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Why an Argentine priest says ‘I love my cassock!’

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Dec 8, 2019 / 12:00 am (CNA).- A popular Argentine priest has explained why he frequently wears a priestly cassock, even while the garment has fallen out of favor among some priests.

Fr. Christian Viñas, pastor of Sacred Heart of Jesus parish in Cambaceres, Buenos Aires Province, Argentina, explained in a recent essay why he wears his cassock as often as possible.

In the essay, entitled “I love my cassock!” Viñas explained that “Christ sends us all the time as sons to feed, console, correct, teach and sanctify. Of course to do that we must show ourselves and have to be seen as available.”

Viñas considers the cassock to be “uniquely priestly,” and “indispensable to identify us for what we are: Priests of the Lord! Dead to the world, so that others may live, and live in abundance (Jn 10:10). And in the world but not of the world (Jn 15:19).”

“The cassock of course never goes unnoticed. It situates us, distinguishes us, preserves us, and presents us in society. And, in a society like ours where the ideologues of hate sow all the time aversion against those in uniform, from clerics and nuns, to soldiers and police, on to hotel and building porters, it constitutes a clear identification of what one is and for Whom one is,” he wrote.

By wearing the cassock, “we receive anything from glowing praises to violent insults, to requests for confession, to spontaneous venting, to asking for advice, to requests for blessings for entire families, right out in public,”  Viñas said

Viñas says he has time for all of them. “I always stop even though I am often going from one urgent thing  to another. They are the children God puts on my path and they don't take away my time but they give meaning to the time, as a priest, He gives to me,”

In the U.S., the norms regarding priestly clothing stipulate that while “a black suit and Roman collar are the usual attire for priests. The use of the cassock is at the discretion of the cleric.”

“I love my cassock, amid the pushback from the world. Give me the grace, Lord, to live and die with it, and for it!” Vinas wrote.

 

A version of this story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA's Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Sheen beatification delay an act of 'sabotage,' Peoria official writes

Peoria, Ill., Dec 7, 2019 / 09:30 pm (CNA).- After the Diocese of Rochester last week confirmed it had requested that the beatification of Venerable Fulton Sheen be delayed, a longtime Peoria diocese official is accusing the Rochester diocese of repeatedly “sabotaging” Sheen’s sainthood cause. 

“Under the veneer of the Rochester diocese’s call for caution, more than an overwhelming majority of people would conclude that it is an unexplainable act of sabotage — a sabotage that simply hurts the faithful,” Monsignor James Kruse, an official in the Diocese of Peoria involved in advancing Sheen’s cause, wrote in a lengthy Dec. 7 op-ed

Venerable Fulton Sheen was an American archbishop and television personality who was set to be beatified Dec. 21. The Holy See made the decision to postpone the beatification on Dec. 2, with the Peoria diocese attributing the Vatican’s decision to “a few members of the Bishop’s Conference who have asked for further consideration.” 

CNA first reported Dec. 4 that it was Bishop Salvatore Matano of Rochester who asked the apostolic nuncio to the United States to delay the beatification, citing concerns about an ongoing state attorney general’s investigation into the dioceses of New York state.

“Rochester diocese’s revelation of these undisclosed cases simply follows the same pattern that the Rochester diocese has executed since this past spring,” Kruse wrote.

“This pattern is simple: The Sheen Cause takes a step forward and then the Rochester diocese acts to block the Beatification. When examining the pattern it is hard not to believe that the diocese of Rochester acts more to sabotage the Cause and less to protect the good of the Church.”

In September 2018, New York’s attorney general began an investigation into whether any of the state’s eight Roman Catholic dioceses had covered up acts or allegations of clerical sexual abuse. Sheen was Bishop of Rochester from 1966 to 1969.

Kruse says he was first contacted by the Rochester diocese in March 2019 by “Fr. Dan Conlon, Vicar General of the diocese of Rochester,” who told him that the Diocese of Rochester had submitted documents to the attorney general of New York which “may possibly implicate Sheen in appointing priests to assignments while having knowledge that these priests had abused children.”

Kruse is likely referring to the chancellor of the Rochester diocese, Father Dan Condon. 

The Peoria diocese and the New York archdiocese were earlier this year engaged in a legal fight in civil court over Sheen’s final burial place, which ended on June 7, 2019 when the Superior Court of New York denied any further appeals. His remains arrived in Peoria later that month. 

The day after the court’s final ruling, Kruse wrote, on June 8, 2019, the Diocese of Rochester submitted to Peoria the documents regarding Sheen’s administration related to two clerics known to have previously abused youth. Kruse wrote that the Diocese of Peoria believed that those documents were also submitted to the Vatican for their review.

Kruse wrote that the Vatican unofficially set a date for Sheen’s beatification for Sept. 20, 2019 but did not present an official decree. 

On July 24, 2019, the Diocese of Peoria was informed that the Vatican’s Secretary of State had delayed the Beatification of Sheen “until the Congregation [for] the Causes of Saints is able to study this issue." 

