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Do you want to grow in love? Keep Jesus close, pope says

Vatican City, Jul 22, 2018 / 06:17 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A Christian can stay on the right path to Heaven, and grow in love for God and his neighbor, only by keeping close to Christ and his love, Pope Francis said Sunday.

“When one moves away from Jesus and his love, one loses oneself and existence turns into disappointment and dissatisfaction,” the pope said July 22. “With Jesus at [our] side we can proceed with security, we can overcome trials, we progress in love for God and for our neighbor.”

“To find the right orientation of life,” everyone needs the truth – which is Christ – to guide and enlighten their path, he continued.

Speaking before the Angelus, Francis reflected on the day’s Gospel reading from Mark, which tells of Jesus’ pity on the crowd of people, who “were like sheep without a shepherd.” In this passage, Jesus is “the realization of God’s concern and care for his people,” he said.

Jesus is moved with compassion for the people in need of guidance, but he does not perform a miracle, the pope noted. Instead, he teaches them. “Here is the first bread that the Messiah offers to the hungry and lost crowd: the bread of the Word.”

Pointing to how Jesus and his disciples had been searching for a place to rest, but the crowd had followed them, Francis said, the same thing can happen to today. “Sometimes we fail to realize our projects, because an unexpected emergency occurs that messes up our programs and requires flexibility and availability to the needs of others.”

He said when this happens, “we are called to imitate Christ.” As it shows in the Gospel, Jesus did not ignore the people. He had compassion on them, came down to them, and “began to teach them many things,” something Christians can learn from.

“The gaze of Jesus is not a neutral or, worse, cold and detached look, because Jesus always looks with the eyes of the heart,” the pope said. Jesus’ heart “is so tender and full of compassion, that he knows how to grasp the even more hidden needs of people.”

Jesus’ compassion on the people is not “an emotional reaction of unease,” it is much more, he continued: “it is the attitude and predisposition of God towards man and his history.”

In this example of Jesus, Christians find a model of love and service toward others, he said.

After the Angelus, Pope Francis added a note about recent reports of the shipwrecking of boats filled with migrants in the Mediterranean Sea. “I express my sorrow in the face of these tragedies and assure my memory and my prayer for the missing people and their families,” he said.

He also made an appeal to the international community to act promptly to prevent the reoccurrence of such tragedies and to guarantee safety and respect for the rights and dignity of all people.

Courage conference celebrates Father John Harvey

Philadelphia, Pa., Jul 22, 2018 / 05:00 am (CNA).- The Catholic group Courage International hosted its 30th annual Courage and EnCourage conference last week, which aimed to offer men and women with same-sex attraction inspiration from the organization’s founder, the late Father John Harvey.

“This year we had the opportunity to remember the legacy of Father Harvey who is our founding director,” said Ann Schneible, communications director for Courage International.

“This is really important, especially for our new members who joined since he stepped down from the position in 2008,” she told CNA.

More than 300 people attended the conference, which was hosted on July 12-15 at Villanova University in Philadelphia, Pa., where Harvey was born. The event also recognized what would have been the priest’s 100th birthday on April 14. He died in 2010.  

Among the conference speakers were Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia and Johnnette Benkovic, host of the EWTN series Women of Grace. Schneible said many of the speakers personally knew Harvey, giving witness to the priest’s gentleness, patience, and humor.

The conference also featured a panel of Courage and EnCourage members and chaplains, who shared their personal experiences of Harvey.

Schneible said the event’s theme, “faithful to the mission,” was inspired by a quote from Father Harvey.

“He said he wanted to be remembered as having been ‘faithful to a mission.’  He wasn’t just serving people out of obedience; he really had a heart for this ministry, especially for the people….He really ministered to the whole human person – heart, mind, and soul.”

Born in 1918, Harvey joined the novitiate of the Oblates of St Francis de Sales 18 years later. With master’s degrees in psychology and philosophy, he was ordained a priest in 1944. He began Courage in 1980 at the request of Cardinal Terence Cooke, a former Archbishop of New York.

“We had a chance to learn about his life and the stories from other members, who shared their experiences with them. So we got to see this man be brought to life for those who didn’t know him. This person who had overseen this wonderful ministry,” she said.

