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Feminists, Catholics both find reasons to oppose NY paid surrogacy bill

Albany, N.Y., Jun 13, 2019 / 10:43 am (CNA).- In a seemingly unlikely alliance, Catholics and secular feminists in New York are opposing a bill that would legalize commercial surrogacy in the state.

The bill passed the state Senate and has the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo, who proposed the measure. But it is stalled in Assembly due to strong opposition, notably from female legislators, the New York Times reported. The state’s legislative session will conclude in just one week.

If passed, the law would allow New Yorkers to pay a woman to carry to term a child conceived through in-vitro fertilization, also known as gestational surrogacy. It would not allow a surrogate mother to use her own eggs, and therefore be related biologically to the child, which is known as traditional surrogacy.

While the bill was presented as “an unequivocal progressive ideal, a remedy to a ban that burdens gay and infertile couples and stigmatizes women who cannot have children on their own,” it has run up against strong opposition from unexpected people, including feminists, female legislators, and other supporters of women’s rights, the New York Times stated.

Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, who is openly gay, is one of the legislators who expressed strong opposition to legalized commercial surrogacy, which she called “pregnancy for a fee.”

“I find that commodification of women troubling,” she told the New York Times.

Dennis Poust, the director of communications for the New York State Catholic Conference, told CNA in email comments that opposition to this bill is a situation in which secular feminists and Catholics agree.

“Like those groups, we stand up against the exploitation and dehumanization of women,” Poust said. “This bill treats women almost like livestock at the service of men.”

Poust said the bill was comparable to one that seeks to legalize prostitution, in that both measures, if passed, would lead to the exploitation of poor women, largely for the benefit of wealthy men.

“The one commodifies babies, the other sex, and always the victims are poor women,” he said.

“In commercial surrogacy, women’s human dignity is surrendered and they are reduced to objects desirable only for their body parts, whether that be the rental of their wombs or the mining of their eggs in risky, invasive medical procedures. The beneficiaries are nearly always wealthy and often male, while the exploited are always poor women,” he added.

Commercial surrogacy in New York has been banned since 1986, and surrogacy laws vary widely in other states. Besides New York, only three other states explicitly ban all surrogacy contracts - Nebraska, Michigan, and Arizona. Many other states have restrictions on surrogacy agreements, and treat the surrogacy process similarly to adoption, requiring court appearances, home studies, and a window for the birth mother to change her mind after the baby is born.

Abroad, the push to end legalized surrogacy has been strong in recent years, with many countries in western Europe banning the practice. India, once the capital of “fertility tourism,” passed a bill banning surrogacy last year, amid increasing concern and outcry over the exploitation of poor women who were being used for paid surrogacy, sometimes multiple times over, and usually by foreigners.

The New York bill also faces opposition from prominent feminist speaker, author, and activist Gloria Steinem, who expressed concern in an open letter about the state legislating a “profit-driven reproductive surrogacy industry.”

"Under this bill, women in economic need become commercialized vessels for rent, and the fetuses they carry become the property of others," Steinem wrote in a letter shared on Twitter by New York 1 reporter Zack Fink.

“The bill ignores the socio-economic and racial inequalities of the reproductive commercial surrogacy industry, and puts disenfranchised women at the financial and emotional mercy of wealthier and more privileged individuals,” she continued.

Steinem noted that surrogate mothers are often college-age women who are victims “of an educational system that does not provide free or affordable college education.”

She added that these women are often given fertility drugs without being warned of the possible side effects, and that they face other medical and psychological injuries from the procedure, “including an inability to bear other children and even death.”

She also slammed the bill for failing to provide measures properly to vet intended parents, unlike adoptive parents, who are thoroughly vetted.

Poust told CNA that while the Catholic Conference has strongly opposed the legalization of surrogacy, he worried that the bill still may pass, as Cuomo has made it an “end of session priority.”

Poust said he hopes the added opposition of otherwise progressive feminists will hold even more sway with state lawmakers considering the bill.

Feminists, Catholics both find reasons to oppose NY paid surrogacy bill

Albany, N.Y., Jun 13, 2019 / 10:43 am (CNA).- In a seemingly unlikely alliance, Catholics and secular feminists in New York are opposing a bill that would legalize commercial surrogacy in the state.

The bill passed the state Senate and has the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo, who proposed the measure. But it is stalled in Assembly due to strong opposition, notably from female legislators, the New York Times reported. The state’s legislative session will conclude in just one week.

If passed, the law would allow New Yorkers to pay a woman to carry to term a child conceived through in-vitro fertilization, also known as gestational surrogacy. It would not allow a surrogate mother to use her own eggs, and therefore be related biologically to the child, which is known as traditional surrogacy.