Kruse says the “issue” in question was the set of documents from the Rochester diocese.

“After Matano blocked the Beatification unofficially scheduled in September, [Bishop] Jenky of Peoria gathered together a group to examine the documents. I was involved in this examination. This examination revealed that [Bishop] Sheen acted rightly and did not place children in harm's way.”

The Rochester diocese said in its Dec. 5 release that it provided documentation to the Diocese of Peoria and the Congregation for the Causes of Saints through the Office of the Apostolic Nuncio, expressing concern about the advancement of Sheen’s cause “without a further review of his role in priests’ assignments.” 

“The Diocese of Rochester did its due diligence in this matter and believed that, while not casting suspicion, it was prudent that Archbishop Sheen’s cause receive further study and deliberation, while also acknowledging the competency of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to render its decision. The Holy See ultimately decided to postpone the beatification,” the diocese said.

The diocese said that Matano had requested a delay “prior to any announcements of the beatification.” 

But Kruse, along with two other officials connected to the beatification cause, told CNA that Matano had also raised his concerns after the date was set. Kruse wrote that Matano did so both in person to an official from the nuncio’s office in Washington DC, and later in an official letter. 

Kruse told CNA that Matano sent the letter in question to the apostolic nuncio Nov. 19, after the beatification was announced, saying that he could not support the scheduled beatification and requesting that it be delayed. 

According to Kruse, a copy of this letter was also sent to Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria, Cardinal Angelo Becchiu, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, and Cardinals Timothy Dolan of New York and Blase Cupich of Chicago.

“When I read this letter I immediately remembered Matano telling me in July that the case is now in the hands of Rome. We must wait for the conclusion of their investigation and abide by their decision. His earlier words rang hollow as I read his letter that again has blocked Sheen’s Beatification,” Kruse wrote. 

CNA requested a copy of the Nov. 19 letter from the Diocese of Rochester. The diocese told CNA Dec. 5 that “it is not appropriate to release a letter addressed to the Apostolic Nuncio.”

The Democrat and Chronicle, a Rochester newspaper, reported Dec. 4 that the Rochester diocese had stated to the paper that Sheen’s handling of the cases of not just of Guli but also “two or more accused priests” deserved “more investigation.” The article goes on to speculate that there could be more than a dozen such cases. 

The case of former Rochester priest Gerard Guli was the main focus of the documents submitted by the Diocese of Rochester, Kruse said. 

The former priest was ordained in 1956, and from 1963 to 1967 served in parishes in West Virginia. According to a document issued by the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, in 1963 the Diocese of Rochester received an allegation that in 1960 Guli committed abuse or misconduct against adults, not minors.

Kruse told CNA that the priest “returned from Wheeling to help his sick parents” in 1967.

Sheen became Rochester’s bishop in October 1966.

Some have claimed that Sheen gave Guli an assignment in the Diocese of Rochester, despite the 1963 allegation against him, Kruse said, and that Bishop Matano was concerned the NY attorney general would identify this issue in any report or announcement. But Kruse said that Sheen never assigned Guli to ministry, and reiterated in his op-ed that the case was thoroughly vetted and “Sheen did nothing wrong.” 

Kruse also mentioned the case of another former priest, John Gormley, who abused youth in 1969 and whom Sheen immediately removed from ministry when the abuse was reported. Gormley later left the priesthood and again, Kruse says, it was determined that “Sheen did nothing wrong.” 

“Regretfully, it appears that only after receiving the attorney general’s approval will Sheen enjoy Beatification,” Kruse wrote. 

“We also must wait to see if the Rochester diocese’s established pattern will continue even after this report.”

Kruse concluded his op-ed by exhorting the faithful to follow Sheen’s example. 

“Both the Vatican and the Peoria diocese have confirmed that Sheen did not put children in harm's way. The Vatican also has confirmed that Sheen’s intercession raised a baby from the dead. The diocese of Peoria constantly receives reports of more miracles that are attributed to the help and intercession of Sheen,” Kruse wrote. 

“I am confident that Sheen’s Beatification will eventually take place. Regretfully, certain forces are now inexplicably causing its delay...may Fulton Sheen pray for us.”

Martyred religious brother from Wisconsin farm family to be beatified in Guatemala 

Huehuetenango, Guatemala, Dec 7, 2019 / 03:58 am (CNA).- The son of Wisconsin farmers, Brother James Miller, FSC, will be beatified in Guatemala this Saturday, 36 years after he was shot and killed while working with school children and the indigenous poor in the country.

A graduate of St. Mary’s University in Winona, Minnesota and a member of the De La Salle Christian Brothers, Miller is remembered for his generosity, courage, and zeal to serve the children of Central America. He is the first member of his order in the United States to be beatified.

Brother Miller’s story strongly echoes that of Blessed Father Stanely Rother, another son of American farmers (this time from Oklahoma) who was murdered in Guatemala at his Santiago Atitlan mission, a mere seven months before Brother Miller’s murder. Rother was beatified in September 2017 in Oklahoma City. Both men are remembered for their courage, zeal for their mission, and their humility in their work.