Schneible also pointed to the community experience the conference offered to people with same-sex attraction. Courage’s core values, she said, are “all community based.”

“Our members, they have this shared experience. ....Everyone has a unique story. What really binds them, maybe beyond their experience of same-sex-attraction, is their commitment to the Church,” she said.

“That’s why the name of this ministry is Courage. They have this courageous commitment to living the Church’s teaching authentically on [chastity]. And, that brings a bond with it.”

The first Courage meeting was held in 1980, and the initial group developed the five foundational goals of Courage – chastity, prayer and dedication, fellowship, support, and good role models.

Courage International offers support for people with same-sex attraction who have chosen to pursue a chaste lifestyle. EnCourage supports family members and friends of people with same-sex attraction, teaching them how to encounter their loved ones with compassion.

“What’s really special about this yearly event is that it’s really an opportunity to let our members come together. They see old friends, they get to pick new friends, and it really has the feeling of a family reunion,” said Schneible.

 

Priest in Scotland wants to visit in jail the man who robbed him

Motherwell, Scotland, Jul 21, 2018 / 04:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Father Patrick Hennessy, who was robbed and attacked in May at his rectory in Scotland, says he has forgiven his robber and wants to visit him in prison to give him pastoral care.

Michael McTaggart, 41, was sentenced to four years imprisonment July 17 at Glasgow Sheriff Court for the May 13 robbery of Fr. Hennessy, 73.

Fr. Hennessy told the Scottish Catholic Observer after the sentencing that “it's a heavy sentence for the fella and I feel quite sorry for him as I think he must have so many problems. I wasn’t expecting him to get anything like four years jail time, it’s obviously a huge mistake for the guy.”

“I would now actually go and visit him in prison if it could be arranged because he obviously needs some help.”

Around 9:40 pm on May 13, McTaggart knocked on Fr. Hennessy's rectory door. Fr. Hennessy is pastor of St. Columbkille's in Rutherglen, in the Diocese of Motherwell, and is known regularly to help those who come to his door with donations of food.

McTaggart grabbed the priest and demanded money.

“Father Hennessy gave him two pink collection envelopes he believed to contain £10 each and five pounds from his pocket,” prosecutor Louise MacNeil told the court, according to Glasgow Live's Ashlie McAnally.

McTaggart continued asking for money, and Fr. Hennessy gave him a donation box, thought to have had about GBP 100 ($130).

While McTaggart went through the envelopes in the donation box, Fr. Hennessy was able to run into the street and alert neighbors, and McTaggart fled.

At the sentencing the judge, Martin Jones, addressed McTaggart, saying, “You have pled guilty to an extremely serious offence … You used violence to extract money from him and pulled hm in to the house after you had obtained money and threatened him in the vestibule of the premises.”

“The time has come to realise if you continue offending this way your sentences are going to get longer and longer.”

At the time of the assault, McTaggart had been released early from a previous sentence.

Fr. Hennessy said the St. Vincent de Paul Society will now handle donations at St. Columbkille's, and is operated out of the parish hall.

The Motherwell diocese commented that “the safety of priests and religious living in parishes is paramount. In light of recent incidents, the diocese has offered support to all priests to review the security measures across all presbyteries and parish halls.”

Planned Parenthood asked to prove fetal tissue was not sold for profit

Oakland, Calif., Jul 21, 2018 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- Attorneys for David Daleiden, a pro-life advocate and journalist who released videos on Planned Parenthood’s fetal tissue procurement, have asked the abortion provider to prove it has not sold fetal tissue for commercial gain.

Daleiden was the project head for the pro-life group Center for Medical Progress, which in 2015 released several videos of conversations with Planned Parenthood executives. The videos alleged that Planned Parenthood affiliates were illegally selling fetal body parts for profit. Those accusations have since been dropped.

The recent legal action is part of Planned Parenthood Federation of America v Center for Medical Progress, in which a court ruled last August that the videos had been obtained illegally.

At a July 19 hearing at U.S. District Court in Oakland California, Daleiden’s defense team, including attorneys from the non-profit Thomas More Society, asked the court to compel Planned Parenthood to prove that its affiliates have not profited from fetal tissue transactions.

The attorneys have specifically asked for documented invoices.

