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Texas lawmakers propose making illegal immigration a felony
Posted on 03/16/2023 20:24 PM (CNA Daily News - US)
Washington D.C., Mar 16, 2023 / 15:24 pm (CNA).
The Republican leadership in the Texas House announced last week that passing a bill to make illegal immigration a felony is a top priority this spring.
The “Border Protection Unit Act,” introduced last week by state Republican Rep. Matt Schaefer and supported by key leaders of the majority-Republican Texas House of Representatives, would create a specialized border protection police force and make illegal immigration a state felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan issued a March 10 press release announcing that House leadership will prioritize passing the Border Protection Unit Act.
“Addressing our state’s border and humanitarian crisis is a must-pass issue for the Texas House this year, and I thank Representatives Guillen and Schaefer for filing … [bills that] will lead to a safer Texas that overall reduces the cost to taxpayers,” Phelan said.
The act would give the new border protection unit full legal authority to “arrest, detain, and deter individuals crossing the border illegally including with the use of nondeadly force.” Additionally, the unit’s chief, who would be appointed by the governor, would have the authority to deputize civilians “to participate in unit operations and functions” so long as those individuals have not been convicted of a felony.”
Another bill proposed by state Rep. Ryan Guillen would establish a Border Safety Oversight Committee to oversee the new border protection unit and provide border policy recommendations to the Legislature.
The Texas House Mexican American Legislative Caucus immediately denounced Schaefer’s proposed legislation, calling it an “extreme vigilante death squads policy.”
“This dangerous, radical, and unconstitutional proposal which empowers border vigilantes to hunt migrants and racially profile Latinos is going to result in the death of innocent people,” the statement read.
Schaefer responded in a tweet:
“The Texas Border Protection Unit will be an organization of professional men and women hired/trained under the authority of the Dept. of Public Safety to protect Texans. Many will be licensed peace officers, others trained and specifically authorized by the Governor to make lawful arrests. Exactly as the Nat’l Guard & DPS operate now under Operation Lone Star.”
The Texas Border Protection Unit will be an organization of professional men and women hired/trained under the authority of the Dept of Public Safety to protect Texans. Many will be licensed peace officers, others trained and specifically authorized by the Governor to make lawful… https://t.co/6Z1a9EsmvD— Matt Schaefer (@RepMattSchaefer) March 11, 2023
Operation Lone Star is an ongoing border security initiative that was first launched in the spring of 2021 by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.
The initiative has dedicated billions of state dollars and resources to border security and sent thousands of public safety officers and National Guard soldiers to the Texas-Mexico border.
To become law, Schaefer’s bill will have to pass both houses of the Texas Legislature before the end of the legislative session in May. Republicans hold majorities in both the Texas House and Senate, making increased border security policies very possible.
According to the Border Protection Unit Act’s text, if two-thirds of both houses approve the act it will take effect immediately. If the bill is passed without a two-thirds majority, it will take effect on Sept. 1 of this year.
Texas Republican Sen. Brian Birdwell introduced similar legislation in the Senate, making illegally crossing the border a state felony punishable by jail time. Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who oversees the state Senate, has signaled his support for Birdwell’s bill.
Abbott, who is a Catholic Republican, has said that securing the border is an “emergency item” for the 2023 Texas legislative session.
A Feb. 16 press release from Abbott’s office announced that he intends to work with the Legislature to “secure another $4.6 billion to bolster border security efforts” and to “pass legislation making it at least a 10-year mandatory minimum jail sentence for anyone caught smuggling in Texas.”
With a record 2.76 million-plus undocumented migrants crossing the border in the fiscal year 2022, illegal immigration has been a growing concern for not only Republicans but also some key Democrats, including President Joe Biden.
In February, the Biden administration announced a new policy that will take effect May 11 and automatically deny asylum to migrants who cross the border illegally or cross other countries illegally to get into the United States. Biden’s new rule, which is his most restrictive border policy yet, will remain in effect until May 11, 2025.
Responding to Biden’s new policy, Dylan Corbett of the Catholic relief group Hope Border Institute told CNA that those setting immigration policy should consider the effects on migrants.
“We spend billions of dollars every year on border and immigration enforcement. There is no doubt that we can reinvest some of those resources into putting in place a safe, efficient, welcoming system at the border that upholds the rights of vulnerable migrants and keeps our country safe.
“At this point, it is only a question of overcoming the political hurdles. Unfortunately, many lawmakers on both sides of the aisle today only see the political cost of making progress on immigration, but they don’t realize that there is also a moral cost to shutting the door on the most vulnerable that is far more consequential,” Corbett said.
Facing hundreds of sex abuse lawsuits, Albany Diocese to declare bankruptcy
Posted on 03/16/2023 14:47 PM (CNA Daily News - US)
Denver, Colo., Mar 16, 2023 / 09:47 am (CNA).
