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Catholic bishops defend federal paycheck loan participation

CNA Staff, Jul 10, 2020 / 10:35 pm (CNA).-  

The U.S. bishops on Friday defended the use of the federal Paycheck Protection Program by Catholic parishes, hospitals, schools, dioceses, and social service agencies, after a report from the Associated Press said the government had given “special consideration” to faith groups in the loan program and characterized Catholic participation in the coronavirus relief program as an “aggressive pursuit of funds.”

“The Paycheck Protection Program was designed to protect the jobs of Americans from all walks of life, regardless of whether they work for for-profit or non-profit employers, faith-based or secular,” Archbishop Paul Coakley, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ conference committee on domestic justice and human development said in a July 10 statement.

“The Catholic Church is the largest non-governmental supplier of social services in the United States. Each year, our parishes, schools and ministries serve millions of people in need, regardless of race, ethnicity or religion. The novel coronavirus only intensified the needs of the people we serve and the demand for our ministries. The loans we applied for enabled our essential ministries to continue to function in a time of national emergency.”

“In addition, shutdown orders and economic fallout associated with the virus have affected everyone, including the thousands of Catholic ministries -- churches, schools, healthcare and social services -- that employ about 1 million people in the United States,” Coakley added.

“These loans have been an essential lifeline to keep hundreds of thousands of employees on payroll, ensure families maintain their health insurance, and enable lay workers to continue serving their brothers and sisters during this crisis.”

The federal loan program is a $669-billion initiative that allows entities to obtain low-interest loans that can be forgiven if the money goes mostly to cover payroll expenses, and to keep people employed who are in danger of losing their jobs. While more than 4.9 million loans have been approved to date, more than $130 billion remains available to potential borrowers.

Earlier this week, data was released by the government that revealed the identities of many, but not all loan participants. Loan recipients included Planned Parenthood affiliates, numerous firms owned by state and federal lawmakers, the publisher of the National Enquirer, the libertarian Ayn Rand Institute, and other organizations that have raised eyebrows or been subject to criticism.

Still, officials with the federal Small Business Association said that the program was designed to keep people employed, regardless of their industry or employer, and that the SBA will exercise oversight to ensure funds were not borrowed under false pretenses.

If borrowers can’t demonstrate that at least three-quarters of borrowed funds were used for payroll-related expenses, then the terms of the loans will require their repayment.

The July 9 Associated Press report said that Catholic organizations borrowed between $1.4 and $3.5 billion, and noted that at least 407,900 jobs were saved through those loans. At the high end of the Associated Press estimate, Catholic institutional borrowing would represent .5% of funds allocated to the loan program. And if $3.5 billion was in fact borrowed, the cost for each job saved through the loans would amount to $8580.

In May, CBS News reported that 12,000-13,000 of the 17,000 Catholic parishes in the U.S. had applied for the loans, and 9,000 had already received them.

The July 9 Associated Press story said that the Catholic Church in the U.S. used an “exemption from federal rules” in order to “amass at least $1.4 billion in taxpayer-backed coronavirus aid” through its participation in the federal program.

The report said that Catholic entities gained this “exception” to the Small Business Association’s eligibility rules through lobbying efforts, citing an April report from Catholic News Service.

That Catholic News Service report said that Catholic lobbyists worked, in the week the legislation creating the program was actually passed, to ensure that as rules were devised by Department of Treasury officials, that Catholic entities civilly distinct from each other would not be regarded as one entity, which might place the consolidated entities above a 500-employee eligibility cap.

In the Church’s canon law, parishes are distinct legal entities from each other and from dioceses, and while diocesan bishops exercise legislative and judicial authority over parishes, parishes do not constitute subsidiaries of dioceses. Nor do affiliated entities like Catholic Charities, Catholic schools and universities, or Catholic hospitals, which are ordinarily overseen by lay boards on which bishops often have only ordinary voting membership, if that.

The Catholic Church is a web of organizations connected by faith, mission, sacraments, and oversight, but those organizations are not uniformly administered as subsidiaries or under the direct control of local bishops.

While parishes generally pay annual fees to dioceses, the funds of distinct canonical entities may not be permissibly commingled, and canon law requires that the civil structures of parishes, dioceses, and other Catholic entities reflect their canonical reality.

Nevertheless, the complex organizational structure of the Catholic Church made it possible that several Catholic entities in the same place might be regarded by the SBA as one entity. The effort of the USCCB lobbyists was to ensure that wouldn’t be the case, the Catholic News Service report explained.

That effort was successful.

