Browsing News Entries

Philadelphia Archdiocese pro-lifers doing ‘amazing things’ for life at all stages

At the Jan. 23, 2021 Philadelphia March for Life, Luke Parlee and his mother Terry of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Buckingham, Pennsylvania, displayed ultrasound images of his development at six and 33 weeks alongside his high school senior portrait. / Gina Christian/CatholicPhilly.com

Philadelphia, Pa., Jan 20, 2022 / 11:46 am (CNA).

As the nation marks almost 50 years of legalized abortion, pro-life advocates in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia say they’re committed to “all-encompassing” support for human dignity, from conception to natural death.

“What you say at the beginning of life, you say at the end of life,” said Steven Bozza, bioethicist and director of the archdiocesan Office for Life and Family. “The question is, ‘How are we being pro-life with all of the stages of life?’”

The answer involves a broad array of public witness, legislative change, social outreach, scientific advancement and education — all inspired by faith, love and courage, he said.

“Catholic social teaching reveals a beautifully consistent ethic of life,” said Bozza.

Upholding that ethic first requires a recognition that abortion ultimately devalues human life at every age, said Bozza.

“Think of the social problems we see in the news every day — violence, people killing each other,” he said. “It boils down to a disrespect for human life. You’re not respecting human life in the womb. What makes you think you’ll respect it on the street?”

Since the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court rulings on the Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton cases, over 61 million abortions have taken place in the U.S., an average of 2,000 per day.

Globally, there are a total of some 73.3 million abortions each year, according to the Guttmacher Institute — a number at least five million greater than United Kingdom’s current population, and almost 15 million more than the United Nation’s 2019 crude death rate, or total number of deaths worldwide in a given year.

Abortion particularly impacts communities of color: Black, Hispanic and other non-White patients accounted for 62% of all U.S. abortions in 2014, according to Guttmacher.

Marching for Life

On Jan. 21, Bozza will join thousands expected at the 49th annual March for Life in Washington, D.C. After last year’s virtual observance due to COVID, the gathering — launched by Nellie Gray in 1974 to protest the Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions — will resume its in-person format.

Trips to the march are being organized by some two dozen Philadelphia-area parishes, Catholic schools and Knights of Columbus chapters, with Bozza’s office coordinating bus parking permits for groups traveling to pre-march Masses at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

A number of local teens will stay in Washington to attend the Jan. 22 National Pro-Life Summit, hosted by Students for Life of America (SFLA). The all-day session, set to take place at the capital’s Omni Shoreham Hotel, will provide training for grassroots pro-life activists.

“We have students signed up from private, public and parochial schools,” said Maria Parker, theology department chair at Cardinal O’Hara High School in Springfield, Pennsylvania.

SFLA has provided Parker with some 80 free tickets to the conference, while support from the Pro-Life Union of Greater Philadelphia (PLU) and Pennsylvanians for Human Life is covering the cost of transportation for her group.

Prayers for the unborn

Along with public demonstrations, prayer remains vital to ending abortion, say pro-life advocates.

The PLU will hold a prayer vigil Jan. 22 at 10 am outside Planned Parenthood’s downtown location at 12th and Locust Streets. Both the vigil and the SFLA summit will take place on the Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children, observed in all the Catholic dioceses of the U.S.

Pro-life advocate Ashley Garecht (second left) joined some 30 others at a Dec. 1, 2021 prayer vigil outside a Philadelphia Planned Parenthood site, an event organized by the Pro-Life Union of Greater Philadelphia. Gina Christian/CatholicPhilly.com
Pro-life advocate Ashley Garecht (second left) joined some 30 others at a Dec. 1, 2021 prayer vigil outside a Philadelphia Planned Parenthood site, an event organized by the Pro-Life Union of Greater Philadelphia. Gina Christian/CatholicPhilly.com

As in recent years, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is also inviting faithful across the nation to participate in the 9 Days for Life novena (Jan. 19-27) for the protection of human life.

With materials available in both English and Spanish, each day’s novena intention includes a short reflection, suggested acts of reparation and additional resources for understanding church teaching and pastoral outreach regarding abortion.

Throughout the month of January, a Zoom-based rosary campaign for the end of abortion is being recited each evening at 9 p.m., led by Mickey Kelly, a local pro-life advocate and board president of the St. Raymond Nonnatus Foundation. Those wishing to join the rosary can email Kelly for the Zoom link.

Headwinds and hope

Amid ongoing efforts to end abortion, several challenges remain, say area pro-life leaders.

The Supreme Court’s pending ruling in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case — a decision expected by July — could overturn Roe v. Wade and redirect the abortion issue to the state level for legislation.

But that’s where the work begins anew, said Father Christopher Walsh, PLU chairman and pastor of St. Raymond of Peñafort Parish in Philadelphia.

States such as New Jersey have already moved “to enshrine a ‘right to abortion’ in their law,” said Walsh, noting “there are plans to do the same in Pennsylvania.”

For that reason, “it is essential for people who believe in the civil rights of the unborn child to be united,” he said.

In the process of “(fighting) this legal battle,” he said, “the more challenging battle for hearts and minds must continue.”

Walsh urged compassion in “listening to those who believe abortion is permissible,” and advised pro-life advocates to “share the truth with (abortion proponents) little by little, with patience but also with conviction.”

And men need to be part of that conversation on abortion, said Bozza.

