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Vigano letter responds to Cardinal Ouellet's charge of rebellion against pope

Vatican City, Oct 19, 2018 / 08:22 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a new testimony Friday, Archbishop Carlo Vigano charged that Pope Francis has been negligent in his responsibilities to the Church, and responded to efforts to refute allegations he has made in recent months about Archbishop Theodore McCarrick and other ecclesiastical leaders.

Vigano also denied charges that he is in rebellion against Pope Francis.

Responding to an Oct. 7 letter from the Vatican’s prefect for the Congregation for Bishops, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Vigano said he is not urging anyone to “topple the papacy,” and that he prays for Pope Francis daily -- more than he has for any other pope -- urging the pontiff to “admit his errors, repent.”

However, Vigano’s Oct. 19 statement also defended his decision to “bear witness to corruption in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church,” which he called a painful decision. He said he believes his further silence would cause damage to souls and “certainly damn” his own.

Responding to the charge that he has created confusion and division in the Church with his testimony, Vigano said “impartial observers” know there was already an excess of both, a situation which he blames at least partially on Pope Francis.

Confusion and division, he said, “is inevitable when the successor of Peter is negligent in exercising his principal mission, which is to confirm the brothers in the faith and in sound moral doctrine. When he then exacerbates the crisis by contradictory or perplexing statements about these doctrines, the confusion is worsened.”

"Therefore I spoke. For it is the conspiracy of silence that has wrought and continues to wreak great harm in the Church -- harm to so many innocent souls, to young priestly vocations, to the faithful at large."

Vigano’s statement outlines the principal claims he made in his original Aug. 25 testimony about Archbishop Theodore McCarrick and the knowledge he says the Vatican and Pope Francis had regarding of the ex-cardinal’s sexual abuse of seminarians.

Vigano’s latest testimony also summarizes what he considers Ouellet’s main arguments.

“In brief, Cardinal Ouellet concedes the important claims that I did and do make, and disputes claims I don't make and never made.”

Refuting a claim by Ouellet, that the Holy See was only aware of “rumors” about Archbishop McCarrick and nothing further, Vigano said that “to the contrary, that the Holy See was aware of a variety of concrete facts,” and has documentary proof in the appropriate archives, where “no extraordinary investigation is needed to recover them.”  

"The crimes reported were very serious, including those of attempting to give sacramental absolution to accomplices in perverse acts, with subsequent sacrilegious celebration of Mass."

The attempted sacramental absolution of an accomplice in a sin of sexual immorality is a "grave delict" in the Church's canon law, for which a priest can be punished with excommunication.

Vigano conceded a statement from Ouellet’s letter that there were not canonical “sanctions” against Archbishop McCarrick (as claimed by Vigano in his original testimony) but that there were “conditions and restrictions” against him.

He said that he believes “to quibble whether they were sanctions or provisions or something else is pure legalism. From a pastoral point of view they are exactly the same thing.”

The archbishop argued that the public criticism against him following his August testimony was silent on two topics: the situation of the victims and the “corrupting influence of homosexuality in the priesthood and in the hierarchy.” It is not a matter of politics or “settling scores,” he said, but “about souls.”

He said it is “an enormous hypocrisy” to condemn abuse and feel sorrow for victims, but not denounce the “root cause” of much sexual abuse: homosexuality within the clergy. He also accused homosexual clergy of “collusion,” and called clericalism an instrument of abusers, but not the “main motive.”

“I am not surprised that in calling attention to these plagues I am charged with disloyalty to the Holy Father and with fomenting an open and scandalous rebellion,” for calling attention to “homosexual corruption,” he said.

Vigano ended his testimony by asking any priests or bishops who have access to documents, or who have other knowledge, to testify to the truth of his statements.

“You too are faced with a choice,” he charged. “You can choose to withdraw from the battle, to prop up the conspiracy of silence and avert your eyes from the spreading of corruption” or choose to speak, he said.

Without Yemen ceasefire mass starvation looms, critics say

Aden, Yemen, Oct 19, 2018 / 04:00 am (CNA).- The possibility of mass starvation in Yemen continues as a military engagement over a major port city could block food and other aid for millions of people.
 
“We cannot fail to be moved by the news coming from Yemen, of families ripped apart by this war,” said Giovanna Reda, head of Middle East humanitarian programs for CAFOD, the Catholic relief agency of the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales.
 
“The impact of this conflict is devastating,” Reda said in an Oct. 16 CAFOD briefing. “Hunger affects 17 million Yemenis which is 60 percent of the population. People do not know where and when they will get their next meal. Millions of people don’t have access to safe drinking water and proper sanitation. Last year, the country faced the largest outbreak of cholera, claiming the lives of thousands of people.”
 