An April 3 FAQ document from the SBA explained that the general loan rules provided that if faith-based organizations had an affiliation related to “religious beliefs about church authority or internal constitution, or because the legal, financial, or other structural relationships between your organization and other organizations reflect an expression of such beliefs,” they would qualify for an exemption to rules that would ordinarily count “affiliated” organizations as one entity for purposes eligibility determination.

However, faith-based organizations “affiliated with other organizations solely for non-religious reasons, such as administrative convenience...would be subject to the affiliation rules,” the SBA explained.

In the United States, both parishes and dioceses are facing serious financial shortfalls and in Rome, the Vatican has run sizeable budget deficits for years. While the Catholic Church has assets of artistic, cultural, and historic value, those are not easily liquidated, and with few exceptions, Catholic entities around the world have been facing a serious cash crunch for years.

In his statement, Coakley acknowledged that “more than 100 Catholic schools have announced that they plan to close, with hundreds more facing an uncertain future. Businesses, hospitals, schools, and churches all across the country are facing many of the exact same problems.“

“We will continue advocating for everyone negatively affected by this terrible pandemic, praying for all the sick, for all who have died and are in mourning, and especially the poor and vulnerable at this time of great need.”

 

Judge shoots down Indiana abortion reporting law, upholds clinic inspection requirement 

CNA Staff, Jul 10, 2020 / 05:34 pm (CNA).- A federal judge ruled against an Indiana law requiring medical providers to inform the state if they treat any complications connected to a prior abortion.

U.S. District Judge Richard Young ruled Wednesday that the law was “unconstitutionally vague.” He said the legislation was unclear about how and when doctors should report potential complications, as well as what criteria should be used to determine whether a later condition is tied a previous abortion.

“The indeterminacy of the statute’s requirements denies fair notice to physicians and invites arbitrary enforcement by prosecutors,” Young wrote.

“The language of the statute does not make clear whether the duty to report covers conditions exclusively caused by the abortion procedure, conditions that are only slightly caused or exacerbated by the abortion procedure, or something in between.”

Under the law, there are 26 physical or psychological abortion-related conditions, ranging from depression to future pregnancy complications, that would require a report from doctors to the state. Failure to comply would be punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a $1000 fine.

In 2018 court documents, Attorney General Curtis Hill said the requirement “serves the public interest by collecting comprehensive data on the complications that may result from abortion and the frequency of those complications,” the New York Times reported.

Hill defended the law in a statement on Thursday, calling the legislation a “commonsense” regulation to safeguard women’s health.

“The Indiana General Assembly has a record of passing legislation that safeguards women’s health and protects the lives of unborn children,” Hill said. “I will always consider it an honor to vigorously defend state laws aimed at such essential objectives.”

At the same time, Young upheld another part of the law requiring abortion clinics to undergo annual inspections.

Planned Parenthood has objected to the law as unfair, since hospitals and surgical centers do not face the same yearly inspections.

However, Young pointed to the misconduct by abortionist Dr. Ulrich Klopfer, whose property was discovered after his death in 2019 to house more than 2,000 aborted fetuses. Klopfer operated several abortion clinics before losing his license in 2015.

Young ruled that “the state has offered a rational reason for the decision to subject abortion clinics to stricter inspection requirements.”

 

Archdiocese drops music, prohibits concerts, after new allegations against David Haas

CNA Staff, Jul 10, 2020 / 05:22 pm (CNA).-  

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis said Thursday it has received new allegations of misconduct on the part of composer David Haas, and that Haas will be prohibited from giving concerts and workshops in the archdiocese, and that his music will be prohibited at archdiocesan liturgies.

The archdiocese said it had in recent weeks “received additional reports from women in different parts of the country alleging that David Haas engaged in inappropriate conduct with them in the 1980s, when the women were young adults. The conduct described in these new, independent reports is similar in nature to the conduct described in previous allegations. Haas has denied any wrongdoing,” in a July 8 statement from safe environment director Tim O’Malley.

“We are sharing this information in the interest of accountability and transparency and believe that it may assist others, as it has assisted us, in making informed decisions. Survivors of sexual harassment and abuse deserve support and understanding.”

“Indeed, our community as a whole has suffered much from those who have used positions of power or privilege to harm others. We have a responsibility to be mindful of this and do what we can to prevent further injury to those who have already suffered harm.”

“Archbishop Hebda has decided that David Haas may not give presentations at workshops, concerts, or similar events hosted by the Archdiocese, parishes, Catholic schools, or other Catholic institutions in the Archdiocese. Likewise, the Archdiocese will not use Haas’ compositions at Archdiocesan Masses and other Archdiocesan events.”