“No one is perfect, and yet Jim, like a lot of people, did things very quietly, behind the scenes. He never asked for recognition,” Brother Pat Conway, who first knew Miller as a student and then as a fellow brother, told Minnesota newspaper Post Bulletin.

James Miller was born on Sept. 21, 1944, to a farming family near Stevens Point, Wis. He attended Pacelli High School, a Catholic school where he first encountered the Christian Brothers. Though he had also considered being a priest, Miller joined the order of brothers in September 1959, drawn to their apostolate in education.

Three years later in the novitiate program, he chose the religious name Brother Leo William, but eventually went back to using his baptismal name, which had become common among the brothers.

After teaching high school in Minnesota for three years, Miller made perpetual vows in 1970 and was sent to Bluefields, Nicaragua, fulfilling his desire to work in the missions in Central America. In 1974, he was transferred to Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua, where he became the director of a school.

Using the name Brother Santiago while in Central America, Miller more than doubled the enrollment at the school during his five years there and headed the building of 10 additional schools in the area.

In 1979, he was called back to the U.S. by his superiors, who feared for his life after the Sandinista revolution that overthrew the Somoza government, for which Miller had worked. Prior to his return to the U.S., Miller acknowledged in a letter that he was aware of the growing violence around him, but he was not afraid.

“Are you kidding? I never thought I could pray with such fervor when I go to bed,” he wrote in a letter home, according to his order.

In January 1981, Miller was again sent back to Central America to a mission in Huehuetenango, Guatemala, where he taught at the Casa Indigena School and worked at a center teaching experimental agricultural techniques to indigenous Mayans. The skills were useful for the indigenous poor people, who had been bought out of their land by rich corporations in prior years, and were attempting to scrape by on farming in the mountains.

After just more than a year at the mission, on February 13, 1982, Miller had returned from taking students on a picnic and was shot in the back three times while repairing a wall at the school, the Post Bulletin reported. Miller died instantly, and his attackers were never identified. He was 37 years old.

Just seven months prior, on July 28, 1981, Father Stanley Rother had been shot and killed in the middle of the night at his mission in Santiago Atitlan, 100 miles to the south of Huehuetenango.

Just a month before his death, Miller had written in another letter: “I am personally weary of violence, but I continue to feel a strong commitment to the suffering poor of Central America… the Church is being persecuted because of its option for the poor. Aware of numerous dangers and difficulties, we continue working with faith and hope and trusting in God’s Providence.”

“I have been a Brother of the Christian Schools for nearly 20 years now, and commitment to my vocation grows steadily stronger in my work in Central America. I pray to God for the grace and strength to serve Him faithfully among the poor and oppressed in Guatemala. I place my life in His Providence. I place my trust in Him,” he added.

Those who knew Brother Miller remember him for his kindness, his generosity and his jovial spirit.

Brother Francis Carr, who roomed with Miller while they attended St. Mary’s University, told Winona Daily News that he remembers him as “a common, good guy.”

One of his former professors remembered Miller as “attractive with an open and sociable personality, likeable, completely genuine; people were captivated by his simplicity: he was very intelligent and also very simple.”

Another fellow brother recalled Miller as “an intelligent person, although not an intellectual, jovial, easy to relate with, preferring physical work to sports, with a deep faith and love for his religious vocation, but with a certain tendency to come late to class and community prayers.”

Conway remembered his fellow brother as “big and boisterous” and “very human.”

“What's cool about him being beatified is that he was human,” Conway told the Post Bulletin. “The fact that someone so human would farm with these kids and taught them the skills to break the cycle of poverty. It speaks volumes about him.”

After his death, Miller’s body was sent back to the United States for burial in Wisconsin. Miller arrived in a dirty white robe, Conway told the Post Bulletin, because of all of the farmers who attended his funeral in Guatemala and wanted to touch his robes as they paid their respects.

Relics gathered during the exhumation of Miller’s body will be at the beatification in Guatemala, which will be celebrated on Saturday, December 7 in Huehuetenango.

Miller’s cause for canonization opened in 2009. Because Miller was officially declared a martyr by the Church, the typical requirement for proof of a miracle through his intercession in order to proceed with his beatification is waived. A miracle through his intercession will be needed before he can be canonized.

Representatives from St. Mary’s University will be present at the beatification in Guatemala, and a special concurrent commemoration ceremony will be taking place on campus.

“I think, particularly in the Catholic Church, in our faith, we highlight those who give their lives for the sake of the kingdom, the gospel, but also, in this case, as the gospel says, no one has greater love than to lay down his life for his friend,” SMU president Father James Burns told Winona Daily News.

“And so in following the example of Christ, this is what Brother James Miller did, laying down his life,” Burns added. “It’s a great honor for us to have someone for our local community being raised to this honor by the church.”

“I think people are instinctively drawn to goodness, that kind of goodness, even when it causes great sacrifice and we have to suffer. People are inspired by that.”

