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Portland diocese to engage third-party system for reporting ethics violations

Portland, Maine, Jun 25, 2019 / 11:48 am (CNA).- The Diocese of Portland announced Tuesday it will be using a third-party reporting system for violations of its standards of ethical conduct, such as fraud or harassment.

“Several months ago, after hearing from people around the state, the diocese started the process of establishing this system for individuals to express their concerns in an easily accessible way,” Bishop Robert Deeley of Portland said June 25. “The system is organized to ensure that these reports will be handled in a timely and thorough manner.”

The system will be operated by Red Flag Reporting, an ethics, safety, fraud, and whistleblower hotline based in Akron. According to its website, it was founded “by one of the nation’s largest CPA firms.”

Reports of violations of the diocese's code of ethics will be made through Red Flag Reporting's website or telephone hotline. Red Flag will oversee the handling of each complaint by the diocese.

It is not meant to be used for reporting sexual abuse of minors; the Portland diocese indicated that in those cases, civil authorities and its head of professional responsibility should be contacted.

The reporting system could be used to report such ethical violations as fraud, misconduct, safety violations, harassment, or substance abuse at parishes, schools, or the chancery.

Bishop Deeley said that “To ensure transparency and the success of this initiative, the Church needs the committed involvement of the laity. In partnering with Red Flag Reporting, the diocese is offering stronger protections against problematic activity.”

“It is gratifying to report that the protocols already implemented in the Diocese of Portland regarding the safety of children, through the vigilance of both clergy and laity, have helped to make our Church a safer place for all. Since many of the procedures began in 2002, there have been no substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of a minor by a cleric in the Diocese of Portland. We have similar hope for this new system of accountability.”

Brooklyn diocese advances sainthood cause of local priest

New York City, N.Y., Jun 25, 2019 / 03:01 am (CNA).- The Bishop of Brooklyn accepted last week the findings of a nine-year diocesan investigation into the life of Monsignor Bernard John Quinn, known for fighting bigotry and serving the African American population, as part of his cause for canonization.

The information will be sent to the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints.

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio received the findings at a Vespers service at the Immaculate Conception Center in Queens.

Msgr. Quinn “combatted racism and is an inspiration to the priests of this diocese,” Bishop DiMarzio said. “He is a hero who turned things around and gave his life for his people, died an early death, and was a great man.”

Quinn was born in Newark in 1888, and was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Brooklyn in 1912.

In 1922, he established St. Peter Claver parish, Brooklyn's first church for African American Catholics

Six years later, he established Little Flower Orphanage for African American orphanage in Wading River on Long Island. The building was twice set on fire.

Quinn's great-niece, Mary Clare Quinn, said: “The family was all very proud of the work he was doing at Little Flower, and we all contributed during the winters and summers, going out there to help. They used to burn crosses at our house in Mineola, even after he was gone, but my family stared fear down.”

Msgr. Paul Jervis, postulator for Quinn's cause, said the priest “could not separate his sacramental ministry from the social and political realities that denied to people on account of their race, or immigrant status, the opportunities to enjoy the fullness of life as the Lord willed for all humanity.”

“St. Peter Claver Catholic Church became a meeting ground where white Catholics encountered blacks and discovered that they all had a common humanity with the same human problems, and were all in need of the intercession of St. Therese and the pastoral intercession of Monsignor Quinn,” he said.

Quinn died in 1940 at the age of 52.

The diocesan phase of his cause for canonization was opened in June 2010. At that time, Bishop DiMarzio said that Quinn's ministry “did not end upon his death but has continued to grow and take root in the hearts and souls of the faithful and clergy of this church in New York, which has continually ministered to the poor and oppressed.”

Austrian women's football team states regret over cancelled game with Vatican club

Vienna, Austria, Jun 24, 2019 / 11:13 pm (CNA).- Vienna's FC Mariahilf football team has issued a statement of regret after a friendly with the Vatican women's football team was cancelled Saturday after several FCM members lifted their jerseys whilst the Vatican anthem was playing, displaying painted ovaries and pro-abortion messages.

The Vatican soccer team, who had been invited to Vienna by FCM, decided not to go ahead with the June 22 match.

“The action of the three players was independently organized and carried out,” FCM stated. “We sincerely apologize to the Vatican team’s players and guests from near and far that the game was not played.”

The club noted that “tolerance, diversity, of life forms, and peaceful coexistence are important to us, as we have pointed out with rainbow symbols. We therefore understand the demands and message of our players, but we find the timing of their expression inappropriate and therefore understand the emotion it caused.”

