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Meet the bishop who weaves Gospel verses, art, and Tolkien into his ministry

Baltimore, Md., Jun 17, 2019 / 03:01 am (CNA).- There are bishops who may or may not tweet with any regularity, and then there’s “Amigo de Frodo”, who provides daily Gospel verses, bits of art and literature, and maybe a Lord of the Rings quote or two at a Confirmation: Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville.

“As a bishop, I think Twitter—you shouldn’t take yourself too seriously,” Bishop Flores, who tweets under the handle @bpdflores, told CNA at the annual spring meeting of the U.S. bishops last week.

“It can be – it often isn’t – but it can be a humanizing platform. And I think the challenge, just for Catholic Twitter in general, is to kind of be a humanizing voice in it that’s respectful and that encourages and has imagination, and in a certain sense humor, in terms of how things can be.”

One thing that can be seen on the bishop’s account every single day is a Gospel verse from that day’s reading and a brief reflection, in Spanish and in English.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">*Everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.<br><br>As charity— gift of the Risen Christ— takes possession of the heart, enabling us to love God and serve the good of others, there is less room in the heart to consent to sin. <a href="https://t.co/jBzGw2oKwo">pic.twitter.com/jBzGw2oKwo</a></p>&mdash; Amigo de Frodo (@bpdflores) <a href="https://twitter.com/bpdflores/status/1139487295411802113?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">June 14, 2019</a></blockquote>
<script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

“I do think, fundamentally, for the Catholic Church, before we can tackle the problems and the issues, if we aren’t fundamentally reading the Gospel every day and letting that inform how it is that we think and how it is that we see the world, then we’re not doing what we’re supposed to be doing in terms of being a people who are able to look at the world through the eyes of the Gospel, instead of judging the Gospel through the eyes of the world,” he said.

“So it’s just my way of saying ‘folks, we all need to be reading the Gospel, and then we can deal with reality’.”

Among the items discussed and voted upon by the bishops were measures to respond to the clergy abuse crisis, among them authorizing a hotline for victims of abuse by bishops to confidentially report the case.

On Tuesday, during a presentation of heads of the working group on immigration, bishops discussed the need for the Church to be concretely present to migrants and refugees, and especially undocumented immigrants whose future legal status is in question and who face deportation.

One item discussed was the threat of tariffs by President Trump against Mexico, to push for a stronger effort to curtail migration from Central America to the U.S.

“We can’t use the immigrant as a bargaining chip,” Bishop Flores told CNA of the tariff threats.

Bishop Flores is one of the “border bishops”, whose diocese has for years been at the center of the rise in migrant children and women coming to the U.S. seeking asylum.

These migrants cannot be ignored, he said. “It’s about the reality of the children and mothers and families are suffering. And we have to address that. There is no reading of the Gospel that the Church is familiar with that says we can exempt ourselves from any interest of what is going on here.”

Ahead of the 2020 elections, immigration is once again expected to be a core issue among voters. When asked how voters can consider the Church’s teaching on the right to migrate and on the state’s just authority to regulate immigration, Bishop Flores pointed to global solidarity, the common good, and the limits of national sovereignty.

“The good of survival is a very high good in terms of Catholic social teaching,” he said. “And while a country has a responsibility to defend its borders, it also has a responsibility to be just and reasonable in attending to the human crisis which is beyond our borders. Because Catholic social teaching has never considered national sovereignty as an absolute right that is sort of ‘free to be capricious, it’s not our problem’.”

Pope Francis has taught of the “responsibility in global solidarity” to pay attention to crises beyond the borders of one’s own country, he said, and the pope has pointed out problems that transcend national boundaries and demand the attention of everyone, such as human trafficking.

To ignore these problems, and the plight of migrants, as a country, “we will simply just kind of shrivel in terms of our own human awareness of the basic commonality we have as human beings.”

“And the Gospel certainly calls us to look with open eyes as to the Lazaruses at the door. And to try to find some sort of reasonable accommodation to address those situations,” he said. Migrants are often victims of gang violence and human traffickers, he said, “basically what the pope calls the modern slave trade. It happens not just in the Americas, it happens across the world.”

“And this is, as the Holy Father keeps saying to the world, especially to the economically successful in the world, you can’t keep pretending this is not happening.”

Pro-life groups laud Pampers move to place changing tables in men's restrooms

Cincinnati, Ohio, Jun 16, 2019 / 02:01 pm (CNA).- Pro-life groups are cheering an initiative from Pampers which is seeking to place 5,000 diaper changing tables in men’s restrooms throughout the United States and Canada.

