Browsing News Entries

Browsing News Entries

Fort Worth nun forced to use bishop-appointed canon lawyer amid dispute with diocese

The Reverend Mother Superior Teresa Agnes Gerlach of the Monastery of the Most Holy Trinity in Arlington, Texas. / Credit: Monastery of the Most Holy Trinity Discalced Carmelite Nuns

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 24, 2023 / 15:15 pm (CNA).

A Carmelite nun who accused the Diocese of Fort Worth and Bishop Michael Olson of violating both civil law and canon law is now appealing to the Vatican after the bishop refused to let her choose her own canon lawyer for representation in a diocesan investigation, according to a civil lawyer representing the nun.

The diocese has accused the Reverend Mother Superior Teresa Agnes Gerlach of violating her vow of chastity with a priest. Although the diocese claims she admitted to the misconduct, a civil lawyer representing Gerlach claims the admission came under heavy medication from a procedure and she does not recall what she admitted.

“She did not have sex with a priest,” Matthew Bobo, the civil lawyer representing Gerlach, said in a statement.

Gerlach, who serves in the Monastery of the Most Holy Trinity, sought out an independent canon lawyer to represent her in the diocesan investigation into the allegation, but Olson denied each of her suggestions, according to Bobo. Instead, the bishop appointed a different canon lawyer to represent her without her consent or approval.

“Bishop Olson denied Mother Superior’s right to independent canonical (Church law) representation with three different canon lawyers (advocates) and one procurator,” Bobo said in a statement. “Mother Superior rejects any and all representation by her current canon lawyer, appointed by the bishop without her consent, who is not independent nor representing her canonical or natural law rights.”

Bobo told CNA that the bishop-appointed canon lawyer, Michael J. Podhajsky, is already filing documents on behalf of Gerlach, despite her protest. Bobo said the canon lawyer does not represent the nun and does not have the authority to represent the nun.

“He has never had a conversation with my clients,” Bobo said. “He’s never talked to them.”

Bobo added that the Monastery of the Most Holy Trinity is challenging the bishop’s rejection of Gerlach’s canon lawyer requests and “filed certain documents with the Vatican to address the actions of the bishop.”

A spokesperson for the diocese declined to comment on the matter. 

Podhajsky, who was appointed by the bishop, told CNA that he is aware that Gerlach did not agree with him being appointed to represent her. He said he has tried to work with Gerlach, but it is up to her whether she wants to work with him. 

“I’ve done my job to represent her to the best of my ability,” Podhajsky said. “I’ve made every effort to reach out to her.”

Gerlach and the Monastery of the Most Holy Trinity filed a lawsuit against Bishop Olson and the diocese last week. The lawsuit seeks $1 million in damages and accuses them of invading the privacy of Gerlach and the other nuns. According to the lawsuit, the bishop confiscated Gerlach’s computer, cellphone, and laptop and subjected the nuns to lengthy questioning. 

The diocese asked the court to throw out the lawsuit, claiming that it is an ecclesiastical matter over which civil courts do not have jurisdiction.

Nebraska bans abortion at 12 weeks and sex change surgery for minors

Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen on May 22, 2023, signed into law a 12-week abortion ban and a ban on transgender surgery on minors. / Courtesy of the Office of the Governor of Nebraska

Denver, Colo., May 24, 2023 / 14:30 pm (CNA).

Nebraska will now ban abortion 12 weeks into pregnancy and ban gender-altering surgery for minors. A new bill, signed into law on Monday, also regulates other drugs used in purported gender-transition therapies for minors.

“It’s about protecting our kids and saving babies. Pure and simple,” Republican Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen said Monday, the Associated Press reported. The governor said the legislation sends the message that “abortion is unthinkable in Nebraska” and the state’s culture “embraces life and love.” The provision barring gender-altering surgery, he said, “lets our kids be kids” while they grow up, including “the teenager who may be trying to figure out who they are.”

