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Priest and key witness in nun rape case found dead

Kochi, India, Oct 23, 2018 / 12:00 am (CNA).- A priest who had been a key witness in the charge of rape against Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jullundur died Monday, prompting a police investigation into his death.

Father Kuriakose Kattuthara, 62, was found unconscious in his room on Oct. 22 at St Mary’s Church in Dasuya in Punjab, India. He had no visible signs of injury.
He was declared dead after being transported to a local hospital.

Kattuthara's brother, Jose Kurian, expressed doubt about police reports that the priest might have succumbed to cardiac arrest.
“My brother had talked to me a week before the death. He had expressed fear that something may happen to him. We can’t believe the Punjab Police version that my brother had died due to cardiac arrest. He had no history of heart ailments,” Kurian told Firstpost.

The priest's family petitioned for an autopsy and investigation. It was filed with the Alappuzha district superintendent of police, who forwarded it to Pinarayi Vijayan, Chief Minister.
The priest had testified against Bishop Mulakkal, who was been arrested on Sept. 21 for allegedly raping a nun for over a course of two years. The nun, who is a member of the Missionaries of Jesus, brought the accusation forward in June.
The priest provided testimony to police about the case several weeks ago. Local Catholics say that others who have testified against the bishop have faced threats of retaliation.

The nun said the abuse began in 2014 at her convent in Kuravilangad. The bishop has denied all accusations and was released on bail on October 15. He is awaiting trial.

Bishop Mulakkal told UCA News that the allegations were a retaliation against him because he acted against the nun's sexual misconduct. He said she was having an affair with her cousin's husband.

Three other women have accused the bishop of sexual misconduct. However, the Missionaries of Jesus' superior general upholds the bishop's innocence. The congregation is based in the Jullundur diocese, and Bishop Mulakkal is its patron.

Nigeria's VP says religious leaders have impeded anti-corruption work

Lagos, Nigeria, Oct 22, 2018 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- Nigeria’s vice president accused “religious leaders” of impeding efforts to rid the country of corruption ahead of a February election that has elevated tension between Christian leaders and government officials in the country.

Speaking at an economic summit Monday, Nigeria’s Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said that the “the Nigerian elite,” including “religious leaders” have intervened in his efforts to remove corrupt officials from their posts. The vice president also mentioned that business and political leaders have also tried to influence his political decisions.

Osinbajo did not elaborate on his comment about the intervention of religious leaders in the country’s governance, or clarify whether he meant Muslim or Christian leaders. In recent months, however Christian leaders in the country have accused the presidential administration of failing to take a proactive approach to mitigate inter-religious violence.

On Oct. 8, a prominent Nigerian pentecostal leader criticized Osinbajo for not doing more to protect the interests of Christians in the country.

“The day Osinbajo entered government and became Vice [President] to Muhammadu Buhari, he changed,” said Bishop Emmah Gospel Isong, Publicity Secretary of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, as reported by the Nigerian Daily Post.

Osinbajo was previously a pastor at a parish of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, a pentecostal denomination founded in Nigeria in the 1950s. In addition, Osinbajo and his wife created a non-governmental organization in 2007 “dedicated to the promotion of Christian ethics and orderliness,” according to the Vanguard newspaper. Osinbajo recently took steps to reform the Nigerian police, and fired the head of Nigeria’s spy agency.

Nigeria is preparing for a general election set for February 2019. The country’s Catholic bishops have repeatedly called for free and fair elections, urging citizen to reject illegal voting practices, namely buying and selling votes.

Nigeria’s 2015 election, in which President Muhammadu Buhari was elected, was roundly condemned by politicians and journalists. The election was postponed amid outbreaks of Boko Haram violence in the country’s northern regions, and the election commission struggled to distribute voter identification cards. Reports of voter intimidation in the country were rampant.

The Nigerian bishops have spoken frequently to criticize president Buhari, whom they have admonished for failing to respect the religious freedom of Christians, and for being slow to address attacks on farmers by nomadic Fulani herdsmen.