“Picture this...dad is out and about, enjoying quality time with his baby and the inevitable hits – diaper duty. Cue the search for a changing table, only for dad to find there’s nowhere for him to change that stinky booty in the men’s restroom,” the Pampers company, a popular brand of baby and toddler products, said in an announcement of the initiative.

“It’s an all too familiar story that’s happening across the country, with new Pampers research revealing that 9 out of 10 dads have gone into a public restroom that has not had a baby changing table,” Pampers added. “As part of its ‘Love the Change’ campaign, Pampers is proud to announce they’re providing 5,000 changing tables for public restrooms across North America by 2021, so more dads and babies can #LoveTheChange together when they’re out-and-about.”

The initiative was inspired largely by the #SquatforChange campaign, which started after frustrated Florida father Donte Palmer posted a photo of himself, squatting on the floor of a public restroom and balancing his child on his knees while trying to change the child’s diaper.

The photo, which Palmer posted to Facebook and Instagram, went viral, and Palmer told the Washington Post he was encouraged by the response, which indicated that it was a widespread issue for dads across the country.

Kristi Hamrick, a spokesperson for the pro-life group Students for Life of America, applauded the Pampers initiative, and told CNA that it points out an age-old “discrepancy” that assumes mothers are always the ones changing their children’s diapers.

“Students for Life has always been an advocate for helping both mothers and fathers take care of their children,” she said. “In fact, we've been pointing out the discrepancy for years, because moms can use a break, and I know from experience that my husband was just as good as I was at helping our children on diaper duty.”

“A pro-life/pro-family society puts policies and infrastructure in place to help young families succeed in raising happy, healthy children. We may pursue different programming ideas, but helping families should be a goal for all of us as we all need the next generation to do well,” she added.

Hamrick noted that the initiative is similar to other efforts of Students for Life groups throughout the country, including the 2018 installment of diaper decks at the University of Wyoming, after the encouragement of the local Students for Life group, as well as efforts to support paid family leave acts in Congress.

Carol Tobias, a spokesperson for the pro-life group National Right to Life, told CNA that she welcomed the Pampers initiative, and that she imagined most mothers did too.

“Fathers seem to be more involved in the care of their children than previous generations so it makes sense that diaper-changing stations are available to help them provide that care,” she said.

According to Pampers, the installation of the diaper decks will take place over the next two years, in partnership with Koala Kare.

The companies “will identify high-need public locations and provide baby changing tables for installation in the men’s restrooms. Dads and babies visiting places such as parks and recreation centers, community centers and libraries in cities such as Cincinnati, Dallas, Philadelphia, Detroit, and many others across the U.S. and Canada, are in line to benefit from Pampers’ commitment,” Pampers announced.

Pampers noted that the first 500 locations for the installation of diaper decks have already been selected, and will be installed in the coming weeks.

Pope Francis: Whatever happens, 'hope does not disappoint!'

Camerino, Italy, Jun 16, 2019 / 06:09 am (CNA).- Hope, which is more than mere optimism, gives one a deep-rooted confidence in the love and care of God, no matter what has happened, Pope Francis said Sunday.

Hope “does not expire, because it is based on the fidelity of God. The hope of the Spirit is not even optimism. Born deeper, it rekindles at the bottom of the heart the certainty of being precious because loved,” the pope said June 16.

“It is a hope that leaves peace and joy inside, regardless of what happens outside. It is a hope that has strong roots, which no storm of life can uproot,” he added. “It is a hope that, says St. Paul, ‘does not disappoint’ – hope does not disappoint! – which gives the strength to overcome all tribulations.”

Pope Francis said Mass in Camerino, Italy during a day visit to the Archdiocese of Camerino-San Severino Marche. The area was one of those affected by the earthquakes which struck central Italy in 2016 and 2017. The Mass was said in the square outside the cathedral, which is still under reconstruction after being damaged in the earthquake.

In his homily, Francis spoke to those who suffered damage, injury, or loss due to the earthquakes.

“When we are troubled or wounded – and you know well what it means to be troubled, wounded – we are led to ‘nest’ around our sadness and our fears,” he said, noting that the Holy Spirit can free people from these “nests.”

“The Spirit feeds us with living hope. Invite him. Let us ask him to come to us and he will come near. Come, Comforter Spirit! Come give us some light, give us the sense of this tragedy, give us the hope that does not disappoint. Come, Holy Spirit!” he prayed.

