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Schoenstatt Movement rejects accusations of sex abuse against founder

CNA Staff, Jul 2, 2020 / 05:05 pm (CNA).- The Schoenstatt Movement has rejected a researcher’s claims that its founder engaged in sexual abuse, saying that any past allegations against him would have already been considered in the Vatican’s review of his proposed beatification.

“We firmly reject the accusation that Joseph Kentenich was guilty of sexual abuse of members of the Institute of the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary,” Juan Pablo Catoggio, International President of the Schoenstatt Work, said in a July 2 statement.

“His behavior toward other persons – especially women – was always marked by a pronounced reverence and esteem, as well as by the principle of physical integrity, which he also impressed upon his communities.”

“That there were accusations from the ranks of the Sisters of Mary is not new to us. Fr. Kentenich himself gave a detailed account of his actions to his superior after an accusation became known. In this context, however, there was no mention of sexual abuse, neither literally nor in content,” Catoggio said, citing the return of Kentenich to a leadership role in Schoenstatt as evidence the Vatican rejected the charges against him.

Catoggio repeated his previous statement that before beatification can begin, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith must issue a “nihil obstat” based on its files. Any “well-founded suspicion of moral misconduct” would have prevented this, but the CDF granted the “nihil obstat.”

He objected that theologian and Church historian Alexandra von Teuffenbach’s account is “viewed entirely from the perspective of the visitors” who investigated the community.

von Teuffenbach, former professor of theology and Church history at the Pontifical Lateran University and the Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum, reviewed Vatican-commissioned assessments of the Schoenstatt movement, which reportedly portray Kentenich as manipulative and coercive.

Her research was the subject of a story in the German Catholic newspaper Die Tagepost, and she discussed her work in a letter to Vatican expert Sandro Magister, who published the letter on July 2 at his website Settimo Cielo.

Von Teuffenbach told Magister that what caught her attention in her research was “the serious abuse of power by the founder at the expense of the nuns, clearly verified and highlighted by the Roman visitor, just as the local one had done before him.”

Von Teuffenbach is the editor of the Second Vatican Council diaries of the Jesuit theologian Sebastiaan Tromp, who was Rome’s apostolic visitor to the Schoenstatt community from 1951 to 1953.

Kentenich was born in 1885 and ordained a priest in 1910. In 1914, he founded the new ecclesial movement in a chapel in Schoenstatt, Germany. Kentenich went to the U.S. in 1951, and was permitted to return to Germany in October 1965. He died three years later. A beatification process for the priest began in 1975.

The movement, which now includes priests, consecrated women, and lay people, is active in 42 countries, and focused on spiritual formation and Marian spirituality.

Schoenstatt, in the German Diocese of Trier, is still the headquarters of the movement.

Tromp’s visitation followed up on a 1949 visit ordered by the Bishop of Trier and conducted by his auxiliary, Bishop Bernhard Stein.

Stein generally approved the work’s “clear vision” and “high level of spiritual care,” but cited some flaws: “there seem to be only a few confident personalities with true independent thinking and inner freedom, among the male leaders and among the Marian nuns.”

The auxiliary bishop said he found “internal dissatisfaction,” as well as “insecurity and lack of autonomy” among these nuns, von Teuffenbach said. Based on this report, the Bishop of Trier wrote to Kentenich, who von Teuffenbach said “contested, distorted, and manipulated the bishop’s provisions, which this latter did not by any means appreciate.”

“What Tromp gathers from the testimonies, from the letters, from the many conversations he had, including with the founder himself, is indicative of a situation of complete subjugation of the nuns, concealed in a certain way by a sort of family structure applied to the work,” von Teuffenbach continued. She said the movement’s leading “mother” had “no power whatsoever,” and even less power was among the religious women.

As von Teuffenbach reads the documents, Kentenich appears as a “father-master,” the “founder with absolute power, often equated with God, so much so that in many expressions and prayers it is not clear whether these are addressed to God the Father or to the founder himself.”

One aspect of the abuse of power, according to the researcher, was the obligation imposed upon the nuns to confess to the community founder, at least in some circumstances. According to von Teuffenbach, the nuns were required on a monthly basis to kneel before Kentenich and “give themselves totally to him.” The dialogue that took place was often “alone and behind closed doors.”

The dialogue depicted the nun as “the father’s,” as “nothing,” and the “father” as “everything.” Body parts like the eyes, ears, and mouth are described as belonging to the “father.” Some nuns said this discussion extended to the breast and the sexual organs as well.