Planned Parenthood has said previously it followed federal laws that forbid entities to “acquire, receive, or otherwise transfer any human fetal tissue for valuable consideration.”

“We invite them to prove it,” said Peter Breen of the non-profit Thomas More Society, and a member of Daleiden’s legal team.

“The law is simple. If the payments received for fetal body tissue exceeded the allowable costs, then Planned Parenthood and its affiliates were first, engaged in criminal conduct, and next, making a profit off of selling aborted baby parts,” Breen said in a press release Thursday.

Planned Parenthood said questions about the invoices have “zero bearing” in the case.

Daleiden’s videos appeared to show numerous Planned Parenthood and StemExpress employees discussing the procurement and sell fetal body parts.

In 2014 and 2015, Deleiden posed as an employee of Biomax Procurement Services, a false-front biomedical research company. The National Abortion Federation filed a suit in 2015, stating the videos had been obtained illegally. In a court ruling last August, Deleiden and the Center for Medical Progress were barred from releasing more videos.

“Planned Parenthood is suing Mr. Daleiden because they claim that his investigative videos are ‘misleading’ and ‘broke the law,’” said Breen.  

“Now they are being asking to prove their ludicrous accusations. The idea that this huge profiteer thinks that they can just say something without having to produce relevant evidence is preposterous.”

 

Human trafficking in developed countries more common than previously thought

Washington D.C., Jul 21, 2018 / 04:06 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As many as 1 in 800 Americans is currently a victim of human trafficking, according to a new global report which found much higher rates of modern-day slavery in developed nations than previously believed.

Andrew Forrest, founder of the Global Slavery Index, called the report “a huge wakeup call.”

“The pressure to respond to this appalling human crime must shift from poorer countries to richer nations that have the resources and institutions to do much better,” he said in a July 19 statement.

“It’s widely accepted that most crimes go unreported and unrecorded, because the victims are marginalised and vulnerable,” Forrest said. “This report demonstrates, straight from the mouths of some of the 40.3 million victims of modern slavery, that these deplorable crimes continue happening out of sight, and at a tragic scale.”

“We cannot sit back while millions of women, girls, men and boys around the world are having their lives destroyed and their potential extinguished by criminals seeking a quick profit.”

Published each year by the Walk Free Foundation, the Global Slavery Index compiles data to estimate the number of people being trafficked globally.

The index defines modern-day slavery as any exploitative situation that an individual cannot leave “because of threats, violence, coercion, abuse of power, or deception.” This includes sexual exploitation, forced labor, and child labor.

It also includes forced marriages, the report said, noting that women make up 71 percent of people trapped in modern-day slavery today.

More data sources – including surveys and face-to-face interviews – in this year’s report resulted in significant increases in the estimates of people being trafficked in many developed nations.

The report identified North Korea as having the highest prevalence of modern slavery – with about one in 10 people classified as modern-day slaves – followed by Eritrea, Burundi, and the Central African Republic.

However, developed nations in the West, including the U.S. and UK, also have much higher rates of human trafficking than previously thought, it said.

The 2018 report estimated that some 403,000 people are trapped in modern slavery in the U.S. – seven times higher than previous figures. In the UK, that figure is estimated at 136,000, nearly 12 times higher than earlier estimates.

Last month, the U.S. State Department released its 2018 Trafficking in Persons report, which assesses countries around the world based on how their governments work to prevent and respond to trafficking.

In presenting the report, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo emphasized that the problem of trafficking is one that is found much closer to home than many people realize.

“Human trafficking is a global problem, but it’s a local one too,” he said June 28. “Human trafficking can be found in a favorite restaurant, a hotel, downtown, a farm, or in their neighbor’s home.”

The fight against human trafficking has been a priority for Pope Francis. In December 2013, he told a group of ambassadors that the issue worries him greatly, saying “it is a disgrace” that persons “are treated as objects, deceived, assaulted, often sold many times for different purposes and, in the end, killed or, in any case, physically and mentally harmed, ending up discarded and abandoned.”

In March 2014, Pope Francis signed an ecumenical agreement with Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby, by which the Church and the Anglican Communion agreed to support an anti-slavery, anti-human trafficking initiative, the Global Freedom Network.