“Also, the Archbishop has encouraged pastors, principals, and leaders of other Catholic institutions to consider the sensitivities involved with using Haas’ music in liturgies or other parish or school events, and to take appropriate steps to fully support those who have been harmed by sexual assault or abuse.”

Allegations of sexual misconduct against Haas surfaced in early June, when a group called Into Account sent a letter to some Catholic organizations and media outlets, addressing allegations against Haas.

The letter, obtained by CNA June 14, said the group had “received reports from multiple individuals reporting sexually predatory actions from the composer David Haas.”

Haas told CNA he denies those charges.

On June 16, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis released a statement saying that it had “received two reports from another diocese that David Haas acted inappropriately with two adult women at an event in another state. Both women complained that Haas’ conduct made them feel uncomfortable. The Archdiocese had received an earlier complaint, in 1987, that Haas had made unwanted sexual advances toward a young adult woman. In each instance, Haas denied that he engaged in inappropriate conduct.”

The archdiocese said that in 2018, it informed Haas it would no longer provide letters of recommendation for his ministry in other dioceses, and that he would not be allowed to perform the St. Paul archdiocese “without disclosure of these complaints.”

The composer, a layman, is a central figure in the “contemporary liturgical music” movement that began in the 1970s. Among Haas’ songs are some contemporary standards: “Glory to God,” “You are Mine,” “We are Called,” and “Blest are They,” among others.

Several of Haas’ publishers have suspended or dropped their relationships with the musician since the allegations were made public.

CNA has spoken with an alleged victim of sexual assault by Haas, and with a woman who offered a picture of her experience with Haas in the 1980s.

Maria* told CNA that Haas invited her to dinner in the fall of 1980, ostensibly to discuss music ministry. She had recently attended a music workshop that he had put on in St. Paul, and he had reached out to her directly by phone, she says.

She says during the evening Haas professed love for her, and that while he was driving after dinner, he refused to bring her back to her dormitory when she asked him to repeatedly, taking her instead to a second restaurant for dessert, despite her continued requests to be taken home.

Maria alleges that Haas tried to hold her back when she eventually did get out of his car, insisting on a kiss goodnight.

In later weeks, she says Haas pursued her with love notes and tried to meet with her one-on-one, even while he knew she was dating a man she eventually married. She says she rebuked his advances, "but it could have gone bad fast if I hadn't seen the writing on the wall," Maria told CNA.

When the Into Account allegations came to light in May, Maria says she began to reassess what had happened to her. He had taken her out under false pretenses— using his position as a music minister to get her to agree to meet him— and would not allow her to leave the situation, she said.

Maria also remembers hearing rumors that other members of the choir in which she participated in college— which Haas helped to lead— had experienced similar “dates” with Haas.

She said she hopes her story might inspire other women from that choir to come forward with their own allegations.

*Maria asked for anonymity to avoid potential retaliation from Haas, professionally, and from the public.

 

US Navy changes course, allows attendance at religious services with coronavirus precautions

Denver Newsroom, Jul 10, 2020 / 02:30 pm (CNA).-  

After reports that sailors and their families could be barred from attending church services, the U.S Navy has clarified that its personnel may attend indoor religious services, provided that religious services take approved measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Archdiocese for Military Services has welcomed the change.

“The revision of the U.S. Navy’s orders to allow for the participation by Navy personnel in indoor religious services, provided that the appropriate guidelines are met, is most welcome,” Broglio told CNA July 10. “The change recognizes that worship is a part of the exercise of religious liberty and helps to ensure the readiness of the forces who defend us.”

“It is clear that the Catholic Church has taken to heart the CDC measures and organized the celebration of the sacraments in ways that ensure the safety of participants, good order, and the dignity of the rites. I am sure that other religious groups will do the same,” the archbishop said.

“I am grateful to the Department of the Navy and everyone else who contributed to this timely revision.”

In late March, the Navy imposed restrictions on attending off-base religious services.

Gregory Slavonic, acting assistant secretary of defense for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, said on Wednesday that Navy orders should not “restrict attendance at places of worship where attendees are able to appropriately apply COVID-19 transmission mitigation measures, specifically social distancing and use of face covering.“

The new guidance came late Wednesday in a memo from Slavonic to Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Mike Gilday, the news website Military.com reports.

Capt. Sarah Self-Kyler, public affairs officer for U.S. Fleet Forces Command, said all service members assigned to Navy units “must continue to follow force health protection protocols, such as maintaining social distance and use of face coverings, should they choose to participate in religious services or visit places of worship.”

