Memories of September 11 attacks linger for former fire department chaplain (Tue, 10 Sep 2019)
Msgr. John Delendick, a longtime New York Fire Department chaplain who is currently pastor of St. Jude Church in Brooklyn, remembers Sept. 11, 2001, vividly. At the time of the terrorist attacks
on the World Trade Center, Msgr. Delendick had just finished celebrating Mass at St. Michael’s Church, Brooklyn, where he was pastor.
The post Memories of September 11 attacks linger for
former fire department chaplain appeared first on Georgia Bulletin.
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Papal nuncio encourages African clergy, sisters at Fairburn convention (Thu, 05 Sep 2019)
Each year, members of the African Conference of Catholic Clergy and Religious in the United States (ACCCRUS) gather to support and learn from another. From July 24-27, ACCCRUS held its 20th annual
convention in Fairburn, with a keynote address by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.
The post Papal nuncio encourages African clergy, sisters at
Fairburn convention appeared first on Georgia Bulletin.
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My grandmother’s enduring love for family (Thu, 05 Sep 2019)
One photo shows a plump woman wearing a plain dress and gazing shyly into the camera. Another shows her on the beach, hiding partially behind her husband and dressed in a skirted bathing suit
complete with long stockings. This is my maternal grandmother, Rose Bibbo, a lady whom I never met, but greatly admire.
The post My grandmother’s enduring love for family appeared first on Georgia Bulletin.
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The Senior Side: The WHO ministry after the loss of a spouse (Thu, 05 Sep 2019)
The WHO ministry is a parish ministry of committed men and women who have experienced the loss of a spouse and are attempting to build new lives. Their purpose is to help one another by sharing
feelings from others who are traveling the same journey.
The post The Senior Side: The WHO ministry after the loss of a
spouse appeared first on Georgia Bulletin.
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Puerto Rico: ‘An unprecedented level of need’ (Mon, 06 Nov 2017)
Catholic News Service was the first major Catholic news organization to send a photographer and a reporter to tour the island and document the efforts of the church and other organizations to help
many of the people far from the capital of San Juan. Continue reading → >> Read more
Historic Tomb of Michelangelo and altarpiece in dire need of repairs (Wed, 11 Oct 2017)
By Matthew Fowler ROME (CNS) — The historic tomb of Michelangelo and the Buonarroti family altarpiece in the Church of Santa Croce in Florence are in dire need of cleaning and restoration due to
sustained damage over the past 50 … Continue reading → >> Read more
A look back at the Legion of Decency (Thu, 17 Aug 2017)
By Mark Pattison and Julie Asher WASHINGTON (CNS) — It’s summertime and the movies are plentiful. As everyone knows the summer movie season is a big one for Hollywood, and when it comes to a close,
it is followed closely … Continue reading → >> Read more
Jamboree called ‘life-changing event’ for youths, adults (Fri, 28 Jul 2017)
Here’s a dispatch from Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve in West Virginia sent earlier this week by Msgr. John B. Brady from the national Scout jamboree, which closed today. A retired
priest of the Archdiocese of Washington, he became … Continue reading → >> Read more
Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings, July 23, 2017 (Fri, 21 Jul 2017)
July 23, Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle A. Readings: 1) Wisdom 12:13, 16-19 Psalm 86:5-6, 9-10, 15-16
2) Romans 8:26-27 Gospel: Matthew 13:24-33 By Sharon K. Perkins Catholic News … Continue reading → >> Read more
John C. Quinn tended to the ‘least of these’ in U.S. newsrooms (Fri, 14 Jul 2017)
WASHINGTON (CNS) – I’m convinced that around the country, and perhaps the world, there are many letters similar to the one I received in the mail some 18 years ago. It was written by hand and it
ended with a … Continue reading → >> Read more
Some cheese with your ‘whine’: Pope ‘establishes’ complaint-free zone (Fri, 14 Jul 2017)
By Junno Arocho Esteves Catholic News Service VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis left a not-so-subtle message outside his office in the Domus Sanctae Marthae residence: anyone who is thinking of
making a fuss, leave your whining at the door. … Continue reading → >> Read more
Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings, July 16, 2017 (Thu, 13 Jul 2017)
July 16, Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle A. Readings: 1) Isaiah 55:10-11 Psalm 65:10-14
2) Romans 8:18-23 Gospel: Matthew 13:1-23 By Jeff Hedglen Catholic News Service It seems as though every time … Continue reading → >> Read more
Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings, July 9, 2017 (Fri, 07 Jul 2017)