President Buhari is himself Muslim and a member of the Fulani tribe. Though reports suggest that Christians are not the exclusive victims of the violence, the bishops accused the president in June of harboring a “double standard” against Christians when in came to enforcing the law and punishing the perpetrators of crimes.

In the most recent violent incident, 55 people died Oct. 20 in a dispute between young Christians and Muslims in a marketplace in northern Nigeria. The Vanguard newspaper reported that the violence was temporarily halted by police, but Christian Adara youth later mobilised and attacked Muslim Hausa residents, burning homes.

President Buhari condemned the incident and asked that citizens choose dialogue, patience and tolerance to prevent crises from escalating into violence.

“The Plateau Massacre,” which occurred June 21-24, 2018, was another notable eruption of violence between largely Christian farmers and Fulani herders, most of whom are Muslim, over limited natural resources. The conflict left more than 80 dead, including children and pregnant women.

“It can no longer be regarded as mere coincidence that the suspected perpetrators of these heinous crimes are of the same religion as all those who control the security apparatus of our country, including the President himself,” the country’s Catholic bishops said in a June 29 statement following the massacre.

“Words are no longer enough for the President and his service chiefs to convince the rest of the citizens that these killings are not part of a larger religious project.”

“While we vehemently condemn any shedding of human blood and ask the Police to speedily arrest and prosecute the perpetrators of these crimes, we must point out the double standards applied by the same Police any time the herdsmen are attacked and killed. In this latter case they react very swiftly and the law promptly takes its course. Would that the same swiftness be applied to all cases,” the bishops wrote.

The religious makeup of the country is almost equal between Muslims and Christians, at about 49% of the total population each, according to Pew Research Center.


U.S. attorney for D.C. announces federal hotline for victims of clergy sex abuse

Washington D.C., Oct 22, 2018 / 04:40 pm (CNA).- Following the launch of a federal investigation into several Catholic dioceses last week, federal prosecutor Jessie K. Liu has announced the opening of a hotline for victims of sexual abuse by clergy in the District of Columbia.

The hotline, announced Monday, is being launched in collaboration with the Superior Court Division’s Sex Offense and Domestic Violence Section and the Victim Witness Assistance Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.

There is both an email address and a phone number where “survivors of child sexual abuse by clergy who wish to share their experiences and/or those who have knowledge of such abuse” can make incident reports “for potential criminal investigation and prosecution,” said an announcement published by Liu’s office.

Survivors of child sexual abuse by a clergy member that took place in the District of Columbia “in a house of worship, school, or other location” can make reports to the Clergy Abuse Reporting Line at 202-252-7008 or by e-mail at

“All reports will be reviewed and a team of experienced criminal investigators, prosecutors, and victim advocates from the Superior Court Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office will determine whether any criminal charges can be brought or victim services provided,” the announcement states. “The victim advocates, who are part of the Victim Witness Assistance Unit, are available to offer support and guidance to survivors who wish to report.”

The creation of such a hotline comes at the end of the so-called “summer of scandal” during which numerous accusations of abuse surfaced against former cardinal Theodore McCarrick, a grand jury report from Pennsylvania detailed decades of clerical abuse, and former Vatican nuncio Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano accused Vatican officials, including Pope Francis, of failing to sufficiently respond to reports of misconduct on McCarrick’s part.

It also comes about a week after Pope Francis accepted the resignation of D.C.’s Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who has been the subject of criticism since late June, when revelations about alleged sexual misconduct on the part of his predecessor, McCarrick, raised questions about what Wuerl knew about McCarrick, and how he responded to that knowledge.

The announcement of the hotline also shortly followed the federal government’s launch of an investigation into seven of the eight Catholic dioceses in the state of Pennsylvania, as well as the Diocese of Buffalo in New York, which is also being investigated by its State Attorney General's Office.

According to documents obtained by local media, the Diocese of Buffalo appears to have been served with the a subpoena from the U.S. attorney’s office in late May or early June of this year, though it was only made public last week.

Emails between Buffalo’s Bishop Richard J. Malone, his staff and attorney mention the words “subpoena” and “Grand Jury” as early as May 31 of this year, Channel 7 Eyewitness News WKBW in Buffalo, an ABC affiliate, reported.