U.S. Air Force Major Daniel Schultz, who is currently assigned to a Navy command, on June 29 sought a religious accommodation. Schultz, who leads worship at his church, said a new order allowed house parties and protests but banned attendance at indoor church services.

Mike Berry, general counsel for the First Liberty Institute, had sent a letter on behalf of Schultz. He told Fox News the change was a “major victory” for the Constitution and religious freedom.

“This memo means tens of thousands of our brave service members will be able to safely and freely exercise their religious beliefs,” he said.

U.S. Reps. Doug Collins, R-Ga., and Doug Lamborn, R-Colo. Had written to U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper objecting to the Navy's policy.

Collins welcomed the new clarification but called for further changes.

"For too long, the Pentagon has turned a blind eye as our military leaders have completely disregarded their obligation to protect the religious freedom of its service members," Collins said Thursday. "I look forward to sitting down with Secretary Esper and leaders at the Department of Defense to further discuss how we can protect religious freedom across all branches of our military.”

On July 5, Broglio criticized the orders and lamented that they also discouraged “civilian personnel, including families” from attending indoor church services.

Broglio called the Navy’s original order “particularly odious to Catholics,” because, he said, frequently there is no longer a Catholic program on naval installations due to budgetary constraints, or many installation chapels simply are still closed.

“Participation in the Sunday Eucharist is life blood for Catholics. It is the source and summit of our lives and allows us to receive the Body and Blood of the Lord,” he said.

Given the great efforts of Catholic churches to adjust seating, the reception of Holy Communion, and the liturgy to avoid contagion, Broglio had said, “I wonder why the Navy has decided to prohibit the faithful from something which even the Commander in Chief has called an essential service.”

Broglio's archdiocese serves some 1.8 million Catholics worldwide, including service members, civilian federal employees, and their families. About 25% of the military is Catholic, though only 6% of military chaplains are. There are under 500 ordained priests doing ministry work for the archdiocese, about 184 of whom are active-duty chaplains who are also commissioned officers.

While some news reports have highlighted dangers of contagion at religious services, other experts have emphasized that religious services are no more dangerous than similar events that take precautions recommended by health authorities.

A recent New York Times report linked religious facilities to more than 650 cases of Covid-19 infections contracted at nearly 40 churches and religious events since the epidemic arrived in the U.S. However, these make up a minuscule percentage of the more than 3.1 million confirmed cases in the country.

 

Catholic Charities serves families facing food insecurity in DC

Washington D.C., Jul 10, 2020 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- In the shadow of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington distributed food to families in need Friday, as the nation’s capital continues to battle the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Today we provided food to hundreds of people who have been impacted by the pandemic,” Joe Dempsey, director of special projects for Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, told CNA. 

“This shows that this crisis is still very much affecting the D.C. area, and it continues to hit struggling families the hardest. But we are committed to meeting our clients’ needs for as long as this situation lasts,” said Dempsey. 

The distribution was held in the parking lot in front of the basilica, a Washington landmark and the largest church in North America. In addition to the 500 grocery boxes, Catholic Charities also distributed boxes that contained a hot meal for a family of four. 

DC Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie, who represents the district’s Ward 5, where the basilica is located, praised Catholic Charities for their work in feeding the hungry. 

“Here in Ward 5 we have the second highest number of COVID-19 positive cases in the District,” Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie told CNA on Friday. 

“A large number of our businesses have had to close temporarily, leaving many of our residents without employment. Catholic Charities has been committed to serving some of our most vulnerable residents in the District and I am immensely appreciative of their continued service during this difficult time,” he added. 

According to research done by Northwestern University, Black and Hispanic families are particularly struggling with food insecurity in the wake of the economic shutdown caused by the pandemic. Approximately 40% of Black and Hispanic families say that they are having trouble feeding their children. 

Ward 5 is approximately 56% Black, and about 11% of the ward’s population identifies as Hispanic or Latino. About 16% of the residents in Ward 5 live below the poverty line. 

These numbers are a stark increase compared to previous years. In 2018, which was the last time a national survey was held concerning food insecurity, 25% of Black households with children and 17% of Hispanic households with children said that they were food insecure. Those figures are now 39% and 37%, respectively. 

For white households with children, 22% report food insecurity, which researchers say is more than double the previous figure prior to the coronavirus pandemic.

Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, an economist and the director of the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University, told POLITICO that these numbers are “uncharted territory.” 

“We’ve never seen food insecurity rates double, or nearly triple--and the persistent race gaps are just appalling,” she said.