The pope also reflected on a line from the day’s Responsorial Psalm: “What is man that you should be mindful of him...” This question, he said, could come also in the face of “collapsed houses and buildings reduced to rubble.”

“What is man ever? What is he, if what you raise can collapse in an instant? What is he if his hope can end in dust?”

The truth, Francis said, is that “God remembers us as we are, with our frailties.”

“No one is contemptible in his eyes, each has an infinite value for him: we are small under heaven and powerless when the earth trembles, but for God we are more precious than anything.”

Before praying the Angelus following Mass, Pope Francis told the people of the diocese he came in order to be near to them and to pray with them, saying, “I pray to the God of hope, so that what is unstable on earth does not shake the certainty we have inside.”

God remembers everyone and he can heal the memories of that difficult time, he said. “God helps us to be builders of good, consolers of hearts. Everyone can do a little good, without waiting for others to start.”

Entrusting the diocese to the Virgin Mary, he prayed: “May she who animated the first community of Jesus’ disciples with her motherly presence, also help the Church today to give good witness to the Gospel.”

Before returning to the Vatican in the afternoon, the pope met with around 200 children who had received their first Holy Communion and with their parents and catechists.

 

Kenyan court rules that rape victims have right to abortion

Nairobi, Kenya, Jun 15, 2019 / 02:01 pm (CNA).- Kenya's High Court ruled Wednesday that rape victims whose pregnancy threatens their life or health have a right to procure abortion.

The June 12 ruling regarded a case brought on b ehalf of a young woman who died in June 2018 from complications related to a back-alley abortion she procured in 2014.

"Pregnancy resulting from rape or defilement, if in the opinion of a trained medical profession poses a danger to life or the health - that is physical, mental and social well-being of the mother – maybe terminated under ... sections of the constitution," said Justice Aggrey Muchelule, the Thompson Reuters Foundation reported.

The Standard, a Nairobi daily, reported that the judges ruled: “The apparent blanket prohibition of abortion in the penal code cannot stand while the Constitution gives the right to a woman to abort when their life and health are in danger.”

The 2010 Kenyan constitution made abortion legal in certain circumstances – in the cases of emergencies and when the woman’s health is in jeopardy.

The girl at the center of the case, known by her initials JMM, was raped in 2014 at the age of 15. In December of that year, her guardian was told by a relative that JMM was vomiting and bleeding heavily at a clinic where she had gone for treatment.

JMM had told clinic staff she had procured an unsafe abortion and that she had been sent to a variety of hospitals for post-abortive care.

In 2015, JMM's mother, along with the Federation of Women Lawyers and the Centre for Reproductive Rights, filed a suit against the Ministry of Health claiming JMM was not provided with proper post-abortion care and calling on the government to provide access to safe abortions.

JMM developed kidney failure, and died June 10, 2018.

The suit filed on JMM's behalf maintains that the poor care she received following her abortion was a result of the lack of safe abortion services.

In its ruling, the court awarded JMM's mother damage of 3 million Kenyan shillings ($29,500).

The court also ordered the health ministry to reinstate guidelines on conducting 'safe' abortions. In 2013 the ministry had withdrawn the guidelines, and banned health workers from training in the procedure, after it emerged they were being used to unintended purposes.

The court had heard three days of testimony in the case in July 2018. It had been expected to deliver a verdict before January 2019.

Among the testimonies heard by the court was that of Dr. Wahome Ngari, who said that figures on the number of back-alley abortions procured, which are used to argue for the expansion of abortion rights, are wildly inflated, and that similar inflation was used to push the Malawian government to repeal its abortion law.

Ngari said the focus on health care for pregnant women in Kenya should begin with blood loss.

“The reason pregnant mothers die in the country is haemorrhage, followed by infections, hyperactive disorders, prolonged or obstructed labour and lastly abortion. Anyone who wants to offer a solution should follow that order.”

Trial date set for Argentine priests accused of abusing deaf children

Mendoza, Argentina, Jun 15, 2019 / 06:01 am (CNA).- Two priests accused of sexually abusing minors at a school for deaf children in Argentina will stand trial Aug. 5.

The priests and a former employee at the Antonio Provolo institute will face charges of the abuse of more than 20 children, the AP noted.

One of the priests involved is Fr. Nicola Corradi, who is a member of the Company of Mary, an Italian religious community which operates schools for deaf children in several countries, including Argentina and Italy. The schools are named for Antonio Provolo, a nineteenth-century Italian priest who founded Corradi’s religious community.