The following year, the pope focused on the theme in his World Day of Peace message. He appealed to “all men and women of good will” and to “the highest levels of civil institutions” who witness “the scourge of contemporary slavery.” He urged them “not to become accomplices to this evil, not to turn away from the sufferings of our brothers and sisters, our fellow human beings, who are deprived of their freedom and dignity.”

At a June 2016 summit, the Pope emphasized the importance of listening to victims of trafficking.

He reiterated that message earlier this year, telling young people that they are in “a privileged place to encounter the survivors of human trafficking.”

“Go to your parishes, to an association close to home, meet them, listen to them,” he said.

The Vatican has organized numerous conferences on human trafficking, focused on both raising awareness and discussing means of fighting modern-day slavery and helping victims reintegrate into society.  


 

 

Why some Polish priests are on a pilgrimage 'relay' this summer

Czestochowa, Poland, Jul 21, 2018 / 12:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- There are 900 priests and almost 100 seminarians in the Archdiocese of Czestochowa. But the people of this Polish diocese are praying that more young men will answer a call to the priesthood. This summer, their priests have taken those prayers to the streets.

“The prayer of priestly hearts and feet for vocations” is a prayer pilgrimage chain- a kind of pilgrimage relay- through the parishes of the archdiocese, begun on July 16, and concluding August 20. Each day of the pilgrimage chain, priests from one deanery, or region, of the archdiocese will walk from parish to parish, while praying the rosary and fasting for vocations to the priests.

Each day’s journey is a walk of between 12 and 25 miles, according to the archdiocese, during which a priest carries a wooden cross inscribed “Jesus, I am looking for you,” along with relics of Pope St. John Paul II or St. Therese of the Child Jesus.

Lay Catholics have joined those priests who have already completed a day’s journey, walking along between towns and joining in the recitation of the rosary.

Bishop Andrzej Prsvbylski, an auxiliary bishop of the archdiocese, spent July 19 walking and praying for vocations.

“This is a humble pilgrimage for vocations,” the bishop said. “We want to go from Church to Church and pray for vocations.”

The image of Our Lady of Czestochowa, also called the “Black Madonna,” is greatly revered by Poles and is a pilgrimage site for Catholics from across Europe.

In 1717, Our Lady of Czestochowa was crowned Queen and Protector of Poland by Clement XI.

Archbishop Waclaw Depo of Czestochowa has offered a daily blessing to the pilgrimage, according to the archdiocese.

 

Nicaraguan priest appeals for intervention to prevent massacre of protesters

Managua, Nicaragua, Jul 20, 2018 / 06:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A Nicaraguan priest has called on the international community to intervene to prevent the massacre of protesters by the country's government and its paramilitary supporters.

Protests against president Daniel Ortega which began April 18 have resulted in more than 300 deaths, according to local human rights groups. The country's bishops have mediated on-again, off-again peace talks between the government and opposition groups.

Fr. Augusto Gutierrez, a parish priest in the Monimbó neighborhood of Masaya, fewer than 20 miles southeast of Managua, was recently interviewed by the Spanish radio network COPE. Masaya has been at the center of the country's protests.

Due to government pressure, the priest is in hiding since he has received numerous threats.

“We've gotten death threats because they say we're the ringleaders of this situation, but we have been out in public because what the government of Daniel Ortega is doing is unjust. This is a genocide because there's no other name for it,” Fr. Gutierrez said.

The priest appealed: “Don't let us die. Please, intervene, do something.”

On July 17 the indigenous neighborhood of Monimbó was attacked by paramilitaries with ties to president Daniel Ortega.

In the interview, the priest said that the paramilitaries carried out a four hour attack in Monimbó: “with heavy military weapons, they're desecrating churches and destroying lives.”

The priest explained that the Monimbó neighborhood is made up of simple people and that “for three months the government has lashed out against the population all over Nicaragua, including Monimbó, which has remained steadfast with great courage. But now they're killing us.”

With regards to statements made by the Archbishop of Managua, Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes, during another interview with the COPE radio network, Fr. Augusto said that “he supports everything that the Church and the bishops are saying. But they (Ortega's government) no longer want to listen to  reason, so there has to be international support to intervene and save the country.”