Over 30 of Nebraska’s 49 senators joined the governor for the signing of the Let Them Grow Act. The bill passed 33-15 along party lines in the unicameral Legislature, which only has a Senate.

The new abortion ban replaces the previous 20-week abortion ban. The ban exempts abortions of unborn children conceived in rape and incest as well as cases of medical emergencies. It also specifically exempts ectopic pregnancies.

“Every human being has a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” said state Sen. Joni Albrecht. “I look forward to the day when every child is protected from conception from elective abortions in the State of Nebraska.”

The abortion ban takes effect immediately. In April, the state Senate failed to pass a six-week abortion ban by only one vote.

The new law also bans purported gender-altering surgery for patients under age 19, the age of legal majority in Nebraska. Proponents present the surgeries, also known as sex-change operations, as gender-confirmation surgery.

The bill requires the state medical officer to create regulations for cross-sex hormones and puberty-blocking drugs for minors, which proponents call gender-affirming care. The regulations could include a full ban, according to the Nebraska Examiner. This part of the legislation will take effect Oct. 1.

State Sen. Kathleen Kauth said the legislation is “all about protecting children. It was an honor to be able to use it to also protect preborn children.”

“Every option is on the table to undo these regressive measures, including seeking justice through the courts,” said Mindy Rush Chipman, interim executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska, in a Monday statement. Chipman charged that the bans will cause “significant harm.”

Lawmakers opposed to the abortion ban and transgender legal reforms filibustered all proposed legislation for months. They fell one vote short of the 17 votes needed to halt the advance of the bill.

On Friday hundreds of opponents of the legislation, including self-identified transgender youth, rallied at the capitol and some filled the capitol rotunda.

Supporters of the legislation included the Nebraska Catholic Conference. Marion Miner, the conference’s associate director of Pro-life and Family Policy, argued for the legislation in Feb. 8 testimony to the Senate’s Health and Human Services Committee.

“A healthy culture promotes the integrity of persons, in part by cultivating manifestations of sex differences that correspond with biological realities. It supports gender expressions that reveal and communicate the reality of our sexual natures. A misguided concept of gender, on the other hand, denies, conceals, and distorts the realities of our nature and hinders human flourishing.

“Most alarmingly, it exposes emotionally vulnerable children to dangerous and sometimes irreversible wounding of their own bodies, permanently engaging in battle against what will be the body’s lifelong struggle to heal itself.

“As theories of sex and gender inconsistent with nature and the natural moral law are increasingly prevalent in popular culture, it is essential for the law to protect children while they develop and mature physiologically, emotionally, and spiritually,” said Miner, who cited several of Pope Francis’ statements against gender ideology.

According to Miner, foes of the legislation seek to respect those who feel “incongruence between their biological sex and the gender with which they identify” and who often suffer “feelings of anxiety and of being unaccepted.”

“Love, compassion, and respect for such persons, who are our brothers and sisters, along with an affirmation of their equal dignity and worth, is due to them,” he said.

Woman arrested in connection with arson of Our Lady of Guadalupe shrine in Illinois

Virginia Roque-Fermin is charged with one felony count of arson in connection with starting a fire that caused tens of thousands of dollars in damages to The Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plaines, Illinois, May 23, 2023. / Credit: Des Plaines Police Department

Boston, Mass., May 24, 2023 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

A 41-year-old woman has been arrested and charged in connection with causing more than $78,000 in damages in a Tuesday arson attack at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plaines, Illinois.

The 60-acre shrine, which receives hundreds of thousands of pilgrims each year and is meant to spread devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe, operates under the auspices of the Archdiocese of Chicago.

Virginia Roque-Fermin of Arlington Heights, Illinois, was charged with one felony count of Arson, police said.

Des Plaines police responded to the fire at 2:31 a.m. and unsuccessfully tried to extinguish the fire. The Des Plaines Fire Department was able to put out the fire after arriving.

After responding to the fire, police said they saw the woman “quickly walking away” from the fire, which was set at an outdoor chapel where devotional candles are typically lit. Police said they noticed soot on her shirt and took her into custody, according to ABC7 Chicago.