The friendly was scheduled to kick off in the early afternoon in a sports arena in Wien-Simmering. Beforehand, both sides had participated in a prayer service and blessing of the pitch.

Austrian state broadcaster ORF quoted one of the FCM players involved in the protest as saying the activists were "not aware of the consequences of their action in any way and would have liked to play the football match".

The activists also handed out leaflets to journalists attending the match. These stated that the activists did not assent to the Church's teaching on abortion and same-sex marriage.

"They were not aware that the timing of the action during the playing of the Vatican anthem and in the presence of the Apostolic Nuncio could be detrimental to the idea of sport and ruin many weeks of preparation", reported the ORF.

When announcing the upcoming game, the German section of Vatican News reported FCM founder Ernst Lackner as saying he had initially not expected that the Vatican team would really accept the invitation, but that the Archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, had assured the Vatican team that FC Mariahilf was a serious team that was also strongly committed to charity.

The papal women's football team had its first appearance in 2018 and immediately received an invitation from FCM, which is currently playing in the Wiener Landesliga, the third highest league in domestic women's football.

Corpus Christi comes to the Capitol

Washington D.C., Jun 24, 2019 / 06:00 pm (CNA).- A group of about 350 people, including priests, sisters, and laypersons, processed through Washington, DC on Sunday to celebrate the feast of Corpus Christi. The procession wound past national landmarks and stopped at the homes of the faithful along the way.

The procession was led by Monsignor Charles Pope, the pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian Church in Washington, and was about one and a half miles in length. The procession ended at St. Joseph’s Church, on Capitol Hill, and included stops at two home altars along the way.

Over the course of the procession, the Eucharist was carried past the Capitol building and Supreme Court. Those processing sung hymns and prayed the Rosary.

This year was the first Eucharistic procession on Capitol Hill in recent memory. Catholic Men United, a group that “exists to fight for the honor and purification of Christ’s bride” also helped to organize the event. Pope is the group’s spiritual director.

Writing on the Archdiocese of Washington website, Pope said that Capitol Hill is, “a location that inspires both awe and anger. It is the epicenter of power in our country, power for both great good and great evil. Yet here we are as well, the Church.”

“We processed up a street where many protesters have walked before, past the homes of believers as well as non-believers, past rainbow flags as well as Madonnas in front yards, past the homes of members of Congress and ‘ordinary’ folks as well,” said Pope. 

The procession went smoothly, without any major disruptions or protests, albeit there were many a curious stare from those walking by. 

Pope said the procession was offered “in reparation for the sins and shortcomings of the members of the Church, both clergy and lay.” 

“We will commit ourselves anew to the Lord, acknowledging our past sins and seeking grace to overcome our shortcomings and resist temptations,” he said. “We will cry for God’s mercy on us and on our nation. Without grace and mercy, we do not stand a chance, but with the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption.”

“I don’t know how to describe feeling so humbled and unworthy at the same time as honored and deeply loved,” said Robin Fennelly, whose home was a stop along the procession. 

“All I could do was kneel, weep, and throw rose petals at the feet of the holy priests carrying our Lord.”

In responding to gender theory, ‘forming the formators’ is key, educators say

Washington D.C., Jun 24, 2019 / 05:47 pm (CNA).- Amid a flurry of headlines denouncing the Vatican for releasing a document condemning “gender theory,” theology professors and Catholic educators told CNA that the document will be helpful in setting priorities for Catholic educators going forward, as Catholic schools respond to questions about LGBT issues.

“I love the emphasis on ‘forming the formators’...It’s important for teachers to realize that they’ve got to be able to answer their students’ questions, whether in religious education or teaching in a Catholic school,” Dr. Theresa Farnan, a professor of philosophy at St. Paul Seminary, the minor seminary of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, told CNA.

“You’ve got to be able to answer your students’ questions. Because you might get one shot to answer that question, and that may be it.”

Published at the beginning of “Pride Month,” during which many cities and corporations mark the campaign of LGBT advocacy, the document says that the Church teaches an essential difference between men and woman, ordered in the natural law and essential to the family and human flourishing.

“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 Congregation for Catholic Education wrote June 10, in a document entitled “Male and Female He Created Them.”

“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 states.

For Christians working in schools, both religious and secular, the radical individualism of gender theory should be avoided in favor of teaching children “to overcome their individualism and discover, in the light of faith, their specific vocation to live responsibly in a community.”

Dr. Susan Selner-Wright, who holds the Archbishop Chaput Chair in Philosophy at St. John Vianney Seminary in Denver, told CNA that “dialogue” does not, as some may believe, mean the same thing as “compromise” when it comes to talking about these kinds of issues.