“This is not war because the people are defending themselves with what they can, roadblocks, stones, makeshift mortars. They (the government) are determined to celebrate July 19 over the blood of the people. And they can't keep on governing over the dead and ordering to kill,” he stated.

July 19 marked the 39th anniversary of the ouster of the Somoza dictatorship by the Sandinista National Liberation Front, of which Ortega is the leader.

La Vanguardia news reported July 20 that at a pro-government celebration attended by thousands of supporters that day, Ortega charged the Nicaraguan Bishops' Conference with complicity in a coup attempt. He based his accusation on the bishops' proposal that he hold early presidential elections in March 2019.

The president challenged the Organization of American States and called on his followers to “not let down your guard” and to exercise“self-defense” in the midst of the grave crisis rocking the country.

Ortega said that he is the victim of “a conspiracy armed and financed by internal and external forces,” and disqualified the bishops as mediators in the crisis because they have “taken sides.”

In a July 14 statement, the Nicaraguan Bishops' Conference denounced “the lack of political will by the government to dialogue” and seek real processes that would lead the country to a true democracy.

Finally, Fr. Gutierrez stated that Nicaragua is “in a state of emergency,” and that an “anti-terrorist” law was recently passed such that “all those who support the men at the roadblocks, or according to [the government] are collaborating against them, they're going to put on trial.”

Barricades and roadblocks are now found throughout Nicaragua, and clashes frequently turn lethal. Bishops and priests across the country have worked to separate protesters and security forces, and have been threatened and shot.

Nicaragua's crisis began after Ortega announced social security and pension reforms. The changes were soon abandoned in the face of widespread, vocal opposition, but protests only intensified after more than 40 protestors were killed by security forces initially.

Anti-government protesters have been attacked by “combined forces” made up of regular police, riot police, paramilitaries, and pro-government vigilantes.

The Nicaraguan government has suggested that protestors are killing their own supporters so as to destabilize Ortega's administration.

The Church in Nicaragua was quick to acknowledge the protestors' complaints.

The pension reforms which triggered the unrest were modest, but protests quickly turned to Ortega's authoritarian bent.

Ortega has been president of Nicaragua since 2007, and oversaw the abolition of presidential term limits in 2014. He was also leader of Nicaragua from 1979 to 1990.

Bishop Pineda’s resignation, what it means and what happens next

Washington D.C., Jul 20, 2018 / 06:00 pm (CNA).- The resignation of Bishop Juan José Pineda Fasquelle on Friday morning is the latest in a series of episcopal scandals breaking across the Church. He is accused of multiple counts of sexual and financial misconduct, and how his case is handled will be closely watched.

Pineda is alleged to have made repeated and unwanted sexual advances on seminarians. Other allegations include traveling on expensive holidays with “male companions” and even allowing a “companion” to reside in a purpose-built apartment using church resources. He is also accused of misappropriating more than $1 million in government funds intended for charitable projects.

As auxiliary bishop of the Honduran diocese of Tegucigalpa, Pineda was effectively in charge, acting in place of Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodriguez Maradiaga. Cardinal Maradiaga, himself the subject of allegations of financial impropriety, has been largely absent from his diocese over the last five years while serving as the head of the C9 Council of Cardinals, appointed by Pope Francis to look at overhauling the governance of the universal Church. More recently, the cardinal has been receiving treatment for cancer.

Many of the allegations have been publicly circulating since December of last year and have apparently been common knowledge in the diocese for longer. In a statement, Pineda claims he submitted his resignation “several months ago.” But the timing of its acceptance by Pope Francis, and the renewed scrutiny it brings to Cardinal Maradiaga, arrives in the middle of an unfolding series of sexual abuse allegations against Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.

The still-breaking McCarrick scandal itself comes as Pope Francis struggles to resolve the national crisis of sexual abuse and cover-ups by Chilean bishops, five of whom have now left office.

Many had hoped that Church was seeing an end to the litany of sexual abuse scandals which rocked it during the first ten years of the millennium. Instead, there seems to be a new generation of scandals, in which abuse of adults, especially seminarians, and financial impropriety are the main offenses.

But perhaps the most important difference between today’s scandals and those of the early 2000s is that they concern bishops and cardinals, not priests. The differences between how these cases are handled, and their impact on the Church, is considerable.