“I put much of this issue squarely into the hands of the men involved,” he said, citing Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae, which warned that artificial contraception and abortion would result in a woman being reduced to “a mere instrument for the satisfaction of (a man’s) desires,” without regard for “the reverence due to (her)”

PLU president and CEO Tom Stevens agreed, describing abortion as “an easy way out for men.”

At the same time, many men are simply excluded “when there’s an unexpected pregnancy,” and a decision to seek an abortion “can cause great grief for a man,” said Stevens.

Both he and Bozza said chemical abortions, the pills for which are now widely available in several states through telemedicine and online delivery services, compound that marginalization – while endangering the health of women and teen girls.

“A doctor or a nurse practitioner could be talking to a 14-year-old girl in her bedroom, and there’s no ultrasound, so you don’t really know how far along she is, or if she has an ectopic pregnancy,” said Stevens. “It’s really dangerous.”

“What happens when things go wrong, and she ends up in the hospital?” asked Bozza, noting that advances in medical science are themselves paving the way to end abortion.

“When women look at ultrasound videos, there’s no mistaking those are children in the womb,” he said. “And modern genetics (shows) that what a person is genetically at the moment of conception, they’ll always be; there’s no changing that.”

Thanks to entities such as SFLA and Live Action, younger generations have “the scientific information” to “debunk the social myths” surrounding abortion, said Parker.

“I think most of our students are definitely pro-life, and they just need the knowledge and information so they can connect what they’re feeling in their hearts with their heads,” she said.

The wide range of pregnancy and parenting supports provided by archdiocesan Catholic Social Services and the PLU’s numerous member outreaches offer tangible help and hope to women in crisis pregnancies, offering them alternatives to abortion, said pro-life advocates.

“The pro-life community of Greater Philadelphia is doing amazing things,” said Walsh. “I hope others join these efforts for the good of the human family.”

Editor's note: This story was originally published by CatholicPhilly.com of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

Pope Francis: Human life is the most valuable work asset

Pope Francis met the Italian Association of Private Construction Contractors on Jan. 20, 2022 / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Jan 20, 2022 / 11:30 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said Thursday that human life is the most important asset to protect in the workplace, and lamented the many lives lost in work-related accidents or disease every year.

“People are the real wealth: without them, there is no working community, no enterprise, no economy,” the pope said Jan. 20 in an audience with the Italian Association of Private Construction Contractors.

“Workplace safety means safeguarding human resources, which are of inestimable value in the eyes of God and also in the eyes of the true entrepreneur,” he added.

In 2021, 1,404 people died in work accidents in Italy, according to the Independent National Observatory on Work Deaths. Of these, 695 happened in the actual workplace, as opposed to off-site — an 18% increase from 2020. Just over 30% of deaths were in the agricultural sector, while 15% were in construction.

The numbers do not include COVID-19 related deaths.

The International Labour Organization estimates that 2.3 million people lose their lives in work-related accidents or diseases every year worldwide.

“Last year, too many people died at work,” Pope Francis said in his speech to Italian construction workers. “They are not numbers, they are people.”

“Construction sites, too, have seen tragedies that we cannot ignore. Unfortunately, if we look at safety in the workplace as a cost, we are starting from the wrong assumption. People are the real wealth,” he underlined.

Francis stated that people are the highest patrimony, and workplace safety “allows everyone to express the best of themselves while earning their daily bread.”

“The more we take care of the dignity of work, the more certain we are that the quality and beauty of the work carried out will increase,” he said.

In his speech, the pope also shared some teachings of the Gospel which he said could help builders in their work.

In particular, he pointed to Jesus’ parable about the man who built his house on sandy ground, an unstable foundation.

“Of course, Jesus is not thinking of great buildings, but he points out that these constructions are built by the river, while the good builder knows that at the first flood such a house is destined to be swept away,” Francis said.

The man who builds his house on rock, instead, “not only did the right thing in the present moment; he also defended the house from possible future floods.”

“In Jesus’ preaching, the believer is one who does not limit himself to appearing Christian on the outside, but who actively works as a Christian,” Pope Francis said.

“And it is precisely this ‘operational consistency’ that enables him to build himself up not only in the normal times of life, but to remain so even in difficult moments,” the pope continued. “This also means that faith does not protect us from bad weather, but, accompanied by good works, it strengthens us and makes us capable of resisting it.”

Archbishop Gänswein: Benedict XVI is praying for victims in wake of Munich abuse report

Pope emeritus Benedict XVI. / Paul Badde/CNA.

Vatican City, Jan 20, 2022 / 10:57 am (CNA).

Archbishop Georg Gänswein said on Thursday that Pope emeritus Benedict XVI is praying for abuse victims in the wake of a report on the handling of abuse cases in Germany’s Archdiocese of Munich and Freising.

Gänswein, Benedict XVI’s private secretary, told reporters that the retired pope would read the extensive study in the coming days, reported CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner.

The study, issued on Jan. 20, accused the 94-year-old pope emeritus of mishandling four cases during his tenure as Munich archbishop from 1977 to 1982.

Benedict XVI, who strongly denies cover-up allegations, sent 82 pages of observations to investigators compiling the report.

Gänswein said: “Benedict XVI did not have access until this afternoon to the report of the law firm Westpfahl-Spilker-Wastl, which has more than 1,000 pages. In the coming days, he will examine the text with the necessary attention.”

“The pope emeritus, as he has already repeated several times during the years of his pontificate, expresses his shock and shame at the abuse of minors committed by clerics, and expresses his personal closeness and prayer for all the victims, some of whom he has met on the occasion of his apostolic journeys.”