While the bill was presented as “an unequivocal progressive ideal, a remedy to a ban that burdens gay and infertile couples and stigmatizes women who cannot have children on their own,” it has run up against strong opposition from unexpected people, including feminists, female legislators, and other supporters of women’s rights, the New York Times stated.

Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, who is openly gay, is one of the legislators who expressed strong opposition to legalized commercial surrogacy, which she called “pregnancy for a fee.”

“I find that commodification of women troubling,” she told the New York Times.

Dennis Poust, the director of communications for the New York State Catholic Conference, told CNA in email comments that opposition to this bill is a situation in which secular feminists and Catholics agree.

“Like those groups, we stand up against the exploitation and dehumanization of women,” Poust said. “This bill treats women almost like livestock at the service of men.”

Poust said the bill was comparable to one that seeks to legalize prostitution, in that both measures, if passed, would lead to the exploitation of poor women, largely for the benefit of wealthy men.

“The one commodifies babies, the other sex, and always the victims are poor women,” he said.

“In commercial surrogacy, women’s human dignity is surrendered and they are reduced to objects desirable only for their body parts, whether that be the rental of their wombs or the mining of their eggs in risky, invasive medical procedures. The beneficiaries are nearly always wealthy and often male, while the exploited are always poor women,” he added.

Commercial surrogacy in New York has been banned since 1986, and surrogacy laws vary widely in other states. Besides New York, only three other states explicitly ban all surrogacy contracts - Nebraska, Michigan, and Arizona. Many other states have restrictions on surrogacy agreements, and treat the surrogacy process similarly to adoption, requiring court appearances, home studies, and a window for the birth mother to change her mind after the baby is born.

Abroad, the push to end legalized surrogacy has been strong in recent years, with many countries in western Europe banning the practice. India, once the capital of “fertility tourism,” passed a bill banning surrogacy last year, amid increasing concern and outcry over the exploitation of poor women who were being used for paid surrogacy, sometimes multiple times over, and usually by foreigners.

The New York bill also faces opposition from prominent feminist speaker, author, and activist Gloria Steinem, who expressed concern in an open letter about the state legislating a “profit-driven reproductive surrogacy industry.”

"Under this bill, women in economic need become commercialized vessels for rent, and the fetuses they carry become the property of others," Steinem wrote in a letter shared on Twitter by New York 1 reporter Zack Fink.

“The bill ignores the socio-economic and racial inequalities of the reproductive commercial surrogacy industry, and puts disenfranchised women at the financial and emotional mercy of wealthier and more privileged individuals,” she continued.

Steinem noted that surrogate mothers are often college-age women who are victims “of an educational system that does not provide free or affordable college education.”

She added that these women are often given fertility drugs without being warned of the possible side effects, and that they face other medical and psychological injuries from the procedure, “including an inability to bear other children and even death.”

She also slammed the bill for failing to provide measures properly to vet intended parents, unlike adoptive parents, who are thoroughly vetted.

Poust told CNA that while the Catholic Conference has strongly opposed the legalization of surrogacy, he worried that the bill still may pass, as Cuomo has made it an “end of session priority.”

Poust said he hopes the added opposition of otherwise progressive feminists will hold even more sway with state lawmakers considering the bill.

USCCB passes three measures in response to abuse crisis

Baltimore, Md., Jun 13, 2019 / 10:15 am (CNA).- The U.S. bishops’ conference voted Thursday to approve proposals intended to respond to recent scandals involving sexual abuse, coercion, and cover-up on the part of bishops, most notably former cardinal Theodore McCarrick and the disgraced Bishop Michael Bransfield.

The bishops, gathered in Baltimore for their spring General Assembly, voted overwhelmingly in favor of three measures aimed at building processes to address episcopal misconduct or neglect, and the ongoing crisis of credibility widely perceived to overshadow ongoing work to eliminate sexual abuse from the Church.

The assembly approved protocol explaining the powers of a diocesan bishop to curtail the public ministry of a retired bishop in his former diocese by a margin of 212-4.

They also approved a set of directives applying in the U.S. the new universal norms for investigating allegations against bishops promulgated by Pope Francis in Vos estis lux mundi.  After initial discussion earlier this week, they were presented to bishops June 13 with an explicit exhortation for metropolitan bishops to appoint “on a stable basis, even by means of an ecclesiastical office, a qualified lay person” to receive allegations against bishops and work with the metropolitan in any subsequent investigation.

The directives were approved by 218-1.

