisis” by 15 state legislatures. President Trump, as a 2016 presidential candidate, signed the Children’s Internet Safety Presidential Pledge to prioritize enforcement of obscenity and anti-child pornography laws.

Pope Francis, in a recent meeting at the Vatican with technology executives from Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Paramount Pictures, emphasized the responsibility of technology companies to protect against the abuse and exploitation of children.

New McCarrick lawsuits brought as New Jersey litigation window opens

Newark, N.J., Dec 6, 2019 / 03:30 pm (CNA).- Two new lawsuits were filed against Theodore McCarrick and New Jersey dioceses this week, after the state temporarily lifted its statute of limitations on sexual abuse allegations.

The two lawsuits allege that McCarrick sexually assaulted two males while he was bishop of Metuchen and archbishop of Newark, in some cases at the cathedral rectories. One of the males was a minor at the time of the assault.

The other male was James Grein, who originally went public with his allegations against McCarrick in July of 2018 in the New York Times. Grein said he was abused by McCarrick, a family friend, beginning at age 11 when McCarrick was a priest in the Archdiocese of New York.

In his lawsuit filed on Thursday, Grein said the abuse continued while McCarrick was Bishop of Metuchen and Archbishop of Newark; the counts of sexual assault in Grein’s lawsuit were alleged to have taken place in the 1980s, by the time he was an adult.

Other counts include gross negligence by the Diocese of Metuchen and Archdiocese of Newark.

Theodore McCarrick was laicized for sexual abuse of minors and adults in February after a Vatican canonical penal process triggered by an initial complaint made in the Archdiocese of New York was found “credible” and subsequent investigation showed a history of alleged sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults.

In one of the two lawsuits in New Jersey courts this week, plaintiff John Bellocchio alleged that McCarrick “engaged in unpermitted sexual contact” with him when Bellocchio was a minor, “approximately 13 or 14 years old” in “approximately 1995 or 1996” while McCarrick was Archbishop of Newark.

The abuse allegedly occurred at a parish in the archdiocese as McCarrick was “presiding [at] ceremonial services as Archbishop.”

Bellocchio’s family attended St. Francis of Assisi parish in Hackensack, New Jersey, and he had “participated in youth activities and/or church activities at St. Francis”

In the other lawsuit, plaintiff James Grein alleged that McCarrick “engaged in unlawful sexual contact” with him “at times” when he was bishop of Metuchen, from around 1982 to 1986, and then while McCarrick was archbishop of Newark from around 1986 to 1989.

Grein also filed a lawsuit in August against the Archdiocese of New York for alleged abuse by McCarrick while he was a priest of the archdiocese.

Grein alleged that some of the abuse in the 1980s took place “at times” in the rectories of the cathedrals of Metuchen and Newark; McCarrick allegedly pressed his naked body against Grein’s and grabbed his genitals.

Grein also alleged gross negligence on the part of the Diocese of Metuchen and Archdiocese of Newark for not properly recognizing and addressing the threat McCarrick posed.

A spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Newark stated to CNA that “The Archdiocese of Newark takes all allegations of sexual abuse seriously. We are carefully reviewing the allegations in new lawsuits. Today and every day, we stand with survivors of clergy abuse on their journey towards healing.”

“We reassure the faithful that we continue to do all we can to promote the healing of victims, to enact structures of accountability, and to provide greater transparency into the activities of the Archdiocese of Newark. Cardinal Joseph Tobin’s Statement of Accountability on our website represents an important step in our ongoing efforts to heal the Body of Christ and uphold our commitment to the faithful,” the statement continued.

Anthony P. Kearns III, Esq., spokesperson and chancellor of the Diocese of Metuchen, stated that “it is our moral obligation to face any allegations, even those from long ago, with transparency and truth to ensure that justice is served and to make certain these actions can never be repeated.”

“The Diocese of Metuchen is aware of the pending lawsuits and while we cannot discuss pending litigation in detail, we can say with confidence that every allegation of abuse, as a matter of strictly adhered to policy, has been and will continue to be reported to law enforcement.”

The diocese also pointed to the Independent Victim Compensation Program of the five New Jersey dioceses which serves as “an efficient alternative to litigation; one that is both speedy and transparent, and which can resolve their claims with a significantly lower level of proof and corroboration than required in a court of law.” Claims through the program are accepted through Dec. 31, the diocese said. 