Lawyer Martin Pusch, an author of the report, said at a press conference on Thursday that investigators had faulted the actions of Benedict XVI, who was known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger when he led the Munich archdiocese.

“In a total of four cases, we concluded that the then-archbishop, Cardinal Ratzinger, can be accused of misconduct,” he said.

Pusch noted that in two of the cases, clerics committed abuse while Ratzinger was in office. While they were criminally sanctioned by secular courts, they continued to perform pastoral duties, he said, and no action was taken against them under canon law.

In a third case, a cleric convicted by a foreign court worked in the Munich archdiocese. Pusch suggested that Ratzinger knew of the priest’s history.

Another case treated in the report relates to a priest named Father Peter Hullermann, who is accused of abusing at least 23 boys aged eight to 16 between 1973 and 1996.

The case of the priest identified in German reports only as “H.” was first highlighted by the media in 2010, when Benedict XVI was pope, and again earlier this month.

Gänswein told the German newspaper Die Zeit in early January: “The claim that he had knowledge of the previous history [allegations of sexual assault] at the time of the decision on the admission of Father H. [to the archdiocese] is wrong. He had no knowledge of his previous history.”

After leaving the Munich archdiocese in 1982, Cardinal Ratzinger served as prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith before his election as pope in 2005. He retired in 2013 and has since lived in relative seclusion at the Vatican.

The new report covers not only the period that the future Benedict XVI led the archdiocese, but also the tenures of Cardinal Friedrich Wetter, who succeeded him, and Cardinal Reinhard Marx, who has served as archbishop of Munich and Freising since 2007.

In addition to criticizing the future pope’s handling of four cases, investigators said that Wetter had mishandled 21 cases and Marx two cases.

Marx said that he was “shocked and ashamed” at the report’s findings.

The study identified at least 497 victims of abuse, but investigators said that the true figure was likely to be higher. They said that 247 victims were male, 182 female, while the gender of 68 victims could not be determined. They added that they had found 235 alleged perpetrators, including 173 priests.

A Vatican spokesman said on Jan. 20: “The Holy See considers that appropriate attention should be paid to the document, whose contents are presently unknown. In coming days, following its publication, the Holy See will be able to give it a careful and detailed examination.”

“In reiterating shame and remorse for abuses committed by clerics against minors, the Holy See expresses its closeness to all victims and reaffirms the efforts undertaken to protect minors and ensure safe environments for them.”

Cardinal Marx ‘shocked and ashamed’ by Munich abuse report

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, pictured in June 2016. / Degreezero via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0).

Munich, Germany, Jan 20, 2022 / 09:20 am (CNA).

Cardinal Reinhard Marx said on Thursday that he was “shocked and ashamed” at the findings of a report criticizing the handling of abuse cases in his Archdiocese of Munich and Freising.

The study, issued on Jan. 20, accused the 68-year-old cardinal of mishandling two cases in the southern German archdiocese, reported CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner.

Investigators claimed that Marx, who has led the archdiocese since 2007, failed to support victims and report the cases to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

In a statement hours after the report’s publication, Marx did not respond directly to the criticisms.

He said: “My first thought today is for those affected by sexual abuse, who have experienced harm and suffering at the hands of Church representatives, priests, and other employees in the sphere of the Church, on an appalling scale. I am shocked and ashamed.”

Westpfahl Spilker Wastl (WSW), the Munich law firm that produced the study, presented the conclusions of the more than 1,000-page text at a live-streamed press conference.

Marx was not present at the event. Marion Westpfahl, a founding partner of the firm, lamented the cardinal’s absence as she presented the report.

The authors of the “Report on the Sexual Abuse of Minors and Vulnerable Adults by Clerics, as well as [other] Employees, in the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising from 1945 to 2019” also accused Pope emeritus Benedict XVI of mishandling four cases during his tenure as Munich archbishop from 1977 to 1982.

The 94-year-old retired pope, who strongly denies cover-up allegations, sent 82 pages of observations to investigators compiling the report.

CNA Deutsch reported that lawyer Martin Pusch, one of the authors, said that Marx had emphasized that the main responsibility for handling abuse cases fell to the archdiocese’s ordinariate and vicariate general.

He said that the cardinal observed that he was primarily responsible for the “proclamation of the Word of God” but felt a “moral responsibility” regarding the cases.

Pusch questioned Marx’s position, saying: “When, if not in the case of the sexual abuse of minors, is the classification of an issue as a ‘matter for the boss’ applicable?”

“All the more so when the relevant regulations assign a central role to the diocesan bishop. That Cardinal Archbishop Marx would have assumed this was not for us to determine.”

Marx is a member of the pope’s Council of Cardinals and the coordinator of the Vatican Council for the Economy. Until 2020, he served as the chairman of the German bishops’ conference.

He wrote to Pope Francis in May 2021, offering to resign amid the fallout from the clerical abuse crisis in Germany. The pope declined his resignation in June.

Westpfahl Spilker Wastl produced a report on the Munich archdiocese’s handling of abuse cases in 2010, which has never been published. It announced a delay in the publication of the new report in November 2021, citing “new findings obtained in the recent past” that required an “intensive review.”

In his statement, the cardinal said: “We have known for years that sexual abuse in the Church was not taken seriously, that the perpetrators were often not held accountable in the right way, that those responsible looked the other way.”