Our Lady of Guadalupe is the true Lady of the Amazon, priest says

Mexico City, Mexico, Dec 6, 2019 / 10:42 pm (CNA).- Our Lady of Guadalupe is the true Lady of the Amazon, a leading expert on the apparition said, pointing to Pope John Paul II’s recognition of Our Lady of Guadalupe as Queen of all the Americas.

Fr. Eduardo Chávez is the director of the Major Institute of Guadalupan Studies and the postulator for the cause for the canonization of Saint Juan Diego. He told ACI Prensa, CNA's Spanish language sister agency, that Our Lady of Guadalupe “takes nothing from syncretism, what she does is a perfect inculturation, as Saint John Paul II says” in his 1999 apostolic exhortation Ecclesia in America.

In the Guadalupe Basilica on January 23, 1999, by placing Ecclesia in America at the feet of the Virgin, he said, Saint John Paul II underscored that Our Lady of Guadalupe is “Mother and Queen of this Continent” and took the title used years prior in the Synod for America: “Patroness of all the Americas and Star of the First and New Evangelization.”

On that day, Saint John Paul II said that Our Lady of Guadalupe knows “the paths followed by the first evangelizers of the New World, from Guanahani Island and Hispaniola to the jungles of Amazonia and Andean peaks, reaching Tierra del Fuego in the South and the Great Lakes and mountains of the North.”

Chávez emphasized that for almost 500 years, the Virgin of Guadalupe has been “perfectly well known as the patroness of the entire American Continent.”

“She brings Jesus Christ Our Lord,” the priest said. “She brings the truth which is Jesus Christ, and puts it in the heart of every human being, over and above cultures, traditions and languages.”

 

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

 

Quebec considers expanding eligibility for euthanasia

Quebec City, Canada, Dec 3, 2019 / 06:01 pm (CNA).- Quebec's health minister announced Friday that the province will open a consultation on allowing euthanasia for people who can no longer give informed consent or who will die of an illness in the more distant future.

Presently, Quebec permits euthanasia for terminally ill adult residents with an incurable disease who are undergoing great suffering, face imminent death, and give informed consent.

The Quebec law was passed in 2014, and took effect in December 2015.

Between Dec. 10, 2015 and March 31, 2018, in the province 1,664 people were euthanized.

Danielle McCann, Quebec's health minister, announced Nov. 29 that there will be a consultation on expanding existing criteria. The proposed expansion would allow euthanization of people with Alzheimer’s disease and other degenerative conditions.

Véronique Hivon, a member of the Quebec legislature of the Pari Quebecois, took part in the Nov. 29 press conference.

Hivon introduced the province's existing euthanasia law, and said that the criteria adopted then were necessary for its passage: “We didn’t want to lose the consensus. We had to listen to what people had to say.”

iPolitics wrote that Hivon “added that it should be possible to expand the option of medical assistance to die, for those not apt to make that decision, because a third person would be charged with following through on the wishes of the dying patient.”

Euthanasia and assisted suicide were legalized federally in Canada in June 2016. The carrying out of the practices have led to questions over the imprecision of the country's requirements, from family of patients, disability advocates, pro-life groups, and bioethicists.

Eligibility is restricted to mentally competent Canadian adults who have a serious, irreversible illness, disease, or disability. While to be eligible a patient does not have to have a fatal condition, they must meet a criterion variously expressed as they “can expect to die in the near future”, that natural death is “reasonably foreseeable” in the “not too distant” future, or that they are “declining towards death”.

According to Health Canada, among the eligibility criteria for euthanasia or assisted suicide are that you “have a grievous and irremediable medical condition” and “give informed consent to receive medical assistance in dying”.

The Canadian health ministry also says that “you must be mentally competent and capable of making decisions” both “at the time of your request” and “immediately before medical assistance in dying is provided.”

The national health ministry says there are safeguards to insure that those requesting euthanasia or assisted suicide “are able to make health care decisions for themselves” and “request the service of their own free will”.

Vancouver archdiocese releases report on sex abuse cases

Vancouver, Canada, Nov 26, 2019 / 02:01 pm (CNA).- The Archdiocese of Vancouver released Friday a report on clergy sexual abuse, including 31 recommendations for improvements to policies and procedures.

The Nov. 22 report also named nine clerics who were criminally convicted of sex abuse, had lawsuits settled, or whose cases were otherwise public.

The report is the first such publication by a Canadian diocese.

“Although nothing can undo the wrong that was done to you, I nonetheless wish to offer each of you my heartfelt apology for the trauma, the violation in body and soul, and the sense of betrayal and abandonment by the Church that you feel,” Archbishop J. Michael Miller of Vancouver wrote to victims of clerical sexual abuse in a Nov. 21 pastoral letter included in the report.

“For those occasions when we failed to protect you or when we were more concerned with the Church’s reputation than with your suffering, I am truly sorry and ask for your forgiveness as I strive to make amends and bind your wounds,” Archbishop Miller wrote.