Catoggio, the Schoenstatt movement’s president, said claims that the sisters were forced to confess to the founder can be refuted by other testimonies. Kentenich was “almost continuously on journeys abroad” at this time, raising the question of “how the compulsion to confess should take effect during such a prolonged absence.”

“Such vague statements, coupled with the researched allegation of sexual abuse, do not testify to a critical examination of the files,” he continued. “Blanket assertions with evaluative adjectives merely play on the keyboard of the current abuse debate without knowing and communicating ’the whole story’.”

Kentenich responded “in detail” to the visitor and his superiors regarding alleged abuse of power to explain his thinking, his principles and his behavior, said Catoggio.

“It is astonishing that the author – based on the reports of Fr. Tromp – makes his view of the community and its members completely her own,” said Catoggio.

He criticized von Teuffenbach’s portrayal of the nuns as ranging “from extreme dependence, incapacity to judge and decide to childish dependence and slavish subservience to an all-dominating founder.”

von Teuffenbach said the climate described by the visitor was “highly sexualized.”

“Ballets of nuns around the founding father, nighttime meetings, ambiguous expressions are certainly not what is expected in a religious house,” she said.

In her view, supporters of Schoenstatt, like Pallotine superior general Woicjech Turowski, initially denied these facts and believed they could be justified. She said “they claimed that the founder was only helping the nuns to free themselves from sexual tensions with a ’psychotherapeutic pastoral remedy’.

The researcher cited a Chile-based German nun’s 1948 letter, transcribed by Tromp.

“The subject of the letter is an incident of sexual abuse,” said von Teuffenbach. “The nun reports that after what had happened to her during one of these rites she was no longer able to see the founder as the ‘father,’ but only as a ‘male,’ recounting that she had rebelled and had suffered for a year before being able to talk about it with her confessor.”

The nun wrote a letter to the mother general in Germany, who sent a copy to Kentenich and accused the nun of being possessed by the devil.

“Later when the apostolic visitor asked the mother general, who by that time had been dismissed, if she had received other letters of that kind, the mother general said there had been from six to eight letters, less serious according to her, which she had thrown away,” sad von Teuffenbach.

“In the decree of the Holy Office nothing is written about the abuse, but the disputed facts are communicated in writing to the mothers superior, so that they may accept more easily the dismissal of the founder.”

Catoggio, however, disputed her characterization of these actions as an effort not to expose the sisters.

“This interpretation seems to be laborious. It is probably meant to nevertheless somehow justify the thesis of sexual abuse,” he said. The CDF was “not exactly reserved when accusations of abuse were made.”

“On the contrary, it was repeatedly stated: The separation of Fr. Kentenich from his work is not a punitive measure, but an administrative order, i.e. a prudent measure taken through administrative channels.”

The charge of sexual abuse was not brought in the Roman Curia proceedings to separate Kentenich from Schoenstatt, Catoggio insisted.

When sent from Germany, Kentenich stayed at a Pallottine house in Milwaukee, Wis. In this time, von Teuffenbach said, the records show that he “in no way complied with the Vatican provisions” which barred any further contact with the nuns.

The researcher described the nuns who defended Kentenich as those who “preferred the founder’s charm to the directives of the Church.”

“Those nuns never stopped writing, denigrating and slandering not only the visitors but also the sisters who had cooperated with them and the priests who had testified against Fr. Kentenich,” she said, comparing these defenders to “the many women who are unable to get away from the husband who mistreats them and often excuse and defend him.”

“This is the dark part of the story, but there is also an edifying part. And it is the Roman curia that operated under Pius XII and that - certainly in this case - succeeded in giving its best.”

“The proceedings tell of an assiduous and meticulous search for the truth,” she said, adding that the Church acted “in the most correct way possible for those women, without however demeaning them by publicizing the facts.”

von Teuffenbach said she wrote Magister “to bring an end to the veneration of this ’father’ and demolish the many proposed reconstructions of alternative truths, as if this were merely a matter of psychological weaknesses in the face of a man at once so charismatic, skillful, and terrible.”

Magister described the Schoenstatt movement as “still one of the most renowned and widespread on a worldwide scale.”

A former Schoenstatt superior general, Francisco Javier Errázuriz Ossa, was Archbishop of Chile from 1998 to 2010 and elevated to the cardinalate in 2001. Pope Francis made him an adviser in 2013, as part of the Council of Cardinals. He left that role in 2018.