The bishops also approved a joint statement, “Affirming Our Episcopal Commitments,” establishing a non-binding moral commitment by bishops to hold themselves to the same standards and measures as are currently applied to their priests and deacons. That document passed by a similarly wide margin of 217-1.

The consensus in favor of the measures was unsurprising. After the bishops were prevented by Rome from adopting similar proposals in November, the majority of bishops returned to Baltimore ready to vote.

The widespread agreement in favor of the three documents was reflected in the much-abbreviated discussion which preceded each vote. With relatively little debate, the bishops finished their morning session more than an hour ahead of schedule, even after adding business they’d intended to address in the afternoon.

As in the previous discussions on Tuesday, several bishops raised the need for clearly established lay involvement in the process of handling complaints against bishops. Changes to the text of the implementation directives for Vos estis were highlighted as a response to those concerns, something Cardinal Joseph Tobin noted was a “clear expectation” of Vos estis itself.

Bishop Shawn McKnight of Jefferson City said that mandatory lay involvement is essential “to make darn sure we bishops do not harm the Church” in the ways seen in recent cases.

Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler was the only bishop to raise directly the issue of Theodore McCarrick during the session, insisting that “a full reckoning” still needed to be made for the former cardinal’s career but that he had “been assured that the Holy See is working on that.”

On the specific point of whether lay people should be assigned formal, canonically governed “ecclesiastical offices” in order to assist metropolitans, Archbishop Bernard Hebda noted that the drafting committee thought it better to leave that as an option. In some places, he noted, metropolitans might find it best to include a non-Catholic (ineligible for formal ecclesiastical office) in the process if their expertise “offered the greatest possibilities for accountability.”

Several bishops, most insistently Bishop Jaime Soto, raised the prospect of an independent auditing process to track and assess the U.S. implementation of Vos estis over the three-year trial period.

Bishop Robert Deeley explained to the conference that the independent third-party reporting mechanism, approved by the bishops on Wednesday, was itself a form of a self-auditing system with every complaint being tracked, though there were limits to how much the bishops could assess the effectiveness of what was a papal law.

“I think the committee agrees with you that an [assessment] process will have to be done,” Deeley said, but it was not for the U.S. bishops to decide how to evaluate the essential role of the Holy See in the process and implementation of its own norms.

Related to Rome’s role in the process of handling an allegation, several bishops noted that Vos estis provided for a response from Rome “within 30 days,” something Bishop Mark O’Connell, an auxiliary bishop of Boston, called an “intolerable" amount of time for a reporting Metropolitan to be unable to advance the case.

Deeley responded by noting that Rome had committed itself to responding “within not after” 30 days, and that the experience of many bishops was that when circumstances required it, the different Roman dicasteries were respond considerably faster. The longer time period was a reflection of the universal application of Vos estis, which would have to accommodate regions where communication could be more fractured and difficult.

Deeley noted that there had been four investigations into U.S. bishops conducted by metropolitans in recent months, including McCarrick and Bransfield, and that the successful way in which they had been concluded was a sign of the effectiveness of the new model. “That gives me confidence,” Deeley told the bishops.

Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles told the bishops that “the Holy See is aware of the urgency of this matter,” and commended the passage of the directives to the conference.

After the passage of the abuse-related measures and the conclusion of some other conference matters, the bishops concluded the public portion of their meeting and convened an executive session.

USCCB passes three measures in response to abuse crisis

Baltimore, Md., Jun 13, 2019 / 10:15 am (CNA).- The U.S. bishops’ conference voted Thursday to approve proposals intended to respond to recent scandals involving sexual abuse, coercion, and cover-up on the part of bishops, most notably former cardinal Theodore McCarrick and the disgraced Bishop Michael Bransfield.

The bishops, gathered in Baltimore for their spring General Assembly, voted overwhelmingly in favor of three measures aimed at building processes to address episcopal misconduct or neglect, and the ongoing crisis of credibility widely perceived to overshadow ongoing work to eliminate sexual abuse from the Church.

The assembly approved protocol explaining the powers of a diocesan bishop to curtail the public ministry of a retired bishop in his former diocese by a margin of 212-4.

They also approved a set of directives applying in the U.S. the new universal norms for investigating allegations against bishops promulgated by Pope Francis in Vos estis lux mundi.  After initial discussion earlier this week, they were presented to bishops June 13 with an explicit exhortation for metropolitan bishops to appoint “on a stable basis, even by means of an ecclesiastical office, a qualified lay person” to receive allegations against bishops and work with the metropolitan in any subsequent investigation.

The directives were approved by 218-1.