“‘Dialogue’ right now, in the culture, basically means everybody’s got a right to their opinion, all opinions are equal, and ‘dialogue’ is just basically cover for never having to disagree with each other. And I think the congregation was just brilliant in explaining what dialogue really is,” Selner-Wright said.

The document also states that many efforts to implement “gender theory” into society shut down any possibility of dialogue from the Christian perspective.

“[Pope] Francis says that the ideologues just want to ‘assert themselves as absolute and unquestionable, even dictating how children should be raised,’ and then that cuts off dialogue...That’s not real dialogue. That’s just people shouting at each other. It’s not a way to go forward and to help people to live well.”

True dialogue, she said, is not just “dropping knowledge” on people, but rather inviting them into a conversation in order to be able to propose reasons to support your point of view.

“I would caution people not to dismiss dialogue as something that always leads to compromise. It shouldn’t. It should lead us to journey together towards the one who is Truth,” she said.

Much of the document is a reiteration of existing Church teaching on gender, but Farnan said she appreciated the document’s points of emphasis on formation of teachers.

“I will say the gamechanger...is the absolute insistence that they have to form all of their teachers, so that every teacher who is in a classroom with a kid can articulate the Church’s teaching on gender,” Farnan said.

The document says that “school managers, teaching staff and personnel all share the responsibility of both guaranteeing delivery of a high-quality service coherent with the Christian principles.”

“The other brilliant thing about the document, I think, is that it shows the utter continuity from John Paul II through Benedict XVI to Francis on this specific issue,” Selner-Wright said.

“People want to say ‘Oh Francis is my guy,’ well, he’s really not if what you’re talking about is transgenderism. He’s been completely clear that [transgender ideology] is bankrupt,” she said.

“I really liked the model that [the document] used: listen, reason, and propose,” Farnan said.

Farnan said she just finished a three-day workshop with members of the “iGen” generation, who have never known a time before the internet. She said the way to connect with members of the iGen is to be able to back claims up with science and to “be able to carefully distinguish between ideology and genuine scientific contribution.”

“The final part of it, which I think is the most important, is to propose Christian anthropology as a way of life,” Farnan explained.

“And honestly, if there’s anything that over the last four decades, five decades, we’ve been failing at as a Church is that we’re not going out and presenting a confidant vision of how Christianity differs from culture. And this is an opportunity to present a pretty stark difference. I think it’s really important.”

“What this document reminds us is that, as educators, we have to make sure that they’re getting a complete understanding of what Christianity has to offer in a very positive way...the authentic way to live a life of fulfillment of the human being.”

Farnan said she will watch with interest as individual dioceses work to implement the contents of the document. She highlighted Fort Wayne-South Bend as an example of a diocese that has been proactive in holding workshops for their teachers, educators, and priests to form them in Christian anthropology so they can answer their students’ questions about gender theory.

Mary Pat Donoghue, executive director of the Secretariat of Catholic Education for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told CNA in an interview that she also thinks the document will be useful for ongoing formation of Catholic educators.

“It's a call for all of us to enter more deeply into an understanding of the Church's teaching. I think that the document serves that purpose very, very beautifully,” Donoghue said.

“It also, though, has an element encouraging compassionate pastoral response, and I think that is important as well. So on a local level, diocesan level, finding ways to respond and to help schools to respond should these types of situations arise.”

Donoghue echoed Farnan’s point about the importance of “forming the formators.” Individual situations will always vary, she said, but schools faced with challenging situations related to gender theory should always be able to look to the diocesan level for guidance.

“It's important for our schools to have clear and consistent teaching, certainly around something that's this important,” she explained.

“It's also important for our teachers to understand that the Church's teaching contains the fullness of truth, therefore it's always going to be the most charitable and the most loving answer. Pairing that with a compassionate person-to-person response I think is the best way forward.”

Bishop Michael Barber of Oakland is the chairman of the Committee on Catholic Education for the U.S. bishops’ conference, and Donoghue said she believes Barber would describe the document as a means to better understand Church teaching about the nature of the human person.

“All human people struggle and bear crosses in many, many different forms, and a person suffering from gender dysphoria bears a very painful cross, and so we certainly don't stand to condemn or to judge, but to offer care and to bring about the fullness of the teaching to help to liberate that person,” Donoghue said.

Bea Cuasay and Michelle McDaniel contributed to this report.

Cathedral High School in Indianapolis recognizes archbishop's oversight

Indianapolis, Ind., Jun 24, 2019 / 05:12 pm (CNA).- A Catholic high school in the Indianapolis archdiocese has said it will comply with the archbishop’s instructions to stop employing a teacher in a same-sex marriage.