Bishop Francisco Pistilli of Encarnacion, Colombia, a Schoenstatt Father, commented July 2 that the accusation would require “a lot of objectivity.”

“In some way, our founder is put to the test. We trust he will pass the test, but he has to be seen to do so, with impartiality,” he said. “I am convinced that this is not a matter of becoming defensive, but about taking courage in the light. It can be painful, it will surely be. Questions will come up, perhaps even from ourselves. It’s time to understand and seek answers without fear and without the need to paint a picture of a perfect founder.”

“If the Church confirms his holiness, it won’t be ‘for being the one who always had the answers and never took risks beyond the conventional’,” said the bishop.

Pistilli said that the Church doesn’t thoroughly understand the abuse of power, and it was a question in the process to canonize Padre Pio.

“He passed the test,” said the bishop.

“Downplaying things is not is not always the best option. Much less in times like these,” said Pistilli. “Nor is it good to speak without knowledge. How much do we really know? Can we go deeper into what all this means? Without seeing just what we want to see, but with objectivity. I like to think we can.”

“God is light and those who follow him have to be seen in his light,” said the bishop.

 

Alleged David Haas sexual assault victim speaks out

Denver Newsroom, Jul 2, 2020 / 03:12 pm (CNA).-  

In late May, allegations surfaced against contemporary Catholic musician and composer David Haas, which claimed that Haas had subjected multiple adult women to serial spiritual manipulation and sexual misconduct.

A former music and youth minister, who alleges that Haas aggressively kissed and groped her when she was 19, spoke to CNA this week about her experience. And one expert told CNA that the allegations against Haas point to the difficulties of ensuring that laity working in Church contexts are trustworthy, and beyond reproach.

 

Sidney

Sidney*, a California native, told CNA that she has worked in close proximity to the Church for more than 15 years, primarily in religious education, as a youth minister, and as a music minister.

It was through her interest in music ministry that she met David Haas, when she was 14 years old.

Haas was then, and remains to this day, one of the best-known contemporary Catholic composers, having written such contemporary standards as “Glory to God,” “You are Mine,” “We are Called,” and “Blest are They,” among others.

In 2002, Sidney was selected to attend a well-known music ministry camp in St. Paul, Minnesota called Music Ministry Alive (MMA). The weeklong camp brought in around 150 participants from around the country and featured workshops, peer groups, and a concert at the end of week, which Haas headlined.

“It was very clear that this was [Haas’] program,” Sidney said.

“He was not absent in any way— he was present for as many rehearsals as was possible, he would drop in when we were in workshops or peer groups, at the end of the evenings when we would do our evening check-ins he was around, he was seated with people during mealtimes,” she recalled.

At the same time, Sidney observed that Haas was a physical person. She emphasized that physical touching she observed throughout the camp did not appear to be criminal, but in hindsight certainly was problematic.

“There was a lot of touching, putting his hands on your shoulders, hugs— things that weren't exactly criminal but were, looking back, notable, and what we [now] know to be grooming patterns," she said.

A few years later, at age 19, Sidney attended the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress (LAREC) in Anaheim, California. Haas was there, and after he gave a workshop, the two struck up a conversation.

Sidney said Haas asked about her life, and whether her job was compensating her fairly. At the time, Sidney was struggling financially. Haas hinted that he might want to offer her some help, she told CNA, and asked to meet with her later. So Sidney agreed to meet him outside the convention center after dinnertime.

As the two chatted and walked outside the convention center, Sidney said they ended up toward the back of the convention center where there were loading docks and benches.

As they sat down, Sidney told CNA, Haas suddenly kissed her aggessively and groped her chest. As she tried to pull away, Haas attempted to pull her head onto his shoulder, Sidney said.

Sidney was scared. She was in a relatively isolated place with a much older and larger man.

“I tried to express my discomfort, but in a way that I would be safe,” she said.

“So I probably went along with it a little longer than I would have liked, and then I asked to leave, and he took my arm and walked with me back to where we had originally had met."

She said as she took leave of him, he kissed her again, on the mouth. He also gave her his cell phone number and told her which hotel he was staying in, inviting her to visit his room at any point during the conference, she said.

This invitation struck Sidney as odd— partly because it was so obviously wrong, and crossed a boundary, but also because she knew that Haas generally travelled with his wife.