The bishops also approved a joint statement, “Affirming Our Episcopal Commitments,” establishing a non-binding moral commitment by bishops to hold themselves to the same standards and measures as are currently applied to their priests and deacons. That document passed by a similarly wide margin of 217-1.

The consensus in favor of the measures was unsurprising. After the bishops were prevented by Rome from adopting similar proposals in November, the majority of bishops returned to Baltimore ready to vote.

The widespread agreement in favor of the three documents was reflected in the much-abbreviated discussion which preceded each vote. With relatively little debate, the bishops finished their morning session more than an hour ahead of schedule, even after adding business they’d intended to address in the afternoon.

As in the previous discussions on Tuesday, several bishops raised the need for clearly established lay involvement in the process of handling complaints against bishops. Changes to the text of the implementation directives for Vos estis were highlighted as a response to those concerns, something Cardinal Joseph Tobin noted was a “clear expectation” of Vos estis itself.

Bishop Shawn McKnight of Jefferson City said that mandatory lay involvement is essential “to make darn sure we bishops do not harm the Church” in the ways seen in recent cases.

Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler was the only bishop to raise directly the issue of Theodore McCarrick during the session, insisting that “a full reckoning” still needed to be made for the former cardinal’s career but that he had “been assured that the Holy See is working on that.”

On the specific point of whether lay people should be assigned formal, canonically governed “ecclesiastical offices” in order to assist metropolitans, Archbishop Bernard Hebda noted that the drafting committee thought it better to leave that as an option. In some places, he noted, metropolitans might find it best to include a non-Catholic (ineligible for formal ecclesiastical office) in the process if their expertise “offered the greatest possibilities for accountability.”

Several bishops, most insistently Bishop Jaime Soto, raised the prospect of an independent auditing process to track and assess the U.S. implementation of Vos estis over the three-year trial period.

Bishop Robert Deeley explained to the conference that the independent third-party reporting mechanism, approved by the bishops on Wednesday, was itself a form of a self-auditing system with every complaint being tracked, though there were limits to how much the bishops could assess the effectiveness of what was a papal law.

“I think the committee agrees with you that an [assessment] process will have to be done,” Deeley said, but it was not for the U.S. bishops to decide how to evaluate the essential role of the Holy See in the process and implementation of its own norms.

Related to Rome’s role in the process of handling an allegation, several bishops noted that Vos estis provided for a response from Rome “within 30 days,” something Bishop Mark O’Connell, an auxiliary bishop of Boston, called an “intolerable" amount of time for a reporting Metropolitan to be unable to advance the case.

Deeley responded by noting that Rome had committed itself to responding “within not after” 30 days, and that the experience of many bishops was that when circumstances required it, the different Roman dicasteries were respond considerably faster. The longer time period was a reflection of the universal application of Vos estis, which would have to accommodate regions where communication could be more fractured and difficult.

Deeley noted that there had been four investigations into U.S. bishops conducted by metropolitans in recent months, including McCarrick and Bransfield, and that the successful way in which they had been concluded was a sign of the effectiveness of the new model. “That gives me confidence,” Deeley told the bishops.

Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles told the bishops that “the Holy See is aware of the urgency of this matter,” and commended the passage of the directives to the conference.

After the passage of the abuse-related measures and the conclusion of some other conference matters, the bishops concluded the public portion of their meeting and convened an executive session.

Analysis: As USCCB meeting continues, what are lay Catholics looking for?

Baltimore, Md., Jun 13, 2019 / 07:12 am (CNA).- Nearly all U.S. bishops know by now that U.S. Catholics are experiencing crises of faith and confidence at a scale that far exceeds even the Church’s sexual abuse scandal in 2002. They were presented with data this week noting that the rate of Catholics defecting from the practice of the faith has risen dramatically in recent years, and they are reminded in their own dioceses that practicing Catholics, priests among them, are deeply discouraged of the last year, and struggling to trust.

But there is a disconnect between the work that bishops are doing this week in Baltimore to respond to those problems and the way that work is perceived by even faithful and engaged Catholics.

The mission of bishops is the salvation of souls. Their call is to proclaim the Gospel, to teach the faith, to celebrate the sacramental mysteries of grace, and to lead and coordinate the apostolic and evangelical work of priests, deacons, religious, and laity. Their ability to do those things convincingly and compellingly is hampered by the scandals of the last year.

But so is the ability of millions of other Catholics to do the work to which God has called them. Within the Church, the scandals have tainted the credibility of the bishops. Beyond the walls of the Church, the scandals have tainted the credibility of every Catholic who tries to explain, proclaim, or live the Gospel.