The Catholic Diocese of Albany has decided to file for bankruptcy, saying a financial reorganization will help provide some compensation for the hundreds of sex abuse victims who have filed lawsuits.
“I understand this filing causes uncertainty, but as a Church and a community of faith, we must recognize that victim-survivors are our sons and daughters, and our brothers and sisters, and all of us, without exception, must work together to find ways to help them,” Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger of Albany said in a March 15 statement.
“It’s a natural thing for us to do, especially for those who have been hurt by an institution we are all called to be a part of. We must reach out to all and journey with them through the healing process,” the bishop’s statement read.
Parishes and schools are not part of the filing and are incorporated as different entities, the bishop said.
“It is very important for me to point out that the mission and ministries of the diocese and parishes will continue during the reorganization proceedings,” he said. He asked for prayers “for all involved, that God’s peace and healing can prevail.”
Scharfenberger said the diocese has been named in more than 400 lawsuits filed from August 2019 to August 2021 under the Child Victims Act of 2019. The act allowed a retrospective one-year “look back” window during which alleged abuse victims could file lawsuits long after the statute of limitations had ended. Then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo extended the window through 2021, citing the obstacles caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The diocese has settled more than 50 of these lawsuits. Settlements have been “large” and the “limited funds” have been depleted, the bishop said.
Chapter 11 bankruptcy will ensure “some compensation” for all abuse victims with pending litigation. The collection of debts and legal actions against the diocese will halt and a reorganization plan will determine available assets and insurance carrier participation “to negotiate reasonable settlements” with abuse victims and other creditors.
There is no timeline for the Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the Albany Diocese said in a statement. Other reorganizations have continued for several years. Bankruptcy reorganization plans usually must be approved by the affected creditors, including lawsuit plaintiffs, and also by the bankruptcy court.
The bankruptcy announcement follows months of negotiations between attorneys for the diocese and for the plaintiffs. Several attorneys for plaintiffs complained that the diocese’s offer of a global settlement fell far short of a reasonable amount and alleged that the diocese’s attorneys had obstructed the legal discovery process, the Albany Times-Union reported.
Scharfenberger took office in 2014. According to the diocese’s website, the Albany Diocese serves about 316,000 Catholics in a population of 1.4 million. About 68 diocesan priests are in active ministry, the diocese’s website reports.
The Albany Diocese joins five New York dioceses that have declared bankruptcy amid the lawsuits brought under the Child Victims Act. The other dioceses are Rochester, Syracuse, Buffalo, and Rockville Centre.
The St. Clare Hospital pension fund is also a subject of lawsuits. More than 1,100 former employees of the closed Schenectady hospital lost some or all of their retirement savings when the fund emptied in 2019 as a result of a decision in the 1990s to drop the fund’s federal pension insurance protection, WAMC Northeast Public Radio reported. The hospital, which shut down in 2008, operated under the diocese. A 2019 lawsuit against the diocese seeks damage on behalf of the pensioners.
Though these lawsuits will be halted, Scharfenberger said this was not the diocese’s aim for filing the bankruptcy.
A special section on the Albany Diocese’s website addresses the reorganization. The bishop pointed to information on the diocese’s child protection and safe environment resources and its Hope and Healing effort for abuse survivors.
“I apologize to the victim-survivors and their families for the inexcusable harm that was done to them by those in positions of trust,” he said. He emphasized the dioceses’ commitment to its programs for victim-survivors, including work to facilitate mental health services and to provide opportunities for spiritual healing.
“They are part of our community in Christ, and as a Church we are called to share his love, to be his heart in the world today,” the bishop said of abuse victims.
Albany’s Bishop Emeritus Howard Hubbard, who led the diocese from 1977 until 2014, gave a deposition made public in March 2022 in which he admitted that he did not report several instances of alleged sexual abuse of minors by priests, instead choosing to keep the allegations quiet and to refer the priests for treatment.
Hubbard has defended his response to abuse cases, saying that it was “common practice” in the 1970s and 1980s to act as he did, though he acknowledged that his failure to notify the parish and the public when a priest was removed from or restored to ministry was a “mistake.”
In a majority of the cases “the victims themselves did not want to make the matter public and many times sought confidentiality through their attorneys.”
A March 2021 lawsuit has accused him of abusing a boy in 1977, an allegation that he has denied. Hubbard has asked the Vatican to permanently remove him from the clergy, contending he can no longer serve in public ministry.
Miami University student group hopes to install Plan B ‘morning after pill’ vending machine on campus
Posted on 03/15/2023 20:55 PM (CNA Daily News - US)
Washington D.C., Mar 15, 2023 / 15:55 pm (CNA).
Miami University’s student government association has plans to install a “Plan B” emergency contraception vending machine on its Oxford, Ohio, campus in time for the fall semester.
Plan B emergency contraception, also known as “the morning-after pill,” is a one-step pill that can sometimes act as an abortifacient.