Corradi was arrested in 2016 along with Fr. Horacio Corbacho and other employees in connection with the abuse allegations, and the school was closed down.

Sr. Kosako Kumiko, a religious sister with the school, was arrested in May 2017 for charges of facilitating and covering-up sexual abuse at the school. Some students have also accused the sister of sexual abuse, though she has maintained her innocence.

Corradi, now 83, was first accused of abuse in 2009, when 14 Italians reported that they had been abused by priests, religious brothers, and other adults at the Provolo Institute in Verona, over the course of several decades.

After an investigation, five priests were sanctioned by the Vatican. Corradi, then living in Argentina, was among those accused of abuse, but was not arrested or otherwise sanctioned.

In 2014, Corradi was the subject of a letter sent to Pope Francis from victims of sexual abuse who were concerned about the priests ongoing ministry, despite the accusations against him. In 2015, the group handed a list of priests accused of abuse to the Pope in person, according to the Washington Post.

The group reportedly did not hear back from Pope Francis, but did hear from a Vatican official, Archbishop Giovanni Becciu, who wrote to the group in 2016 to tell them that he had informed the Italian bishops’ conference of their request for an investigation.

Later that year, Corradi, as well as Corbacho and another employee of the school, were arrested. However, according to a Washington Post report, it was civil authorities who decided to take action against Corradi and remove his access to children, while the Church in Argentina was not fully cooperative with the investigation, according to local officials.

“I want Pope Francis to come here, I want him to explain how this happened, how they knew this and did nothing,” a 24-year-old alumna of the Provolo Institute told the Washington Post in February.

Prosecutors in the case told the Washington Post that children at the school were “fondled, raped, sometimes tied up and, in one instance, forced to wear a diaper to hide the bleeding. All the while, their limited ability to communicate complicated their ability to tell others what was happening to them. Students at the school were smacked if they used sign language.”

“They were the perfect victims,” Gustavo Stroppiana, the chief prosecutor in the case, told the Washington Post, because the students were typically from poor families and had communication limitations.

According to previous reports from the AP, pornographic videos and magazines, along with $34,000 in cash, were found in Corradi’s room at the time he was arrested.

Corradi could face up to 50 years in prison if he is convicted by the Argentine court.

Lead by example, not documents, Vatican abuse expert tells Polish bishops

Warsaw, Poland, Jun 14, 2019 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- As the Catholic Church in Poland continues to respond to sex abuse by clergy, Archbishop Charles Scicluna, a leading Vatican expert on prosecuting sex crimes under church law, attended the bishops’ plenary assembly to discuss child and youth protection.
 
Scicluna told the Catholic news source KAI that he wanted to encourage the bishops “to implement the very good guidance points that they themselves adopted” in 2013, Reuters reported.
 
“I have a great hope that Polish bishops will do what is needed...I hope this situation can be repaired,” said Scicluna, who took part in a June 14 session of the 383rd Plenary Assembly of the Polish Bishops’ Conference in Walbrzych.
 
“My very strong message to the bishops of Poland this morning was - we need to pass from very good documents to an example of best practice,” the archbishop said.
 
He said rules alone are not enough unless they are implemented. Parishioners need to know to whom they can report suspected abuse.
 
Scicluna urged anyone aware of a coverup to report it to Church authorities. In cases where high-ranking bishops are involved, they should report the coverup to Poland’s papal nuncio, the Associated Press reported.
 
In a May 22 letter, the Polish bishop’s conference spoke out against clergy sexual abuse and pledged both to continue to “eliminate factors conducive to crime” and to adopt a more sensitive attitude toward victims.
 
“We admit that as shepherds of the Church we have not done everything to prevent these harms,” they said, thanking the victims who have come forward and urging those who have not to report their abuse to both Church and state authorities.
 
A documentary about clerical sex abuse in Poland, titled “Tell No One,” was produced and recently released by filmmaker brothers Tomasz and Marek Sekielski. Millions of viewers have watched it on YouTube.
 
Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki of Poznan, President of the Polish bishops’ conference, thanked the filmmakers on May 13. He said he was “deeply moved and saddened” by the film.
 
“I am convinced that this film, too, will result in an even more stringent compliance with the guidelines for the protection of children and young people in the Church,” he said, noting Pope Francis’ recent instructions in the document “Vos estis,” which includes rules on the prevention of and response to sexual abuse by clergy.
 