The decision comes days after a Jesuit high school in the archdiocese refused to comply with a similar instruction and had its Catholic status stripped by Archbishop Charles Thompson.

“It is Archbishop Thompson’s responsibility to oversee faith and morals as related to Catholic identity within the Archdiocese of Indianapolis,” Cathedral High School leaders said in a June 23 letter. “Archbishop Thompson made it clear that Cathedral’s continued employment of a teacher in a public, same-sex marriage would result in our forfeiting our Catholic identity due to our employment of an individual living in contradiction to Catholic teaching on marriage.”

“Therefore, in order to remain a Catholic Holy Cross School, Cathedral must follow the direct guidance given to us by Archbishop Thompson and separate from the teacher,” said the letter, signed by Matt Cohoat, chairman of Cathedral High School’s board of directors, and Rob Bridges, the school’s president.

There are about 1,000 students grades 9 to 12 at the high school. There are 68 schools recognized as Catholic by the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

On June 20 the archdiocese announced that Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School will no longer be recognized as a Catholic school due to a disagreement about the employment of a teacher who attempted to contract a same-sex marriage.

“All those who minister in Catholic educational institutions carry out an important ministry in communicating the fullness of Catholic teaching to students both by word and action inside and outside the classroom,” the archdiocese said.

Every archdiocesan and Catholic private school has been instructed to clearly state that all such ministers “must convey and be supportive of all teachings of the Catholic Church.”

Teachers, the archdiocese said, are classified as ‘ministers’ because “it is their duty and privilege to ensure that students receive instruction in Catholic doctrine and practice. To effectively bear witness to Christ, whether they teach religion or not, all ministers in their professional and private lives must convey and be supportive of Catholic Church teaching.”

The June 20 statement noted that the archdiocese “recognizes all teachers, guidance counselors and administrators as ministers.” The 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision Hosanna Tabor v. EEOC established that religious institutions are free to require those it recognizes as ministers to uphold religious teachings as a condition of employment.

The letter from Cathedral High School leaders said the “agonizing decision” followed “22 months of earnest discussion and extensive dialogue” with the archdiocese about the high school’s Catholic identity.

The teacher concerned was not named in the letter.

“Please know that we offer our prayers and love to this teacher, our students and faculty, our archbishop, and all associated with Cathedral as we continue to educate our students in the Catholic Holy Cross tradition,” the school’s letter continued. “We ask that dialogue about this difficult situation be respectful of the dignity of every person and that you continue to pray for our Cathedral family and the wider Indianapolis community.”

The letter said that being Catholic can be “challenging” and the high school leaders voiced hope that the action does not dishearten parents, staff, and students.

The high school is affiliated with the Brothers of Holy Cross and its bylaws state that its Catholic identity is to be “at all times maintained” and that education in the faith is “a mission priority.”

“We are committed to educating our students in the tenets of the Catholic faith with an emphasis on the Holy Cross tradition,” said the school’s letter.

The letter voiced respect for the position of those at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School and said there are differences in the schools’ respective situations.

“Brebeuf is sponsored by the Jesuits while Cathedral is merely affiliated with the Brothers of Holy Cross. Because Brebeuf is a specific ministry of the Jesuits, their canonical and nonprofit status is different than ours. Therefore, the two schools cannot function the same way if Cathedral were to receive a similar decree as Brebeuf,” the school said.

School leaders at Brebeuf had said that despite the archdiocese’s decision “our identity as a Catholic Jesuit institution remains unchanged.” They said that to follow the instruction from the archdiocese “would not only violate our informed conscience on this particular matter, but also set a concerning precedent for future interference in the school’s operations and other governance matters that Brebeuf Jesuit leadership has historically had the sole right and privilege to address and decide.”

The archdiocese first made the request to Brebeuf two years before.

The Code of Canon Law recognizes the diocesan bishop’s responsibility to ensure that religion teachers are “outstanding in true doctrine, in the witness of their Christian life, and in their teaching ability.” The diocesan bishop has the right to approve religion teachers and, “if religious or moral considerations require it, the right to remove them or to demand that they be removed.”

Fr. Brian Paulson, S.J., head of the Jesuits’ Midwest Province, said he recognized the archbishop’s instruction to be “his prudential judgement of the application of canon law” regarding his responsibility for Catholic education and oversight of faith and morals in his archdiocese.

The Archdiocese of Indianapolis has previously addressed a similar issues at another school.