US sanctions Chinese officials over abuses of Uyghurs in Xinjiang

CNA Staff, Jul 10, 2020 / 12:10 pm (CNA).- The Trump administration announced Thursday that it is putting travel and asset sanctions on several senior officials of the Chinese Communist Party for their role in the mass internment of Uyghurs.

An estimated 1 million Uyghurs, members of a Muslim ethnoreligious group, have been detained in re-education camps in China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Inside the camps they are reportedly subjected to forced labor, torture, and political indoctrination. Outside the camps, Uyghurs are monitored by pervasive police forces and facial recognition technology.

“The United States will not stand idly by as the CCP carries out human rights abuses targeting Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs, and members of other minority groups in Xinjiang, to include forced labor, arbitrary mass detention, and forced population control, snd attempts to erase their culture and Muslim faith,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced July 9.

“The United States is taking action today against the horrific and systematic abuses in Xinjiang and calls on all nations who share our concerns about the CCP’s attacks on human rights and fundamental freedoms to join us in condemning this behavior,” he added.

Chen Quanguo, Communist Party Secretary of Xinjiang, and two other party officials of the region, Zhu Hailun and Wang Mingshan, as well as their immediate family members, will be unable to attain visas to enter the US.

Other CCP officals “believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, the unjust detention or abuse of Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs, and members of other minority groups in Xinjiang” are also being sanctioned with visa restrictions.

Chen, Zhu, Wang, and Huo Liujun, a former police official in Xinjiang, are being sanctioned by the US Treasury Department, as is the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau.

Their assets and entities in the US are blocked, and US persons may not do business with them.

“The United States is committed to using the full breadth of its financial powers to hold human rights abusers accountable in Xinjiang and across the world,” commented Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin.

Chen is also a member of the Politburo, a group of 25 who oversee the CCP, and he was Communist Party Secretary of Tibet from 2011-16. He is the highest-ranking Chinese official to have been sanctioned by the US.

Nury Turkel, a Uyghur human rights advocates who is a commissioner at the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, had told CNA June 24 that the commission “is disappointed that the U.S. government has not yet enacted targeted sanctions against Chinese officials responsible for the mass detention of Uyghur and other Muslims.”

President Donald Trump had on June 17 signed legislation that would impose financial and visa sanctions on individuals complicit in abuses in Xinjiang. The Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act directs the president to impose sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Act, one of several laws authorizing the president to sanction human rights abusers.

The statements explaining the new sanctions from both the State and Treasury Departments referred to the Magnitsky Act.

The Chinese government has defended its policy of mass detention and re-education as an appropriate measure against terrorism.

The government at one time denied the camps even existed, but has since shifted to defending its actions as a reasonable response to a national security threat.

Government officials from the region said in July 2019 that the area's re-education camps for Muslims have been successful, with most of those held having been reintegrated into Chinese society.

Uyghurs can be arrested and detained under vague anti-terrorism laws. Violence in the region escalated in the 1990s and again in 2008.

The US Commerce Department in October 2019 added 28 Chinese organizations to a blacklist barring them from buying products from US companies, saying they cooperate in the detention and repression of the Uyghurs.

A 2019 document from a Xinjiang county leaked to western media earlier this year gave violation of birth control policies as the most common reason for the “re-education” of some 3,000 Uyghurs, often alongside other reasons.

Last week an AP investigation found a systematic campaign by the CCP of pregnancy checks and forced abortions, sterilizations, and implantations of IUDs on Uyghurs and other minorities in Xinjiang.

The birth rate in the region plunged by 24% in 2019, the AP said, and in certain parts of the province birth rates had fallen by more than 60% from 2015 to 2018. 

Indiana priest's suspension after Black Lives Matter letter divides Catholics

Denver Newsroom, Jul 9, 2020 / 11:22 pm (CNA).-  

Catholics in one Indianapolis suburb are divided over the suspension of a priest who called organizers of the Black Lives Matter Movement “maggots and parasites.”

On June 28, Fr. Ted Rothrock wrote in the parish bulletin at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Carmel, Indiana a letter on the Black Lives Matter movement and escalating racial tension in the country.

“The brutal murder of a black man has sparked a landslide of reaction to the alleged systemic racism in America,” the priest wrote. “We are being told that the scars of race relations in this country are really unhealed wounds that continue to fester and putrefy; amputation is required! Reforms must be sweeping and immediate to crush the rising wave of racism that pervades the nation and perverts the body politic.”

“What would the great visionary leaders of the past be contributing to the discussion at this point in time? Would men like Fredrick (sic) Douglass  and the Reverend King, both men of deep faith, be throwing bombs or even marching in the streets?”