Though plans have not yet been finalized, the university’s student government has proposed purchasing the pills in bulk and selling them in a campus community hall to make them available to students 24/7 at a discounted price, according to student government meeting notes.
Miami University would be the first school in Ohio to have a contraception vending machine on campus.
Sophomore Ryan Parker, one of the students behind the proposal, told The Miami Student that he expected the university’s administration to approve the initiative.
“We’re still kind of working out those logistics with a bunch of different departments on campus, but everyone has been overly supportive so far,” Parker told the student newspaper.
Several universities throughout the U.S. already have similar emergency contraception vending machines on campus including George Washington University, the University of California-Los Angeles, and Boston University.
The initial purchase of the machine and pills would be paid for by the school’s Associated Student Government, which, like other student-run organizations, receives money from the university. The continued stocking of the pills would be funded by the sale of pills to students.
According to the manufacturers, the pill is designed to be effective for up to 72 hours, preventing ovulation and thus stopping a pregnancy before conception.
However, some say that the Plan B pill can act as an abortifacient. According to Miami University Students for Life, “emergency contraception has the potential to end a human life.”
“There are two ways Plan B is capable of ending the life of a conceived human. First, its chemical makeup directly affects the hormones at play within the female reproductive system and can prevent enough progesterone (the ‘pregnancy hormone’) from sustaining the offspring,” the petition states.
“Second, Plan B is capable of creating an inhospitable uterine environment with the thinning of the endometrium. This uterine lining is, without artificial interference, thick and ready for a conceived child to implant and continue the gestational process. If the embryo survives all of Plan B’s previous defenses and arrives at the uterus only to find nowhere to implant, he or she will die.”
Miami University Students for Life said the initiative, which proposes allocating $3,500 for the Plan B vending machine, would use student-funded dollars for something that could be harmful to women’s health.
“Current research shows Plan B can cause serious complications, be ineffective, and potentially create more serious long-term health conditions,” Miami University Students for Life said in an online petition to stop the vending machine.
Alecia Lipton of Miami University’s media relations office told CNA that “the proposed Plan B vending machine is not a university initiative but is a student-led project of the Associated Student Government [ASG] at Miami University.”
“If an emergency-contraception vending machine were to be purchased by the Associated Student Government, it would be funded by monies controlled by ASG, not the Miami administration,” Lipton said. “The proposed vending machine would dispense the over-the-counter contraceptive medication, Plan B, which delays or prevents ovulation but does not end a pregnancy that has implanted.”
According to Lipton, “at this point there is neither any certainty that a vending machine will be installed nor a specific time frame or date for completion of this proposed initiative.”
Still, she told CNA that plans are underway to make a Plan B vending machine available to students.
“The Associated Student Government is working to determine sourcing of products, costs, and a potential on-campus location,” she said.
Caroline Wharton, a representative of the national group Students for Life of America, told CNA that the organization supports its Miami University chapter’s petition to stop the Plan B vending machine.
“‘Emergency contraception’ is really an abortifacient with the potential to kill preborn life,” Wharton said. “Beyond being a danger to children in the womb, having such drugs in a vending machine also increases their ability to be put in the hands of an abuser, putting women at risk as well.”
“Campuses should have life-affirming resources available for students — assisting with things like child care, financial aid, needed materials, food, etc. for pregnant and parenting students — instead of encouraging a culture of irresponsible sexual activity, disregard for preborn life, and possible abuse,” Wharton said.
Abortion is legal in Ohio until 22 weeks of pregnancy. An Ohio law banning abortion after a detectable heartbeat, typically six weeks’ gestation, is currently blocked as it works its way through the state court system.
Group of Jewish parents sue state of California for equal access to special needs education
Posted on 03/15/2023 15:30 PM (CNA Daily News - US)
Washington D.C., Mar 15, 2023 / 10:30 am (CNA).
A group of Jewish parents filed a lawsuit Monday against the California Department of Education, calling for the state to provide religious schools with equal access to special needs education funding for their students.
Under California law, federal and state special education funding is available to public schools and secular private schools. However, state law prohibits these funds from going to private religious schools, such as the Orthodox Jewish schools these California parents want their children to attend. The prohibition also applies to Catholic schools, Protestant Christian schools, Muslim schools, and any other religiously affiliated school.
“It takes a special kind of chutzpah to deny Jewish kids with disabilities equal access to special education benefits,” Eric Rassbach, vice president and senior counsel at Becket, said in a statement. Becket, which provides pro bono legal assistance to defend religious liberty, is representing the parents in this lawsuit.
“California politicians can end this unlawful discrimination the easy way or the hard way,” Rassbach continued. “Either they change the law that is hurting children with disabilities, or they can shamefully fight in court for the right to discriminate.”