The Scriptures this weekend contain a familiar, but difficult text. “Take my yoke upon you,” Jesus says. “For my yoke is easy and my burden light.” Continue reading → >> Read more
Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings, July 2, 2017 (Fri, 30 Jun 2017)
July 2, Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle A. Readings: 1) 2 Kings 4:8-11, 14-16a Psalm 89:2-3,
16-19 2) Romans 6:3-4, 8-11 Gospel: Matthew 10:37-42 By Beverly Corzine Catholic News Service One winter morning I awoke …
Continue reading → >> Read more
At Washington exhibit, the toll of the immigrant journey becomes art (Sat, 14 Sep 2019)
A collection of pants and shirts on the floor at The Phillips Collection museum in Washington illustrates the
lives of migrants lost at sea. "The Warmth of other Suns: Stories of Global Displacement" exhibit, on display until Sept. 22, 2019, focuses on people forced to leave their homelands. (CNS/Lee
Stalsworth, courtesy The Phillips Collection)
A pair of well-worn shoes left in the desert at the U.S.-Mexico border is the last thing you'd expect to find in one of the most prized rooms of the Washington museum known as The Phillips
Collection, a premier venue for modern American art as well as classic European expressionists such as Renoir and Matisse.
But there, in a transparent case, in a space that focuses the viewer on the work of Mark Rothko, celebrated as a 20th century American artist but one who was born in what later became Latvia, the
small battered shoes are on display.
They're next to an item that looks as if it belonged to a child — a piece of cloth embroidered with the image of a lion. A description explains the items were found in 2018 near the Arizona-Mexico
border by members of the Undocumented Migration Project at the University of California at Los Angeles.
The items, likely left behind by a migrant heading north, made up part of the 100 multimedia pieces in the museum's "The Warmth of Other Suns: Global Stories of Displacement" exhibit focused on
those forced to leave their homelands. It is on display until Sept. 22.
"A lot of the works can be very heavy," explained a museum guide Aug. 29 — and she wasn't talking about the physical weight of the objects.
Much like the person to whom the embroidered item likely belonged, Rothko left his homeland as a child, barely 10 when he left the Russian Empire and headed with his mother to a new life in the
United States, where they arrived in late 1913. They resettled with other family members who had arrived earlier in Portland, Oregon.
A large part of the exhibit focuses on the emotional toll as well as the dangers of such immigration journeys, and one experienced in modern times by a record 70.8 million around the world,
fleeing war, persecution and conflict, according to 2018 statistics from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
One of the rooms in the exhibit, with a large-scale photograph of the sea covering a wall, and jeans and shirts strewn on the floor, reminds museum-goers of the stream of recent refugee drownings.
The clothing installation, by artist Kader Attia, is titled "La Mer Morte" (The Dead Sea) and is reminiscent of the Italian island of Lampedusa, where Pope Francis in 2013 called attention to
tragedies faced by those seeking refuge from conflicts in Africa to Europe
Audio of waves and video of the sea nearby make it hard to escape the reality of the risks that refugees have confronted: Die drowning while trying to reach safety or die in a different way at
The exhibit takes up three floors of the Phillips, which is filled with portraits of refugees who arrived from Europe to Ellis Island in the early 1900s, photos of modern-day refugees from places
such as Eritrea, Iraq and Syria who set up a refugee camp torn down in Calais, France, in 2016, audio in various languages in which immigrants speak of their experiences as well as the indignities
they or their children suffer in their adoptive countries.
A black and white photograph of a building with a large sign that says "I am an American" showed what one American family of Japanese descent had to do the day after Pearl Harbor was attacked Dec.
7, 1941. Even after its prompt display of loyalty to the U.S., the family was sent to what was called a War Relocation Authority center, or an internment camp where some Japanese Americans were
forced to live during World War II.
This is a 1942 photograph by Dorthea Lange called "I am an American." (CNS/courtesy The Phillips Collection)
Though some of the items have a documentary quality, other art offers political commentary, such as the work of Siah Armajani, a Minnesotan artist, in a piece labeled with the ironic title "Seven
Rooms of Hospitality." It features plastic 3-D printed models of "uncertain spaces occupied by refugees, deportees, and exiles." They include a cage, a shack and a model of a truck with the name of a
company called Hyza on the side and the words describing its contents: "60 men, eight women, and three children, all dead."