Following the clerical abuse scandals of the previous decade, new and robust procedures were instituted in many places, especially the United States. Following the adoption of the Dallas Charter in 2002, and changes to canon law under Pope Benedict XVI, the procedures for dealing with an accusation against a priest were clear.

Today, if an allegation of abuse is made against a priest, diocesan authorities are usually swift to act, often suspending the priest from his parish and publicly announcing the nature of the allegations so that other potential victims can come forward. A formal investigation is held and, if it concerns a serious crime, the results are sent to Rome where it is determined how to proceed.

Yet no such procedure exists, at the practical level, for handling accusations against a bishop.

Victims, especially seminarians, with a complaint to make against a bishop have little reason to hope action will be taken. A disturbingly common thread running through recent allegations has been the extent to which abusive behavior was widely known but never acted on by Church authorities.

A chilling culture of silence regarding allegations of sexual misconduct in the Church has been exposed. In addition to the well-attested fear and shame felt by victims, both accusers and authorities who should have helped them often keep silent for fear of scandal. The hesitation to “hurt the Church” by making allegations public has led in many places to a culture of winking tolerance of sexual misconduct by senior clerics. By allowing more victims to be hurt in the meantime, this silence leads to the eventual scandal being all the more grave.

The lessons of recent history indicate that high profile media attention is the only guarantee of a serious response to an allegation against a bishop.

In 2013, Cardinal Keith O’Brien resigned as Archbishop of St. Andrews & Edinburgh following allegations that he made repeated sexual advances on clergy and seminarians in the archdiocese. The complaint was presented by three priests and a former priest. While the allegations were formally made to the Apostolic Nuncio in London, which appears to be the closest thing there is to an existing procedure in the Church, the speed with which he left office was widely credited to the men informing the nuncio of their intention to speak to the national press.

The allegations against Bishop Juan Barros, whose appointment to a small Chilean diocese marked the beginning of the crisis in that country, were known in Rome at the time of his appointment, and, as local outcry mounted, Cardinal Séan O’Malley is said to have personally delivered a letter from victims to the pope.

Yet it was only the backlash to Pope Francis’ apparent dismissal of the victims, despite their persistence and credibility, during a papal visit to Chile which finally prompted action.

In the case of Cardinal McCarrick, his predatory behavior towards seminarians was apparently legendary. But despite what everyone seems to have known, no formal action (apart from the out-of-court settlements) was ever taken by Church authorities until an allegation was made by a former altar server in New York.

In the case of Bishop Pineda, despite the seriousness of the allegations and the considerable local scandal, it seems it was only the publicity arising from his close association with Cardinal Maradiaga which prompted Vatican action.

Pineda’s resignation provokes a series of further questions which will test the Holy See’s resolve in seeing episcopal allegations through to the end.

Other prominent accused bishops, like Cardinal McCarrick, have been past, or near to retirement age. Given his advanced age and removal from public ministry, there is little to compel Vatican authorities to take further action. Indelicately put, it is not unknown for the Vatican to simply delay action against elderly bishops, counting on death to precede a process. This will not be an option with Pineda.

In a statement released on Friday, Pineda declared “I continue as a son of the Church; I continue forward as consecrated [a bishop]; I continue as minister of the Church; I continue forward at the disposition of my superiors.” Aged only 58, an indefinite hiatus from active ministry is not likely to be seen as workable solution. Rome will have to decide how to bring the allegations against him to a resolution, possibly through a canonical trial, and how to formally punish him if necessary.

What form such sanctions could take, and following what process, remains unclear.

Despite creating a new legal mechanism for canonical trials for bishops, officials in Rome have indicated that Pope Francis has reserved all abuse complaints against bishops to himself, personally. There is no obvious pattern for dealing with these cases to follow, and what results can be expected are hard to predict. 

While there are understandable calls for abuser-clerics to be laicized, this very unlikely in the case of a bishop.