Security footage shows Roque-Fermin throwing statues, buckets, chairs, and planter pots into the fire to stoke the flames, police said. The footage, observed by CNA, shows rosaries being thrown into the fire.

On its website, the shrine says it considers itself “an extension of that mission given in Mexico in the year 1531” to St. Juan Diego.

“It’s a desecration of a very holy place,” one pilgrim, Ethel Gina Bailon, told ABC7.

“And there’s no regard anymore for a holy place,” Bailon said.

Father Esequiel Sanchez, the shrine’s rector, told CNA Wednesday that the outdoor area that was set on fire is called the Chapel of the Resurrected Christ. Pilgrims often gravitate toward this chapel and leave written petitions, candles, photographs, or locks of hair of loved ones, he said.

The chapel, which houses a large statue of Jesus, was “totally demolished” by the flames, he said.

“Thankfully, because of the security system, the police were able to capture her really quickly,” he said.

The shrine is being rebuilt and the damage cleaned up, Sanchez said. He added that the day the chapel was burned down, a funeral was planned at the shrine for a teenage boy who died in a car accident.

That funeral was held despite the damage on the property.

The shrine is a home for many different cultures of people, Sanchez said. Pilgrims come with many petitions and many bring thanks for answered prayers, he said.

He added that he was praying for Roque-Fermin.

“We don’t know the motive or why she did this, but we’re praying for her,” he said.

Catholic organization rescues three nuns trapped amid crossfire in Sudan

The Vulnerable People Project rescue three nuns trapped in the middle of the crossfire in the capital of Sudan, Khartoum, May 2023. / Credit: The Vulnerable People Project

ACI Prensa Staff, May 24, 2023 / 13:30 pm (CNA).

The Vulnerable People Project (VPP), a Catholic human rights organization, evacuated in cooperation with other institutions three nuns caught in the crossfire of the civil war in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum.

On April 29, Sister Christine alerted partners of VPP that three of her companions had been stranded in the middle of fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces. 

The VPP and associated organizations not only rescued the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus — a diocesan congregation originating in South Sudan — but they also reportedly saved some 800 people trapped in the Sudanese capital.

Jason Jones, founder and president of the U.S.-based VPP, reported May 21 that the three nuns had been safely evacuated and are currently in South Sudan.

“By the grace of God, they are now out of the country, in South Sudan, and will soon return to their mother house after receiving checkups and exams at a hospital,” Jones said in a May 23 interview with ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner.

“Almost 800 people were rescued that day, including the sisters. Unfortunately, during the extraction, a volunteer from a collaborating organization was killed by sniper fire,” he noted.

Images shared by the VPP with ACI Prensa show the nuns in good spirits and health. In addition, in a video one of the sisters, Lucy, thanked God and the organizations involved in the rescue.

“We are grateful to God and the VPP for rescuing us. We will never forget you. We will pray for you,” she said.

Jones said that the nuns were in an area where there was intense shooting and that the situation “was very terrifying” after being trapped.

“An American who often helps the sisters contacted my organization and asked if we could evacuate them, as we have been working with partners in Sudan for 20 years,” he said.

Jones immediately agreed and with his team put together an evacuation plan, considering that two of the nuns were sick. “One didn’t have her diabetes medicine, so she was very weak, and another was fighting malaria.”

“They were old, frail, and the idea of a long journey, which ultimately took 72 hours from start to finish, was terrifying. So our team came and was with them for several days trying to comfort them. We brought them food, money, [and] insulin. But then the building next door to where they were was knocked down by artillery fire, and I think this convinced them that they had to go with our team,” the VPP president recounted.

According to Jones, despite the fact that “it was a great challenge for them, the sisters were very brave and strong, because they were caught between armies accused of heinous crimes and genocide.”

“Despite their old age, their frailty, their illness, the terrifying situation, they were strong enough to be evacuated to a safe place,” he said.