McCarrick was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of New York by Cardinal Francis Spellman in 1958, and rose through the ranks to become one of the most prominent, powerful, and well-known ecclesiastical figures in the Church before he was laicized in 2019.

He was appointed as the bishop of Metuchen, New Jersey, in 1981, and appointed as archbishop of Newark in 1986. He served there until 2001 when he was appointed as archbishop of Washington, D.C. He served until his retirement in 2006, but even in retirement he traveled frequently despite reported sanctions placed on him by Pope Benedict XVI in 2008.

After the Archdiocese of New York found allegations against him to be “credible” and other allegations were publicized to the press, he was subsequently assigned by Pope Francis to a life of prayer and penance in August of 2018.

McCarrick was laicized in February of 2019 after the Vatican’s expedited investigation found him guilty of “solicitation in the Sacrament of Confession, and sins against the Sixth Commandment with minors and with adults, with the aggravating factor of the abuse of power.”

In a canonical deposition by the Archdiocese of New York in December of 2018, Grein reportedly said that McCarrick abused him during confession.

A religious congregation of blind sisters contemplates the face of Christ

Turin, Italy, Dec 6, 2019 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- In Turin, Italy, the Daughters of Jesus the King is a religious community of  blind and visually impaired sisters who aim for holiness, and to be a sign that in Christ, there are no barriers that cannot be overcome.

Sister Lorena Logrono, superior of the Daughters of Jesus the King, told ACI Prensa, CNA's Spanish-language news partner, that the origin of the congregation traces back to the Poor Daughters of Saint Cajetan, which was founded by Blessed Giovanni Maria Boccardo 135 years ago.

“When Blessed Giovanni Maria Boccardo became ill, he left the Congregation of the Poor Daughters of Saint Cajetan  in the hands of his brother Luigi, who was also appointed head of the institutes for blind girls in Turin,” she explained.

“There a young woman asked Fr. Boccardo about becoming a religious, but she couldn't be admitted because she was blind. Some time later, he received the inspiration to found a congregation for blind people, which would have the charism of the Poor Daughters of Saint Cajetan but be dedicated to contemplation.”

“And then, in 1932, the contemplative branch, the Daughters of Jesus the King, began,” the sister said.

Sister Lorena, who does see, belongs to the Congregation of the Poor Daughters of Saint Cajetan and is the superior of the Daughters of Jesus the King in Turin, Italy.  

“The Daughters of Jesus the King have always had the assistance of a sister who does see, more for practical matters like, when they have to go to see the doctor, but inside the convent everything is adapted and they are completely independent,” Logrono said.

There are eight members of the Daughters of Jesus the King, and they are between 38 and 100 years of age.

Sister Maria Patrizia Speculato, 69 entered the congregation at 21.

“I had studied physical therapy in Florence at the institute for the blind and there I got to know the congregation. I had felt since I was a little girl the Lord's call and although I pulled back from that for a while, when I finished studying I saw that the Lord was calling me again. And the desire to consecrate myself to Him rose up again. That enabled me to overcome all of the difficulties for entering, such as leaving my family which is from Naples and go to live in Turin. When you have a vocation you do everything necessary to follow it,” she told ACI Prensa.

Sister Maria Patrizia explained that her charism is to “offer the life of prayer and sacrifice for the Holy Father, for the priests and their sanctification, and for preserving and spreading the faith.”

They pray the complete Liturgy of the Hours because they have it translated into Braille, as well as many other books on spirituality. They also do an hour of Euchastic Adoration every day; they meditate an hour in the morning and a half an hour in the afternoon; they pray the rosary after Holy Mass.

“Our life is to grow in intimacy with Christ,” Sister Maria Patrizia explained.

 

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.

 

Catholic leaders say food stamp cuts will harm people, but not put them to work

Washington D.C., Dec 6, 2019 / 02:05 pm (CNA).- A new rule that will disqualify roughly 700,000 people from the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly called food stamps, will not help people find or keep employment, leaders of Catholic charitable and social policy organizations told CNA.

“Just because suddenly they're not eligible for SNAP doesn't mean they don't need SNAP. It doesn't mean they don't need nutrition assistance,” Julie Bodnar, a policy advisor for the department of Domestic Social Development at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told CNA.