It was a reference to a 2015 incident in which 71 refugees and migrants from Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan suffocated in an airtight, refrigerated truck found abandoned on the side of an Austrian
highway as they traveled from Hungary to Munich.
There's also a chilling video made by Erkan Ozgen called "Wonderland" that focuses on a 13-year-old child who can't speak, but miming with his hands and through grunts, describes an attack he
witnessed and escaped from in his native Syria, motioning what seems to be a shooting and someone's hands being tied. After watching, it's hard not to hear his trauma through the grunts that travel
through the museum floor.
Where a news item will document singular moments of difficulty, struggle, trauma and sometimes death that a displaced person may face, the exhibit's photos, the audio playing in the background of
migrants' voices, videos of the empty and uninviting landscapes some of them have traveled through bring together the totality of the experience. Though it seems as if hope is absent and the "warmth"
promised in the exhibit's title is all but missing, perhaps it can be found in the space known as the "Rothko room," where the migrant's shoes are temporarily residing.
This is a still image from the 2016 video by Erkan Ozgen called "Wonderland." (CNS/courtesy The Phillips
The Rothko room, a place where silence is encouraged, was envisioned as a place to meditate. Duncan Phillips, the museum's founder, is said to have referred to it as a "chapel" and a painting by
the immigrant artist, now widely recognized as a full-fledged American, hangs on each wall.
The paintings are of large and small blocks of bright and sometimes dark colors. According to the museum's online literature, Phillips said of Rothko's paintings that "what we recall are not
memories but old emotions disturbed or resolved — some sense of well-being suddenly shadowed by a cloud — yellow ochres strangely suffused with a drift of gray prevailing over an ambience of rose or
the fire diminishing into a glow of embers, or the light when the night descends."
It's hard to know how the journey of a displaced person will end, with success or with struggle, with the brightness of a new life like the one Rothko's family was able to build or trudging
through an unwelcoming place. The journey nevertheless began inside the shoes of a child that, like Rothko, was taken by his parents to start a new life in a new land.
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South African bishops: Government must protect women, girls from murder (Fri, 13 Sep 2019)
Cape Town, South Africa
A woman holds a sign as demonstrators gather Sept. 4, 2019, at the World Economic Forum on Africa in Cape Town
during a protest against gender-based violence. South African bishops called for action to end violence against women after a spate of killings and rapes sparked outrage in a country with one of the
world's highest murder rates. (CNS photo/Reuters/Sumaya Hisham)
South African bishops called for action to end violence against women after a spate of killings and rapes sparked outrage in a country with one of the world's highest murder rates.
"The government must take serious and practical steps to stem the tide of femicide," the bishops' justice and peace commission said in a Sept. 12 statement.
"We commit our churches and schools as safe places for women and children," it said. "We, as church, will use our liturgies, catechesis and homilies to sensitize men and boys about the evils of
About 3,000 women were murdered in South Africa in 2018 — five times more than the global average, according to the World Health Organization. The latest police statistics show an average of 58
murders every day in South Africa.
Two brutal murders triggered nationwide outcry, with thousands of protesters gathering outside Parliament in Cape Town early September to demand a crackdown on perpetrators of violence against
Uyinene Mrwetyana, 19, was raped and bludgeoned to death when she went to collect a parcel at a Cape Town post office Aug 24. A few days later, boxing champion Leighandre Jegels, 25, was shot
dead, allegedly by her police officer boyfriend.
The bishops' justice and peace commission condemned the "callous killings" and urged action to "root out this deplorable culture."
"Male chauvinism, misogynistic tendencies and stereotypes about women ... haunt our country," it said, noting that it is "imperative that the political leadership puts the security of women and
young girls high on the national agenda."
Public awareness of women's rights must be raised and "existing laws on women's rights must be enforced without fear or favor to ensure that perpetrators are brought to book," it said.