Jones added that the sisters were praying the whole time.

“The sisters continually prayed for us, for the members of our team, because there are many more people to be rescued. As soon as they were evacuated, their first concern was that we wouldn’t quit,” he recounted.

The VPP leader explained that his job as a Catholic organization for the defense of human rights “is to support the most vulnerable people in the world” and “to be there at the moment of the cross.”

“When the world turns dark, then the mystical body of Christ has to be there and make it a priority. We are radically committed to caring for Catholics in Sudan, without forgetting what is happening to Catholics in Nigeria,” he said.

The conflict in Sudan

On April 11, 2019, since the Sudanese army ousted President Omar Hassan Ahmad Al-Bashir following popular protests against him — and after a 30-year rule — military leaders and their civilian counterparts have been at odds.

In a July 2019 power-sharing arrangement between Sudan’s military and civilians, the post-Al-Bashir transitional authorities were tasked with confronting a legacy of abuse and repression alongside a challenging economic crisis.

However, on Oct. 25, 2022, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who was in charge of the Sovereign Council of Sudan, the entity that shared power in the country, staged a coup announcing the dissolution of the council and the civil government, the arrest of political leaders, and the declaration of a state of emergency.

Since then, tensions have increased over the reform of the security forces and within the framework of the negotiations to form a new transitional government.

The de facto military government has been condemned by the international community, including governments and human rights groups.

On April 15, at least 56 civilians were killed and nearly 600 wounded after a clash broke out in Khartoum between the national army led by Al-Burhan and the paramilitary group called the Rapid Support Forces.

Jones charged that the media “are not paying attention to what is happening in Sudan.”

“My team has sent me videos that rival anything seen in the Rwandan genocide, of bodies strewn in the streets, of soldiers crushing the heads of hundreds of people as they lie helpless on the ground,” he concluded.

At least 550 civilians have been killed and nearly 5,000 injured since the April 15 conflict, according to recent data from Sudan’s Ministry of Health.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Bishops demand ‘exhaustive investigation’ into murder of priest in Mexico

Father Javier García Villafaña was found shot to death on May 22, 2023. / Credit: Parish of San Marcos/Facebook

ACI Prensa Staff, May 24, 2023 / 12:15 pm (CNA).

The Mexican Bishops’ Conference (CEM) expressed “consternation and pain” over the May 22 murder of Augustinian Father Javier García Villafaña and demanded “an exhaustive and transparent investigation.”

“We strongly condemn this act of violence that has not only taken a life but also threatens peace and justice in our nation,” the Mexican bishops said.

“It’s a painful reminder of the dire situation we face as a society, in which the presence of organized crime and impunity continue to threaten the lives and safety of so many,” they added.

According to the Michoacán State Attorney General’s Office, the priest’s body was found inside his car on the Cuitzeo-Huandacareo highway with gunshot wounds.

García was pastor of St. Mark Parish in the town of Capacho in the Huandacareo district, a region in the Archdiocese of Morelia.

“We urgently call on the competent authorities to carry out an exhaustive and transparent investigation that leads to the identification and punishment of those responsible. We cannot allow this and other similar acts to go unpunished,” the bishops stated.

According to the Multimedia Catholic Center, this is the ninth priest murdered during the six-year term of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, which began in December 2018.

Almost a year ago, on June 21, 2022, two Jesuit priests were murdered inside a Catholic church in the town of Cerocahui in the Sierra Tarahumara area of the state of Chihuahua.

In March of this year, José Noriel Portillo, accused of being the gunman who killed the Jesuits, was found dead by authorities.

For the CEM, “it is essential that the rule of law be restored and the safety of all citizens be guaranteed, especially those who dedicate their lives to the service of others.”

The Mexican bishops renewed their commitment “to announce the Gospel of peace and reconciliation in the midst of adversity.”

“We will continue to accompany our communities, strengthening faith and promoting justice, human dignity, and dialogue as instruments for social transformation,” they continued.