“So they're going to turn elsewhere and the Church is going to strive to meet those needs, but it's hard. There's no increased resources on our end, so I think people will do their best, but it's going to be a struggle to try to respond to that increased need,” Bodnar added.

On Dec. 4, the Trump administration officially announced a change in SNAP eligibility rules that will apply to single adults between the ages of 18-49 who do not have children and are not disabled. Such adults qualify for food stamps if they work at least 20 hours a week for more than three months within a three-year period. However, states have until now been allowed to grant waivers for the work requirement in areas with high rates of unemployment.

The new rule tightens restrictions on these waivers, only allowing them in areas where the unemployment rate is 20% above the national average unemployment rate, and at least 6% over a two-year period. The national unemployment rate in October was 3.6%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

This new rule would disqualify 688,000 people from food stamps when it takes effect in April 2020, the USDA told NBC News. It is the first of three new rules being considered by the USDA. If the other two measures pass, millions of people could lose their eligibility for food stamps.

Brian Corbin is the Executive Vice President of Member Services at Catholic Charities USA. Corbin told CNA that the new restrictions violate a principle of Catholic social teaching, which is that “food is a basic right, a basic human right to help fulfill our dignity and flourishing,” he said. “We have to remember that we're dealing now with people and food and food security.”

Corbin said that many of those who lose their eligibility for food stamps will likely come to Catholic Charities branches throughout the U.S. for help.

He added that most people overestimate the amount of financial assistance food stamp recipients actually get.

“We're talking about $167 is the average monthly voucher for SNAP,” he said. According to the USDA, the intention of the new restriction on food stamps is to be fair to taxpayers, and to incentivize able-bodied people to return to work. “We’re taking action to reform our SNAP program in order to restore the dignity of work to a sizable segment of our population and be respectful of the taxpayers who fund the program,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue told NBC News.

“Americans are generous people who believe it is their responsibility to help their fellow citizens when they encounter a difficult stretch. That’s the commitment behind SNAP, but, like other welfare programs, it was never intended to be a way of life.”

Bodnar said her department welcomes and supports efforts to expand SNAP education and job training programs, rather than measures that disqualify people from food assistance.

“It just doesn't help meet that goal (of people returning to work) in any concrete way. It’s only a punitive measure.”

Corbin said that while the idea to incentivize people to return to work is good in theory, in practice it will take food away from people who were laid off their jobs or who are living in states experiencing recession.

“First, these are people that are probably struggling because they were laid off or that jobs are not available in certain parts of the country,” Corbin said. “And second, recessions come and go, so this really prevents states from (having) the ability to act appropriately, to respond to the recession.” “And third, a lot of states are not mandated to have employment training programs,” Corbin added, making jobs even more out of reach for people in already high unemployment areas.

Monsignor John Enzler, President and CEO of Catholic Charities in Washington, D.C. said he has personally witnessed the hunger of low-income people and was worried the new SNAP restrictions would let more people go hungry.

“My experience is an awful lot of people out there...really are in desperate situations, not of their own wishes or desire, and they need assistance to get themselves out of that situation,” Enzler told CNA.

According to a recent press release from Catholic Charities D.C., the District of Columbia has a food insecurity rate of 14.5% due to food deserts and families living below the poverty line. This means more than 82,000 are food insecure, including 31,000 children.

Enzler said when he was a pastor in a local parish he personally knew of some low-income people who resorted to eating dog food when they couldn’t afford to feed themselves. He has also known of grandmothers who go without food so that they can feed their own grandchildren.

“These are real, honest situations going on,” Enzler said. “That should shock the jeepers out of all of ourselves. The nation’s capital? The capital of the Free World? What are you talking about? Well, it's true. It's real.”

Citing chapter 25 of the Gospel of Matthew, the monsignor added that Jesus taught his disciples to care for the poor, the hungry and the thirsty in their midst.

“He actually says on judgment day...we'll be judged on whether we met Jesus in those who are hungry, thirsty, naked, in prison, or ill,” he said. “This is part of the Gospel. This is part of our call to take care of people. And we do the best we can.”

Catholic Charities in D.C. already operates several programs that serve meals to homeless or low-income people along with other forms of assistance. They are currently in the midst of their third annual Virtual Food Drive, through which people can make online donations that will benefit a local food bank and several other food assistance programs that partner with Catholic Charities.