It is not the case that Catholic laity are the de facto moral superiors of their bishops. It is not the case that Catholic laity give consistent witness to the Gospel. It is not the case that laity are less likely to be motivated by the concerns of this world, less likely to engage in sexual immorality, less likely to live as they ought not.

But it is the case that bishops are uniquely public Catholic figures, and that the integrity of their actions is - fairly or unfairly- uniquely taken as a measure of the Gospel’s integrity.

None of that is new. What is new is the scope of their visibility in the social media era, and the degree to which the misconduct of some, and the broken ecclesial culture that fosters it, is manifestly clear to those who look toward it.

The problems occasioned by those realities are complex. Bishops this week, at the U.S. bishops’ conference meeting in Baltimore, are engaging in discussion about the nitty-gritty technical aspects of some of those problems. They are debating, or attempting to debate, the finer points of third-party reporting systems and investigative review processes.

Those debates, some observers have noted, are important, but they are also painful. They are wonky, bureaucratic, and themselves not untainted by the marks of ambition, petty politics, and some degree of impatience. But they are nonetheless important.

The bishops seem keen to reflect in these debates their contrition for the sins of their brothers, their apparent desire to be seen involving lay people in their processes, and to convey the urgency of their mandate. In the words of one observer, some of that rhetoric has a Clinton-esque quality, offered by bishops who want Catholics to know “We feel your pain.”

But despite episcopal efforts, many of which are sincere, conference staffers, along with lay and priest observers at the meeting, tell CNA consistently that, in their estimation, many bishops “still don’t get it.”

While the buzzwords among the bishops in the meeting are “transparency” and “lay involvement,” the buzzing among their closest lay and priestly collaborators is whether the bishops understand, as one staffer asked CNA, “just how bad things are.” What is it they are perceived not to understand?

In the first place, CNA is told, bishops seem not to understand how much Catholics would like questions about McCarrick to be answered, forthrightly, directly, and comprehensively, and by those in official positions of power, not by priests leaking their accounts of old emails and letters.

In the second place, priests and laity say they would like to hear bishops recognize directly the scandal of the Bransfield report, and of the subsequent revelation that despite promises of transparency, and perhaps even in good faith, the names of bishops who were given large gifts from Bransfield were omitted from the report filed with Congregation for Bishops.

While Lori himself has expressed contrition for the omission, Catholics are looking for a direct response to the ensuing scandal, and a commitment to be open about their own financial entanglements with bishops of dubious moral reputation. In fact, Catholic observers tell CNA on the whole that bishops will be forthcoming about other potential financial scandals before they are spread across the pages of America’s leading newspapers, rather than after.

But most especially, Catholics tell CNA, that what they hope bishops will “get” is just how difficult all this scandal has been. They are looking, they say, for genuine expressions of the bishops’ own pain, rather than the sense that the crisis is being managed. They are looking for bishops who are turning to the Lord for answers in humility.

Above all else, Catholics tell CNA, they are looking for leadership: for bishops who decry sexual immorality, privilege, careerism, and indifference among their brethren without ambiguity. They are looking for bishops who will be among them in their pain. They are looking for those who will insist upon the truth, no matter the cost. They are looking for leadership that begins and ends in the mysteries of the Eucharist.

They are not looking for politicians or crisis managers. They are looking, they say, for priests, prophets, and kings.

That is what they hope their bishops will understand. Whether they will find those things in Baltimore remains to be seen.  

 

Analysis: As USCCB meeting continues, what are lay Catholics looking for?

Baltimore, Md., Jun 13, 2019 / 07:12 am (CNA).- Nearly all U.S. bishops know by now that U.S. Catholics are experiencing crises of faith and confidence at a scale that far exceeds even the Church’s sexual abuse scandal in 2002. They were presented with data this week noting that the rate of Catholics defecting from the practice of the faith has risen dramatically in recent years, and they are reminded in their own dioceses that practicing Catholics, priests among them, are deeply discouraged of the last year, and struggling to trust.

But there is a disconnect between the work that bishops are doing this week in Baltimore to respond to those problems and the way that work is perceived by even faithful and engaged Catholics.

The mission of bishops is the salvation of souls. Their call is to proclaim the Gospel, to teach the faith, to celebrate the sacramental mysteries of grace, and to lead and coordinate the apostolic and evangelical work of priests, deacons, religious, and laity. Their ability to do those things convincingly and compellingly is hampered by the scandals of the last year.

But so is the ability of millions of other Catholics to do the work to which God has called them. Within the Church, the scandals have tainted the credibility of the bishops. Beyond the walls of the Church, the scandals have tainted the credibility of every Catholic who tries to explain, proclaim, or live the Gospel.