The bishops also entrusted the soul of the priest to the mercy of God and asked that “these times be a seed of a more fraternal and solidary Mexico.”

“May today encourage us to continue fighting for peace and justice, and not succumb to violence and despair,” they said.

“May Mary, our Mother and Comforter of the afflicted, intercede for us and help us build a Mexico in which respect for the life and dignity of each person reigns,” the bishops concluded.

According to an October 2022 report by México Evalúa, 96.9% of first degree murders in Mexico go unsolved.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Jesuit provincial in Bolivia admits mistakes were made in dealing with sex abuse cases

Father Bernardo Mercado, the Jesuit provincial in Bolivia. / Credit: ACI Prensa/YouTube screen shot

ACI Prensa Staff, May 24, 2023 / 11:15 am (CNA).

The Jesuit provincial in Bolivia, Father Bernardo Mercado, admitted that his religious order made mistakes in handling cases of sexual abuse committed by some members of his community in previous years and encouraged his fellow Jesuits to continue cooperating with law enforcement.

In a recent interview with EWTN News, Mercado said that in prior years the order conducted internal investigations into cases of abuse but that they were not reported to the justice system in a timely manner.

“I think it is a first procedural error that we have to recognize. ... But we didn’t know how to handle it that way,” he said.

Mercado added that the Jesuits have redoubled their efforts to care for the victims.

The priest explained that a professional team has been assigned to assist those who want to file a complaint and provide them with psychological support. In addition, legal advice is given so that the person can formalize their case with the authorities. 

Currently, “all Jesuits living or dead are subject to the public prosecutor’s office,” he noted.

According to Mercado, “there would be four cases, but about three Jesuits ... this is what we know,” although he did not specify if this includes some possible victims of Father Pedrajas, who allegedly abused at least 85 minors. 

The Jesuit superior also explained that some investigations that have “concluded and others that are in progress” have been reported to the justice system.

The Society of Jesus provincial emphasized emphatically that the abuse perpetrated by members of his congregation “is not a mistake as some would say, it’s not a fault, it’s not a sin, it’s a crime.”

Mercado said that they will have to study why they occurred, how they were allowed, and that they will seek to be more discriminating when selecting the men who enter the order.

“Because in the end, as in the case of the Spaniard Pedrajas, it’s clearly a criminal profile that took advantage of a setting in the Church, which practically put him in an advantageous situation with his victims,” the provincial noted.

Further on in the interview, Mercado encouraged the victims not to remain silent, to express the pain and suffering they experienced in order to prevent these atrocities from happening again.

The provincial pointed out that it was not the time to mention the good things that the Jesuits do but rather to give priority to the victims together with prevention so that “these painful realities never happen again, these inconceivable crimes for the human intellect.”

The Bolivian superior recognized that the Society of Jesus “is experiencing a moment of a strong downturn in its work, in its prestige, due to the incidents that have occurred.” But he thanked the brothers in his jurisdiction for the cooperation they are providing to the public prosecutor’s office so that all the facts are determined.

“The atrocities we are learning about from past generations of Jesuits are not messages of life. They are messages of death, of pain; it is the anti-Gospel. Therefore, the Society of Jesus, from its errors, from its mistakes, from its lack of transparency, has to learn and look forward,” he said.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Trial date set in June for Father James Jackson’s child pornography case

Father James Jackson, FSSP, delivers the homily at the funeral Mass for slain Boulder police officer Eric Talley on March 29, 2021, at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Denver. / Screenshot of FSSP YouTube video

Boston, Mass., May 24, 2023 / 10:45 am (CNA).

The federal child pornography case against Providence, Rhode Island, priest Father James Jackson is scheduled to begin on June 20.

The trial date marks almost two years since Jackson, a member of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP), was arrested by the Rhode Island state police at his parish, shocking many of his current and former parishioners, including some of the traditionalist community online.

The ex-pastor of St. Mary’s Church in Providence is facing federal charges of receipt of child pornography and possession of child pornography.