One of those programs is St. Maria’s Meals, a food truck and bike delivery program that provides warm meals to 300 people in need on a weekly basis. The name comes from the wife of St. Isidore, the patron saint of farmers. Enzler said that according to the story of St. Isidore, he would send poor people home to his wife, Maria, and she would feed whoever showed up.

“The legend is that the food never ran out. So basically she and Isidore just took care of people. That's the Gospel, basically, taking care of people. That's why it's Maria’s, because we say our food will not run out. You come to us, we'll take care of you.”

Last year, Catholic Charities D.C. provided more than 2.5 million meals to people in need and distributed more than 1 million pounds of food to local pantries. They also served 28,000 people through St. Maria’s Meals and more than 32,000 people through a program that provides grocery assistance to recently released prisoners.

Enzler encouraged Catholic leaders to preach out the call to help the poor, and he encouraged Catholics to pray for those in need and to contact their representatives to voice their concerns about the SNAP restrictions.

“With a program like SNAP, basically what the government says is that we'll help the situation. Without it, it's going to be more on us,” Enzler said.

“We'll keep doing the best we can, but our resources are limited. We don't have anywhere near that amount of money that the government has to do the things we're called to do. So obviously, we find ourselves limited in our response,” he added.

“What's the bottom line? People are starving. That's the bottom line.”

 

Jesuit superior general: Satan is real, and wants us to reject God

Vatican City, Dec 6, 2019 / 12:12 pm (CNA).- The superior general of the Jesuit order told reporters Tuesday that the devil is real, after making headlines in August by stating that Satan is a symbol, not a person.

Satan “is the one who stands between God's plan and his work of salvation accomplished in Christ, because he has made this irreversible and free decision, and he wants to drag others to reject the merciful God, who prefers to give his life to save instead of to condemn,” Fr. Arturo Sosa, SJ, said in a Dec. 2 meeting with journalists, according to a report from Vida Nueva.

Sosa added that “the power of the devil...obviously still exists as a force that tries to ruin our efforts.”

Sosa’s comments came amid remarks he offered on the six Jesuits and two employees killed in November 1989 by Salvadoran soldiers at the University of Central America in San Salvador.

On Aug 21, Sosa told an Italian magazine that the devil “exists as the personification of evil in different structures, but not in persons, because is not a person, is a way of acting evil. He is not a person like a human person. It is a way of evil to be present in human life.”

“Good and evil are in a permanent war in the human conscience and we have ways to point them out. We recognize God as good, fully good. Symbols are part of reality, and the devil exists as a symbolic reality, not as a personal reality,” he added in August.

The Catechism of the Catholic teaches that “Satan was at first a good angel, made by God: ‘The devil and the other demons were indeed created naturally good by God, but they became evil by their own doing.’”

Angels, the Catechism says, are “spiritual, non-corporeal beings.”

Sosa, 71, was elected the Jesuits’ superior general in 2016. A Venezuelan, he has a pontifical licentiate in philosophy and a doctorate in political science. He served as a Jesuit provincial superior in Venezuela from 1996 to 2004, and in 2014 began an administrative role at the general curia of the Jesuits in Rome.

Sosa has offered controversial comments about Satan in the past. In 2017, he told El Mundo that “we have formed symbolic figures such as the Devil to express evil.”

After his 2017 remark generated controversy, a spokesman for Sosa told the Catholic Herald that “like all Catholics, Father Sosa professes and teaches what the Church professes and teaches. He does not hold a set of beliefs separate from what is contained in the doctrine of the Catholic Church.”

 

Pope Francis on sharing the Christian message in 'reality'

Vatican City, Dec 6, 2019 / 07:58 am (CNA).- Pope Francis spoke Friday about how the Gospel message must be based in concrete reality, through which Christ himself communicates to the world.

“Listening is letting ourselves be struck by reality,” the pope said at the Vatican Dec. 6, in an address to staff of the Jesuit Italian-language magazine Aggiornamenti Sociali.

“What is the response of a Christian?” he said: “Having a dialogue with that reality starting from the values ​​of the Gospel, from the things that Jesus taught us, without imposing them dogmatically, but with dialogue and discernment.”

Francis pointed to what he characterized as a return to populist ideology in Europe, similar to those ideologies which led to the Second World War.

Why is this happening? he asked. “Because you do not listen to reality as it is. There is a projection of what I want to be done, what I want to think about...”

“It is a complex which makes us replace God the creator,” he stated, adding that people want to put filters on reality, or to shape it into what they want it to be.