“This is precisely why, since the first expert report we commissioned in 2010, we have commissioned the expert report presented today from the law firm WSW. It is an important and indispensable building block for the processing of cases of sexual abuse in our archdiocese and also for the Church as a whole.”

“Since 2010, many things have already been changed and implemented in the archdiocese, and we are far from finished. We will also discuss and implement further changes based on the recommendations of the current report.”

In April 2021, Marx asked German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier not to bestow the Federal Cross of Merit on him after an outcry among advocates for abuse survivors over the award.

He had been scheduled to receive the Bundesverdienstkreuz, Germany’s only federal decoration, at the Bellevue Palace in Berlin.

Marx said that he did not want to draw negative attention to other award recipients.

Peter Bringmann-Henselder, a member of the affected persons’ advisory board of Cologne archdiocese, had urged the president to withhold the honor, citing Marx’s handling of cases when he was bishop of Trier in 2001–2007.

The official web portal of the Catholic Church in Germany reported in June 2021 that Marx’s actions in Trier would be “comprehensively investigated” by an independent commission on behalf of the diocese that has been led by Bishop Stephan Ackermann since 2009.

Munich archdiocese is expected to hold a press conference on Jan. 27 to address the conclusions of the new abuse report “after a first reading and examination.”

Concluding his statement, Marx highlighted the “Synodal Way,” the controversial multi-year process bringing together bishops and laypeople to discuss four main topics: the way power is exercised in the Church; sexual morality; the priesthood; and the role of women.

“Coming to terms with sexual abuse cannot be separated from the path of change, renewal, and reform of the Church. We will continue to work on this together,” he said.

Roman Curia’s annual Lenten retreat changed again due to COVID-19

Pope Francis takes part in the Roman Curia’s Lenten retreat in Ariccia, Italy, on March 6-10, 2016. Credit: Vatican Media. / null

Vatican City, Jan 20, 2022 / 08:00 am (CNA).

For the third consecutive year, Pope Francis will not be gathering together with the Roman Curia for a spiritual retreat amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pope Francis has asked members of the Roman Curia to make their own arrangements for a private Lenten retreat from Sunday, March 6 to Friday, March 11.

All papal events will be canceled between these dates, including the general audience that would have taken place on Wednesday, March 9.

The pope usually spends five days on retreat together with members of the Roman Curia participating in Lenten spiritual exercises.

The retreats took place in the Alban Hills southeast of Rome in a retreat house in the town of Ariccia from 2014 to 2020, although the pope was unable to participate in 2020 due to a cold.

A statement from the Holy See press office on Jan. 20 said that the retreat would not take place in Ariccia this year due to “the continuing epidemic emergency caused by COVID-19.”

Earlier this week, a Vatican spokesman confirmed that Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and his substitute, Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra, have both tested positive for COVID-19.

Parolin has “very mild” symptoms, while Peña Parra is asymptomatic, Matteo Bruni told journalists on Jan. 18.

The practice of the pope going on retreat with the heads of Vatican dicasteries in Lent began around 90 years ago under Pope Pius XI. The spiritual exercises were held in the Vatican, but beginning in Lent 2014, Pope Francis chose to hold the retreat outside of Rome.

Last year, Pope Francis also invited the Roman Curia to make the Lenten retreat privately due to the coronavirus pandemic.

He gave each member of the Roman Curia a book to include in their spiritual reading for their 2021 Lenten retreat.

The book, written by an unnamed Cistercian monk in the 17th century, was entitled “Abbi a cuore il Signore” (“Keep the Lord in your Heart”). It was originally written to aid monks in the Italian monastery of San Bartolo to grow in their spiritual lives.

In the text, the “Master of San Bartolo” wrote: “God will meet you where your humanity has descended all the steps of weakness and you have reached the awareness of your limitation.”

“If you yourself do not choose the path of abasement, life will take you where you would not want because, as the Lord teaches, only those who live their weakness with humility will be exalted.”

Pro-life group criticizes Macron’s call to add abortion to rights charter

French President Emmanuel Macron. / Frederic Legrand - COMEO/Shutterstock.

Rome Newsroom, Jan 20, 2022 / 07:05 am (CNA).

A pro-life group in France has denounced President Emmanuel Macron’s call to add abortion to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.

“Advocating for the inclusion of a ‘right to abortion’ in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union ignores the violence that abortion often inflicts on many women,” Alliance VITA said in a statement on Jan. 19.

“In France, a study found that less affluent women have more abortions than wealthier women. Abortion is a marker of social inequality.”

Alliance VITA is an association in France that provides support for women facing difficult or unplanned pregnancies and advocates for the protection of human life in public policy.

Caroline Roux, the deputy executive director of Alliance VITA, said that it is “necessary more than ever that a real assessment of the causes, conditions, and consequences of abortion be carried out at national and European level.”

“This would be a real step forward that the French Presidency should offer to protect women,” she said.

France took over the presidency of the Council of the European Union for the first time in 14 years on Jan. 1. The Community of Sant’Egidio, a Catholic group, has proposed a collaboration with Macron to promote the abolition of the death penalty worldwide during the French EU presidency.

Macron called on Jan. 19 for the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights to be revised “to be more explicit on environmental protection or the recognition of the right to abortion,” in a speech to members of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France.

In the address, he noted that the charter has “enshrined the abolition of the death penalty throughout the Union.”

Roux said that the French president’s comments about the “abolition of the death penalty” and the “recognition of the right to abortion” side by side show that “Emmanuel Macron's intention is out of step.”