Close to 400 Polish priests were accused of sexual abuse of minors, with alleged incidents dating as far back as 1950 with as many as 625 potential victims, according to a study commissioned by the Episcopal Conference of Poland and released in March 2019. These accusations were submitted to Poland’s bishops starting in the year 1990 until 2018.  
 
The study covered data collected from the more than 10,000 parishes in Poland, and included religious orders.
 
According to the report, 382 priests were accused of abuse during the time covered. Of the clerics accused, 284 were diocesan priests, and 98 belonged to a religious order. Figures provided by the Holy See Press Office in 2016 reported there are 156 bishops and some 30,661 priests in Poland.
 
At the time of the report’s release, Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki, head of the Episcopal Conference of Poland, called the report’s findings “tragic,” and said every instance of sexual abuse is a “particularly painful” betrayal of public trust.
 
About 58 percent of allegations of abuse involved male victims, while 42 percent of victims were female. About 45 percent involved sexual abuse of a victim under age 15.
 
Only 168 priests were charged with a crime by civil authorities, with 85 being convicted. Two of these priests were acquitted outright, while other accused priests’ cases did not move forward. As of March 2019, 33 priests’ trials were ongoing.
 
Polish law currently provides for a 12-year prison sentence for abuse of a child under 15. Jaroslaw Kaczynski, head of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party in Poland, has discussed extending this to 30 years.
 
A canonical process under the Catholic Church’s internal laws was sought against at least 362 of the 382 accused priests.
 
A total of 68 priests were canonically removed from the priesthood, and another 109 punished by limits on ministry or other sanctions. Another 31 were transferred either to a different parish or to a location away from children. Of the accused priests, 34 passed away before the process could finish. Only 28 priests were acquitted. There was no data or explanation for the canonical response to 20 of the accused priests.
 
A separate report was produced by the sex abuse victims support group Have No Fear. The group presented a Spanish-language edition to Pope Francis after his general audience Feb. 20.
 
Their report aims to document “violations of civil and canon law by Polish bishops in the context of priests who engaged in sexual abuse of minors.” It examines more than 20 cases of clergy sexual abuse reported to the relevant Polish bishops in the last three decades, some cases reported as recently as 2012. It also examines these bishops’ responses.
 
The report accuses 24 former and current Polish bishops of having protected or transferred priests who abused children and adolescents.
 
According to the New York Times, about 87% of the Poland's 38 million people self-identify as Catholic.

 

Pro-life leader: All-time high abortion rate in UK shows society has failed women, children

London, England, Jun 14, 2019 / 06:32 pm (CNA).- More than 200,000 UK women received an abortion in 2018, setting an all-time high rate of abortion in England and Wales.

The UK Department of Health and Social Services released a study on Wednesday which revealed that last year, 200,608 UK residents and nearly 5,000 more non-residents received an abortion in the UK.

According to the survey, abortions in the country had decreased in 2009, but have steadily increased since 2010. The previous record high was in 2008.

In the last decade, the number of abortions have increased particularly for women who are over 29 and those who already have a family. Over half of the abortions in 2018 were performed on women who have had children or had a still-born birth.

“The rates for women aged 30-34 have increased from 15.6 per 1,000 women in 2008 to 19.9 in 2018, and rates for women aged 35 and over have also increased from 6.7 per 1,000 women in 2008 to 9.2 per 1,000 women in 2018,” the study states.

However, the rate of abortions for women under the age of 18 significantly decreased in the past decade. The 2018 rate reflected a decrease by more than half in the number of teens who received abortions, compared to the rate in 2008.

According to Daily Mail, abortion experts said the trends are complicated. Clare Murphy, director of external affairs for British Pregnancy Advisory Service, said contraception distribution and family planning have both played a part in the numbers.

“Accessible contraceptive services are often focused on the needs of younger women and women over the age of 25 can in particular find themselves excluded from schemes providing free, pharmacy access to emergency contraception,” she said.

“However, it is also possible that over the longer term couples are making different decisions about family size and the number of children they can afford and feel able to properly care for.”

Following budget cuts to health services, abortion advocates have called for more funding to be provided. Prof. Lesley Regan, president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, told BBC that the under-funding needs to stop.

“We are calling for an end to fractured commissioning and greater accountability to stop the under-funding and fragmentation of these services which disproportionately affects women," she said.

However, Clare McCarthy, spokesperson for the pro-life non-profit Right to Life, decried the recent record, calling it a “national tragedy.” According to the Telegraph, the pro-life leader said the issue will probably worsen.