On the “Black Lives Matter” movement, the priest asked “do those black lives really matter to the community organizers promoting their agenda? Is ‘Antifa’ concerned with the defeat of fascist right-wing nationalism or more interested in the establishment of left-wing global nationalism?”

“Who are the real racists and purveyors of hate?” the priest continued. “You shall know them by their works. They are wolves in wolves clothing, masked thieves and bandits, seeking only to devour the life of the poor and profit from the fear of others. They are maggots and parasites at best, feeding off the isolation of addiction and broken families, and offering to replace any current frustration and anxiety with more misery and greater resentment.”

“Black Lives Matter, Antifa, and other nefarious acolytes of their persuasion are not the friends or allies we have been led to believe,” Rothrock wrote.

Some groups in Carmel immediately protested the priest’s message, calling it racist and inappropriate, and called for his removal from the parish. Supporters said the priest had spoken truthfully, with one telling the Indianapolis Star that the priest was referring to organizers of “Marxist” Black Lives Matter organizations. 

Amid the controversy, Bishop Timothy Doherty of the Diocese of Lafayette-in-Indiana issued a June 30 statement, saying “I expect Father Rothrock to issue a clarification about his intended message. I have not known him to depart from Church teaching in matters of doctrine and social justice.”

On the same day, Rothrock posted an apology on the parish website. “It was not my intention to offend anyone, and I am sorry that my words have caused any hurt to anyone,” he wrote.

The priest’s apology said that the Gospel condemns bigotry, according to the Indianapolis Star, adding that “We must also be fully aware that there are those who would distort the Gospel for their own misguided purposes. People are afraid, as I pointed out, rather poorly I would admit, that there are those who feed on that fear to promote more fear and division.”

The next day, July 1, Doherty announced that Rothrock had been suspended from ministry.

“Father Theodore Rothrock is suspended from public ministry according to Canon 1333. The suspension comes in the wake of Father Rothrock’s June 28 bulletin article. The Bishop expresses pastoral concern for the affected communities. The suspension offers the Bishop an opportunity for pastoral discernment for the good of the diocese and for the good of Father Rothrock,” Doherty wrote in a July 1 decree.

Doherty celebrated Mass and preached at St. Elizabeth Seton parish on July 5. Protesters and counter protesters gathered outside the Church.

Addressing the congregation at Sunday Mass, the bishop praised Rothrock as part of the parish’s “wonderful history” while expressing that “serious consequences of that article are still playing out among us, and in the wider community. I chose the suspension provided for in church law. The suspension offers me an opportunity for pastoral discernment for the good of the diocese, of St Elizabeth Seton Church, and for the good of Father Rothrock.”

The bishop drew a distinction between the Black Lives Matter social movement and the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, an organization which, Doherty said, “clearly says things that I oppose.” But, the bishop said, echoing remarks from black Catholic leaders in recent weeks, “it is a mistake to say that that foundation is the headquarters of what is a very diverse movement.”

When Doherty concluded his remarks with the phrase “Black Lives Matter,” one woman called out, saying the bishop was a coward, according to Catholics in attendance at the Mass, and she was then removed from the church. Outside the parish, demonstrators chanted for or against the priest.

Division over the priest continues in Carmel, a wealthy, mostly white city north of Indianapolis, where some citizens have organized as Carmel Against Racial Injustice to protest systemic racism, while others, Catholics and non-Catholics, have continued to voice support for the priest.

Rothrock could not be reached for comment.

While Doherty said that he had observed Church law in suspending Rothrock, it is not clear that the bishops’ action was undertaken in accord with canon law on the subject.

The bishop’s decree indicated that he had suspended the priest in accord with canon 1333 of the Code of Canon Law. The canon describes the formal penalty of suspension issued after a formal penal process- a canonical trial or an administrative penal process. Such a process determines whether a person has committed a “delict”- a crime in Church law.

CNA asked the Diocese of Lafayette-in-Indiana to clarify whether the priest was accused of a particular canonical crime, and whether he had been formally sanctioned with suspension following a canonical process- a procedure which ordinary takes weeks or more to complete.

The diocese declined to respond to CNA’s questions.

It is also not clear whether Rothrock formally remains pastor of St. Elizabeth Seton Parish. The priest was due to be transferred to another parish in Carmel, and the diocese now says the transfer will not happen. But the diocese has declined to respond to questions about whether the priest has offered his resignation from St. Elizabeth Seton, or whether he remains the pastor. Removing a pastor from office involuntarily requires a specific canonical process.