Sidney says she immediately reported what had happened to her, to a priest as well as to a friend and mentor who was a mandated reporter. She doesn't believe her complaint went anywhere— if it did, she said she never heard anything more about it.

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles told CNA in a statement Thursday that it is “investigating allegations of sexual misconduct described in recent media reports involving” Haas.

The archdiocesan Office of Victims Assistance Ministry, which receives reports of misconduct, has no prior record of reports of sexual misconduct against Haas, the archdiocese stated.

However: “As part of the current investigation, the Archdiocese is looking into a past complaint of inappropriate interaction and/or communication by Mr. Haas with an adult woman and how it was handled,” the statement read. 

Sidney told CNA that for the next few years, after that first encounter at LAREC, she made a point of trying to avoid Haas, but she said because of the nature of their professions, and because they had mutual colleagues and friends, their paths did cross again several times.

Haas repeatedly ‘friended’ Sidney on Facebook during this time, she said, even after she deleted him as a friend, and he occasionally sent personalized cards to her home address.

In 2014, at a national conference in San Antonio, Haas was staying in the same hotel as Sidney. She said she kept running into him during the conference, and that he cornered her on several occasions, pressuring her to meet with him one-on-one.

Sidney agreed to meet Haas in a public setting.

As they talked, Haas asked Sidney if she was seeing anyone, and she told him that she was dating her now-husband.

"The word I would use is that he became 'irate.' He was extremely upset by that,” Sidney told CNA.

“Mind you, he doesn't know my husband, he's never met the man...it was very out of character. There was no reason that he should have not been anything but thrilled for me."

He also invited Sidney to breakfast, and implied that publishers and other people whom Sidney might want to meet and network with would be present at the breakfast. Sidney agreed because of the potential networking opportunity.

"When I showed up, it was actually just the two of us. So I was very uncomfortable," she said.

 

“Well, that's just the way he is”

Sidney later secured a high-level ministry position at a major archdiocese. At that job, Haas’ name occasionally came up as a possible ministry collaborator.

Sidney said she made it clear to her colleagues that she believed Haas did not have good boundaries, and that she knew of— without going into detail— instances in which he had behaved inappropriately.

“And I was basically told: 'Well, that's just the way he is,'” Sidney said.

It was widely known in that office, Sidney said, that Haas crossed boundaries. And this was discussed in that office setting, and subsequently brushed off, she said.

“It's difficult for me to know that there are people that I'm working with that are abusing that privilege that we have, because we have an immense amount of privilege as catechetical leaders, and we have to recognize our privilege and recognize that it is a privilege to be in these positions,” Sidney said.

“We're entrusted with quite a lot. We need to also acknowledge our position of power, and that we do exercise power over those that we serve. And we have to be extremely careful in our boundaries and how we interact with others."

Sidney said others who attended the MMA camp the same year she did noticed what they later realized was grooming behavior by Haas at MMA. She also said that a friend of hers has also made allegations against Haas.

Sidney said since the allegations against Haas broke in late May, she has seen commenters online asking why the alleged victims did not speak out sooner.

"What I think people fail to understand is that many of these women did report this, and we just weren't heard, weren't listened to, we weren't believed,” she said.

“Because it was brushed off as 'that's just how he is,' or 'boys will be boys' or 'it's not that big a deal' or 'well, do you have any proof?' And when you say those things to victims, and to women, you're not validating their experience and you're essentially silencing them.”

Some Catholic commentators have debated in recent weeks the best course of action to take regarding Haas’ music, which is regularly played at hundreds of parishes nationwide, and around the world.

Sidney said, in her opinion, it would be best if Haas’ music is retired— there’s no way to know if the minister singing or someone in the congregation is someone who has been affected by Haas' actions, she said. 

“This is somebody who, in my opinion, has operated with flagrant disregard for the code of ethics that we hold ourselves to. And it's because of his— what I perceive to be— entitlement and disregard for that code of ethics that he's been able to get away with this brazen behavior for years,” Sidney told CNA.

In her view, Sidney said, when dealing with an accused individual, there needs to be prudence and due process, but when allegations are repeated over and over again, steps must be taken to temporarily remove that person from positions of spiritual influence, or at least limit their access while an investigation takes place.

When whispers or suspicions come to light, those need to be acted upon, she said.

"When you see behavior that is unbecoming of a minister, period— male or female, doesn't matter— you have a responsibility to hold that person accountable. So I think that men in particular need to hold other men accountable, and women need to continue to speak out and make it clear that certain behaviors are and are not acceptable."