"Every one of these abortions represents a failure of our society to protect the lives of babies in the womb and a failure to offer full support to women with unplanned pregnancies,” she said.

"Proposals from abortion campaigners to remove legal restrictions around abortion and introduce abortion right to birth would likely see these numbers get even worse."

 

Ecuadorian bishops lament court's recognition of same-sex marriage

Quito, Ecuador, Jun 14, 2019 / 06:01 pm (CNA).- The Ecuadorian bishops' conference expressed Thursday their rejection of the recognition of same-sex marriage by the Constitutional Court, and recalled that a marriage is comprised of one man and one woman.

The Constitutional Court recognized gay marriage June 12 in a 5-4 decision.

The minority opinion stated that “the proper avenue for recognizing marriage equality is the procedure to amend the constitution, which is the competency of the National Assembly.”

The majority opinion judges stated that they based their decision on one by the Inter-American Court on Human Rights and by interpreting Article 67 of the Constitution of Ecuador “in light of the constitutional norms favorable to the equality of persons and which rejects all types of discrimination.”

In a statement published June 13, the bishops pointed out that “the Constitutional Court under no argument is entitled to reform the content of the Constitution of the Republic including the concept  of marriage, defined in its Art. 67 as the union of one man and one woman.”

The prelates also noted that “two judges on the Constitutional Court were morally and legally impeded from participating in processing these cases, as they have been lawyers in cases advancing this cause and advocates of marriage equality before being appointed judges and moreover, they previously publicly expressed their criteria in support of this claim.”

The Ecuadorian bishops recalled that “the definition of marriage, as the union of a man and a woman was approved by the Ecuadorian people through the referendum held in 2008, with 63% of the vote, precisely to protect and strengthen the institution of marriage which is the only one that guarantees the continuance of the human species and its free development, therefore five judges simply cannot go against the sovereign will of Ecuadorians.”

The bishops reaffirmed their commitment to respect for human rights regardless of “age, race, sex, religion, sexual orientation or culture,” and reiterated their desire to “promote marriage between a man and a woman … as the foundation of the family and of society, an institution that must be recognized and guaranteed by the Ecuadorian Government.”

The bishops said that the recognition of marriage and the family is finally a “religious freedom right, recognized by the Secular State of Ecuador.”

In conclusion, the bishops committed to “teaching children and young people that marriage according to the Christian faith is the indissoluble union between a man and a woman and that, as a fruit of that love, children are born for society and the Kingdom of God.”

St Louis University: employee who signed abortion rights letter apologized, retracted support

St. Louis, Mo., Jun 14, 2019 / 05:12 pm (CNA).- A group of 180 business leaders this week signed an open letter, published June 10 as a full-page advertisement in the New York Times and online, in support of abortion rights and declaring abortion restrictions “bad for business.”

“Restricting access to comprehensive reproductive care, including abortion, threatens the health, independence and economic stability of our employees and customers. Simply put, it goes against our values and is bad for business,” the letter read.

Among the original list of signatories was Cindy Mebruer, director of the Center for Supply Chain Excellence at Saint Louis University’s Richard A. Chaifetz School of Business. SLU is a Jesuit institution with a total enrollment of 13,000.

Mebruer signed the letter on behalf of the center, and the name of the university was included in the online version of the letter.   

“Saint Louis University had no knowledge of the New York Times advertisement until it was brought to the University’s attention Thursday,” the university said in a statement to CNA.

“The employee who signed the letter has apologized for including the University within the petition profile in a way that may have been misconstrued as a statement that reflects the University’s viewpoint, rather than her own personal views.”

The Center for Supply Chain Excellence is classified as a “Center of Distinction” within the Richard A. Chaifetz School of Business at the university, and offers certificate programs related to supply chain management.

“[The employee] has stated that it was not her intent to speak for the entirety of the University and upon hearing of the misunderstanding, immediately reached out to the advocacy group to request that her employer's name be removed from the statement,” the university continued.

As of Friday afternoon, neither the university, the center, nor Mebruer's name appear on the online version of the letter.

“Saint Louis University is committed to acting consistently with the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. While the University respects the freedom of conscience for each person, any official University action is in accord with SLU’s Catholic identity,” the statement concluded.

A coalition of pro-abortion organizations, including Planned Parenthood Federation of America, NARAL Pro-Choice America, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and the American Civil Liberties Union coordinated the letter.  

“We, the undersigned, represent more than 108,000 workers and stand against policies that hinder people’s health, independence and ability to fully succeed in the workplace,” the letter continued.