It is not the case that Catholic laity are the de facto moral superiors of their bishops. It is not the case that Catholic laity give consistent witness to the Gospel. It is not the case that laity are less likely to be motivated by the concerns of this world, less likely to engage in sexual immorality, less likely to live as they ought not.

But it is the case that bishops are uniquely public Catholic figures, and that the integrity of their actions is - fairly or unfairly- uniquely taken as a measure of the Gospel’s integrity.

None of that is new. What is new is the scope of their visibility in the social media era, and the degree to which the misconduct of some, and the broken ecclesial culture that fosters it, is manifestly clear to those who look toward it.

The problems occasioned by those realities are complex. Bishops this week, at the U.S. bishops’ conference meeting in Baltimore, are engaging in discussion about the nitty-gritty technical aspects of some of those problems. They are debating, or attempting to debate, the finer points of third-party reporting systems and investigative review processes.

Those debates, some observers have noted, are important, but they are also painful. They are wonky, bureaucratic, and themselves not untainted by the marks of ambition, petty politics, and some degree of impatience. But they are nonetheless important.

The bishops seem keen to reflect in these debates their contrition for the sins of their brothers, their apparent desire to be seen involving lay people in their processes, and to convey the urgency of their mandate. In the words of one observer, some of that rhetoric has a Clinton-esque quality, offered by bishops who want Catholics to know “We feel your pain.”

But despite episcopal efforts, many of which are sincere, conference staffers, along with lay and priest observers at the meeting, tell CNA consistently that, in their estimation, many bishops “still don’t get it.”

While the buzzwords among the bishops in the meeting are “transparency” and “lay involvement,” the buzzing among their closest lay and priestly collaborators is whether the bishops understand, as one staffer asked CNA, “just how bad things are.” What is it they are perceived not to understand?

In the first place, CNA is told, bishops seem not to understand how much Catholics would like questions about McCarrick to be answered, forthrightly, directly, and comprehensively, and by those in official positions of power, not by priests leaking their accounts of old emails and letters.

In the second place, priests and laity say they would like to hear bishops recognize directly the scandal of the Bransfield report, and of the subsequent revelation that despite promises of transparency, and perhaps even in good faith, the names of bishops who were given large gifts from Bransfield were omitted from the report filed with Congregation for Bishops.

While Lori himself has expressed contrition for the omission, Catholics are looking for a direct response to the ensuing scandal, and a commitment to be open about their own financial entanglements with bishops of dubious moral reputation. In fact, Catholic observers tell CNA on the whole that bishops will be forthcoming about other potential financial scandals before they are spread across the pages of America’s leading newspapers, rather than after.

But most especially, Catholics tell CNA, that what they hope bishops will “get” is just how difficult all this scandal has been. They are looking, they say, for genuine expressions of the bishops’ own pain, rather than the sense that the crisis is being managed. They are looking for bishops who are turning to the Lord for answers in humility.

Above all else, Catholics tell CNA, they are looking for leadership: for bishops who decry sexual immorality, privilege, careerism, and indifference among their brethren without ambiguity. They are looking for bishops who will be among them in their pain. They are looking for those who will insist upon the truth, no matter the cost. They are looking for leadership that begins and ends in the mysteries of the Eucharist.

They are not looking for politicians or crisis managers. They are looking, they say, for priests, prophets, and kings.

That is what they hope their bishops will understand. Whether they will find those things in Baltimore remains to be seen.  

 

U.S. Bishops Vote in Favor of Three Additional Bishop Accountability Measures During Baltimore General Assembly

BALTIMORE— Today, U.S. Catholic Bishops have approved three additional measures to address abuse and bishop accountability during their annual Spring General Assembly in Baltimore. The measures expand upon the Pope Francis’s Motu proprio and the U.S. Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.

The reforms are designed to hold bishops accountable for instances of sexual misconduct against minors and vulnerable adults.

The first vote, Protocol Regarding Available Non-Penal Restrictions on Bishops, passed by 212 to 4 with 1 abstention. This form of accountability provides protocols for imposing limitations on former bishops who were removed from office for grave reasons. It also empowers the USCCB president to restrict bishops removed or resigned for reasons related to sexual abuse or abuse of power.

A second vote, Acknowledging Our Episcopal Commitments passed by 217 to 1 with 2 abstentions. This accountability measure implements a bishop code of conduct, including the affirmation that the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People is expanded to include bishops as well as priests and deacons.