Sidney has not yet made her identity known publicly; nor have most of the women who have spoken out so far.

She said some of Haas’ fellow composers are raising their voices against Haas’ alleged behavior, listening to the anonymous voices of survivors— in many cases, not realizing that some of the victims are people that they know personally.

Haas did not respond to CNA’s request for a response to Sidney’s allegations. He told CNA June 17 that he had no plans to comment on allegations against him beyond a public statement he had issued.

His June 16 statement said that: “David Haas denounces Into Account Inc.’s allegations as false, reckless and offensive. He is also sad and disappointed that Into Account Inc. chose to use social media- a public forum- to deprive him of a fair and legitimate venue to face his accusers, but instead launched a marketing effort with the mission to destroy his reputation and livelihood.”

 

“We have to be serious about that”

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, in which Haas resides, has moved to limit Haas’ influence in the archdiocese in the wake of the allegations, but also has highlighted the difficulty of dealing with a situation of a layperson, who is not employed by the Church, but nevertheless has allegations against them.

“The Haas matter illustrates the challenges of responding to allegations of inappropriate behavior by lay persons who work with Catholic groups, especially when they are self-employed,” the archdiocese said in a June 16 statement.

“We are committed to supporting anyone who has been harmed by persons of influence, prominence or power in our communities. At the same time, we recognize the importance of having a fair and appropriate forum that provides due process for those who have been accused.”

Ed Mechmann, director of the New York Archdiocese’ safe environment office, confirmed to CNA that the arena of accused laypeople in the Catholic Church is a very problematic one, because "there's no national license for being a 'good' Catholic, or an 'acceptable' Catholic."

For an employee, obviously there can be adverse employment action taken, he said. For people such as Haas, who operate as independent contractors or run their own entity, it’s different.

"If it's music ministers, speakers, mission directors working the circuit, the only thing to do is exclude them,” Mechmann told CNA.

“And people don't have a right to be in Catholic organizations, or in front of Catholic parishes. They don't have a right to do that, it's a privilege. And if we're going to protect people, we have to be serious about that."

In his work as a safe environment coordinator, Mechmann said dioceses generally try to avoid "blacklists," both for laypeople and for clerics.

Instead, he said, music ministers or Catholic authors on the speaking circuit could get a certificate from their home diocese, good for six months, to say there are no allegations of misconduct against them.

Some dioceses ask for letters of good standing, he said, for laypeople, but in his opinion even that course of action is relatively rare.

If an individual diocese is not willing to share information on laypeople, or if dioceses do not inquire about laypeople, he said, then laypeople can be moved around, “shuffled,” as were priests before the norms of 2002 Dallas Charter changed diocesan practices. 

In Mechmann’s opinion, laypeople should be held to the same standards as priests, because right now, he said, priests are held to a higher standard than laypeople.

But, it all comes back to the willingness of the layperson's home diocese or parish to share information, and dioceses may be worried about defamation suits, he said.

"Unless we implement some kind of systematic 'good standing' certification for people who are going into other dioceses from their home diocese, there's not going to be a good solution for this."

Change would require activism and insistence on some new policies by Catholic laity, he said.

Music publisher GIA said in a June 13 Facebook post that it learned about allegations of sexual misconduct “early this year” and has suspended” its sponsorship and publication of Haas’ work. On June 15, hymnal publisher OCP said it too would cut ties with Haas.

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis told CNA that it received allegations of misconduct against Haas in both 2018 and 1987. In 2018, two women told the archdiocese that the composer had “acted inappropriately” with them, and in 1987, the archdiocese “had received a complaint alleging that David Haas had made an unwelcomed sexual advance toward a young adult woman.”

The archdiocese said Haas has denied those allegations, but, “following the 2018 complaints, the Archdiocese informed Mr. Haas that the Archdiocese would not provide him with a letter of recommendation that he had requested.”

“Furthermore, the Archdiocese advised Mr. Haas that he was not allowed to provide services at Catholic institutions in the Archdiocese without disclosure of the complaints made against him,” archdiocesan spokesman Tom Halden added.

 

“It got worse”

A woman named Maria* told CNA that allegations against Haas fit a pattern that seems familiar to her.

In 1980, Maria was a freshman at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul. Haas was in his early 20s and a student at the minor seminary.