“But reality is another thing. Reality is sovereign,” he argued. “I have to dialogue with reality.”

Pope Francis gave his remarks on reality and evangelization “spontaneously,” during the meeting with magazine staff. He would have his prepared speech distributed to be read “academically,” he said.

He encouraged listening “with an open mind and heart, without prejudice” as “the first step” to evangelization.

The pope also told the magazine staff to “never cover up reality” but to tell it as it is and then try to make sense of it through interpretation in dialogue with God in prayer.

“You must understand it. And then dialogue with the Gospel, with the Christian message; prayer, discernment, and so make small paths to move forward,” he urged.

Today, he underlined, there is no “highway” to evangelization, but only “humble paths.”

Francis also encouraged people to not to be afraid of making mistakes, knowing that if they fall, it is an opportunity to thank God, rise again, and continue.

“But one who does not move for fear of falling or slipping or making mistakes, never, will never be fruitful in life,” he said. “Go forward, bravely.”

On the topic of criticism, Pope Francis said if it is good it provides an opportunity for growth, whereas criticism that comes from a “bad heart,” on the other hand, may make you “dance” with fury.

But he encouraged Catholics to “always keep inner freedom.” He noted that only the person “who prays, who puts himself before God, who carries the Gospel” can keep his or her inner freedom.

 

Congress advances bill condemning China ‘re-education’ camps

Washington D.C., Dec 6, 2019 / 07:30 am (CNA).- The House of Representatives this week passed legislation recognizing the mass detention of Uyghurs and other abuses committed by the Chinese government in the province of Xinjiang.

Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), who sponsored the House version of the legislation, said on the House floor on Tuesday that “millions of stories” are “waiting to be told about the crimes against humanity being committed by the Chinese government against Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other Turkic Muslims.”

“We cannot be silent. We must demand an end to these barbaric practices and accountability from the Chinese government. We must say “never again” to the cultural genocide and the atrocities suffered by Uyghurs and others in China,” Smith said.

The bill, the Uighur Intervention and Global Humanitarian Unified Response Act (UIGHUR Act), was sponsored by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). It passed the house overwhelmingly on Tuesday by a vote of 407 to one. Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) was the lone vote in opposition.

“The Chinese Government and Communist Party is working to systematically wipe out the ethnic and cultural identities of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang,” Rubio stated on Tuesday.

Now the amended legislation heads back to the Senate for consideration. The UIGHUR Act notes that the communist Chinese government “has a long history of repressing Turkic Muslims, particularly Uighurs, in China’s Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region.”

In 2014, the repression grew more intense as the government’s “Strike Hard against Violent Extremism” campaign began under the guise of an anti-terrorism campaign.

Between 800,000 and two million Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and other ethnic minorities are estimated to have been detained in “re-education” camps in Xinjiang since 2014, the bill finds.

There have been reports of forced labor, rape, forced abortions, re-education and torture in the camps, poor working conditions at factories once detainees have been released from camps, and mass surveillance by the government in the region. Families have been separated and Muslim religious practices have reportedly been forcefully curtailed.

Last month, leaked documents emerged offering insight into the organization and management of the camps. 

One of the documents appears to be part of a manual or handbook for the operation of the internment camps, which are referred to as “vocational skills education and training centers.” The handbook is dated to 2017, when the internment camps first began operating, and is marked as “confidential.” 

The manual includes details on how prison camp employees should work to prevent escapes of prisoners, prevent information about the camps themselves from being leaked, and how to indoctrinate prisoners. Additional guidelines in the document detail how to stop disease outbreaks, fires, and when those imprisoned in the camp are to be allowed to use the bathroom or see their relatives. 

One former Uyghur camp detainee, Zumrat Dawit, testified at a side event of the United Nations General Assembly in September on “The Human Rights Crisis in Xinjiang” on Sept. 24. She reported being beaten, shackled, denied food, and sterilized, according to the Associated Press.

The Chinese government has defended the existence of the camps, previously calling them vocational training centers. After the New York Times in November published leaked Chinese government files ordering the mass detention of Muslims in Xinjiang, China said that detentions were efforts to curb terrorism in the region.

The bill, S.178, directs the President to submit a list of senior Chinese officials responsible for human rights abuses in Xinjiang, and subject them to sanctions. It also calls on the President to condemn the abuses in Xinjiang and call for the camps to be closed; the Secretary of State should also consider sanctions under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, the bill says.