“Addressing the painful issue of abortion head-on, without prior debate, and without mentioning any policies of prevention and support, is to do violence to the many women who want society to help them avoid abortion, which is often carried out under pressure,” she said.

“The abolition of the death penalty, recalled by the president in his speech, as well as the right to life are among the values inscribed in the Charter of Fundamental Rights.”

The EU charter recognizes the right to life but does not mention abortion. It states that “Everyone has the right to life” and “No one shall be condemned to the death penalty, or executed.”

Macron’s speech came on the same day that the French Senate again rejected a bill to extend abortion on demand beyond 12 weeks, the current legal limit on abortions in France.

Under current French law, abortions in the second and third trimesters are permitted only if two physicians certify that it is necessary to save the life of the mother, to prevent grave and permanent harm to her health, or the child has a severe and incurable illness.

The French Senate voted 202 to 138 to reject the bill for a legal extension of abortion from 12 weeks to 14 weeks on Jan. 19, according to Le Figaro.

In response to the vote, Brigitte Bourguignon, the French Minister of Autonomy, said that the government “fiercely defends” a right to abortion, adding that “the President of the Republic reaffirmed this commitment forcefully this very morning.”

“The declaration of the President of the Republic shows an incoherent position, disconnected from the reality experienced by women,” Alliance VITA said.

Top official won’t join Order of Malta reform working group, citing threat to sovereignty

Albrecht von Boeselager. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Rome, Italy, Jan 20, 2022 / 06:25 am (CNA).

A top Order of Malta official has said that he won’t join a working group on the reform of the 1,000-year-old institution, citing a threat to its sovereignty.

In a letter sent to senior Order of Malta officials, the group’s Grand Chancellor Albrecht von Boeselager said that proposed reforms would undermine the order’s identity and he would not play an active part in the group studying changes to the order’s constitutional charter and code.

Boeselager’s letter, delivered on Jan. 19 and seen by CNA, emerged amid heated debate within the Order of Malta over a draft of the new constitution overseen by Cardinal Silvano Maria Tomasi, Pope Francis’ special delegate to the order.

The new constitution would define the Order of Malta, which has sovereign status, as being “subject to the Holy See.” This would potentially jeopardize the order’s ability to engage in diplomatic relations as it could be seen as being dependent on another sovereign body: the Holy See.

The Sovereign Military Order of Malta is an ancient chivalric order with the task of serving the sick and the poor worldwide. The order consists of 13,500 knights, dames, chaplains, more than 100,000 volunteers, and 42,000 employees. It has full diplomatic relations with 112 countries.

The order’s current leader, Fra’ Marco Luzzago, stressed the importance of its sovereignty to carry out its charitable works in a speech to the diplomatic corps accredited to the order on Jan. 11. Luzzago, the Lieutenant of the Grand Master, voiced a growing concern within the order.

Boeselager was at the center of events that led to a dramatic papal intervention in the order’s affairs in 2017. He was initially suspended by the order’s Grand Master, Fra’ Matthew Festing, amid concerns about the distribution of condoms by the order’s relief agency in Burma. But he was reinstated after Pope Francis required the Grand Master’s resignation and launched a sweeping reform process.

The pope appointed Tomasi as his delegate in 2020, replacing the demoted Cardinal Angelo Becciu, who served as delegate from 2017.

In October 2021, Pope Francis issued a letter granting Tomasi full powers to draft a revised constitution, summon a council to discuss and approve the constitutional charter and code, call an Extraordinary Chapter General, “renew” the Sovereign Council, and convene a Council Complete of State for the election of a new Grand Master.

A source within the order told CNA: “The question of sovereignty was already raised when the pope issued a letter in October that the constitution could be overrun by the delegate.”

“Concern spread further when Cardinal Tomasi wrote in January that he would call an Extraordinary Chapter General to vote on the text and replace the government, changing the composition of the Chapter in order to get the required majority.”

The source argued that this approach would lead to “anti-constitutional results.”

The working group overseeing the reform comprises Tomasi, canon law expert Father Gianfranco Ghirlanda, Msgr. Brian Ferme (secretary of the Vatican’s Council for the Economy), Maurizio Tagliaferri, Federico Marti, and Gualtiero Ventura.

This group will be expanded to include other members of the order on Jan. 25. On Jan. 26, Tomasi is expected to distribute the draft of the constitution to a larger group of members, including presidents of national associations and professed knights.

The Italian cardinal will then call a General Chapter to discuss and finalize the proposed documents a few days after.

Tomasi has assured the order’s leaders that the text can be changed and is not definitive. But there is little time for the expanded working group to study the draft and propose amendments.

As the Grand Chancellor, Boeselager would be part of the expanded working group. But he has renounced that responsibility and, at his suggestion, Marwan Senahoui, president of the order’s Lebanese association, is taking his place. Senahoui will be assisted by Péter Szabadhegÿ.

Senahoui was asked by Fra’ Matthew Festing to resolve a crisis among the order’s members in England a few years ago. He was also part of the Tomasi-led commission appointed by the pope at the end of 2016 to look into the crisis in the order.

Why did Boeselager step aside? The reasons are in the letter delivered on Jan. 19. Boeselager said that he had been reviewing for the first time the draft texts of the new constitution and code as proposed by Tomasi, and stressed that “both the indicated process and draft content create significant constitutional challenges for our order, and I would have serious difficulties to accept them in good conscience.”

Boeselager lamented that the whole process “is not in accordance with the confirmations given to us by the special delegate that the Holy Father does not wish to put our sovereignty at risk.”