In those emails, Malone said he found it “encouraging” that the scope of the investigation would likely be small, based on the criteria of the probe. He also said that he hoped any prosecutable cases would be “all men (already) removed from ministry.”

A source told WKBW that the subpoena was related “to pornography, taking victims across state lines and use of cell phones/social media.”

On Oct. 18, the Diocese of Buffalo released a statement acknowledging that a federal subpoena was served to the diocese “several months ago.”

“A subpoena was provided and after some discussion, an agreement was reached to produce documents. We have heard nothing since early June. As far as we know, our response has nothing to do with the current Pennsylvania investigation that has just begun."


Cardinal Parolin: For Paul VI, ‘Humanae vitae’ had to be pastoral

Vatican City, Oct 22, 2018 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- When drafting Humanae vitae, Pope St. Paul VI showed pastoral concern while emphasizing doctrinal clarity, the Vatican’s secretary of state said Oct. 18

In that way, the pope recognized that “birth control was not a topic that merely regarded Christian couples,” Cardinal Pietro Parolin said.

Parolin outlined the process that led Pope Paul VI to draft the encyclical Humanae vitae at an event organized by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.  

Published 50 years ago, Humanae vitae is known mostly for being “the encyclical that said ‘no’ to contraception,” Parolin said. The cardinal argued that the text actually goes beyond the issue of contraception to propose an integral vision of procreation.
Paul VI has been described as a pope who acted alone on the encyclical, against the opinion of the majority of theologians involved in the pre-drafting discussion. However, a recently published book on the subject aims to demonstrate that the pope was not alone on Humanae vitae.

The book, “The birth of an encyclical,” was written by Gilfredo Marengo, a professor of theological anthropology at the John Paul II Pontifical Theological Institute.
To compile it, Marengo was given access to documents from the archive of the Vatican’s Secretariat of State. He needed a special permission from the pope, since the Holy See’s archives are usually available only after 70 years.

The book presents a series of drafts and instructions, as well as a previously unpublished encyclical draft titled De nascendi prolis. That draft was totally replaced by the text that became Humanae vitae.

Parolin retraced Paul VI’s “suffering path” in the drafting of the encyclical.

“Paul VI,” Parolin said, “looked at Humanae vitae as an immediate development of new and authoritative words that the Second Vatican Council was able to express on marriage and family.”
According to the cardinal, the Second Vatican Council recognized that marriage and family were “at the top of the list of the issues for the presence of the Church in the world.”  Parolin noted that John Paul II and Benedict XVI emphasized the importance of the family during their pontificates, as Pope Francis has also done.
Parolin said that the Church’s approach to birth control was “at the beginning focused on the concern for the possible spread of anti-natalist policies,” and after that there was “the consideration that the obligation to follow moral principles was the only path to make the Church convincing in the world.”
However, Cardinal Parolin noted, “these two position cannot be imposed in abstract way,” but they must be harmonized with “an pastoral – ecclesial wisdom that cannot be found in many of the protagonists of those years.
Cardinal Parolin referred indirectly to the heated discussion that anticipated the publication of the encyclical. The so-called majority report of the commission, in favor of the use of contraceptive pill under certain conditions, was leaked to the press, and published simultaneously in April 1967 in the French newspaper Le Monde, the English magazine The Tablet, and the American newspaper the National Catholic Reporter.

Cardinal Karol Wotjytla, the future St. John Paul II, was a member of the drafting committee, though he was unable to take part to the meetings personally.

After Humanea vitae was published, Cardinal Wojtyla even asked Pope Paul VI to draft an instruction to explain that what was contained in Humanae vitae has always been part of the Church’s magisterium, and affirm its infallibility.
Such a position shows how the discussion was developing.
St. Paul VI’s figure stands in the midst of this discussion. Cardinal Parolin noted that “texts published and commented in Marengo’s book clarify that the Pope had no doubts about the doctrinal contents of the encyclical, and deny the myth of an uncertain and Hamletic Paul VI.”
Paul VI was rather concerned to find “adequate ways” to present the Church’s teaching, Parolin said. This was reason the pope waited for five years before publishing the encyclical.