The archbishop appointed a committee in the autumn of 2018 to review cases of abuse committed by clerics serving or residing in the local Church. The 13-member committee included civil and canon lawyers; clerics, laity, and a religious; and four victims of clerical abuse.

At its meetings, the committee reviewed 36 cases of clerical abuse: 26 involved the abuse of minors; seven concerned “inappropriate sexual behaviour/abuse between a cleric and adults”; and three regarded priests who had fathered children.

“While Committee members have differing views on a number of issues, all agree major change is needed,” the report reads.

The report says that as the committee met “a number of topics arose which call into question the integrity of the institution of the Catholic Church.” Among the topics listed in the report are clericalism, hierarchicalism, the exclusion of women in Church leadership, and breaches of celibacy.

The committee lamented that through the early 1990s, “victims who came forward had to sign confidentiality agreements.”

Of its 31 recommendations, the committee highlighted that it “proposes as an absolute imperative that the Archdiocese of Vancouver publish a listing of clergy who have been guilty of sexual abuse.”

“The Committee recommends that the listing consist of convicted, admitted, and credibly accused clergy … privacy laws which restrict publication should be consulted but the Committee urges that publication take place to the maximum allowed.”

According to the report, “releasing the names of abusers helps everyone to understand how predators groom entire communities and not to inform the community of predatory behaviours and actions is to put all members of the Church family in jeopardy. Not only this, not publishing names of abusers perpetuates betrayal and distrust.”

Among the recommendations are establishing an intake office for receiving allegations of sexual abuse; mandatory performance reviews for all priests in the archdiocese done by a group of people, including lay men and women; a study of seminary training and screening; and healing and reconciliation opportunities for victims.

The group recommended that “there should be a systematic Archdiocesan plan developed and put in place for educating clergy and laity alike on the inherent evil of clericalism, and the degree to which it has been normalized within the Catholic experience. A strategy for developing and maintaining a Church which more fully reflects the spirit of Vatican II (Lumen Gentium and Apostolicam Actuositatem, for example) should be developed and implemented.”

To this recommendation, the archdiocese responded that Archbishop Miller “will refer this specific recommendation to the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council, which is composed of a majority of lay people, to explore prayerfully the development and implementation of an Archdiocesan plan. At least one member of the Case Review Committee will be named to the Pastoral Council to facilitate this.”

The committee also made several recommendations to the Church in Canada, including a nationwide registry of credibly accused priests.

In its report, the archdiocese released the names of five clerics criminally convicted of abuse; two against whom lawsuits were settled; and two whose cases are public.

There are a number of additional cases of clerical sex abuse in the archdiocese, but due to Canada’s privacy laws, which are more restrictive than those of the US, not all could be published.

“Today we are publishing information we are legally allowed to share,” the archdiocese stated.

“We are working with experts from across the country to find legal means to share information regarding clergy who have not been convicted, but of whose guilt we are morally certain. Due to Canadian legislation on privacy, we are more restricted than American dioceses, which have been able to publish the names of what have been called ‘credibly accused’ priests.”

The report said that in considering the publication of names, the local Church must consider both “whether the reported allegations are true” and “whether there are legal constraints to publication.”

In an interview included in the report, Mary Margaret McKinnon, a civil lawyer who chaired the committee, emphasized that the term “credibly accused” is not used by lawyers.

“In Canada we talk about the burden of proof in criminal and civil cases,” McKinnon said. “In criminal cases the offence must be established beyond a reasonable doubt. In civil cases it must be shown to be more likely true than not, or 51%. The American definition used in various American policies [i.e. ‘credibly accused’]  appears to equate to the civil burden here.”

Later on, McKinnon equated the terms “credibly accused” and “probably guilty”.

She also noted that Canada’s provinces and territories have their own privacy legislation, and that in British Columbia “it’s called PIPA, which stands for Personal Information and Protection Act, and the same legislation is in place all across Canada. The defamation laws in Canada and the U.S. are also applied differently.”

Regarding the publication of “credibly accused lists”, as has become common among US dioceses, “we have to figure out a way to balance our legal obligations with the public’s desire to know,” McKinnon said. “A lot of study and discussion is taking place right now to see how we can make this happen.”

The report stated that “in its work, the Case Review Committee discovered that many of the remaining allegations had not been investigated to a currently acceptable standard. In fact, two of the allegations were against ‘unnamed priests’ because the victims/survivors could not remember the names.”

It added that its files of cases will be turned over to new, independent, non-Catholic investigators to “review the evidence and determine how the claims may be further pursued.”

The archdiocese also stated with regard to the cases not dealt with in the report, “These courageous claimants who contacted the Archdiocese were heard and believed. The fact that these cases are not dealt with in this report does not mean they were unfounded.”

Priests convicted of abusing children at Argentina school for the deaf

Mendoza, Argentina, Nov 25, 2019 / 05:53 pm (CNA).- Two Catholic priests have been convicted of sexually abusing students students at an institute that cared for deaf children. The priests have been sentenced to more than 40 years in an Argentine prison.