Maria told CNA that Haas invited her to dinner in the fall of 1980, ostensibly to discuss music ministry. She had recently attended a music workshop that he had put on in St. Paul, and he had reached out to her directly by phone, she says.

She says during the evening Haas professed love for her, and that while he was driving after dinner, he refused to bring her back to her dormitory when she asked him to repeatedly, taking her instead to a second restaurant for dessert, despite her continued requests to be taken home.

Maria alleges that Haas tried to hold her back when she eventually did get out of his car, insisting on a kiss goodnight.

In later weeks, she says Haas pursued her with love notes and tried to meet with her one-on-one, even while he knew she was dating a man she eventually married. She says she rebuked his advances, "but it could have gone bad fast if I hadn't seen the writing on the wall," Maria told CNA.

When the Into Account allegations came to light in May, Maria says she began to reassess what had happened to her. He had taken her out under false pretenses— using his position as a music minister to get her to agree to meet him— and would not allow her to leave the situation, she said.

Maria also remembers hearing rumors that other members of the choir in which she participated in college— which Haas helped to lead— had experienced similar “dates” with Haas.

She said she hopes her story might inspire other women from that choir to come forward with their own allegations.

"[The allegations] didn't surprise me, frankly, but it just made me really sad that this seems to be at least a 40-year pattern of behavior, and that it got worse," she said.

Maria said she is not a vengeful person, and that her life today is very happy. But it bothers her greatly, she said, that Haas appears to have used his position of authority to cause harm to some young, vulnerable women over the years.

"It's no different to me than the priest scandal, except that he's not a priest," she commented.

Haas did not respond to CNA’s request for a response to Maria's allegations.

Maria said she has told the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis about the incident, and that she hopes they will use her information as part of an investigation into Haas’ misconduct.

Several other Catholic entities have sought to suspend or sever ties with Haas in recent weeks because of the allegations.

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles told CNA that Haas is not authorized to perform in the archdiocese pending the outcome of its investigation.

“The Archdiocese stands against any sexual misconduct and is resolute in our support for victim-survivors of abuse,” a statement sent to CNA said, adding that anyone with information regarding the matter can report to the Office of Victims Assistance Ministry.

 

“I need to repent, and seek forgiveness”

Haas has spoken in the past about his struggles with mistreatment of others.

Onstage during a 2019 session at the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress— before any public allegations of misconduct came to light— Haas spoke candidly about his struggles with anger, and his desire to seek God's forgiveness.

"If we're going to be peacemakers, it means that we try with all of our heart and soul to disengage of any kind of violence— physical, emotional, spiritual, psychological...We need to use every spiritual power we can access through the power of the spirit of God to not take part and to not promote such behavior. Now, I violate these principles all the time, and every time I do, I need to repent, and seek forgiveness," Haas said during the session.

"I need to ask for forgiveness, not only of God, but also from those who I've harmed. Jesus asks a lot of us Christians. And there are many times I know I want to lash out, seek revenge, and I'm deeply ashamed to admit that I can be a terrible gossip. And while I've never taken part in any violent act, when I search my heart, there are times when I know I want to punish others."

Haas said he was working to "recommit" himself to "soften the hateful, angry, and violent thoughts that sometimes fill my mind."

 

*Sidney and Maria both asked CNA for anonymity to avoid potential retaliation from Haas, professionally, and from the public.

 

San Francisco Catholic archdiocese 'surprised' by order to cease indoor, public Masses

Denver Newsroom, Jul 2, 2020 / 03:04 pm (CNA).- The Archdiocese of San Francisco is pledging to comply with the city and county public health orders barring indoor public Masses and limiting outdoor services, including funerals, to 12 people.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera sent a letter June 29 to the archdiocese’ lawyer, ordering the archdiocese to cease-and-desist indoor public Masses and giving it one day to comply.

“Upon reviewing the reports of multiple San Francisco parishes holding indoor Mass over the last few weeks, the Health Officer has concluded that the Archdiocese is putting not only its parishioners but the larger community at risk of serious illness and death,” the letter said.

The archdiocese told CNA today that it has made a good-faith effort to comply with the city’s public health guidelines, despite some occasional confusion and last-minute changes to the city’s public health orders.

“Our intention has always been to conform to what we understand to be the City orders and timelines,” the archdiocese said, noting that the city’s orders have been constantly changing throughout the pandemic, sometimes on short notice, the archdiocese said July 2.