In August 2018, Shelley Fitzgerald, a guidance counselor at Roncalli High School in Indianapolis, was placed on paid administrative leave. Fitzgerald, an employee of an archdiocesan school, had attempted to contract a same-sex marriage in 2014.

The Indianapolis high school cases drew significant comment from LGBT activists and the prominent Jesuit commentator Father James Martin, editor-at-large of America Magazine, who claimed that the action targets “LGBT people” and not “straight teachers.”

Morals clauses at Catholic schools have been a target of some activist groups, including the dissenting Catholic Equally Blessed Coalition. The coalition has received several low-six figure grants from the Arcus Foundation to back LGBT activists and to counter the Catholic Church.

One coalition member, New Ways Ministry, gave Martin its Bridge Building Award in 2016.

States move to close child marriage exceptions

Harrisburg, Pa., Jun 24, 2019 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- A growing number of states are considering bans or additional restrictions on child marriages, including in Pennsylvania, where a bill to outlaw child marriages passed the state’s House of Representatives earlier this month.  

“Children under the age of 18 cannot vote, serve in the military and buy alcohol or tobacco products, among other things,” Pennsylvania state Rep. Jesse Topper (R), one of the lead co-sponsors of the legislation, HB 360, stated upon its passage on June 5.

“Marriage is a life-altering decision and those who enter into it must be of a certain maturity that comes with age.” 

The legislation is expected to pass the Senate and to be signed into law by Gov. Tom Wolf (D), NBC News reported.

Once the bill is enacted into law, Pennsylvania would become the third state, joining New Jersey and Delaware, to outlaw marriage licenses for any applicants under the age of 18; other states set age limits below 18 or allow for exceptions such as court approval.

There are currently 13 states without any age restrictions on marriage, though Maine’s state legislature recently passed a law restricting marriage licenses to applicants aged 16 or older and is due to come into force on Monday.

State Reps. Perry Warren (D) and Topper are the Pennsylvania bill’s lead co-sponsors.

Topper stated in a press release that child marriages—mostly between adult males and female minors—legalized relationships that would otherwise be considered cases of statutory rape. The bill would amend the state’s current law, which allows for marriage licenses for children younger than age 16 to be granted through court approval, and for children ages 16 to 18 with parental consent.

Warren said upon passage of the legislation that “this bill is about child protection,” and that “studies have shown that the child is often not in control of a decision to marry before 18, and a child under 18 does not have the legal rights of an adult.” 

The advocacy group Unchained at Last, which works to end forced marriages and child marriages in the U.S. and which supported the Pennsylvania legislation, says that around 248,000 children were married in the U.S. between the years 2000 and 2010.

That estimate was drawn from data gathered in 38 states which revealed more than 167,000 child marriages in the time frame, with estimated numbers from the remaining 12 states and Washington, D.C. “based on the strong correlation Unchained identified between population and child marriage.” 

Child spouses have a significantly high risk of abuse, due to their vulnerability, along with a higher risk of divorce, the group says.

According to a 2017 PBS FRONTLINE report, there were at least 207,459 reported child marriages in the U.S. with children as young as 12 being granted marriage licenses in several states.

The number of child marriages did fall significantly over the time period between 2000 and 2010, both PBS and Unchained at Last noted.

Catholic youth group involved in fatal Colorado bus crash

Pueblo, Colo., Jun 24, 2019 / 12:01 pm (CNA).- A charter bus carrying members of a Catholic group from New Mexico crashed Sunday in southern Colorado, killing at least two people including the driver and injuring more than a dozen others.

The group, high schoolers from Aquinas Newman Center at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, had been in Denver for the weekend attending Steubenville of the Rockies, an annual Catholic youth conference.

Among the dead is Jason Paul Marshall, a seminarian of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe. Marshall was studying theology at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio.

The crash occurred on Interstate 25 around 2:30 pm June 23 about ten miles north of Pueblo. The bus struck part of a bridge structure and went off the highway into a ditch.

Colorado State Patrol reported that the driver was ejected from the bus and died. Thirteen other passengers sustained injuries ranging from minor to critical, CSP reported. The Archdiocese of Santa Fe later named the driver as 22-year-old Anthony Padilla.

A total of 14 ambulances and three medical helicopters were called to the scene to assist. Authorities said the driver may have had an “unspecified medical issue” that contributed to the crash, but the cause of the accident is still under investigation.

Archbishop John Wester of Santa Fe will be celebrating a Mass of Healing June 26 at the Newman Center for the victims of the crash. A call from CNA to the Archdiocese of Santa Fe on Monday morning went unanswered as of press time.