Their victims say one abuser should have been stopped seven years before his arrest, when he was accused of abusing children at a school in Italy.

Father Nicola Corradi, an 83-year-old Italian, sat in a wheelchair Monday, while he was sentenced to 42 years in prison Nov. 25, alongside Father Horacio Corbacho, 59, sentenced to 45 years. A lay employee, gardener Armando Gomez, was sentenced to 18 years in prison.

The abuse took place at the now-closed Antonio Provolo Institute for Deaf and Hearing Impaired children in Argentina’s Mendoza province. The trial concerned more than 20 instances of abuse in all, including charges of rape, sexual touching, and corruption of minors. The students were reportedly forced to watch pornography or perform sex acts among themselves.

The cases involve 10 students, though about 20 have made abuse accusations. The abusers especially targeted children who spent the night in the institute’s shelters, and the victims said they were afraid to report for fear of living in poverty after being expelled or for fear their parents would be punished.

The students were typically from poor families and had communication limitations. The school did not teach sign language but followed a methodology that aimed to teach children to read and speak like those who could hear, the Washington Post reported in February. Students at the school who used sign language would be physically reprimanded.

The crimes took place from 2004 to 2016, when Corradi, Corbacho, and others were arrested and the school shut down.

After the verdict, victims of the men celebrated outside the courtroom.

“I am happy, thank you so much for the battle, because everyone has supported us. ... This has changed my life, which is evolving,” Vanina Garay, 26, told the Associated Press.

Corradi is a member of the Company of Mary, an Italian religious community that operates schools for deaf children in several countries. The schools are named for Antonio Provolo, a nineteenth-century Italian priest who founded Corradi’s religious community.

Corradi worked at a sister school in in La Plata, Argentina from 1970 to 1994, and former students have accused him of abuse there as well. Before that, he worked at an Antonio Provolo school in Verona, Italy. He was first accused of abuse in 2009, when 14 Italians reported that they had been abused by priests, religious brothers, and other adults at the Provolo Institute in Verona, over the course of several decades.

They could not face civil prosecution due to statutes of limitations.

After a Vatican investigation, five priests at the Italian institute were sanctioned; but Corradi, then living in Argentina, was not among them. A Vatican investigator believed his sole accuser was a victim of abuse, but because Corradi was accused by so many of abuse and his story showed apparent inconsistencies the investigator doubted the plausibility of his claims, according to the Washington Post.

When the Argentine trial opened on Monday, among those protesting outside of the court was ex-student Ezequiel Villalonga, who is now 18.

“Those of us from the Próvolo in Mendoza said: ‘no more fear. We have the power’,” he said, according to the Associated Press. Like many other abuse victims at the school, he is harshly critical of Pope Francis,

“Francis was very quiet about the abusive priests, but now the sentence is coming,” said Villalonga. “I know that the pope is afraid because the deaf have been brave.”

Advocates for the victims have called for the abusers to be dismissed from the clerical state.

The Archdiocese of Mendoza has said it didn’t know the Italian priest’s background when he came to Argentina. It said the priest depended on his Italian-based religious congregation for support. The archdiocese voiced “solidarity and closeness” with the alleged victims and said that in its view the responsibilities and punishments for the alleged crimes should be established.

“As part of the people of Mendoza, we desire truth and justice, and we put in the hands of God … the work of whose who have the task of imparting it,” the archdiocese said in an Aug. 2 statement.

Two religious sisters who worked at the Mendoza school are accused of participating in the abuse or knowing about it, as are former directors and employees who are accused of knowing of the crimes but not taking action. In 2018 one employee was sentenced to 10 years for rape, sexual touching, and corruption of minors.

Pope Francis previously served as Archbishop of Buenos Aires. He headed the Argentine bishops’ conference when the alleged crimes were reported in 2009 and 2010.

In 2014, Corradi was the subject of a letter sent to Pope Francis from Italian victims of sexual abuse who were concerned about the priest’s ongoing ministry, despite the accusations against him. In 2015, the group handed a list of priests accused of abuse to the Pope in person, according to the Washington Post.

The group reportedly did not hear back from Pope Francis, but did hear from a Vatican official, Archbishop Giovanni Becciu, who wrote to the group in 2016 to tell them that he had informed the Italian bishops’ conference of their request for an investigation.

Later that year, Corradi, as well as Corbacho and another employee of the school, were arrested. When Argentine authorities arrested Corradi and Corbacho, the Washington Post reported, local officials said the Church in Argentina was not fully cooperative with the investigation.

After 8-day hunger strike, Nicaraguan mothers transported to hospital

Managua, Nicaragua, Nov 25, 2019 / 05:02 pm (CNA).- A group of mothers who had been conducting a hunger strike in a Catholic church in Nicaragua have left the premises and been transferred to a local hospital for treatment.

The women had spent eight days at Saint Michael the Archangel parish in Masaya, about 20 miles southeast of Nicaragua’s capital of Managua.