Reda called on the U.N. security council to act to secure a ceasefire and “halt the suffering of millions of people.”
 
At least 6,500 civilians have been killed in the three-year conflict, as have over 10,000 combatants.
 
Yemen’s costal city Hodeidah is a key port of entry for U.N. and other humanitarian aid. The city is now the center of a three-year-old conflict between Arab allies backed by Saudi Arabia and Iran-backed Houthi rebels.
 
Saudi-allied ground troops are now seeking to capture the city from the Houthis, CNN reports.
 
Yemeni civilians face the dangers of war: airstrikes, sniper attacks, and a fuel blockade. On top of this, they face severe water shortages and difficulties securing food, shelter, sanitation, and medical care.
 
Jan Egeland, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, said that starvation is a weapon of war.
 
“Civilians in Yemen are not starving, they are being starved. Let it be known that the worst famine on our watch is wholly man-made by Yemen’s local conflict parties and their international sponsors,” Egeland said. “Yemen has long been bombarded with air strikes and subjected to strangling tactics of war. Mass starvation is a deadly byproduct of actions taken by warring parties and the Western nations propping them up.”
 
The manner of waging war has “systematically choked civilians by making less food available and affordable to millions of people,” said Egeland, who said widespread famine can be avoided if the U.S., the U.K., France and Iran call for an immediate ceasefire and bring warring factions together for a peace deal.
 
Stephen Anderson, the U.N.’s World Food Programme Yemen country director, told CNN that since June over 500,000 people have fled their homes because of fighting in Hodeidah. The Yemeni currency, the riyal, has collapsed in value and basic food items’ cost has increased by 33 percent in a year’s time.
 
Due to the unpredictable security situation around Hodeidah, the WFP cannot import 51,000 tons of wheat stocks at its Red Sea Mills facility, Anderson said. Those supplies could feed 3.7 million people for a month.
 
CAFOD is supporting 500 Yemeni families who have fled as refugees to neighboring Djibouti. The aid, provided by Caritas Djibouti, helps provide emergency medical care, food assistance, and support for micro-credit businesses to help these families become more economically independent.
 
The Catholic agency has a relief partner working in the Yemen but it is not naming it or its areas of work “because they are operating at great risk to their own safety… publicizing their work could endanger both them and the life-saving programs they are delivering.”
 
“Against a challenging environment, they have been able to check thousands of children suffering from malnutrition or showing signs of the condition--providing the nutritious food supplements needed for proper treatment,” the agency said.
 
Before the blockade and attack on Hodeidah, its partner was able to provide nutrition services, identifying children under five years old and breastfeeding mothers who have acute malnutrition. The partner group trained community volunteers to spot the worst cases of malnutrition in their communities and help get treatment for mothers and babies.
 
The U.S. government is providing some forms of military support to Saudi Arabia and U.S.-supplied weapons to Saudi Arabia have been traced to incidents that have killed civilians. An Aug. 9 ariel bombing of a school bus killed dozens of children with a bomb manufactured by U.S. defense contractor Lockheed Martin, CNN said.
 
Then-President Barack Obama had banned the sale of precision-guided military technology to Saudi Arabia, citing human rights concerns, but the Trump administration overturned the ban in March 2017.
 
The Saudi-led coalition has defended its targeting standards and said it will investigate claims of civilian deaths reported by CNN.

New Zealand bishops reaffirm commitment to government abuse inquiry

Wellington, New Zealand, Oct 19, 2018 / 12:00 am (CNA).- The Catholic bishops of New Zealand have countered reports that say they are backing away from an upcoming government inquiry into sexual abuse cases in state and religious institutions in the country.

“Listening to individuals who have been harmed is critical in ensuring the Church’s response will be thorough, effective and compassionate, and forms part of our experience for developing safeguarding for today and into the future,” the bishops said in a statement published on their website.

They wrote responding to reports that they had backed away from a royal commission inquiry, which will examine historical cases of sexual abuse at institutions of care in New Zealand between the years 1950-1999.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the royal commission of inquiry into sex abuse cases in January 2018, the highest form of long-term investigation available in the country.

While the original terms of the inquiry included youth detention centers, psychiatric hospitals and orphanages, as well as any government care services contracted out to private institutions, the Catholic bishops of New Zealand published a letter in March 2018 calling for an expansion of the inquiry’s terms to include Catholic care institutions.
 
In that letter, the bishops said they would be “active contributors and learners within the Royal Commission of Inquiry.”   

“We assure you once again of our support and our desire to learn from this national undertaking which we are confident will contribute positively to the strengthening and safeguarding of our whānau, communities and society,” they wrote.

In their recent statement, the bishops referenced their March letter and reiterated their support of the inquiry.