On July 8, the diocese issued an “updated statement” saying that Doherty had “asked Father Theodore Rothrock to step aside from public ministry because of the division and damage that was instantly felt within the parish, the diocese and the larger community following Father Rothrock’s controversial bulletin article. Father Rothrock has expressed regret and he understands and appreciates God’s gift of the human family, and therefore the value of every human life which is made in the image and likeness of God.”

“This time for pastoral discernment is for the good of the diocese, for St. Elizabeth Seton and for the good of Father Rothrock,” the statement said, adding that “various possibilities for Father Rothrock’s public continuation in priestly ministry are still being considered.”

 

NY Catholic archdiocese to close 20 schools, merge 3

CNA Staff, Jul 9, 2020 / 06:15 pm (CNA).- The Archdiocese of New York announced Thursday that 20 of its schools will not reopen, following the coronavirus crisis, and three of its schools will merge.

Michael Deegan, the archdiocese's Superintendent of Schools, said July 9 that “the reality of these schools being lost is painful, and it was only accepted reluctantly after a detailed study was conducted of their respective fiscal standing in the wake of the coronavirus public health crisis. I have been a Catholic school educator for more than 40 years, and could never have imagined the grave impact this pandemic has had on our schools.”

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York commented that “I’ve kept a hopeful eye on our schools throughout this saga and my prayers are with all of the children and their families who will be affected by this sad news. Given the devastation of this pandemic, I’m grateful more schools didn’t meet this fate, and that Catholic schools nearby are ready to welcome all the kids.”

Eleven of the schools that will be closed are located in New York City: six in the Bronx, three in Staten Island, and two in Manhattan. Six schools will not reopen in Westchester County, and one each in Orange, Rockland, and Dutchess counties. Another three schools in Orange County will be merged into one.

Some 2,500 students and 350 staff will be impacted by the changes, according to the archdiocese.

No schools are closing or merging in Putnam, Sullivan, or Ulster counties.

The superintendent's office has said it will help affected families find nearby Catholic schools for the autumn, and that it “is dedicated to working in coordination with the teachers’ union to do everything it can to help faculty of the affected schools to find employment within the Archdiocesan school system.”

The archdiocese said the coronavirus crisis “has had a devastating financial impact on Catholic school families.”

It noted that unemployment and health concerns “have resulted in families’ inability to pay their current tuition, and a significantly low rate of re-registration for the fall,” and that “months of cancelled public masses and fundraising for scholarships have seen a loss of parish contributions which traditionally help support the schools.”

The local Church expects the closures and merge to ensure “the overall fiscal stability and strengthen the vitality of New York Catholic schools for decades to come.”

Deegan commented that “if more assistance is not forthcoming in the longed for HEROES Act now before Congress, I am afraid even more might close.”

The Heroes Act would provide funding for state and local governments, assistance to hospitals, and direct payments to American families along with funding unemployment insurance. The Senate and White House have indicated their opposition to the bill.

In June the US Department of Education said that federal coronavirus aid to private schools is now enforceable by law, following concerns that Catholic and other non-public schools were being excluded from sufficient epidemic relief funds to support protective equipment for students and teachers, cleaning, training in remote education, and distance education tools.

Education Secretary Besty DeVos said on a June 25 phone call with reporters that “While a number of traditional public schools aren’t sure whether they will open their doors in the fall, too many other kinds of schools are sure they won’t open at all. More than 100 private schools, including many Catholic schools, have already announced they will never reopen, and hundreds more face a similar fate.”

The Education Department's decision is being challenged by a July 7 suit filed by Michigan, California, Maine, New Mexico, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia

The National Catholic Education Association said in June that at least 100 Catholic primary and secondary schools across the US would not be reopening, citing low enrollment and decreased donations amid the coronavirus.

Sister Dale McDonald, public policy director for the NCEA, told CNA that for most Catholic schools about 80% of their operating budget comes from tuition. In addition, many Catholic schools hold major fundraisers in the spring, which had to be cancelled or postponed after the pandemic hit.

States sue Education Department over COVID relief for private schools

CNA Staff, Jul 9, 2020 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- Five states are suing the Trump administration for directing emergency relief aid to students at private schools, regardless of their income level.

The states of Michigan, California, Maine, New Mexico, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia filed the complaint in federal court on Tuesday against Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. The states were led by the attorneys general of Michigan and California, Dana Nessel and Xavier Becerra.

“At a time when Michigan schools are facing an unprecedented crisis, every single child deserves the chance to succeed. But, yet again, Secretary DeVos has decided to tip the scales in favor of private schools, leaving the State’s public-school students behind,” Nessel said.