The third vote, Directives for the Implementation of the Provisions of Vos estis lux mundi Concerning Bishops and their Equivalents, presents a plan for optimal implementation of Pope Francis’s recent Motu proprio in the United States, including an outline for lay involvement. It passed by 218 to 1 with 2 abstentions.  

Yesterday, the body of bishops passed another bishop accountability reform, voting for the establishment of a Third-Party Reporting System for receiving confidentially, by phone and online, reports of possible violations by bishops of Vos estis lux mundi. The action item commits to activating the system no later than May 31, 2020.

To view the full action item documents pertaining to bishop accountability voted on yesterday and today, please visit: www.usccb.org/meetings
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Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, General Assembly, Motu proprio, Vos estis lux mundi, Protocol, Acknowledging Our Episcopal Commitments, Provisions Concerning Bishops and their Equivalents, Directives, Third-Party Reporting System, abuse crisis, bishop accountability, votes

###

Media Contact:
Judy Keane
202-541-3200

 

Chartres Pentecost pilgrimage draws 14,000

Chartres, France, Jun 13, 2019 / 03:01 am (CNA).- More than 14,000 Catholics walked 62 miles from Paris to Chartres Cathedral in three days in an annual Pentecost pilgrimage of prayer and penance.

Pilgrims from across the globe trekked through the French countryside June 8-10 praying the rosary, singing, and talking together, stopping only for Mass and to camp for the night.

“Each year it is a great moment because we can leave our work, leave Paris, leave everything to concentrate on our faith and prayer. I think it is the spiritual summit of our year," 31-year-old Parisian Raphaëlle de Feydeau told CNA.

Feydeau has walked the Chartres pilgrimage together with her family over Pentecost weekend annually for the past thirty years. Her mother carried her along the way when she was an infant.

"When we walk sometimes we are in silence, sometimes we sing, we pray, and we have time to speak to each other,” Raphaelle’s mother, Sybil Feydeau, added. "It is a good place to meet Christ, and to look at one's life and decide what I could do better ... What does God want me to do with my life?"

The tradition of walking from Notre Dame to Chartres Cathedral dates back to the 12th century as a stage in the route of the Camino de Santiago. Chartres Cathedral, built between 1194 and 1220, has been an important pilgrimage destination throughout French history due to its relic of the Virgin Mary’s veil and its blue rose window depicting Mary holding Christ.

Today the Pentecost Chartres pilgrimage is the largest of its kind in Western Europe, in both number of participants and distance covered.

The pilgrimage’s opening Mass, traditionally held in Notre-Dame de Paris, was moved this year to Paris’ second largest church, San Sulpice, due to the damage caused by a fire that destroyed Notre-Dame’s spire and timber roof in April.

The pilgrimage is divided into four age groups with varying difficulty and pace, including a “family group” in which parents with children 6 and under camp and walk a portion of the route together.

Many of the pilgrimage participants were part of youth groups or Catholic scouting troops, who walked together carrying flags representing their country or region, crosses, and banners with the image of their chosen patron saint.

A 16 year-old from Ireland carried the Irish flag with babies’ feet painted on it to represent her prayer intention for the unborn after abortion was legalized in her country. An engaged couple from Portugal walked the pilgrimage together to consecrate their state of life to Mary. A delegation from New Zealand carried the banner of a French saint, Peter Chanel, who was martyred as a missionary in Oceania.

Catholics from Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and other Middle Eastern countries walked the pilgrimage with a group representing the French organization SOS Chrétiens d'Orient. The humanitarian group also organized two coinciding pilgrimages for Catholics in Iraq and Syria over Pentecost weekend in solidarity with the Chartres walk.

Twenty-six year old Majd Kassouha, a Syrian, said his intention for his pilgrimage was a prayer for peace.

“I have prayed for peace, especially in Syria, and in all the world because I don't want other people to live what I have lived, my experience,” Kassouha told CNA. He and his family remained in Aleppo throughout the country’s civil war and said he witnessed the death of many of his friends and family.

“We have to pray ... we cannot do anything without praying. We are so weak. That is my experience,” Kassouha, a 26 year-old Melkite Catholic, said. "We need this time to think about our lives and make a meditation.”

Priest chaplains could often be seen walking behind the pilgrimage groups hearing confessions of the young participants. Each group had a chaplain who provided meditations on the saints and catechesis on the social doctrine of the Church and this year’s pilgrimage theme, “The Peace of Christ through the Reign of Christ,” as they walked.

Since 1983 the Pentecost pilgrimage has been organized by Notre-Dame de Chrétienté, currently led by layman Jean des Tauriers and chaplain, Father Alexis Garnier of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter.