Indoor gatherings are not currently permitted in San Francisco, but outside religious services and funerals are allowed with a 12-person limit, ABC7 reports.

The San Francisco archdiocese covers the city and county of San Francisco, as well as San Mateo and Marin counties.

The letter laid out several complaints the city had received about parishes around San Francisco holding indoor Masses.

According to the letter, Archbishop Cordileone had informed all parishes that they could resume public Mass June 14.

Dr. Tomas Aragón, the county public health officer, subsequently informed the archbishop that “he planned to issue a revised order that would allow for larger outdoor services and general indoor services...limited to 12 attendees, subject to safety and social distancing protocols, which would be effective June 29.”

Aragón later informed the archdiocese, on June 26, that such a revised order would be delayed.

A lawyer for the archdiocese sent a letter to the City Attorney's Office June 30 saying that Archbishop Cordileone has now notified his priests “that the order limiting religious services to outdoors with no more than 12 people remains in force with appropriate social distancing and face coverings."

One of the examples the City Attorney’s letter cited as a supposed example of a congregation flaunting the public health rules was a complaint that alleged that a priest from Star of the Sea parish “led a procession on June 8 without wearing a face covering.”

The letter cited the blog of Father Joseph Illo, Star of the Sea’s pastor, and a picture he posted June 13 of a Eucharistic procession in San Francisco.

In a July 2 email to parishioners, Father Illo disputed the letter’s characterization of the procession, which he said actually took place several years ago. The image first appeared on his blog during May 2016.

Illo said his parish will comply with the city’s orders, in obedience to the archbishop. But he lamented what he sees as an unjust application of the city’s orders.

“Dozens of people eat at restaurants on the streets around my church, without masks. The mayor addresses hundreds of people in a protest at City Hall, many of whom wear no masks. And the city is telling my church that we cannot have a gathering of more than 12 people, outside, for an activity that is specifically protected by the Constitution?” Illo wrote in his July 2 email to parishioners.

For its part, an archdiocesan spokesperson told CNA that they were surprised by the City Attorney’s letter.

“We have initiated contact to help decision-makers understand the nature of our religious services, the sizes of our churches and the care with which the California bishops have taken to plan very safe reopening of our churches for public Masses – when Public Health officials permit,” a statement from the archdiocese to CNA reads.

Archbishop Cordileone is currently seeking a meeting with “a senior city official” to discuss further “the nature of our religious services and how to fairly apply City policies to religious services,” the archdiocese concluded.

Massachusetts city recognizes polyamorous 'civil partnerships'

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jul 2, 2020 / 02:30 pm (CNA).- The city of Somerville, Massachusetts, has broadened its definition of domestic partnership to give polyamorous relationships the same rights as a married couple. 

Someone who is polyamorous is in a relationship with more than one domestic partner. 

City councilor J.T. Scott, quoted in the New York Times, said that he believes this to be the first ordinance of its kind in the United States. Scott was in favor of recognizing polyamorous relationships. 

“People have been living in families that include more than two adults forever,” said Scott, adding that “Here in Somerville, families sometimes look like one man and one woman, but sometimes it looks like two people everyone on the block thinks are sisters because they’ve lived together forever, or sometimes it’s an aunt and an uncle, or an aunt and two uncles, raising two kids.”

Scott was quoted as saying that the new ordinance would legally recognize someone as having more than one domestic partner, regardless of the nature of that relationship.  

“It has a legal bearing,” said Scott, “so when one of them is sick, they can both go to the hospital.”

The city councilor said he knew of at least two dozen people in Somerville who were engaged in polyamorous relationships, though he did not specify how many households they comprised. The city of Somerville has a population of about 80,000, and, until June, did not have any sort of domestic partnership ordinance. The original draft of the ordinance specified that a domestic partnership was between two persons, which was changed to allow for polyamorous relationships. 

“I don’t think it’s the place of the government to tell people what is or is not a family,” said city councilor Lance Davis, who drafted the domestic partnership ordinance. 

“Defining families is something that historically we’ve gotten quite wrong as a society, and we ought not to continue to try and undertake to do so,” said Davis. 

According to the New York Times, the ordinance means that city employees will be able to extend health insurance benefits to more than one partner. It is unclear if private companies will also allow for employees in polyamorous domestic partenrships to share health insurance plans to their multiple partners.

Davis said that he had been told by constituents that they were happy the city will be “legally recognizing and validating” the existence of polyamorous relationships. 