“The Archdiocese of Managua, since November 14 has been very concerned about this situation that Fr. Edwing Román has been going through along with the 13 people that began a hunger strike at Saint Michael the Archangel Parish in Masaya, among them mothers of those detained [in anti-government protests],” the archdiocese said in a statement Nov 22.

Authorities had cut water and electricity to the church and surrounded it to block the exit of those inside.

Fr. Román accompanied the hunger strikers physically and spiritually, the statement said. On Nov. 22, he expressed a desire to leave the church with those gathered inside. Cardinal Leopoldo José Brenes, metropolitan archbishop of Managua, and Archbishop Waldemar Stanislaw Sommertag, apostolic nuncio in Nicaragua, then asked authorities that a humanitarian route be opened to transport the hunger strikers to Vivian Pellas Hospital.

The transfer of the hunger strikers took place later that day. Fr. Román and three other people remained hospitalized, while the remainder of the hunger strikers were discharged.

“Today these homesick mothers will return to their homes,” the archdiocese said. “May God grant that very soon they will be able to share with their children, deprived of freedom, the joy of being together in family.”

Cardinal Brenes reaffirmed the archdiocese’s support for Fr. Román, and for the humanitarian work that priests have been engaged in since protests against the government began last year.

Anti-government protests in Nicaragua sprang up in April 2018. The crackdown from security forces and pro-government militias resulted in more than 320 deaths last year, with 2,000 injured and tens of thousands fleeing the country as refugees.

Modest pension reforms triggered the unrest but protests quickly turned to objections to what critics said was Ortega’s authoritarian bent.

Ortega, who previously led the country for over a decade after the Sandinistas’ 1979 ouster of the Somoza dictatorship, has been president of Nicaragua since 2007, and oversaw the abolition of presidential term limits in 2014.

The Catholic Church had suggested that the elections scheduled for 2021 be held this year, but Ortega has ruled this out.

Ortega’s backers have said that a demand for the president to leave office early and to hold early elections are tantamount to a coup attempt. Some have labeled the protesters as terrorists, the Associated Press reports.

Ortega’s government has accused many bishops and priests of supporting the opposition.

Other attacks against prayerful demonstrators at churches have also been reported.

On Nov. 21, pro-government assailants attacked San Juan Bautista church in Masaya as Mass was being celebrated, the Associated Press reported. Mass attendees had planned a march to support hunger strikers nearby.

The attackers used clubs, machetes, and metal bars to try to break through the doors. They beat the altar boys, a woman, and a 50-year-old man who were present, according to reports.

The bishops of Nicaragua have called on the government to respect the freedom of speech and assembly and to respect Catholic churches.
 

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

 

In Nicaragua, armed mob raids Catholic church hosting anti-government vigil

Managua, Nicaragua, Nov 23, 2019 / 02:01 pm (CNA).- Parishioners holding vigil at a church to pray for detained foes of President Daniel Ortega came under attack from supporters of the government on Thursday.
 
The attackers used clubs, machetes, and metal bars in a Nov. 21 attack at a church in Masaya, about 20 miles southeast of Nicaragua’s capital of Managua.
 
“They came with pipes and machetes, they beat the altar boys and a woman and they had us surrounded in here,” said Father Harving Madina, parish priest of Masaya’s San Juan Bautista Church, the Associated Press reports.
 
Madina and parishioners at  San Juan Bautista had planned to march a few blocks to a nearby church, San Miguel, which is surrounded by pro-government groups. The march was intended to show support for its priest and parishioners on hunger strike seeking the release of relatives they say are political prisoners.
 
Their relatives were detained during protests against Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega.
 
A hostile group surrounded San Juan Bautista church as Mass was being celebrated, Father Madina said. The group tried to break through the doors as priests and parishioners used pews to barricade the entrance.
 
One 50-year-old parishioner who tried to stop the assailants was beaten by several people who then handed him over to onlooking police, who did not intervene during the disturbance.
 
Anti-government protests in Nicaragua began in April 2018. The crackdown from security forces and pro-government militias resulted in more than 320 deaths last year, with 2,000 injured and tens of thousands fleeing the country as refugees.
 
Modest pension reforms triggered the unrest but protests quickly turned to objections to what critics said was Ortega’s authoritarian bent.
 
Ortega, who previously led the country for over a decade after the Sandinistas’ 1979 ouster of the Somoza dictatorship, has been president of Nicaragua since 2007, and oversaw the abolition of presidential term limits in 2014.
 
The Catholic Church had suggested that the elections scheduled for 2021 be held this year, but Ortega has ruled this out.
 
Ortega’s backers have said that a demand for the president to leave office early and to hold early elections are tantamount to a coup attempt. Some have labeled the protesters as terrorists, the Associated Press reports.
 
Ortega’s government has accused many bishops and priests of supporting the opposition.
 
Rosario Murillo, Nicaragua’s vice president and Ortega’s wife, criticized “those who claim to speak in the name of the faith,” calling them “repugnant wolves who spread hatred.”
 