Because so many people come out in the streets to watch the pilgrimage pass by, this year the organizers added an “evangelization team” to engage with curious onlookers, Notre-Dame de Chrétienté Vice President Hervé Rolland explained.

"Each year we have people asking if they can follow us,” Rolland told CNA. "Two years ago there was a lady who was struck by the children walking ... she asked, 'Can I follow you?' She did, and six months later she asked to be baptized."

Rolland said that many vocations have also been discovered or confirmed for young people as they prayerfully walk the pilgrimage.

Three Masses took place over the course of the pilgrimage, each in the extraordinary form, though many private Masses were said as well. On Pentecost Mass took place in a field in the countryside midway through the day’s 20 mile walk.

The culminating Mass was celebrated in Chartres Cathedral by Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard, the emeritus Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussel.

“I want to tell the pilgrims something: the Catholic Church, no matter what anyone says, remains the most beautiful multinational of the world, that is the multinational of faith, hope and charity. Even if we are going through difficult times, we must always say the creed with conviction: I believe that the Church is one, holy, Catholic and apostolic. We must remember it is holy,” Archbishop Léonard told EWTN.

“In troubled times like ours, everywhere but especially in countries like France or Belgium, my country, there is a lot of confusion after the series of scandals we’ve faced, people definitely need to hang on to something sound. I think that an initiative like the Chartres Pilgrimage helps people to become stronger in faith and hope.”

U.S Bishops Approve the Revised Passage on the Death Penalty for the U.S. Catholic Catechism for Adults

BALTIMORE— The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) approved the revised passage on the death penalty for the U.S. Catholic Catechism for Adults.

The full body of bishops approved the revised passage by a vote of 194 to 8 with 3 abstentions at their Spring General Assembly taking place in Baltimore, June 11-14.
 
On August 2, 2018, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith released the Holy Father’s revision to the teaching on the death penalty in the universal Catechism of the Catholic Church (no. 2267). In response, the Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis of the USCCB prepared a new section on the death penalty for the U.S. Catholic Catechism for Adults (USCCA).

Following collaboration with the Committee on Doctrine, they placed the revised statement on the death penalty for the USCCA before the body of Bishops for approval by two thirds of the members, with subsequent recognitio from the Holy See.

The revised statement on the death penalty would replace the current text in the USCCA (pp. 394-395).

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Keywords: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, death penalty, Baltimore, Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis, Committee on Doctrine, Catechism of the Catholic Church.

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Media Contact:
Judy Keane
202-541-3200                                                                                                                                                                       

 

U.S. Bishops’ Vote in Favor of Moving Forward on Third-Party System for Reporting Abuse Allegations Against Bishops

BALTIMORE—The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have taken three separate votes that will lead to the establishment of a third-party reporting system designed to receive confidentially, by phone or online, reports of possible violations by bishops per Pope Francis’s Vos estis lux mundi.  

The bishops voted overwhelmingly in favor of each of the elements necessary to establish a third-party reporting system yesterday.

By a vote of 205 to 16 with 3 abstentions, the General Assembly voted to authorize the design of a third-party system for receiving confidentially, by phone or online, reports of possible violations by bishops of Vos estis lux mundi.

By a vote of 200 to 21 with 2 abstentions, the bishops voted to authorize the Executive Committee to develop a more detailed proposal for a third-party reporting system, including financial, structural, and other necessary adjustments to account for Vos estis lux mundi, for review and approval by the Conference’s Administrative Committee at its September and November 2019 meetings.  

Additionally, the bishops voted in favor of committing to activate the third-party reporting system by no later than May 31, 2020 by a 220 to 4 vote with 1 abstention.   

Vos estis lux mundi, allows until May 31, 2020 for the development of local systems to receive such reports. Accordingly, May 31, 2020 is the earliest date the body can safety commit to activation of the system without interfering with the varying schedules of the Metropolitans and senior suffragans in developing local capacity to receive and process complaints from that system.  

It is important to note that anyone who has suffered sexual abuse by clergy should not wait for this national reporting system to be in place before reporting abuse. Individuals who may have been abused should contact local civil authorities to file a report as soon as possible, and may also report to Church authorities by existing means, such as Victims’ Assistance Coordinators. After reporting to civil authorities, individuals can also register a complaint with the metropolitan for issues related to sexual abuse or an abuse of power.

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Keywords: Pope Francis, Moto proprio, Vos estis lux muni, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Third-Party Reporting System, Administrative Committee, Episcopal Conference, spring general assembly

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Media Contact:
Judy Keane
202-541-3200