Because of this pastoral concern, Parolin  said, “Paul VI asked for the help and suggestions of many specialists before maturing his judgment. Then, he spoke out, trusting that he was going to be understood.”
According to Parolin, Humanae vitae must be understood as a “testimony of the fact that the Church cannot enjoy promises of good without recognizing the original unity between conjugal love and generation of life.”
Parolin explained: “If the love of the spouses is the place where the Creator generates new lives, when this does not happen there are many occasions to think the child as an object wished at all cost.”
Humanae vitae, he said, was prophetic, as “50 years ago we could only glimpse the processes the put traditional family into question.”

It is not possible to understand the “Humanae vitae mindset if we do not look at the emerging situations of that time.”


Chilean court denies media report of verdict in Karadima lawsuit

Santiago, Chile, Oct 22, 2018 / 03:32 pm (CNA).- The president of an appeals court in Chile has denied reports that the court will order the Archdiocese of Santiago to pay some $650,000 to three victims of a laicized priest at the center of the sexual abuse scandal in that country.

"There is no ruling, no sentence has been issued nor is there even a draft decision," the President of the Court of Appeals of Santiago, Dobra Lusic said in an Oct. 22 statement.

The lawsuit against the archdiocese was rejected in March 2017. The plaintiffs appealled, and the case was heard by a Chilean appellate court on Thursday.

Chilean newspaper La Tercera reported Oct. 21 that a decision in the case was expected to be issued Monday, Oct. 22.

La Tercera reported that the archdiocese would be ordered to pay “moral damages” of 450 million pesos for its efforts to cover up crimes committed against minors. While the verdict would be open to appeal to the country’s Supreme Court, it would reportedly have been the highest judgment rendered against the Church in Chile.

The Oct. 22 statement released by the Chilean government denied this report.

The three plaintiffs in the lawsuit, James Hamilton, Jose Andres Murillo and Juan Carlos Cruz, say they were sexuallty abused by Fernando Karadima over a period of years. The public testimony of the men, especially Cruz, was instrumental in bringing the Chilean abuse crisis to international attention.

The suit argues that Cardinals Francisco Javier Errázuriz and Ricardo Ezzati were responsible for covering up Karadima’s crimes. Ezzati is the Archbishop of Santiago, Errázuriz is his predecessor.

Protests against the promotion of Bishop Juan Barros, alleged to have been one of Karadima’s proteges and protectors, turned the Chilean sexual abuse crisis into a global concern for the Church. The matter escalated during a papal visit to the country in January 2018, during which Pope Francis initially defended Barros.

Cruz and other victims travelled to Rome earlier this year to meet in private with the pope, who expressed public regret for failing to act on the matter earlier and for expressing skepticism about the allegations.

Barros’ resignation was accepted by the pope in June.

Karadima, 88, was a highly influential Santiago-area priest who for decades led a lay movement from his parish in El Bosque. He is considered to have personally fostered around 40 vocations to the priesthood.

While Karadima himself has never stood trial for his alleged crimes because of the statute of limitations, the hierarchy of the Church in Chile stands accused of systematically covering up his abuse, and of doing the same for other accused priests.

Karadima was found guilty of sexually abusing minors in a canonical process handled by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2011. Because of his advanced age and poor health, he was ordered to “retire to a life of prayer and penance, in reparation [for his crimes] as well for the victims of abuse.”

On Sept. 27, Pope Francis laicised Karadima, expelling him from the clerical state in a move the Vatican described as an “exceptional measure” taken in response to the “exceptional damage” done by Karadima’s crimes.

Following a crisis meeting on May 15-17, during which the pope expressed his anger at evidence of systematic attempts to suppress and ignore allegations of clerical sexual abuse in the country, 34 Chilean bishops submitted their resignations.

To date, Francis has accepted seven of them, though no action has been taken against Cardinal Francisco Javier Errázuriz Ossa, the former Archbishop of Santiago and member of the pope’s C9 Council of Cardinals, or his successor, Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati Andrello.