The penalty for receipt of child pornography could result in a maximum of 20 years’ imprisonment, with a mandatory minimum of five years, and a fine of up to $250,000. The penalty for possession of child pornography could result in imprisonment of up to 20 years and a maximum fine of $250,000.

Under the terms of his release from federal court in November 2021, Jackson was allowed to return to his home state of Kansas to live with a relative while waiting for the charges to be adjudicated.

After an additional child pornography investigation into Jackson by a local Kansas police department, Jackson’s federal probation officer issued a petition to the U.S. District Court of Rhode Island alleging that the priest broke the conditions of his pretrial release that were mandatory while he was allowed to live in Leawood, Kansas, with his sister.

U.S. Marshals arrested him and brought him back to the Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls, Rhode Island. 

In a hearing in the U.S. District Court in Providence on Oct. 3, 2022, Jackson admitted that the government could prove that he violated the condition of his pretrial release prohibiting him from “possessing any materials including videos, magazines, photographs, computer-generated depictions, or any other forms that depict sexually explicit conduct involving children,” according to James Rosenberg, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Rhode Island.

Jackson also admitted that the government could prove that he violated the condition prohibiting him from having access to more than one internet-connected device, Rosenberg said. 

In addition, Jackson admitted that the government could prove that he violated the condition requiring him to “notify his supervising probation officer of all computers or electronic data storage devices where he was residing and to report any additional acquisitions,” he added.

“Additionally, he further admitted that the government could establish probable cause that he committed a new crime, to wit, possession of child pornography, while on pretrial release,” Rosenberg said.

“To be very clear — he did NOT admit that he committed the new crime, only that the government could establish probable cause that he did,” Rosenberg wrote CNA in the Oct. 3 email.

Officer John Lacy, a spokesman for the Overland Park Police Department, told CNA on Tuesday that Jackson will be charged with a crime once the charges in Rhode Island are adjudicated. He said that an investigation is ongoing but would not elaborate on the nature of the charge.

Lacy said that the state charge would be brought by the Johnson County District Attorney’s office in Olathe, Kansas.

CNA asked the district attorney’s office what the charge awaiting Jackson is but did not immediately receive a response.

Jackson was only installed as pastor of St. Mary’s Church about three months prior to his arrest. Before that assignment, he served at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church in Littleton, Colorado.

He was arrested on Oct. 30, 2021, by the Rhode Island State Police after an investigation by a Rhode Island computer crimes task force.

The state police executed a search warrant that day at his parish and arrested Jackson after determining that he was the owner of large amounts of child sex abuse material found on an external hard drive in an office area near his bedroom, an affidavit states. 

Jackson was originally charged with both federal and state offenses, but the state charges were dropped as a procedural move in January 2022. 

UK Catholic bishops join other faith leaders to oppose assisted suicide bills


London, England, May 24, 2023 / 10:00 am (CNA).

Catholic bishops in the U.K. have joined forces with other faith leaders to oppose legislation that would introduce “assisted dying” as part of end-of-life care.

While the Catholic bishops of England and Wales have submitted written evidence to Westminster’s Health and Social Care Select Committee Inquiry into Assisted Dying, Scottish bishops issued a statement on Thursday, May 18, with other religious leaders opposing a separate bill that is due to be debated at Holyrood, Scotland.

The bill, which is being considered by Holyrood, is sponsored by Member of Scottish Parliament Liam McArthur and would introduce assisted suicide for terminally ill people if ratified by the Scottish Parliament.

The joint statement from faith leaders in Scotland warns that assisted dying “undermines the dignity of the human person, and to allow it would mean that our society as a whole loses its common humanity.”

They continue: “We grieve with those who grieve and identify with those who suffer. We acknowledge the sincerely held motivation of those seeking change but do not believe that this is the correct approach to the alleviation of suffering. There is a very real danger that once legalized, these practices could put pressure on vulnerable individuals to opt for assisted suicide.