Around 30 remaining members of the Newman Center group were able to attend Mass Sunday evening at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Denver. Father Robert Fisher offered prayers for the victims of the crash during Mass.

“Please pray tonight for a Catholic group from New Mexico who were involved in a tragic bus accident this afternoon in Pueblo,” the Archdiocese of Denver said on Facebook.

“The group had attended the Steubenville of the Rockies Youth Conference in Denver and was on its way home. We send our prayers and deepest condolences to the families and friends of those who were killed, and our prayers for healing and comfort for those who were injured.”

US bishops oppose immigration raids, Trump defers

Washington D.C., Jun 24, 2019 / 11:12 am (CNA).- On Saturday US President Donald Trump announced he would delay immigration raids meant to begin that weekend, and the US bishops stated their opposition to the planned deportations.

“We recognize the right of nations to control their borders in a just and proportionate manner. However, broad enforcement actions instigate panic in our communities and will not serve as an effective deterrent to irregular migration,” Bishop Joe Vásquez of Austin said June 22.

“Instead, we should focus on the root causes in Central America that have compelled so many to leave their homes in search of safety and reform our immigration system with a view toward justice and the common good,” said the bishop, who chairs the US bishops' migration committee.

He added: “We stand ready to work with the Administration and Congress to achieve those objectives.”

Trump had announced upcoming immigration raids June 17, but on Saturday said he would delay the action two weeks, to allow Congress to modify US asylum law.

The Trump administration is eager to reduce the number of illegal immigrants in the US.

Earlier this month, Mexico agreed to take measures to reduce the number of migrants to the US, in order to avoid the imposition of tariffs.

Some 6,000 National Guard troops will be assigned to Mexico's southern border with Guatemala, and some asylum seekers in the US will be sent to Mexico to wait while their claims are processed.

In the US, the House passed a bill June 4 that would provide a citizenship path for some brought to the US illegally as children, as well as for qualified holders of Temporary Protected Status or Deferred Enforced Departure.

Bishop Vásquez commented that “Dreamers, TPS and DED holders are working to make our communities and parishes strong and are vital contributors to our country. We welcome today’s vote and urge the Senate to take up this legislation which gives permanent protection to Dreamers, TPS and DED holders.”

The bill, the American Dream and Promise Act of 2019, would grant qualifying childhood arrivals 10 years of legal residence, after which they could receive permanent legal residence with two years of higher education or military service, or three years of employment. Those with TPS or DED could apply for lawful permanent residence if they have been in the country for at least three years and have passed background checks. After five years of lawful permanent residence, they would apply for citizenship.

In May, Bishop Vásquez and Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Houston, president of the US bishops' conference, voiced concern over a separate immigration plan from the Trump administration which prioritizes immigration status based on merit rather than family ties.

“We oppose proposals that seek to curtail family-based immigration and create a largely ‘merit-based’ immigration system,” they said. “Families are the foundation of our faith, our society, our history, and our immigration system.”

How the Church can better respond to the problem of domestic violence

Washington D.C., Jun 23, 2019 / 04:12 pm (CNA).- This Sunday, in Catholic parishes across the country, one in four women sitting in the pews will have experienced severe physical violence in their own homes from their spouses or partners - including burns, choking, beating, or the use of a weapon against them. One in nine men will have experienced the same.

According to one priest who is an expert in the subject, priests in the U.S. are still not doing enough to address the issue.

“The Church has been complicit in this because we haven’t talked about it enough,” said Fr. Charles Dahm, a priest of the Chicago Archdiocese who leads its domestic violence outreach program.

Dahm was a priest at a large parish with a majority-Hispanic population near downtown Chicago for 21 years. During his time there, after hiring a counselor on his staff, he learned that many of his parishioners were victims of domestic abuse, he told CNA. He asked his counselor to train him in recognizing and responding to abuse, and he started to talk about domestic violence in his homilies.

“And the more I spoke about it, the more victims came to me,” he said. Word of Dahm’s parish ministry spread, as parishioners referred their relatives, neighbors and friends. Around the year 2000, the parish office was receiving an average of one victim of domestic violence every day, he said.

Today, he coordinates the Church’s response to domestic abuse at the Archdiocese of Chicago, educating and training priests and other Church leaders on how to prevent and respond to instances of domestic abuse. He travels to give homilies and workshops on the topic, and while he’s been to many parishes throughout his own archdiocese, Dahm said it has been difficult to get other dioceses to respond to his offers of help.

The clergy of the U.S., including the bishops, are largely ignorant about the existence of domestic violence, Dahm said.