The lawsuit represents three sets of Jewish parents whose children require special needs education. According to a news release from Becket, the parents desire that their children receive an education that allows them to reach their full potential and is centered on Jewish religious beliefs. The news release notes that both Shalhevet High School and Yavneh Hebrew Academy want the ability to provide this education to children with special needs but do not have any access to state or federal funding for those services.
“California’s elected officials should want to help the most vulnerable members of our society, not hurt them,” Rassbach said. “There is no reason to stand by this outmoded law instead of giving kids with disabilities equal access to benefits.”
The lawsuit claims that the current funding rules violate the parents’ civil rights under the First Amendment and the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. According to the lawsuit, the policy violates the First Amendment in several different ways.
The lawsuit argues that the rule “categorically excludes religious schools” from a public benefit otherwise provided to members of the community “because of their religious exercise.” They argue further that the rule treats “secular activity more favorably than religious exercise” and that “religious schools must give up their religious identity” to access these funds. They also argue that the rule discriminates against the parents’ right to “direct the religious upbringing of their children.”
According to the lawsuit, the rule violates the Fourteenth Amendment because it denies the parents’ constitutional right to equal protection under the law and that the Department of Education does “not have a compelling interest in discriminating on the basis of religion.”
Laura Wolk Slavis, who serves as counsel at Becket, told CNA that the “[legal] precedent is absolutely on our side” given recent decisions from the U.S. Supreme Court.
“Once a state offers a public benefit, it can’t exclude otherwise qualified participants just because they’re religious,” Wolk Slavis said.
On June 21, 2021, the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that a Maine law violated the First Amendment because it provided tuition assistance to private secular schools but categorically excluded religious schools from accessing the same funds. On June 17, 2021, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the City of Philadelphia violated the First Amendment by denying a contract with Catholic Social Services of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia because its foster care agency refused to place children with homosexual couples on religious grounds.
Wolk Slavis said the California policy is based on an “outdated reflection of the First Amendment and must be changed.” She said it’s not clear how many parents and students are affected by the law because it does not allow religious schools to even apply for the funding but estimates that it affects a few thousand students.
A spokesperson for the California Department of Education told CNA that the department has not been served with the lawsuit yet and cannot comment because it could not fully review the lawsuit.
Texas man sues ex-wife’s friends for facilitating unborn child’s abortion
Posted on 03/15/2023 13:25 PM (CNA Daily News - US)
Denver, Colo., Mar 15, 2023 / 08:25 am (CNA).
A Texas man has filed a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of his aborted unborn child. The lawsuit seeks more than $1 million from each of the three women the man says helped his then-wife obtain abortion pills.
“Abortion harms not only the unborn children who are killed but also the fathers who have had their fatherhood stolen from them,” Peter Breen, executive vice president and head of litigation at the Thomas More Society, said March 11.
Breen’s Chicago-based public interest law firm is representing the father, Marcus A. Silva of Galveston County, Texas.
“We commend Mr. Silva for stepping forward, and we will help any father who seeks justice on behalf of his unborn child who is killed in an unlawful abortion,” Breen said.
Silva’s ex-wife is not a defendant in the lawsuit. She had filed for divorce in May 2022 and the couple divorced in February. They have two living daughters. According to the lawsuit, she learned she was pregnant in July 2022.
According to Silva’s lawsuit, she “concealed this pregnancy from her husband and decided to kill the unborn child without Marcus’ knowledge or consent.” The wife’s friends allegedly conspired with her “to murder her unborn child with illegally obtained abortion pills.”
“The wrongful-death statute allows surviving parents to sue those who cause the death of an unborn child by a wrongful act, neglect, carelessness, unskillfulness, or default,” says the lawsuit, which refers to the unborn child as “baby Silva.”
“Jackie Noyola, Amy Carpenter, and Aracely Garcia each caused the death of baby Silva through their wrongful acts,” says the lawsuit, which expressly notes that Silva’s ex-wife is exempt from civil and criminal liability.
In July 2022 Silva’s then-wife sought assistance in obtaining abortion pills from Noyola and Carpenter, who live in Houston. They offered their homes as a place where the abortion could take place. Garcia, the third defendant, allegedly conspired with Noyola to obtain the abortion pills in Houston.
None of the defendants are physicians or health care providers and the abortion pills were not administered in accordance with the law, the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit is more aggressive in choosing to allege wrongful death.
It does not take advantage of a 2021 Texas law that allows private citizens to sue anyone believed to be involved in helping a woman procure an illegal abortion in the state. The legal awards under this law are only in the tens of thousands of dollars, National Public Radio reported. One of Silva’s attorneys is Briscoe Cain, a state representative who helped design that legislation.
Damages for wrongful death are much more severe. The lawsuit cites a Texas law that dates back to 2003. That law states a person who assists a pregnant woman in obtaining a self-managed abortion has committed murder and can be sued for wrongful death.