“The ways in which similar laws in other countries are being applied, and the effect that its introduction would have on some of the most vulnerable in our society, including the disabled and the elderly, would be extremely detrimental. We are called to care for those who are suffering, not to end their lives.

“The Church of Scotland, the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland, and the Scottish Association of Mosques remain firm in their opposition to assisted suicide and euthanasia.

“We would call upon members of the Scottish Parliament to consider carefully the implications of this bill, to express their concerns, and to vote against it.”

Meanwhile, parliamentarians in Westminster are currently hearing evidence regarding the law on assisted suicide in England and Wales, which currently states that anyone culpable of assisting with suicide can face imprisonment for up to 14 years. 

On behalf of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, as spokesperson for Life Issues Bishop John Sherrington submitted written evidence in January to the committee, warning that “the evidence from other jurisdictions shows there can be no safe or limited assisted suicide law,” drawing on examples from Oregon and Canada. The full text of his evidence was finally released on Thursday, May 18. 

In the executive summary, Sherrington warns: “Prescribing lethal medication for individuals suffering from suicidal ideation would be a grave betrayal of the public health duty to save life … The experience of other jurisdictions illustrates the slippery slope of assisted suicide legislation from hard cases to more comprehensive provision.

“Oregon, often referenced as a model template for mild assisted suicide legislation, now allows assisted suicide for nonterminal conditions including anorexia, arthritis, and kidney failure.

“Canada, legally and culturally very similar to England and Wales, now offers assisted suicide when death is not ‘reasonably foreseeable.’ Belgium has expanded their provision of assisted suicide to include children. Any legalization of assisted suicide for terminal illnesses in England and Wales would likely be challenged in court on discrimination grounds and extended to allow for cases of nonterminal illnesses and euthanasia in cases of difficulties in self-administering lethal medication.”

He concludes, on behalf of all the Bishops of England and Wales: “We reiterate the Catholic Church’s commitment to protecting and valuing life at all stages, no matter how physically or psychologically limited, and our opposition to assisted suicide as an attack on the inherent dignity of human life.”

It is expected that the final report published by the Health and Social Committee will be used by pro-euthanasia campaigners to apply further pressure to legalize assisted suicide and/or euthanasia in England and Wales.

The law on assisted suicide is devolved throughout the U.K. with Westminster, Holyrood, and the parliaments of Jersey, Guernsey, and the Isle of Man, all in the process of considering the issue separately.

Vatican auditor to continue to function during sede vacante, Pope Francis rules 

Pope Francis at the Wednesday general audience in St. Peter's Square on May 24, 2023. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Vatican City, May 24, 2023 / 09:25 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has established that the auditor general of the Holy See will continue to carry out its tasks during a sede vacante.

A sede vacante is the period between the death or resignation of a pope and the election of his successor. According to Holy See law, during a sede vacante, “all heads of curial institutions and members cease from their office,” though secretaries “attend to the ordinary governance of curial institutions, taking care of ordinary business only.”

Francis ruled that the Office of the Auditor General, which does not have a secretary, may also continue its “ordinary administration” in the case of a vacant papal see.

The auditor general is responsible for auditing the financial statements of the Holy See and the Vatican City State.

It was also responsible for precipitating the investigation into the Secretariat of State’s controversial investment in a London building — a purchase now at the heart of a major Vatican finance trial.

The IOR, commonly called the Vatican bank, first agreed to give a loan to the Secretariat of State for the mortgage on the London property. But the IOR suddenly changed course and made a report to the auditor general, who investigated.

The pronouncement was part of a May 24 rescript on the tasks of the Office of the Auditor General signed by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, secretary of state. The rescript was issued following an April 24 meeting between Parolin and Pope Francis.

The pope said in light of the provisions of the Church’s apostolic constitution Praedicate Evangelium, “the ordinary administration, in case of a vacant Apostolic See, would not be interrupted and that the function of control would continue to be exercised by the Office of the Auditor General under the supervision of the Cardinal Camerlengo.”