While laicization clearly expels a bishop from the hierarchy, it effectively ends any oversight church authorities have over him. Contrary to popular conception, a laicized bishop does not cease being a bishop, sacramentally speaking. Once conferred, sacraments like baptism, ordination, and episcopal consecration cannot be undone. If Pineda were laicized and he went on to seek ministry in unauthorized settings, sacraments he administered, including priestly ordinations, would still be valid. The potential damage and confusion which could be done by a rogue bishop, outside of church control, is enough to make laicization highly unlikely.

Bishop Emmanuel Milingo, for example stepped down from the leadership of a Zambian diocese in 1983, at the age of 53, after which time he illicitly but validly consecrated several married men as bishops. He was eventually laicized in 2009, but by that time he had been conducting unauthorized ministry for decades.

If the allegations against Pineda are proven, the most likely outcome is he would be removed from public ministry and assigned to live somewhere away from public view. There is some precedent for this course.

Perhaps the most likely example that could be followed is that of Kieran Conry, who was forced to resign as bishop of the English diocese of Arundel and Brighton at the age of 63 in 2013. Conry’s resignation was prompted by a string of inappropriate relationships with women, which were also common knowledge among the English hierarchy at the time of his appointment. Since then, he has been living in a church-owned house in southern England and out of public ministry. Cardinal O’Brien lived in similar conditions until his death in March of this year; while he resigned the “rights and privileges” of a cardinal, he was allowed to keep the title.

In the meantime, Pineda’s situation remains unclear.

There has been no formal announcement that he has been removed from public ministry - only his office as auxiliary of the diocese - and there has been no indication that he has left the diocese. How formally and transparently his situation is resolved will be telling.

Decisive and public action against Pineda seems called for, but it would set a standard against which other cases would be judged. It would also open the door to further questions about Cardinal Maradiaga’s complicity in, or at least awareness of Pineda’s actions.

Indeed, the great scandal, which remains unaddressed in all these cases - Pineda, McCarrick, Barros, O’Brien, Conry - is the extent to which other bishops were aware of the allegations against them and did nothing. Expressions of surprise, sorrow, and sympathy for the victims seem almost robotic at this point. Until such time as bishops who ignore misconduct among their peers are held to account for their effective complicity, there seems little hope that the cycle of scandals will be broken.

Sterilization device removed from sale with lawsuit pending

Washington D.C., Jul 20, 2018 / 05:30 pm (CNA).- The Essure sterilization device is being withdrawn from sale, the pharmaceutical company Bayer announced today. This comes after more than 10,000 women filed a lawsuit saying they were seriously harmed by the device, and about three months after the FDA restricted sales and required patients be given additional information about risks.

The FDA added a “black box” warning to Essure in November of 2016, after numerous patient complaints about complications, such as abdominal pain and uterine perforation. 

Essure will be taken off the market in the United States as of December 31, 2018. Sales in every other country ceased as of September of last year, due to poor sales figures. The device was first approved for use in 2002.

The device is described as a “non-surgical permanent birth control,” and consists of a pair of metal and polyester coils that are inserted into the fallopian tubes. These coils cause scarring in the tubes, blocking eggs from reaching the uterus. Bayer claims to have sold about 750,000 of these devices around the world. The device was preferred by some women as it purportedly had a much faster healing time than other sterilization techniques.

In a statement, Bayer said the decision to pull the device was was “based on a decline in U.S. sales of Essure in recent years and the conclusion that the Essure business is no longer sustainable,” but that they “continue to stand behind the product’s safety and efficacy.”

The Food and Drug Administration has been monitoring Essure since September of 2015, after an “increase in adverse events” submitted to its official database.

The public outcry against Essure was in part driven by social media, which was able to bring women suffering similar symptoms together in one place.

In 2011, a Facebook group called “Essure Problems” was created for women to discuss various adverse reactions they had to the device. In some instances, women were required to have emergency hysterectomies after the devices broke and migrated throughout their bodies. Other suffered extreme allergic reactions to the metals in the device, developed headaches and mood disorders, and some even experienced ectopic pregnancies.

At least one woman was killed as a result of Essure, after her reproductive organs developed necrosis, and the device was blamed for at least 300 fetal deaths and stillbirths.

The Essure Problems group, which has grown to nearly 37,000 women, was responsible for some of the widespread media coverage about the device’s dangers.