“The studies show it’s rampant in the United States. Every pastor who stands up on Sunday looking out on his congregation - he is facing dozens if not scores of victims in his congregation in front of him, and he does not know how to speak to them.”

The ignorance surrounding domestic abuse has a variety of causes, Dahm noted. Priests have not been educated on domestic violence in the seminary, and so they do not expect to encounter it in the priesthood. If a priest does not talk about domestic violence, victims may not approach him about it, and he can therefore have a false sense that it does not exist in his parish. Priests are also overstretched and overworked, and can be weary about taking on new ministries, he added.

“It’s a real travesty that...the clergy is resistant to this topic,” he said.

Misunderstanding abuse as a Catholic

There can also be misunderstandings among Catholics - lay people and clergy alike - about the prevalence of domestic violence and how to respond to it within the context of a Christian marriage.

For example, Dahm said, it is a mistake to think that because couples are religious and going to church, they are less likely to experience or perpetrate abuse.

A 2019 study from the Institute for Family Studies and the Wheatley Institution of Brigham Young University found that while religion offers many benefits to couples, it unfortunately does not positively impact their rates of domestic violence.

“When it comes to domestic violence, religious couples in heterosexual relationships do not have an advantage over secular couples or less/mixed religious couples. Measures of intimate partner violence (IPV)—which includes physical abuse, as well as sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and controlling behaviors—do not differ in a statistically significant way by religiosity,” the study noted.

Other misunderstandings about how to respond to domestic violence come from an incomplete understanding of the Catholic teaching about the permanence of marriage, or the role of suffering in the life of a Christian.

Sharon O’Brien is the director of Catholics For Family Peace, an education and research initiative that is part of the National Catholic School of Social Service’s Consortium for Catholic Social Teaching at the Catholic University of America.

O’Brien told CNA that while marriage is meant to be a sacrament that lasts until the end of a person’s or their partner’s life, domestic violence can be a valid justification for a Catholic to seek at least physical separation from their spouse.

“Catholics I think are challenged to understand that abuse in a marriage is unacceptable,” O’Brien said. “But it’s sinful and it’s usually criminal.”

Greg Pope is the assistant general secretary for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, which recently held their annual Day for Life, a day set aside for raising awareness of various pro-life issues. This year, they chose domestic violence as the theme of the day.

Pope told CNA that domestic violence “fundamentally undermines the Church’s teaching on the inherent dignity of the human person and the complementarity of couples within a marriage.”

He said that Catholic couples experiencing domestic abuse should know that Canon Law, the governing law of the Church, addresses domestic violence, and states: “If either of the spouses causes grave mental or physical danger to the other spouse or to the offspring or otherwise renders common life too difficult, that spouse gives the other a legitimate cause for leaving, either by decree of the local ordinary or even on his or her own authority if there is danger in delay.” (Can. 1153 §1.)

“The Church does not force anyone to remain in an abusive relationship,” Pope reiterated.

Furthermore, O’Brien said, Catholics can have a misunderstanding of the role of suffering in their lives, and some may think that the suffering they experience through domestic violence may be God’s way of “punishing” them for some other sin.

“Yes, suffering exists and yes, we can offer it to the Lord, but we’re not to seek suffering,” O’Brien said, and Catholics should not tolerate abuse in the name of suffering.

“The other big deal with Catholics is understanding that this is not punishment,” she added.

“Yes, maybe you had an abortion, or yes, maybe you all were engaged in relations before marriage...but experiencing domestic abuse is not punishment for some other sin, and you are called to address it, to figure out what to do,” she said.

How the Church responds to domestic abuse

In 1992, the Catholic bishops of the U.S. wrote “When I Call for Help: A Pastoral Response to Domestic Violence Against Women.”

In the document, the bishops clearly state Catholic Church teaching regarding domestic abuse. They also examine why abuse happens, how one can respond to it, and information on where and how abused women and men can seek help.

The document “was cutting edge in 1992 and is still incredibly relevant and appropriate,” said Fr. Dahm. It has since been updated, but only in very minor ways.

“As pastors of the Catholic Church in the United States, we state as clearly and strongly as we can that violence against women, inside or outside the home, is never justified. Violence in any form —physical, sexual, psychological, or verbal —is sinful; often, it is a crime as well. We have called for a moral revolution to replace a culture of violence. We acknowledge that violence has many forms, many causes, and many victims—men as well as women,” the bishops stated in the document’s introduction.

But while the document is excellent, it is still a “really well-kept secret” of the Church, Dahm said, in that many priests and Church leaders do not know that it exists. He said part of his work over the years has been to bring this document to the attention of priests and seminarians during his workshops on domestic violence.