It would direct various U.S. government entities to report to Congress on the Uighurs, on matters such as the scope of detention, forced labor, and government surveillance in the Xinjiang province of China, the eligibility of certain Chinese individuals for human rights sanctions, and the forcible return of Uighur refugees and asylum-seekers by foreign countries to China.

“We will not be silent. Justice is coming. We will demand accountability—not only because it is the right thing to do, but because U.S. interests are threatened by China’s high-tech authoritarianism,” Smith said.

Rep. Massie, who voted against the legislation, also opposed a bill to sanction human rights abusers in Hong Kong and express solidarity with pro-democracy protesters.

He explained his “No” vote on the bill on Twitter on Tuesday, saying that “When our government meddles in the internal affairs of foreign countries, it invites those governments to meddle in our affairs.”

“Before expressing righteous indignation re: my vote against these sanctions, please consider whether you committed enough to the issue that you would personally go a week without buying something made in China,” he stated.

On Nov. 27, President Trump signed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, sponsored by Rubio, which provided for sanctions of human rights abusers in the region.

Smith, who first introduced a version of the legislation in 2014, said that “Xi Jinping should understand that the US is not kidding about human rights. Beating, torturing and jailing of democracy activists is wrong and this historic legislation lets China know that respecting fundamental human rights is paramount.”

Anti-Catholic vandalism in Northern Ireland deters families, prompts investigation

Belfast, Northern Ireland, Dec 6, 2019 / 12:00 am (CNA).- Reports emerged this week of a third act of sectarian vandalism at a social housing development in Northern Ireland, into which a Catholic mother and her daughter were in the process of moving from a different part of the city.

According to the Irish News, vandals smashed windows and hung a UK flag— a symbol associated with the Protestant-majority Democratic Unionist Party— from a drainpipe at the property in north Belfast.

The prospective tenant, a 24-year-old woman from a Catholic background with four children who declined to give her name, has reportedly abandoned plans to move in.

This is reportedly the third act of vandalism against homes in the housing development since last week, all of which targeted Catholic families moving to the area, the BBC reports. The first two incidents involved “sectarian” graffiti sprayed onto the houses, including an anti-Catholic slur.

The police are treating the incidents as hate crimes.

According to the Irish News, a councillor for the Democratic Unionist Party last month contacted the housing development, telling them that there was a “concern” about the mother moving to the area, but did not specify what the concern was.

The mother says she still has not heard from either the councillor or the housing development what the “concern” was. The housing development has refused to comment. She said she contacted the police, but the police later confirmed they were unaware of any threats against her.

"As a public representative I raised a concern to Choice Housing which came to my attention,” the councillor in question, Dale Pankhurst, said in a statement.

"This centred on the safety of the woman in question. I wished to raise this matter in confidence with the organisation. I have a duty of care to all residents when I receive any form of information that may indicate danger to life or property.”

Catholic Church discovered in Dublin archeology dig

Dublin, Ireland, Dec 5, 2019 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- After the demolition of a Dublin building, archaeologists have  discovered the foundations a 300-year-old church that was used during times of Catholic persecution.

The church was uncovered by a team of archeologists during a dig taking place before the development of a 10-story office building planned for the site.

Excavation of the church will likely take place until December.

“We have to dig here very carefully because the church is a recorded monument,” archeologist Franc Myles told The Irish Times.

The church, St. Andrew’s Parish in central Dublin, was built in 1709, when British penal laws outlawed the practice of Catholicism.

“There was probably a building used as a chapel from the foundation of St Andrew’s Parish in 1709 and it is depicted on John Rocque’s map [of Dublin] of 1756,” a developer’s archeological report explains about the site.

Despite the prohibitions on Catholicism, the parish grew in its first hundred years. In fact, the archaeological report adds that, after significant growth in the parish, “it was decided that the chapel would have to be reconstructed” in 1811.

Father Daniel Murray, who later wasArchbishop of Dublin from 1823 to 1852, laid down the foundation stone in 1814 for a new chapel. By 1831, significant progress had been made on the Church’s reconstruction, but a new parish priest decided to move the church to a different location.

Construction on the office building will likely continue after the archaeological process has been completed and recorded.

Myles had hope that the archeologists would have found on the site timber structures dating back to the 1670s. He said none of those have been found, and speculated they had been demolished by construction in the 1960s.