“The Bishops and representation from Catholic Religious orders wrote to Prime Minister Ardern, Minister Martin, and Sir Anand Satyanand in March this year. That letter explicitly sought the broadening of the draft Terms of Reference to include Church institutions and was made publicly available and reported in the media,” the bishops said.

The statement comes amid pressure from two New Zealand men who are publicly calling for the release of Church files on Father Cornelius O'Brien, an Irish priest who moved to New Zealand in 1963 and served at least seven parishes until 1976, at which point he was accused of indecency against a 10 year-old and returned to the UK. He is reportedly believed to have sexually abused multiple children during his time in New Zealand. O’Brien died 6 years ago, his priestly faculties having never been removed.

The New Zealand Royal Commission inquiry is expected to take several years and is similar to the recently-concluded five-year Royal Commission inquiry in Australia, which examined sex abuse in Australian schools, churches, and sports clubs, and set up a government program to financially compensate victims.

The bishops of Australia said in August that while they have accepted hundreds of specific recommendations from the final report, they reject the recommendation that priests violate the seal of confession in cases of sexual abuse disclosed during confession.

 

How diapers impact the bottom line, and how an NYC law can help

New York City, N.Y., Oct 18, 2018 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- The New York City council passed a law Wednesday that will require many centers serving women and children in the city to provide diapers and baby wipes free of charge. The bill had no opposing votes in the council.

The new law covers child care centers, domestic violence shelters, youth shelters, and homeless shelters that are contracted with the city to provide services. Each location must have clear signage or a written notice informing mothers that diapers and wipes are available to them for children three years old and younger.

The provision also includes family justice centers, which provide legal, counseling and supportive services for survivors of domestic violence, elder abuse and sex trafficking; and LYFE centers, an NYC Department of Education program that provides free early childhood education to children of student parents.

In an Oct. 16 committee report, the New York City council laid out the need for the new law, noting that an infant will use over 3,000 diapers in their first year of life at a cost of more than $500.

The report also noted that the Women, Infants, and Children assistance and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program cannot be used to purchase diapers, and that Medicaid will only reimburse diapers purchased for individuals older than 3 years.

Alison Weir, Chief of Policy at the National Diaper Bank Network, testified to the city council that the provision of free diapers to low-income families in Connecticut resulted in a decrease in the spread of disease and in decrease in rashes and other skin irritations among babies.

The New York Daily News reported that the sponsor of the bill estimates that the new provision will cost the city $1.1 million in fiscal year 2019, increasing to nearly $5 million in 2020 because of increasing demand. New York’s total budget for FY2019 is over $88 billion.
 
The law is set to take effect within four months of its passage. The Department of Citywide Administrative Services will provide the supply of diapers and wipes to the appropriate city entities, or to independent organizations contracting with the city.

The Connecticut Diaper Bank, which provides free diapers to women in that state, testified before the city council that: “Access to a reliable supply of clean diapers affects families in significant ways, like enabling parents to maintain employment, complete their education, and improve the health and well-being of their children.”

 

40 percent of U.S. children born to unmarried parents, rate increasing worldwide

Washington D.C., Oct 18, 2018 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- New data shows that an increasing number of babies worldwide are born to unmarried parents.

The data was released in an annual report published by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA.)

About 40 percent of U.S. children born in 2016 had unmarried parents, the report shows. This is more than double the percent of U.S. children born with unmarried parents in 1980, and 10 percentage points higher than in 1990.

In the rest of the world, even more children are born to unmarried parents. In 2016, 60 percent of French babies were born with unmarried parents.

The UN data showed that across the areas studied--the United States, France, Spain, Sweden, the EU, Japan, and Russia, the unwed pregnancy rate has increased or remained relatively stable in recent years. France has had the highest percent of babies born to unmarried parents since 2010, eclipsing Sweden, the previous leader.

In 2017, the organization Save the Children rated Sweden as the fifth-best country for mothers, behind Norway, and Finland, and Iceland. Sweden is noted for its expansive social benefits made available to mothers and children.

One exception to the trend is Russia, which has seen the percent of children born to an unwed mother drop from a high of 30 percent in 2004 to 22 percent in 2016. Russia’s abortion rate has also fallen during this time period.

Japan’s unmarried parenthood rate is far lower than western nations. In 2015, 98 percent of Japanese babies were to married parents. Japan’s fertility rate also remains among the lowest in the world.

Heritage Foundation Senior Fellow Robert Rector wrote a report in 2012 that described marriage as “America’s greatest weapon against child poverty.” Children living in a home with two married parents were 82 percent less likely to live in poverty than children who did not have married parents, said Rector. This number applied even when controlling for education level.

In 2009, the U.S. Census found that 37 percent of homes with children headed by a single parent were in poverty, compared to only 6.8 percent of homes with children and married parents.