Responding to Friday’s announcement, administrators of the Essure Problems group told CNA that “seven long years of fighting to get Essure removed from the United States market has finally paid off” and that the announcement “brought us to our knees in gratitude, relief and celebration.”

“Women will not be harmed by this device any more. We have won, we have finally won!”

The FDA released a statement saying that they will continue to “remain vigilant in protecting patients” who have been implanted with Essure, and will work alongside Bayer to “best determine how to move forward to answer the critical questions we posed” regarding complications with the device.

Michigan AG seeks to dissolve priest-assistance charity over lack of governance

Lansing, Mich., Jul 20, 2018 / 04:58 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Michigan attorney general filed Thursday a cease and desist order against Opus Bono Sacerdotii, a charity which raises money to assist priests facing difficulties, citing a lack of oversight and other violations of state law.

The attorney general, Bill Schuette, filed a notice of intended action July 19.

“Before bringing a civil action, the Attorney General will consider accepting an assurance of discontinuance or other appropriate settlement agreement,” the notice stated.

A former employee of Opus Bono Sacerdotii complained to Schuette's office in February 2017, “claiming that the charity was violating its nonprofit status and was being used for the personal benefit of its officers Joe Maher and Peter Ferrara.”

On reviewing tax forms, the attorney general's office “found irregularities and lack of details that lent support to the complaint,” and differing lists of board members, which led to an investigation which lasted until at least May 2018.

The investigation found a lack of board governance, no controls over expenses, unauthorized and excessive compensation, diversion of assets, breach of fiduciary duties, and deceptive solicitations.

“OBS President Joe Maher and Treasurer Peter Ferrara operated OBS without any meaningful oversight from its board of directors,” according to the attorney general's filing.

The OBS board did not hold formal board meetings, and when they did, minutes were not kept.

Maher and Ferrara are two of the six members of the board of directors; another member, Fr. Eduard Perrone, said, “he never viewed himself as a director and had no knowledge of Opus Bono’s organizational structure; he considered himself a spiritual adviser to the group”. Paul Barron, another board member, said that “the board did not supervise Maher’s and Ferrara’s activities and that the annual meetings were informal,” the attorney general reported.

This lack of governance allowed the “possible diversion and illicit use” of OSB's charitable assets by Maher and Ferrara, the attorney general wrote. “The pattern of OBS expenses, transfers, and withdrawals suggest regular personal benefit to Maher and Ferrara from OBS assets.”

Neither of the men had a compensation agreement with OBS: “Neither Maher nor Ferrara were paid in regular amounts at regular intervals. Instead, without authorization, at their discretion, both Maher and Ferrara withdrew and transferred OBS assets to themselves or expended them for their own personal benefit.”

The attorney general also stated that “Maher’s and Ferrara’s personal use of funds and unauthorized compensation diverted OBS assets from its mission of helping priests.”

After the investigation began, OBS held a board meeting in which it had “a fiduciary duty to preserve OBS assets and to itself investigate OBS’s finances to ensure that OBS assets were being used—and had been used in the past—as intended,” according to Schuette.

“Instead of investigating and recovering personal expenses charged by Maher and Ferrara and excessive compensation taken by Maher and Ferrara, OBS’s board passed a resolution purporting to authorize Maher’s and Ferrara’s past actions, including tens of thousands of possible personal expenses for meals, auto, and travel … In so doing, the OBS board breached its fiduciary duties to OBS.”

Finally, the investigation found that solicitations for donations sent by OBS “generally told donors that Maher just received a letter from a priest that OBS had helped; the mailing then included a lengthy direct quote purportedly from the priest telling his story.”

“But OBS has admitted that the letters were not direct quotes and were a 'composition of multiple letters.'”

The attorney general instructed OBS to cease “all unlawful solicitations as described in the above violations and all unauthorized or excessive compensation or personal expenses,” and said that violation “may result in a civil action for restitution, civil fines, litigation costs, and injunctive relief.”

OBS was founded in 2002 to “facilitate care for Catholic priests who are experiencing difficulties in their personal life and priestly ministry,” the organization states. “A vital component of this urgent care is in providing monies to priests who are in dire need of the basic necessities of life, especially when they have no other available options for financial support.”

The charitable tax-exempt organization bears a “2017 Top-Rated” logo from GreatNonprofits on its website.