“Anyone involved in distributing or manufacturing abortion pills will be sued into oblivion,” Cain said in a March 11 statement. “That includes CVS and Walgreens if their abortion pills find their way into our state.”
Breen, the Thomas More Law Center attorney, agreed.
“It’s well past time to hold accountable those who are involved in the distribution and manufacture of these murderous drugs,” he said.
The manufacturer of the abortion pill used by the pregnant woman is also liable for the baby’s death and will be added as a defendant once it is identified, the lawsuit says. Anyone else involved in the distribution of the abortion pills is also liable.
The lawsuit also seeks an injunction barring the defendants from distributing abortion pills.
The lead attorney in Silva’s lawsuit is Jonathan Mitchell, former solicitor general of Texas.
Joanna Grossman, a law professor at Southern Methodist University’s Dedman School of Law, called the lawsuit “absurd and inflammatory.” In her view, there is no underlying cause of legal action for a self-managed abortion because the pregnant woman is protected from prosecution. She said the law will have a chilling effect on those who seek to help others procure an abortion.
“Who is going to want to help a friend find an abortion if there is some chance that their text messages are going to end up in the news? And maybe they’re going to get sued, and maybe they’re going to get arrested, and it’s going to get dropped eventually, but in the meantime, they will have been terrified,” Grossman told the Texas Tribune.
While Grossman doubted that the lawsuit would hold up in court, Charles Rhodes, a law professor at South Texas College of Law, told the Texas Tribune the lawsuit could have merit under Texas law.
National Catholic Prayer Breakfast speakers address attacks on human dignity
Posted on 03/14/2023 18:30 PM (CNA Daily News - US)
Washington D.C., Mar 14, 2023 / 13:30 pm (CNA).
Ongoing attacks against human dignity were the focus of this year’s National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, which took place in Washington, D.C., Tuesday morning.
Addressing an audience of more than 1,000 people, Ukrainian Greek Catholic Archbishop Borys Gudziak brought attention to the human toll of the continuing war in Ukraine.
“What is the worth of our dignity?” Gudziak asked during his keynote address. “Ukrainians are sacrificing their lives for the land, justice, truth, and dignity that God gives us.”
“In the 21st century … when truth is transactional, when media, politics, diplomacy, and popular culture are by a post-truth anti-ethic,” Gudziak said, “Ukrainians have been saying, ‘No, not so fast. There is good and there is evil. There is truth and there are lies.’ And they are doing it at the risk of their own lives.”
In a moving moment, Gudziak brought up to the stage a Ukrainian father whose son was killed while fighting against the Russian invasion in the Ukrainian armed forces.
“Last June his son … gave his life for human dignity,” Gudziak said. “Like the heavenly Father, he blessed his son on a mission that led to the sacrifice of his life.”
Gudziak thanked the American Church for its support and asked for continued prayers as Ukraine fights Russian aggression.
Speakers at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast also addressed violations of human dignity occurring within the United States.
Catholic bioethicist Carter Snead, director of the de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture at the University of Notre Dame, spoke about the continued threat of abortion to the unborn and mothers.
Snead called for a compassionate Catholic response to attacks against human dignity through abortion, especially now in a post-Roe v. Wade world.
Abortion, Snead said, divides the world into “persons who bear human rights and nonpersons who live on the sufferance of others based on their interests and desires. And in doing so, isolating the woman in her moment of need and absolving us of our obligation to care for her and her child. ‘Her body, her choice, her problem.’”
“We are made for love and friendship,” Snead said. “We as Catholics are specially equipped and called upon and have a special obligation to build a culture of life and a civilization of love.”
“[Catholics must] respond with love — radical, unconditional, self-emptying love,” Snead added. “Love of neighbor, love of mothers, fathers, and their babies. Love of our enemies … locking arms to care for moms and babies and families, seeking to put women and children and families first as we rise to build a culture of life and civilization of love in a post-Roe world.”
Mary Rice Hasson, a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, accepted the 2023 Christifideles Laici Award honoring the work of the laity. She is the co-founder and director of the Person and Identity Project. In her speech, Hasson brought attention to the increasing gender ideology indoctrination in public schools, yet another form of attack against human dignity facing children outside the womb.
According to Hassan, 80% of Catholic children attending non-Catholic schools are inundated by an LGBTQ+ ideology that is both antithetical to Catholic teaching and human dignity.
“It’s impossible for 40 hours a year of religious education to overcome 1,200 hours of being saturated in an anthropology that is false, that renders [children’s] hearts and minds inhospitable to the Gospel,” Hassan said. “Drawn in by this false anthropology, burdened with a false freedom to have to create themselves, young people don’t know who they are.”
“But there’s hope. Our hope is in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This moment, where gender ideology is flooding our culture is a tremendous opportunity,” Hassan added. “Young people are seeking meaning; they want to know who they are. And we have an answer to give them: ‘You are a son or daughter of the Lord. You are loved incredibly. God has a plan for your life.’”