He added that he would “normally use the conventional channels between sovereign entities to voice this objection respectfully, but that avenue has been closed to me.”

Boeselager also blamed “certain groups” within the organization for accusing him of seeking to secularize the order and turn it into an NGO – an allegation he strongly rejected.

He added that he was not going to let a personal reputational issue “get in the way of preventing a detrimental outcome for the order.”

He said that he also understood that combining the task of managing the constitutional reform with his daily work would not be effective. For this reason, he wrote, he had decided not to join the working group, but would be available for consultation.

Boeselager’s letter indicates that the order is not going to give up its sovereignty easily and that, despite Pope Francis’ intervention, the debate remains intense.

It also suggests that the reform, as presented until now, may not be accepted by a majority of knights and dames, making the reform potentially ineffective and harmful for the order’s future existence.

Benedict XVI, Cardinal Marx faulted in Munich abuse report

The Frauenkirche, the cathedral of the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising. / Suicasmo via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0).

Munich, Germany, Jan 20, 2022 / 05:49 am (CNA).

A long-awaited report on the handling of abuse cases in Germany’s Archdiocese of Munich and Freising has faulted Pope emeritus Benedict XVI and Cardinal Reinhard Marx.

The study issued on Thursday criticized the 94-year-old retired German pope’s handling of four cases during his time in charge of the southern German archdiocese. Media reports had previously focused on his handling of a single case, that of a priest named Father Peter Hullermann.

Benedict XVI, who strongly denies cover-up allegations, sent 82 pages of observations to investigators compiling the report.

Westpfahl Spilker Wastl, the law firm that produced the study, presented the conclusions of the more than 1,000-page text at a live-streamed press conference on Jan. 20, reported CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner.

The study’s official title is “Report on the Sexual Abuse of Minors and Vulnerable Adults by Clerics, as well as [other] Employees, in the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising from 1945 to 2019.”

The report covers 1977 to 1982, the period that the future Benedict XVI led the archdiocese, as well as the tenures of Cardinal Friedrich Wetter, who succeeded him, and Cardinal Reinhard Marx, who has served as archbishop of Munich and Freising since 2007.

In addition to criticizing the future pope’s handling of four cases, investigators said that Wetter had mishandled 21 cases and Marx two cases.

The report identified at least 497 victims of abuse, but investigators said that the true figure was likely to be higher. They said that 247 victims were male, 182 female, while the gender of 68 victims could not be determined. They added that they had found 235 alleged perpetrators, including 173 priests.

Around 60% of suspected crimes were committed against children between the ages of eight and 14.

Marx was not present at the press conference but is expected to make a statement in response to the report’s findings on Thursday afternoon.

Marion Westpfahl, a founding partner of Westpfahl Spilker Wastl, lamented the cardinal’s absence as she presented the report.

Marion Westpfahl, a founding partner of the law firm Westpfahl Spilker Wastl, presents a report on Munich archdiocese’s handling of abuse cases, Jan. 20, 2022. Screenshot from BR24 extra live stream.
Marion Westpfahl, a founding partner of the law firm Westpfahl Spilker Wastl, presents a report on Munich archdiocese’s handling of abuse cases, Jan. 20, 2022. Screenshot from BR24 extra live stream.

Lawyer Martin Pusch, an author of the report, said: “In a total of four cases, we concluded that the then-archbishop, Cardinal Ratzinger, can be accused of misconduct.”

He said that in two of the cases, clerics committed abuse while Ratzinger was in office. While they were criminally sanctioned by secular courts, they continued to perform pastoral duties, he said, and no action was taken against them under canon law.

In a third case, a cleric convicted by a foreign court worked in the Munich archdiocese. Pusch suggested that Ratzinger knew of the priest’s history.

A Vatican spokesman said on Jan. 20: “The Holy See considers that appropriate attention should be paid to the document, whose contents are presently unknown. In coming days, following its publication, the Holy See will be able to give it a careful and detailed examination.”

“In reiterating shame and remorse for abuses committed by clerics against minors, the Holy See expresses its closeness to all victims and reaffirms the efforts undertaken to protect minors and ensure safe environments for them.”

Claims that the future pope covered up an abuse case in the archdiocese of Munich and Freising resurfaced earlier this month, more than 10 years after the Vatican firmly rejected the allegations.

The allegation related to the archdiocese’s handling of the case of Hullermann, who is accused of abusing at least 23 boys aged eight to 16 between 1973 and 1996.

The priest, identified in German reports only as “H.”, was suspended from his duties in the Diocese of Essen in 1979 over allegations that he abused an 11-year-old boy.

He was moved in 1980 to the Munich archdiocese. Hullermann was found guilty of molesting boys in a parish of the archdiocese in 1986.

Archbishop Georg Gänswein, Benedict XVI’s private secretary, told the German newspaper Die Zeit: “The claim that he had knowledge of the previous history [allegations of sexual assault] at the time of the decision on the admission of Father H. [to the archdiocese] is wrong. He had no knowledge of his previous history.”

After leaving Munich archdiocese in 1982, Cardinal Ratzinger served as prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith before his election as pope in 2005. He retired in 2013 and has since lived in relative seclusion at the Vatican.

Westpfahl Spilker Wastl produced a report on the Munich archdiocese’s handling of abuse cases in 2010, which has never been published. It announced a delay in the publication of the new report in November 2021, citing “new findings obtained in the recent past” that required an “intensive review.”