“That’s the first time this is happening,” said Davis. 

Ryan Anderson, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, told CNA that he was not surprised by the latest efforts to redefine marriage to include multiple people. 

“Of course it was never going to stop with same-sex couples,” Anderson told CNA. 

“Once you redefine marriage to eliminate the male-female component, what principle requires monogamy?”

The former cultural norm of marriage between one man and one woman, Anderon said, “was that only one man and one woman could unite as one flesh as husband and wife in the very same act that could produce new life, and then connect that new life with his or her own mother and father.”

“Once the law and culture says the male-female aspect of marriage violates justice and equality, we haven’t ‘expanded’ marriage, we’ve fundamentally redefined what it is. And those redefinitions have no principled stopping point,” he said.

SCOTUS rejects cases on abortion, Catholic schools, citing recent decisions

CNA Staff, Jul 2, 2020 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- After striking down Louisiana’s unsafe abortion law this week, the Supreme Court on Thursday instructed federal courts to reconsider two Indiana abortion laws in light of that ruling. The court also sent a case concerning Catholic schools in Wisconsin back to the lower court.

Indiana laws requiring parental consent for minors seeking abortions, as well as for mothers seeking abortions to receive an ultrasound, were struck down or halted from going into effect by the federal courts. The Supreme Court on Thursday vacated those rulings and instructed them to be considered again in light of its Monday decision in June Medical Services, L.L.C. v. Russo.

One pro-life leader commended the instruction to reconsider the cases. “We are confident that the Seventh Circuit will allow these compassionate, life-saving laws to stand upon further review,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List.

In the Monday decision, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 against Louisiana’s requirement that abortion facilities have the same admitting-privileges standards as other surgical centers. Under the law, abortionists were required to have admitting privileges at a local hospital.

An abortion regulation, the court said, must promote “women’s health and safety” and cannot put “a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking an abortion.” Louisiana’s law did not meet this standard, the court said.

After failing at the federal circuit court level, Indiana had appealed its ultrasound and parental consent laws to the Supreme Court, asking the court to consider the laws as well as the legal ability of abortion clinics to file lawsuits claiming injuries to women from state abortion laws, known as “third-party standing.” Lower courts will now have to reconsider the case.

In several other cases, the Supreme Court on Thursday refused to hear appeals, including that of a lawsuit against a “buffer zone” enacted by the city of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania outside of abortion facilities.

Two pro-life sidewalk counselors, Colleen Reilly and Becky Biter, had challenged the city’s law in court that had established a 20-foot barrier outside health clinics, including abortion facilities.

Both a federal district court and the Third Circuit appeals court denied their petition for relief from the law, and the Supreme Court also denied their appeal on Thursday.

Dannenfelser said she was “disappointed” at the news, saying that “buffer zones” in reality “restrict the free speech of pro-life Americans who seek to provide love and assistance to women considering abortion.”

In another case where the court denied an appeal, Hill v. Whole Woman’s Health Alliance, Indiana had denied a license to Whole Woman’s Health to open a new facility in South Bend that offered abortion counseling and the abortion pill. The state said that the organization hadn’t provided documentation of past complaints against its affiliates.

A federal district court sided with Whole Woman’s Health and granted it immunity from the regulations to open the new clinic, while also overruling Indiana’s licensing regulations in the process.

The Seventh Circuit appeals court acknowledged Indiana’s authority to license clinics, but ruled that the state acted unconstitutionally in denying Whole Woman’s Health a license for the new clinic.

Indiana then appealed to the Supreme Court to hear the case, or at least hold it until deciding Louisiana’s abortion law; the court on Thursday denied its appeal.

Also this week, in the case Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, the Supreme Court ruled that religious schools must have co equal access to public aid programs with secular private schools. That decision concerned a scholarship fund for private schools and the state’s constitutional bar on public funding of religious institutions, which the court found violated the First Amendment. 

Following that decision, the Supreme Court sent another case appealed to it back down to a lower court. St. Augustine Catholic school and parents of its students had sued the state of Wisconsin for not providing public busing to students of the school. A state law allows for busing of private school students, but only for one school of each religious denomination in a given area. Another Catholic school, St. Gabriel of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, was already being served in the district.

The Seventh Circuit court sided with the state, saying that it did not unlawfully discriminate against religion. On Thursday, the Supreme Court vacated that judgment and sent it back to the circuit court, to be considered in light of the court’s Tuesday ruling in Espinoza.