Since 2004, the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast has gathered politicians and Catholic leaders from across the country for a morning of prayer and fellowship.
Other key leaders in attendance this morning included Sen. Pete Ricketts, R-Nebraska; former U.S. Attorney General William Barr; and the apostolic nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Christophe Pierre.
Citing abuse lawsuits, California’s smallest diocese files for bankruptcy
Posted on 03/14/2023 14:47 PM (CNA Daily News - US)
Denver, Colo., Mar 14, 2023 / 09:47 am (CNA).
The Catholic Diocese of Santa Rosa in northern California said on Monday that it will file for bankruptcy, citing the number of child sexual abuse lawsuits filed against it in the last three years. Many alleged abuse incidents are more than three decades old.
“While I have been anticipating this action for more than a full year, it is most distressing to have the duty of actually proceeding with this filing,” Bishop Robert F. Vasa said in a March 10 statement. “Nevertheless, I remain convinced that it is a necessary step for the diocese and the only way to resolve the claims which have been presented against it.”
In December 2022 the diocese announced plans to declare Chapter 11 bankruptcy following “careful and prayerful consideration” and seeking the advice of priests, the diocesan finance council, and professional counsel. Santa Rosa serves about 180,000 Catholics among about 950,000 residents, according to figures on the diocesan website. By population, it is California’s smallest Catholic diocese, with 41 parishes and 22 missions.
The State of California passed legislation allowing a three-year exemption to the statute of limitations on sexual abuse lawsuits. The window began Jan. 1, 2020, and ended Jan. 2, 2023.
A similar legal window was opened in 2003, but it did not allow for retrospective lawsuits against hospitals and schools where abuse was alleged.
“These cases are too numerous to settle individually and so they have accumulated until the closing of the three-year window,” Vasa said. “Now that the window is closed, we have received notice of at least 160 claims and we have information that perhaps more than 200 claims have been filed in total against the diocese.”
More than 115 cases date back more than 30 years, Vasa said. According to a diocesan question-and-answer briefing paper, some of the lawsuits involve alleged incidents from more than 60 years ago.
The bishop emphasized Catholic child protection and safe environment efforts in the last 20 years have sought to prevent abuse. All employees and volunteers now face background screenings.
The bishop said it is the diocese’s prayer “that children are actually kept safer now than in the past and that all in our pews are more aware and vigilant about potential risks.”
“Nevertheless, we are deeply saddened that so many have endured abuse in the past and that the scourge of child sexual abuse is a part of our diocesan history. The present action of the diocese is necessary and through this process we hope to provide for those who have come forward and who are yet to come forward at least some compensation for the harms they have endured.”
The Santa Rosa Diocese has about 200,000 Catholics out of a population of close to 1 million.
In 2003, the Santa Rosa Diocese faced “similar circumstances” but “many fewer cases.”
The diocese sold property, borrowed money, and paid about $12 million in settlements, with another $19 million from insurance. Since 2003, it has spent another $4 million in individual settlements.
“Now, facing at least 160 new cases, with excess property depleted, with insurance for many of the years either nonexistent or exhausted it is impossible to see any way forward without recourse to the bankruptcy protections our country makes available.”
Filing for bankruptcy will provide “a process to carefully evaluate and compensate, as fairly as possible, those who have come forward with allegations of sexual abuse.” It will allow all parties to resolve their claims under the bankruptcy court’s supervision, and the diocese may deal with these issues collectively rather than one by one.
“At the same time, the process provides a way for the diocese to continue the various charitable ministries in which it is engaged,” he said.
Bishop Vasa said only the diocese’s “corporation sole” known as the Roman Catholic Bishop of Santa Rosa is filing for bankruptcy. Parishes and schools are separate civil corporations or ecclesial entities and “should not be parties to this filing.”
The bankruptcy proceedings will determine whether any parish and school entities will take part in the process, he said.
The diocese provided a question-and-answer briefing that addressed several questions, including whether parishes or schools will be forced to close because of the bankruptcy process. The diocese noted that creditors have challenged the separate corporate status of Catholic parishes or schools in other dioceses’ filings.
“That is why our pastors and other religious entities of the diocese have sought independent legal counsel to represent parish interests in this process.”
The diocese noted that the Legislature could again change the law to create more “look-back windows” for lawsuits or eliminate statutes of limitations entirely. The most recent changes now allow an abuse victim to sue by the age of 40 years or five years after they realized the abuse caused harm to them. Previously, the statute of limitations barred lawsuits after the victim turned 28 years old.
A bankruptcy reorganization protects against any lawsuits in the future, it said.
“It is the only way to get all of the claimants to the table at once and negotiate an agreement that works for all parties,” the diocese said.
“A thorough process is required, and will be undertaken, to notify the public of this action and to assure that any survivors of child sexual assault have an opportunity to file claims.”