The San Miguel protest vigil began Nov. 14. Authorities cut off electricity and water to the church. The National Police surrounded the building, threatening to enter by force to end the demonstration.
 
Thirteen people who tried to bring water to the demonstrators Nov. 14 were arrested. They were charged Nov. 18 with weapons transport. Police say the 13 people were carrying guns and bombs, and charged that they intended to “continue carrying out terrorist acts ... against police buildings, city halls and monuments.”
 
A group of priests tried to enter San Miguel church Nov. 15, but police held them back. The health of at least three protesters there is reported to be in decline.
 
Cardinal Leopoldo José Brenes Solorzano of Managua has condemned the National Police's “siege and intimidation” of the Masaya hunger strikers and their pastor, Fr. Edwin Román.
 
The cardinal called on the national police to respect “the free movement to demonstrate” and “the exercise of religious freedom.”
 
On Nov. 18 a different pro-government group invaded Managua’s Immaculate Conception Cathedral to pursue seven mothers of detained anti-Ortega protesters who had entered the cathedral to pray.
 
The mothers removed themselves to another part of the cathedral.
 
According to the archdiocese, a violent group “related to the government” entered and took control of the cathedral. When a priest and a nun tried to rebuke them, members of the mob beat them. The two were not seriously injured but had to leave the church to protect themselves.
 
Msgr. Carlos Avilés, vicar general of the Archdiocese of Managua, said the group was backed by the police.
 
The mothers took shelter in the cathedral overnight, and were then evacuated Nov. 19 in a Red Cross ambulance, as part of a deal negotiated by Archbishop Waldemar Sommertag, apostolic nuncio to Nicaragua. The invading group later gave up control of the cathedral.
 
The Nicaraguan bishops' conference expressed “profound concern” Nov. 19 over the “indifference of the state for the rights of Nicaraguans who are expressing their sorrow and their needs.”
 
The bishops called on “those responsible for these sieges to change their stance.”
 
Nicaraguans have suffered too much pain,” they continued. “The besieged families suffer doubly: the lack of freedom for their incarcerated family members and, now, the state of siege that threatens their lives. We call on the government to hear their petitions which are at the same time their rights.”
 
The Managua archdiocese also asked Ortega to “take immediate action that all our Catholic churches are respected.”

Bolivian bishops: 'Enough violence! Enough death!'

La Paz, Bolivia, Nov 22, 2019 / 06:05 pm (CNA).- The Bolivian bishops’ conference called for an end to violence, as protests continue in the wake of former president Evo Morales’ resignation.

“We raise our voices to call on everyone: Enough death! Enough violence! Enough suffering and pain!” the bishops said in a statement entitled “Spiral of Violence and Death.”

“We condemn the violence wherever it comes from. We once again remind that it is irrational and irresponsible, and it is not a solution for conflicts between human beings.”

The bishops warned that the “growing spiral of irrationality and violence” will continue bringing injury, death, and mourning to the country unless demonstrators can express their demands peacefully and law enforcement can refrain from the use of excessive force.

Morales resigned Nov. 10 after weeks of protest regarding a disputed Oct. 20 election. The socialist leader had been in power since 2006.

According to the electoral commission, Morales won on the election's first round, but the opposition claimed fraud. The Organization of American States said Nov. 10 that there was “clear manipulation” in the election, and that it was statistically improbable that Morales had won by the margin needed to avoid a runoff.

Within hours of the OAS report, Morales resigned, after being encouraged to do so by the head of the Bolivian armed forces.

The deputy head of the Senate, Jeanine Anez, is serving as interim president until elections are held. Morales has been offered asylum by Mexico.

In some cities, Morales' supporters have clashed with police, and dozens have reportedly been killed. According to reports, blockades by Morales’ supporters have cut off food and fuel in some areas. Demonstrators in El Alto blockaded a gas plant on the route to La Paz. The military broke through, in an operation that left one dead and two injured.

On Friday, the interim government filed a criminal complaint against Morales. It accuses the former president of sedition and terrorism.

Interior Minister Arturo Murillo has presented an audio recording in which he says Morales is heard directing his supporters to create blockades to destabilize the interim government, Reuters reports.

In their statement, the bishops appealed to those in power: “Don’t call for confrontation and violence, let words of peace and reconciliation come forth from your mouths.”

“Let us all be builders of peace and ask the God of life who never desires the death of the brothers to inspire our hearts and our minds to adopt the ways of peace among all Bolivians.”

The Catholic bishops are among those working to promote peace in the country. The Archdiocese of Cochabamba was part of a commission on peace with various civil organizations earlier this week.

“We citizens of Cochabamba and Bolivia reaffirm our right to peaceful coexistence, regardless of any differences,” said the Archbishop Óscar Aparicio of Cochabamba, according to Infodecom.

An 8:00 p.m. Mass was held Nov. 21 in the Sucre cathedral to pray for peace in the country.

 

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.