The Munich law firm was previously responsible for compiling a report on the handling of abuse cases in the Archdiocese of Cologne.

After lawyers advising the archdiocese raised concerns about “methodological deficiencies” in the study, Woelki commissioned Cologne-based criminal law expert Professor Björn Gercke to write a new report, published in March 2021.

Cardinal Marx wrote to Pope Francis in May 2021, offering to resign amid the fallout from the clerical abuse crisis in Germany. The pope declined his resignation in June that year.

Marx is a member of the pope’s Council of Cardinals and the coordinator of the Vatican Council for the Economy. Until 2020, he served as the chairman of the German bishops’ conference.

In April 2021, Marx asked German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier not to bestow the Federal Cross of Merit on him after an outcry among advocates for abuse survivors over the award.

Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising at a press conference held by German bishops at the Teutonic College in Rome, Oct. 5, 2015. .  Bohumil Petrik/CNA.
Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising at a press conference held by German bishops at the Teutonic College in Rome, Oct. 5, 2015. . Bohumil Petrik/CNA.

He had been scheduled to receive the Bundesverdienstkreuz, Germany’s only federal decoration, at the Bellevue Palace in Berlin.

Marx said that he did not want to draw negative attention to other award recipients.

Peter Bringmann-Henselder, a member of the affected persons’ advisory board of Cologne archdiocese, had urged the president to withhold the honor, citing Marx’s handling of cases when he was bishop of Trier in 2001–2007.

The official web portal of the Catholic Church in Germany reported in June 2021 that Marx’s actions in Trier would be “comprehensively investigated” by an independent commission on behalf of the diocese that has been led by Bishop Stephan Ackermann since 2009.

The Archdiocese of Munich, in Bavaria, southern Germany, dates back to 739 A.D. It serves more than 1.7 million Catholics in 758 parishes, out of a total population of 3.8 million people.

Since 1945, the start of the period covered by the report, the archdiocese has been led by Archbishops Michael von Faulhaber, Joseph Wendel, Julius Döpfner, Joseph Ratzinger, Friedrich Wetter, and Reinhard Marx.

Italian Catholic doctors: Assisted suicide is not a dignified death

null / Video_Creative / Shutterstock.

Rome, Italy, Jan 19, 2022 / 18:10 pm (CNA).

As the Italian parliament debates whether to pass a bill to decriminalize assisted suicide, an association of Catholic doctors has emphasized that a dignified death “cannot take shortcuts.”

“A dignified death is to be ensured to all: this is an essential principle of care and this action, which has an objective value, cannot take shortcuts compared to practices of support and accompaniment of the sick in the last stages of his life,” Filippo M. Boscia, president of the Association of Italian Catholic Doctors, wrote in a Jan. 18 statement.

“We firmly believe that assisted suicide and euthanasia cannot be included among the professional and deontological duties of physicians,” he said.

The statement from Catholic physicians comes as lawmakers prepare to vote in February on a bill to decriminalize assisted suicide in Italy. Debate on the legislation started in mid-December in the Chamber of Deputies.

Both assisted suicide and euthanasia are illegal in Italy, where the criminal law says, “anyone who causes the death of a man, with his consent, is punished with imprisonment from six to fifteen years.”

Last week, 57 associations, mostly based in Italy, jointly signed their own statement criticizing an article in a Jesuit journal supporting the bill.

The article, which argued that the bill could be an “embankment in the face of a possible more serious damage,” was published in La Civiltà Cattolica, which is produced by the Jesuits in Rome and approved before publication by the Vatican Secretariat of State.  

In the AMCI statement, Boscia referenced a “heated debate” on end of life and other ethical and legislative problems, but emphasized that “physicians cannot be assigned the task of causing or provoking death.”

“In the case of an intrinsically unjust law, the doctor will always have the duty to obey his professional conscience,” he said.

There has been a public push to legalize assisted suicide and euthanasia in Italy in recent years, with several high-profile challenges to the law. In 2021, a petition to hold a referendum on the subject received over 1.2 million signatures. It was submitted to Italy’s supreme court in October and awaits a decision. 

The Association of Italian Catholic Doctors warned in its statement that the decriminalization of actions related to euthanasia in the Italian legal system could undermine democracy and “alter the principles of solidarity and justice” reserved for society’s weakest.

“We insist that the state should never deny forms of assistance and protection to the chronically ill, the elderly, the disabled, the mentally ill, etc.,” it said.

“Those who practice the difficult art of medicine cannot choose between letting people live or letting people die…” it continued. “And in this the doctor has no alternative: the only option he can exercise is, always and in any case, for life and in favor of life, because his conscience requires it and his profession obliges him to do so.”

AMCI president Boscia added that “all Catholic doctors represent the absolute incompatibility between medical action and killing…”

He said that the association’s doctors want to reiterate the urgent need to have better access to palliative care and pain management for the terminally ill.

“Catholic doctors believe that the whole issue of the end of life with all its human, personal and family, ethical and legal, political and legislative aspects," he stated, "certainly represents at the present time an opportunity for dialogue, confrontation, improvement of care towards eubiosia (the opposite of euthanasia), that is, good life…”

Scholarships, loan relief for abortion workers in California budget proposal

The California capitol. / Willem van Bergen (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Sacramento, Calif., Jan 19, 2022 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

California health care workers who commit to providing abortions could see their student loans repaid and prospective abortion industry workers could receive scholarships, if lawmakers retain a $20 million proposal in the state’s new draft budget.