 

Tucson bishop: US policy puts migrants at risk of violent crime

Tucson, Ariz., Dec 5, 2019 / 03:59 pm (CNA).- The U.S. government’s “Remain in Mexico” policies put vulnerable migrants at risk of kidnapping, rape, cartel violence, gang activity, and other dangers across the border, the Catholic Bishop of Tucson, Arizona said this week.

“The Migrant Protection Protocol is a policy that does not provide protection to these most vulnerable people and in fact has placed them in significant danger in cities that cannot adequately assist them,” Bishop Edward J. Weisenburger of Tucson said Dec. 2. For these reasons I call on others of good will to oppose this policy and to join me in communicating this opposition to our congressional delegation.”

The Migrant Protection Protocols, also known as the “Remain in Mexico” policy, were announced in January 2019 by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. These policies have meant between 50,000 and 60,000 asylum seekers, mainly families with children, have remained in border cities like Tijuana, Juarez, Nuevo Laredo and Matamoros while their cases are processed by immigration courts – a procedure that may take years.

“The numbers of people forced across the border have overwhelmed the cities, the humanitarian aid organizations and the Mexican Government,” Weisenburger said.

Sanitary conditions in some areas are so bad in some areas that 2,500 people share only three toilets. Pregnant women receive only one bottle of water per day. Families and children live in “makeshift tents on sidewalks,” the bishop said.

“In addition to the inhumane conditions in which the people must remain, they are subject to extortion and kidnapping by cartels and gangs, 364 rapes and assaults have been reported in one city, and daily threats of violence when the family has no money to pay the extortion,” said Weisenburger.

The government’s “Remain in Mexico” policy had not been implemented in the Tucson Sector until Nov. 22, when a change in policy was announced. The Department of Homeland Security decided the sector was a “weak link” in its efforts to detain undocumented migrants and asylum seekers, the bishop reported.

“The policy is not to apply to children traveling alone, pregnant women, people who are ill or with disabilities or those who were determined to face violence in Mexico,” he said. Still, he added, “There is reason to believe this policy has not been adequately implemented and that many of these most vulnerable people are living in the streets in the city of Juarez where they will be taken from Tucson.”

The bishop emphasized the Christian duty to aid migrants, asylum seekers and others in need.

“As Catholics, we are bound by faith to see all people as one family created in the image of God. We are called to offer hospitality to those who need us,” he said. “We are required to treat all with dignity and respect because they are our sisters and brothers. We are called to walk in solidarity with migrants on their journey.”

He pointed to the work of the Tucson diocese’s Catholic Community Services, which has been operating its migrant shelter Casa Alitas for six years. So far in 2019 it has aided 20,000 people, mainly families with children, as they travel to meet their sponsors and take part in the legal process to seek asylum.

“All people assisted at Casa Alitas are provided medical screening, clothing, food, assistance with transportation, a clean bed and a safe place to recover from the trauma of an arduous journey,” he said. “Few if any of these resources are available in Juarez.”

“Instead of care, concern and dignity these same families are being pushed into the street facing danger and the uncertainty if and when they will be given to opportunity to present their case to an immigration official,” said the bishop.

A Catholic-run migrant shelter in El Paso, Texas, across the U.S.-Mexico border from the city of Juarez, closed in mid-2019 because the migrants it would have assisted were barred from entering the country. After opening in 2018, before the policies changed, the shelter had been taking in 40 to 80 migrants per day after the migrants were cleared by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.

As a whole, the U.S. bishops have been critical of the Trump Administration and previous administrations’ handling of migration.

In a March 13 joint statement, Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration, and Sean Callahan, president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services said the “Remain in Mexico” policy “needlessly increases the suffering of the most vulnerable and violates international protocols.”

“We steadfastly affirm a person’s right to seek asylum and find recent efforts to curtail and deter that right deeply troubling. We must look beyond our borders; families are escaping extreme violence and poverty at home and are fleeing for their lives,” the statement said.

The Trump administration has justified its policies on several grounds, including the need to limit the number of false asylum claims.

The number of asylum claims has dramatically increased over the last decade, with very few asylees being allowed to stay. In 2009, there were 35,811 people who applied for asylum in the United States, and 8,384 were granted. In 2018, that number had more than quadrupled to 162,060 claims, with 13,168 actually granted.