In February, Cardinal Robert McElroy of San Diego announced that his diocese could have to resort to a declaration of bankruptcy in 2023 to manage the cost of hundreds of new abuse claims.
More than two dozen U.S. dioceses, including two in U.S. overseas territories, have entered into bankruptcy proceedings, the vast majority in the past decade. California’s Diocese of Stockton went through a three-year bankruptcy period from 2014 to 2017.
Biden calls bans on transgender treatments for children ‘close to sinful’
Posted on 03/13/2023 22:05 PM (CNA Daily News - US)
Washington D.C., Mar 13, 2023 / 17:05 pm (CNA).
President Joe Biden criticized Florida’s regulation of transgender medical care for children and ban on gender ideology in the classroom, calling the measures “close to sinful.”
Biden said in an interview with Daily Show guest host Kal Penn: “What’s going on in Florida is, as my mother would say, close to sinful. I mean it’s just terrible what they’re doing.”
Although the president did not specify which laws he was referring to, Republican lawmakers in Florida and other states have introduced bills and regulations to protect children from transgender medical interventions and restrict classroom instruction in gender ideology.
During his interview, Biden added that federal legislation might be necessary to prevent states from adopting certain bills that affect transgender policies related to children.
“It’s not like, you know, a kid wakes up one morning and says, ‘You know, I decided I want to become a man or I want to become a woman,” the president said. “I mean, what are they thinking about here? They’re human beings, they love and have feelings. … It’s cruel. We [should] make sure we pass [federal] legislation like we passed on same-sex marriage. You mess with that, you’re breaking the law and you’re going to be held accountable.”
In Florida, a ban on transgender surgeries and medications for children, issued by the state’s Board of Medicine, goes into effect March 16. Lawmakers have also proposed legislation banning transgender medical procedures.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed legislation that prevents schools from promoting gender ideology through discussions of transgenderism and sexual orientation to young children in kindergarten through third grade. The legislation requires such discussions in later grades to be age appropriate.
Other states, such as Mississippi, Utah, and South Dakota, have adopted similar legislation to ban sex change operations for children. Most states do not restrict sex change surgery for minors at this time.
Although Biden, the nation’s second Catholic president, called the Florida bills “close to sinful,” his interpretation sets him on the opposite side of the issue from the Vatican and Pope Francis.
The Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education on June 10, 2019, published a document titled “Male and Female He Created Them,” which rejects the idea that a person can choose his or her gender.
“There is a need to reaffirm the metaphysical roots of sexual difference, as an anthropological refutation of attempts to negate the male-female duality of human nature, from which the family is generated,” the 31-page document states.
“The denial of this duality not only erases the vision of human beings as the fruit of an act of creation but creates the idea of the human person as a sort of abstraction who ‘chooses for himself what his nature is to be,’” the document continues, citing Pope Benedict’s Dec. 21, 2012, address to the Roman Curia.
“Man and woman in their created state as complementary versions of what it means to be human are disputed. But if there is no pre-ordained duality of man and woman in creation, then neither is the family any longer a reality established by creation. Likewise, the child has lost the place he had occupied hitherto and the dignity pertaining to him,” it continued.
Pope Francis has consistently voiced his opposition to what he calls gender ideology.
In an interview on March 10 with the Argentine daily newspaper La Nación, just three days before Biden’s interview aired, the pontiff referred to gender ideology as “one of the most dangerous ideological colonizations.”
“Why is it dangerous?” Pope Francis said. “Because it blurs differences and the value of men and women. All humanity is the tension of differences. It is to grow through the tension of differences. The question of gender is diluting the differences and making the world the same, all dull, all alike, and that is contrary to the human vocation.”
This is not the only issue on which Biden has strayed from the Catholic faith. During the president’s interview on the Daily Show, he reiterated his support for same-sex marriage and defended his support for the Respect for Marriage Act, which federally recognizes same-sex marriage. The president has also been a staunch supporter of abortion and urged Congress to codify the Roe v. Wade abortion rules into federal law.
Case that could stop half of U.S. abortions set for this Wednesday
Posted on 03/13/2023 19:50 PM (CNA Daily News - US)
Washington D.C., Mar 13, 2023 / 14:50 pm (CNA).
The first hearing in what could be the most consequential abortion case since the overturning of Roe v. Wade is set for this Wednesday, March 15.
The Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine (AHM), along with several other medical organizations and doctors, is suing the Federal Drug Administration for its approval and expansion of the abortion drug mifepristone.
On Jan. 3, the FDA changed its policy to allow pharmacies, such as CVS and Walgreens, to sell mifepristone. Previously, the FDA only allowed certified doctors, clinics, and some mail-order pharmacies to dispense the drug. After the FDA’s policy change, any patient with a prescription can obtain mifepristone from her local retail pharmacy.
Represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), AHM is alleging that the FDA has been recklessly endangering women and young girls for decades by ignoring its own research and testing standards and continuing to expand its mifepristone approval.
The case is being heard by U.S. Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk for the Northern District of Texas, a Trump appointee.
The Wednesday court date was announced to lawyers involved with the case on Friday.
Kacsmaryk reportedly planned to not announce the hearing date to the public until Tuesday evening and urged attorneys to not disclose the information to avoid any disruptions to the proceedings.
According to the New York Times, Kacsmaryk said that court staff have “faced security issues, including death threats.”
A high-stakes case, if Kacsmaryk rules against the FDA, the administration could be forced to rescind its approval of the drug, bringing its legal distribution to a halt across the country, even in states where abortion remains legal.
Mifepristone is the first of two drugs used in chemical abortions, which account for 53% of all abortions in the country, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
The drug works by cutting off nutrients necessary for a fetus to continue developing. A second drug, misoprostol, is then ingested 24 to 48 hours later and induces contractions that expel the dead unborn child.
Mifepristone was first approved in 2000 and is commonly used throughout the country today.
“The abortion industry loves the chemical abortion regimen because it has such low overhead costs; the mother is the abortionist. The supplier of the lethal chemicals still gets paid, but the mother ingests the pills, expels the baby, and disposes of the body on her own,” California Right to Life director Mary Rose Short told CNA.
According to Short, “the abortion pill regimen [in California] is considered such a basic staple that the Democratic Legislature mandated that all state universities provide abortions in their campus health centers.”
ADF argues that the FDA never conducted thorough tests on mifepristone’s effect on minors, directly harming young girls across the nation who use the drug to this day.
Dr. Ingrid Skop, an OB-GYN and director of medical affairs at the Charlotte Lozier Institute, told CNA in February that “chemical abortion pills are far more dangerous than surgical abortion. They are far more dangerous than the abortion industry has told the American public.”
This is a developing story.
Catholic universities should do more to respond to environmental issues, Vatican cardinal says
Posted on 03/13/2023 19:22 PM (CNA Daily News - US)
St. Louis, Mo., Mar 13, 2023 / 14:22 pm (CNA).
The cardinal who is seen as Pope Francis’ point man on the environment said in an address at Gonzaga University last week that universities, especially Catholic universities, have a major role to play in constructing a plan to “care for our common home.”
Canadian Jesuit Cardinal Michael Czerny, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, spoke at his alma mater in Spokane, Washington, on March 9. Noting that Catholics are called to celebrate nature as an “expression of the love of a personal God, who brought the universe into being,” Czerny said Pope Francis invites us to follow St. Francis of Assisi in “immersing ourselves in the wonder and awe of nature.”
He asserted that since the 2015 publication of Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si’ (On Care for Our Common Home), many people now accept that it is vital to recognize the interconnectedness of the world and the ways in which many of the actions of humans are harming the planet.
In Laudato Si’, Francis decried what he described as a “technocratic paradigm,” whereby humans use science and technology to use and exploit the natural world without a “development in human responsibility, values, and conscience.” He also spoke against a “throwaway culture” that does not take into account the connectedness of living things on earth.
“We exist only within a web of relationships,” Czerny said, with God, with our neighbor, and with the earth itself. In promoting concern for our neighbors, Jesus’ parable of the good Samaritan provides a model for breaking out of tribal attitudes and seeking to help other people.
In his speech, Czerny quoted extensively from Pope Francis’ two encyclicals Laudato Si’ and Fratelli Tutti, (On Fraternity and Social Friendship). “The poor” are mentioned 60 times in Laudato Si’, Czerny said. He called for universities to provide a “concrete, visionary, and courageous response” to the problem of environmental destruction, which he said disproportionately affects the poor.
“The problem now isn’t ignorance ... the real problem, instead, is indifference and despair,” Czerny said, saying that a spate of climate-related disasters in recent years such as wildfires, hurricanes, floods, and droughts have helped to open people’s eyes to the issues at hand.
“All of us can cooperate as instruments of God for the care of creation, each according to his or her own culture, experience, involvements, and talents,” Czerny said. “Dialogue and better politics ... are the only, only, only way out.”
He urged Catholic universities to take care to factor in concern for the poor in “research projects, educational curricula, public programming, institutional infrastructures, policies, and practices, and political and social involvements as colleges and universities.”
Czerny also promoted a publication on “Our Common Home” developed by the Vatican and the Stockholm Environment Institute, as well as the Laudato Si’ Action Platform, an initiative Pope Francis launched in 2021. The seven-year plan provides goals, projects, and ideas for implementing environmental sustainability in different sectors of the Church, from religious orders to Catholic schools and hospitals, as well as within individual families. More than 1,000 educational institutions have signed up for the plan, Czerny said.
Above all, he said, it is important for those working to combat environmental degradation to be able to say “our Church is with us.”