Catholics for Family Peace is another key part of the Church’s response in the United States.

“All the major religions have a national office where clergy and leaders can be trained on domestic abuse, and so we’re it for Catholics,” O’Brien noted.

“We work with dioceses to implement the 20 strategies in the (bishop’s) statement and to create a coordinated, compassionate response to domestic abuse,” she said. They also host several awareness-raising events during the month of October, which is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Lauri Przybysz, co-founder of Catholics For Family Peace, told CNA that their mission extends beyond education and training for clergy and leaders to “education for engaged couples as they prepare for marriage, for them to understand what a healthy relationship means for their marriage, and just facts about domestic violence that a lot of people aren't aware of.”

“We actually have an education module that we can share with marriage preparation leaders... [that] has a little questionnaire that a couple can take to say, to identify: ‘Is there something in my relationship that could be better?’” she said.

They also educate teens on healthy dating and relationships, and they compile good secular resources that clergy can use too, because many of them do not have anything in them contrary to the Catholic faith, Przybysz said.

O’Brien also said that the archdioceses of both Chicago and Washington, D.C., have modeled some of the best responses to domestic violence.

Laura Yeomans is the program manager for the Parish Partners Program at Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. The website for the program includes a homily on domestic violence, a downloadable packet for pastors responding to domestic violence, definitions and explanations of domestic violence and Church teaching, as well as links to emergency resources for victims, among other things.

Yeomans and her team connect with priests and families at the parish level when they are notified about cases of domestic abuse, she said.

“We go out to the parish setting and we meet individually with families who are suffering domestic abuse,” Yeomans said.

Basic do’s and don’ts of responding to domestic violence

While a natural response for pastors or Catholics who learn about a case of domestic abuse may be to call the police, Przybysz warned against it. If a perpetrator knows they have been found out, their violence could escalate to the point of killing their victim.

“It's about walking beside someone, giving them information about where they can find safety, when they decide to make the move,” she said.

Yeomans seconded this advice. “When you're talking with family suffering, domestic abuse, it's very important that we not go in with an agenda,” she said.

The first thing to do is listen, Yeomans said, and to say: “I believe you.” Next, she said, ask: “What can I do? How can I help you? What step would you like to take?”

“It's very important not to say, ‘You should forgive him,’” she said, because this gives the victim the false impression that they must continue enduring the abuse in the meantime. Forgiveness may come eventually, Yeomans said, but the first priority is the safety of the victim.

“Forgiveness is not permitting the abuse to continue,” she said. “It is not allowing yourself and your children to be in danger.”

Spreading awareness of domestic violence, and of the resources available, is one of the best things priests can do for their parishioners, Fr. Dahm said, because then they will know where to turn for help. He said he found it especially true among Hispanics and Latinos, especially those who had recently come to the United States and prefer going to the Church for help.

“It is absolutely true that Hispanics prefer to go to their parish,” he said. “They feel more welcome, they feel safer, that was why in our parish we were so successful - people came to us from all over. I think that had a lot to do with the fact that people wanted to go to a place they trusted.”

Yeomans said that besides speaking about domestic violence at Mass, priests should find out what resources are available to them locally. Once they know what domestic violence hotlines and resources are available, they can print flyers with information and hang them in parish bathrooms, and put informative inserts in their parish bulletins.

Another thing that Yeomans has seen priests do is to raise the question about domestic violence and healthy relationships during times like baptism class, when couples are already at Church to receive some education and information.

Pope said that in the UK, the bishops’ goals for having domestic violence as the theme for their Day for Life was to raise awareness of the issue, to raise additional funds for resources, and to make domestic violence culturally unacceptable.

Fr. Dahm added that he is willing to travel throughout the United States to preach and give workshops on domestic violence in parishes.

“If there are bishops in dioceses who are interested, just tell me, and I will go there,” he said.

By focusing on domestic violence, among other issues, as important pro-life issues, Pope said the bishops hope to help their people follow God’s call in the Gospel of John more closely: “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

If you or a loved one are experiencing domestic violence, call the national domestic violence hotline at: 800-799-SAFE (7233) or 800-787-3224 (TTY). For more information, go to www.thehotline.org.

Domestic violence resources through the Archdiocese of Chicago are available at: https://pvm.archchicago.org/human-dignity-solidarity/domestic-violence-outreach

Domestic violence resources, including the pastoral response packet, are available through Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. at: https://www.catholiccharitiesdc.org/familypeace/

Catholics can also visit Catholics for Family Peace or For Your Marriage for additional information.