The proposal drew criticism from pro-life advocates who worry it creates terrible incentives.

Kathleen Domingo, executive director of the California Catholic Conference, called the proposal “a gross overreach of what most Californians would want our tax dollars to go to.”

“There aren’t a lot of providers who like to do abortions. Abortion is not something that medical students are excited to be a part of. We’ve known that,” she told CNA Jan. 18. “The reason why abortion is not provided in certain areas has nothing to do with laws or regulations. There’s no doctor in the area who wants to perform abortions. They don’t want to do it.”

The California budget summary section for Health and Human Services is 32 pages, with a section dedicated to “reproductive health.” Pro-abortion rights advocates consider abortion to be reproductive health, and abortion is addressed in this section.

“To protect the right to safe and accessible reproductive health care services, the Administration will undertake a number of actions to maintain and improve availability of these essential services,” the summary says, adding, “The Administration will work with the Legislature to reduce barriers to accessing abortion and abortion related services through managed care plans.”

The summary says $20 million in grant funding would go to the general fund of the Department of Health Care Access and Information “to provide scholarships and loan repayments to a variety of health care provider types that commit to providing reproductive health care services.” The goal of this funding is “to support California’s clinical infrastructure of reproductive health care services.”

Domingo was very critical of this proposal.

“This is appalling,” she said. “It's a big deal to pay off medical student loans.”

Students graduate medical school with what seems to be “crippling debt.” For Domingo, incentivizing them to go into the abortion industry is “tantamount to coercion from the state.”

“It’s wonderful to be helping medical students and health care professionals as they go through schools. Let’s figure out a way to do that that’s not handicapping anyone who doesn’t want to do abortion,” she said.

According to Domingo, this section of the California budget is directly related to the recommendations of the California Future of Abortion Council. In December 2020, the council released a 14-page report on policy proposals to respond to possible changes if the U.S. Supreme Court revisits Roe v. Wade and other precedents that mandate permissive abortion laws nationwide.

The council is made up of some 40 California organizations. Its members include seven Planned Parenthood affiliates, three regional ACLU affiliates, and the Office of Gov. Gavin Newsom. Newsom has pledged to make California a “sanctuary” for abortion access, while State Sen. President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, wrote a letter introducing the council’s December report and voicing gratitude for a partnership with the council.

The council advocated that lawmakers should “improve the education pipeline by creating a California Reproductive Scholarship Corps” for those who train as physicians, nurse practitioners, certified nurse-midwives, physician assistants, and others, if they are “dedicated to providing abortion care in underserved areas in California.” These specified medical professionals, if properly licensed, may all perform abortions under state law.

According to the abortion council, lawmakers should also “optimize loan repayment to increase retention and recruitment of clinicians who provide abortion by allocating funds for health care workforce programs.”

Domingo said that these proposals are part of the initial budget, not necessarily the final budget scheduled for May.

“There’s still a lot of work to be done. It’s our job now to advocate that it not include those things, to raise awareness and say ‘This is not a good use of California tax dollars. This is not what Californians want to be paying for’,” she said. “I’m sure many adjustments will be done along the way.”

While the state legislature has a Democratic supermajority and Newsom has made strong commitments to expanded abortion access, Domingo said there are many moderates and others in the legislature “who might look at some of these things and say it is going way too far.”

“In terms of advocacy, it’s very important to make our voice heard,” she said, encouraging grassroots involvement to voice opposition to the proposal.

Californians also need to know about resources that are “life-affirming for women in need.”

“There are so many things that can be done to help people on the ground,” said Domingo. “We would really like to make California a place where women know that they are supported, that children and families are supported all the time.”

“We want to prove that we don’t need abortion expansion in California,” she said. In her view, California should aspire to be a place that “respects women, welcomes children, and protects families.”

The proposed budget would also remove requirements for follow-up visits and ultrasound for chemical abortions that currently apply under MediCal, the state’s Medicaid program for low-income individuals. Backers of abortion have stressed the importance of flexibility in medication abortion given the limits of the coronavirus pandemic.

Last week the California Catholic Conference criticized this aspect of the budget and other efforts to expand abortion access.

“The California Catholic Conference is disappointed and is actively advocating against the Governor’s planned $61 million in additional funding for abortion facilities based on the recommendations of the California Future of Abortion Council report,” the conference said Jan. 14.

Other budget proposals include $20 million in one-time funding for the state’s Department of Health Care Access and Information “to assist reproductive health care facilities in securing their physical and information technology infrastructure and to enhance facility security.” Still another $20 million would back the Covered California state health insurance marketplace’s one-dollar health care premium subsidy due to federal policy limiting abortion coverage.

While Domingo praised efforts to expand health care access, she said that MediCal gives full coverage of abortion and contraception, gender reassignment surgery, and assisted suicide.

“They’re funding all the really good stuff but also the really bad stuff,” she said.

Many in the immigrant community do not want this, according to Domingo.

“We’re in a situation where, particularly immigrant families, are appalled that their children, who now can qualify for MediCal, have access to all kinds of things they would never want their children to access.”

In California’s political context, the drive to expand health care access not only means expanding access to abortion, but also assisted suicide. California lawmakers last year passed a bill to reduce the waiting period for assisted suicide from 15 days to 48 hours and to eliminate a final attestation form, among other changes.

“They’re removing that mental health safeguard for the end-of-life,” Domingo said. She warned that this further reduces efforts to prevent coercion and to give time for additional intervention for those seeking assisted suicide.