Signatories include CEOs on behalf of multi-billion dollar corporations such as Bloomberg, H&M, Atlantic Records, and Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream. The list includes a number of influential technology companies such as Slack, Zoom Video Communications, and Yelp.

Raoul Scherwitzl, the CEO of Natural Cycles, an app to track fertility, also signed the letter.

Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Square, a payment processing company, is another signatory; Dorsey is also the CEO of Twitter.

The letter was prompted, in part, by the recent passage of laws restricting abortion in states such as Georgia, Alabama, and Missouri, where Saint Louis University is located.

Missouri Governor Mike Parson signed the “Missouri Stands for the Unborn Act” in May, which criminalizes performing abortions after eight weeks in the state, except when the life of a mother is determined to be in danger.

The law criminalizes the performance of abortions or the prescribing of medical abortions, punishable as a Class B felony, for doctors and medical professionals. It does not penalize women who obtain abortions. Class B felonies are punishable by 5-15 years in prison in the state of Missouri.

St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson applauded the new law, calling it a “giant step forward for the pro-life movement.”

Liberian priest's wide-ranging accusations against two bishops include sexual harassment

Monrovia, Liberia, Jun 14, 2019 / 04:01 pm (CNA).- Liberian Church leaders have visited the Vatican after a priest claimed to have been mentally and psychologically abused by two bishops, reportedly in retaliation against him for refusing sexual relations.

Father Gabriel Sawyer, who has since left ministry and attempted to marry, made the accusations against Archbishop Lewis Zeigler of Monrovia and Bishop Andrew Karnley of Cape Palmas in an Aug. 15, 2018 letter to the apostolic nuncio to Liberia, Archbishop Dagoberto Campos Salas.

Archbishop Zeigler declined comment to Front Page Africa, while Bishop Karnley characterized Sawyer’s claims as “a campaign of lies and falsehoods against me.”

The visit took place the last week of May, the news site Crux reported. The Vatican meeting included Bishop Anthony Borwah of Gbarnga, who heads the Liberian bishops’ conference; Father Dennis Cephus Nimene, secretary of the bishops’ conference; and Campos, the nuncio.

The alleged victim said in his letter to the nuncio that the harassment was constant and systematic for over 14 years.

In a May 23 Front Page Africa / New Narratives report, the priest said he was left destitute and waited for a year and a half for an investigation. He claims to have then attempted to marry a friend in February 2019 “to protect my own life.” He said he faced threats and he accused his ecclesiastical superiors of refusing to provide him with necessary healthcare.

“Once the information got out they were sending me threatening messages,” he said. “I am the first person to speak out on these homosexuality and sex abuse charges. And these things have haunted the Church for years. I felt it is time someone speaks out about them.”

Sawyer said the retaliatory incidents involving Karnley lasted more than two decades, dating back to his time as a seminarian when Karnley was vocations director.

Karnley made sexual advances towards him “continuously” when they traveled by car together, Sawyer alleged.

In one incident, Sawyer said, Karnley tried to touch him sexually when he was half-asleep in his room. When he refused the bishop further sexual activity, the retaliation began, the priest claims.

“He quietly and calmly left my room, telling me at the same time, that he will make sure that I did not become a priest,” said the priest, who said the previous Archbishop of Monrovia, Michael Francis, assigned him to another priest for evaluation before approving his ordination to the priesthood. Francis died in 2013.

Sawyer said he kept quiet “in order to save my vocation.” He said he discussed the retaliatory behavior with his classmates, though not Karnley’s alleged sexual advances.

Karnley, 52, has served as Bishop of Cape Palmas since 2011. He was a priest of the Archdiocese of Liberia, and was its apostolic administrator from 2005-2009.

The 75-years-old Zeigler has been Monrovia’s archbishop since 2011. He is the former Bishop of Gbarnga.

New Narratives said it has interviewed five other priests and lay people who affirmed Sawyer suffered abuse from the two bishops. These alleged witnesses asked for their identities to be withheld for fear of retribution from Church leadership.

Moses Carter, a spokesman for the Liberia National Police, affirmed that the country’s laws will be enforced if anyone is convicted, explaining, “If any individual in the Catholic Church commits an act it does not becloud the entire church said individual must be made to face the full weight of the law.”

“Whoever claims they were sodomized or attempts were made on them, the law is always there for everyone. They can come over to the (Liberia National Police),” said Carter.

Liberia’s penal code bars “involuntary sodomy,” classifying as a third-degree felony “deviate sexual intercourse” or causing someone to engage in such intercourse. It is unclear whether the law would apply in Sawyer’s case.