The camerlengo is responsible for overseeing the preparations for a papal conclave and managing the administration of the Holy See during the sede vacante.

Pope Francis has also decided to change part of an article in the statutes of the Office of Auditor General.

According to the rescript, after analyzing suspicious activity reports, the auditor general will no longer present them to a special commission of the councilor for general affairs of the Secretariat of State, the secretary prelate of the Council for the Economy, and the secretary of the Secretariat for the Economy. 

Instead, using the wording of Praedicate Evangelium in paragraph 2 of article 224, the auditor will present a report of the suspicious activity notifications to the prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, and if he deems it necessary, to the cardinal coordinator of the Council for the Economy.

This change means the Secretariat of State does not receive a report from the auditor on the suspicious activity notifications the office has received.

Suspicious activity reports that have been substantiated should continue to be transmitted to the proper judicial authorities, the rescript added.

The pope’s rescript on the function of the Office of Auditor General comes as a former Holy See auditor and his deputy sue the Secretariat of State for wrongful dismissal.

Libero Milone and Ferruccio Panicco filed the multimillion-dollar lawsuit in November 2022; after several roadblocks, the case has had court dates this year.

The two are seeking compensation for loss of earnings, damage to their reputations, and emotional suffering, which they claim they bore after being forced from their jobs in 2017.

Milone said soon after stepping down in the middle of his five-year mandate that he was “threatened” into resignation by an “old guard” opposed to his work.

Cardinal Angelo Becciu, then second-in-command at the Secretariat of State, has been said to be responsible for the firing of Milone.

Becciu told Reuters in 2017 that Milone “went against all the rules and was spying on the private lives of his superiors and staff, including me.” 

The cardinal has pointed to Pope Francis, claiming the pope told him he no longer had trust in Milone and wanted Becciu to tell the auditor he should resign. 

Auxiliary Bishop Michael Fitzgerald retires after 4 decades serving Archdiocese of Philadelphia

Bishop Michael Fitzgerald on the day of his consecration as a bishop on Aug. 6, 2010. / Archdiocese of Philadelphia YouTube screenshot

Rome Newsroom, May 24, 2023 / 05:45 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Philadelphia’s Bishop Michael Fitzgerald one day after the auxiliary bishop’s 75th birthday.

With degrees in both civil and canon law, Fitzgerald served as the judicial vicar and the founding director of the archdiocesan Office for Legal Services. Over the past decade, he has worked to promote and maintain safe environments for children and youth in the archdiocese.

Archbishop Nelson Pérez of Philadelphia expressed gratitude for Fitzgerald’s four decades of ministry.

“Throughout the years, Bishop Fitzgerald generously sowed seeds of deep love for the Lord with the zealous heart of a missionary disciple. With great faith, fidelity, charity, and humility Bishop Fitzgerald has worked tirelessly for the good of souls and to build up the Kingdom of God in our region,” Pérez said.

Fitzgerald grew up in Philadelphia as one of nine children and attended the city’s Catholic schools. He earned a law degree from Villanova University and completed a Pennsylvania state court clerkship before entering seminary. He was ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia on May 17, 1980.

After fulfilling his appointments as the defender of the bond and pro-synodal judge, Fitzgerald received a doctorate in canon law from the Gregorian University in Rome in 1991.

Benedict XVI appointed Fitzgerald an auxiliary bishop of Philadelphia in 2010. When he was consecrated as bishop, Fitzgerald chose the motto “Per Crucem ad Lucem,” meaning “through the Cross to the Light.”

Fitzgerald was one of five auxiliary bishops in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and assisted Cardinal Justin Rigali, Archbishop Charles Chaput, and Archbishop Pérez with their pastoral and administrative duties.

A statement from the archdiocese said that Fitzgerald will continue to serve Philadelphia in a pastoral capacity after his retirement.

“It has been a great joy for me to work with him closely for many years and I am grateful for the wise counsel he has provided during my time as archbishop,” Perez said.