Congress, under the CARES Act in March, sent relief funding for education to the states, to distribute to local educational agencies (LEAs).

Although some of the Title I-A funds could go to help private school students, under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act they are specifically meant for “at-risk private-school students” and not students in general, the states’ lawsuit says.

An interim final rule issued by the Education Department directs the LEAs to “provide equitable services to students and teachers in non-public schools,” not specifying that they are meant only for low-income students, the lawsuit says.

DeVos said in a June 25 announcement that “CARES Act programs are not Title I programs,” and thus not subject to the limitation on use only for low-income students. If they are limited to only low-income students, they still must be spent equitably across public and private schools in the district, she said.

“There is no reasonable explanation for debating the use of federal funding to serve both public and private K-12 students when federal funding, including CARES Act funding, flows to both public and private higher education institutions.” 

The funding does not directly flow through LEAs to private schools, but rather is used by the agencies for “secular, neutral, and nonideological services,” DeVos said. This would probably include cleaning, health equipment, and remote learning services, she said.

Furthermore, the department’s rule “discourages the limited number of financially secure private schools from seeking equitable services,” the agency said in its press release.

However, according to the states’ lawsuit, the agency “grafted its own allocation and eligibility rules on Congress’s directive.”

“CARES Act money is designed to provide support to schools with low-income students, as it is to be allocated based on the amount of Title I funding each state and school district received in the most recent fiscal year,” the lawsuit states. 

According to the states’ complaint, the interpretation “will deprive low-income and at-risk students, their teachers, and the public schools that serve them of critical resources to meet students’ educational and social/emotional needs during and after pandemic-related school closures.”

According to McClatchy, the White House is planning to request money for scholarship programs for students of private and religious schools in the next coronavirus relief package.

Cardinal Tobin asks Trump for clemency in death row case

CNA Staff, Jul 9, 2020 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark has joined several U.S. bishops in asking President Donald Trump to commute the death sentence of a federal inmate scheduled to be executed on July 17. Exercising clemency, the cardinal told the president, can help “stem the tide of anger and revenge” in the country.

Cardinal Tobin sent a letter to Trump on Thursday asking for clemency for Dustin Honken, who was convicted of the murder of five people, including a single mother and her two daughters aged ten and six years old, in 2004.

“I have known Mr. Honken for seven years,” Cardinal Tobin said, noting that he visited Honken several times a year at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, while Archbishop of Indianapolis from 2012 to 2017.

“His present spiritual guide, Father Mark O’Keefe, OSB, confirms that the spiritual growth in faith and compassion, which I had witnessed in our meetings some years ago, continues to this day,” Tobin wrote.

Fr. O’Keefe, meanwhile, filed a motion to delay Honken’s execution at least until after the COVID-19 pandemic is controlled, so he could fulfill his “sacred religious duty to minister Mr. Honken at his execution” while not risking his own “life and health.”

Honken is one of four federal inmates scheduled to be executed in coming weeks, between July 13 and August 28.

The Justice Department last year announced that the federal bureau of prisons would resume executions for the first time since 2003, with five executions scheduled. Four of the death row inmates filed a complaint in court against the one-drug execution protocol, but the D.C. Circuit Court ruled against them in April and the Supreme Court denied their appeal on June 29, clearing the way for their executions to proceed. The fifth inmate, Wesley Ira Purkey, had his execution temporarily halted by the Seventh Circuit appeals court on July 2.

Honken committed his murders in Iowa, and the state’s four Catholic bishops sent a letter on July 1 to Trump, asking for his sentence to be commuted to life imprisonment without parole.

Tobin said on Thursday that Honken’s crimes are “heinous,” but that his execution “will do nothing to restore justice or heal those still burdened by these crimes.” 

“Instead, his execution will reduce the government of the United States to the level of a murderer and serve to perpetuate a climate of violence which brutalizes our society in so many ways,” Tobin wrote, noting that the use of the death penalty makes the United States an “outlier” in the world.  

“If his death sentence is commuted, Mr. Honken expects to spend his remaining days in prison,” Tobin wrote.

“By commuting this death sentence, you would help stem the tide of anger and revenge that threatens our country,” he told the president.

Several Catholic bishops joined a statement of more than 1,000 faith leaders calling for a stop to the executions, on July 7. Former USCCB president Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Bishop William Medley of Owensboro, Kentucky, Bishop Oscar Solis of Salt Lake City, Bishop Thomas Zinkula of Davenport, Iowa, and Bishop Richard Pates, the apostolic administrator of the diocese of Joliet, Illinois, all signed the statement.