Sawyer has also charged that the archbishop abused his power and refused him leave to go to Ghana for treatment for an illness.

The harassment was so severe it has caused him “untold sufferings and mental disorders,” he charged, including “psychological breakdown” and even a periodic “state of paralysis.” He also suffers from acute gastrointestinal disorder.

Explaining his sex abuse claim against Zeigler, Sawyer said the archbishop “told me that I was looking nice and he loves me.” It appears to be based in the archbishop’s recommendation that “I should make time available to visit him at his house,” which Sawyer said he realized meant “something else.” In Sawyer’s account, the bishop later repeated such a proposal.

“This time I told him I was not interested and cannot reduce myself to that level. I was so upset and left his office without discussing what I went to see him about,” the priest said.

Another priest speaking anonymously to Front Page Africa said that Zeigler has professed his innocence of the allegations in meetings with clergy.

Karnley told Front Page Africa, “I challenge Father Sawyer in the name of God to take me to any court and prove it, not only him but any man living or dead.”

News reports cited a leaked email to Sawyer from Bishop Borwah, dated Dec. 4, 2018, that appears to show Borwah asking Sawyer to “please keep things away from the media, public and the court.”

The bishop, who was ordained a priest of the Monrovia archdiocese in 1996, appeared to want the priest’s side heard.

“You have the right to be listened to and protected by the Church,” said the bishop, who pledged his help to bring the process to a successful conclusion “as much as I can with God’s help.”

Sawyer has supporters and detractors.

One lay Catholic, Aaron Weah, told Front Page Africa he supported “a strong and impartial investigation.”

“I believe that if they are verified to be lies it will help the Church. If these acts are actually happening in the Church and they can be verified and authenticated it will also help our faith,” Weah said.

Others were critical of the accuser.

“I think it is misinformation,” Solo Otto Gaye, a journalist and a Catholic who volunteers with the Cape Palmas diocese, said of Sawyer’s claims. “This is hard to believe because (the) bishop is an African man from the village. I run his social media page. I have gone from village to village with him. We even sleep together. If he is gay I would know.”

Some reactions came from the pulpit.

“What you are hearing is because an individual is hurt and decided to smear the image of the church,” Sacred Heart Cathedral’s administrator, Father Alphonsus Momoh, said to a Sunday congregation in Monrovia. “One day the truth will be told by the one who told the lie. Some believe it, some don’t and some are standing firm.”

He attributed the controversy to greed and a desire for money, saying, “Nobody wants to go through the proper channel. You will go and tarnish the name of the institution you belong to. There is no trust. We find in our midst- pulling down each other.”

A division of the Catholic fraternity Knights of St. John International, based at the same cathedral, expelled a member who spoke to the press about the matter and criticized the Church.

Sawyer said harassment continued after his ordination, though indirectly. He charged that Karnley and his allies conspired to oust him from his parish assignment, leaving him destitute and forced to beg for money at times.

His letter objected that the bishop’s office provided him insufficient funds to secure a visa to the U.K. for studies, and provided insufficient funds to support him while studying in the U.K., which similarly forced him to beg.

Upon his return, he was assigned to pastors who failed to provide his basic material needs. Sawyer contended his assignment as an associate priest after having served as pastor was non-canonical and a “total abuse of ecclesiastical power.”

A pastor he served under, he said, called the bishop and falsely reported that Sawyer threatened to kill the pastor “with a cutlass.” Sawyer also claimed that Karnley falsely accused him of having affairs with women, because of his refusal of sexual advances.

Sawyer claimed that his refusal of Zeigler’s alleged sexual advances meant that the bishop would listen to gossip about him rather than fairly investigate the accusations and unjustly kicked the priest out of his assignments. He claimed that the archbishop showed insufficient empathy to the priest and did not pay sufficient respect to his family after his father’s death. The priest’s letter speculated on whether this apparent inaction was due to an Ebola outbreak.

Both bishops ignored canon law, the priest charged.

The series on the Liberian bishops was produced by New Narratives as part of the West Africa Justice Reporting Project. It acknowledges funding from the Australian government agency Australian Aid, with the disclaimer that the funder had no say in the content.

The New Narratives project’s international partners are the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the U.K.-based charitable arm of the news network, and Chime for Change, founded by the Italian luxury fashion company Gucci in 2013. The Chime for Change campaign on its website describes as an effort “to convene, unite and strengthen the voices speaking out for gender equality.”