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New admission by diocese could cost Australian church millions in claims (Fri, 13 Sep 2019)
David Ridsdale, who was sexually abused by his uncle, Gerald Ridsdale, then a priest, stands next to fellow sexual
abuse survivors in Rome March 3, 2016. Lawyers say the Australian Catholic Church has opened the floodgates for tens of millions dollars in compensation claims after the Diocese of Ballarat admitted,
for the first time, it knew of the behavior of the pedophile priest, yet continued to move him around from parish to parish. (CNS/Paul Haring)
The Australian Catholic Church could face tens of millions dollars in compensation claims after the Diocese of Ballarat in Victoria state admitted, for the first time, it knew of the behavior of a
pedophile priest yet continued to move him around from parish to parish.
Former priest Gerald Ridsdale, 85, is one of Australia's most notorious pedophiles and is serving an 11-year prison sentence due to finish in 2028, the latest in a series of convictions for the
abuse of 85 children. Ridsdale held 16 different appointments during 29 years as a priest, an average of 1.8 years per appointment.
The church's admission was made in the case of JCB v. Bishop Paul Bird for the Diocese of Ballarat, in which a defendant with a pseudonym is suing the diocese for his rape, at age 9, by Ridsdale
at the tiny country town of Mortlake in 1982. A mediation hearing will be held on Oct. 15 and, if this is unsuccessful, a 10-day civil trial will begin Jan. 29 to determine the amount of damages the
church will pay the victim.
At the time of JCB's rape, Bishop Ronald Mulkearns headed the Diocese of Ballarat. Ridsdale abused dozens of children during his time in Mortlake.
"We believe it is the first time in Victoria that the Catholic Church has admitted it failed to protect a victim of child sex abuse and is therefore legally liable," the victim's lawyer, Judy
Courtin, said in a statement.
It appears to be first time that the church in Australia has admitted –
in a court –
that it had prior knowledge of an offending priest, ahead of him committing further offenses. But evidence given by the diocese into Australia's landmark Royal Commission into Institutional Responses
to Child Sexual Abuse, which ran from 2013 to 2017, showed that the bishops of Ballarat had known about Ridsdale for decades.
A spokesman for the Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference said it would not be making any comment on the Ridsdale admission. The Diocese of Ballarat did not respond to requests for comment on
In its final report, the royal commission found that the Diocese of Ballarat had known of Ridsdale's proclivities since the early 1960s. Mulkearns' predecessor, Bishop James O'Collins, warned
Ridsdale that he would be "off the mission" if such a thing happened again. Yet it did.
The commission found by the time of the rape of JCB, Mulkearns certainly knew; both former bishops are deceased.
"It is clear that Bishop Mulkearns should not have appointed Ridsdale (as) parish priest of Mortlake, given his knowledge of the priest's history," the commission found.
"We are satisfied that his (Mulkearns) priority was to protect the reputation of the church and to avoid scandal, rather than responding to the pastoral needs of the children Ridsdale had sexually
abused in the wider community," the commissioners found.
Yet prior to the Sept. 6 admission, lawyers representing the Ballarat Diocese tried to argue that Mulkearns had not known.
"This has been a long time coming," lawyer Vivian Waller, a specialist in institutional abuse cases, told Catholic News Service.
"The admission (about Ridsdale) now means that legally, in civil cases against the church regarding Ridsdale, that complainants would not have to prove a breached duty of care, although they would
still have to prove they were injured," Waller said.
The case also is the first time since Australian courts removed the so-called Ellis Defense, upon recommendation of the Royal Commission. The defense was named after a 2007 High Court ruling that
prevented victims from directly suing the church as it had no legal status as an entity.
Waller said the case also lays the foundation for the suing of other senior living clerics who were consultors to Mulkearns beginning in 1982. A number of consultors were named by the royal
commission as having known about Ridsdale.
"We do not accept that Bishop Mulkearns lied to his consultors," the commissioners wrote in their final report. "It is inconceivable ... that the bishop deceived his consultors by not telling them
the true reason" that Ridsdale was being moved around.
Cardinal George Pell, whose appeal of his conviction on five counts of sexually assaulting two choirboys more than two decades ago was rejected by the Victorian Supreme Court Aug. 21, was a
consultor to Mulkearns.
Cardinal Pell told the royal commission, via a video link from Rome, that he had no knowledge of Ridsdale's criminal activities. However, because of his then-pending criminal trial, a large
section of the case study on Ballarat – about
who knew what and when – was
redacted when the royal commission released its report in 2017. The redactions are expected to be lifted once Cardinal Pell has exhausted his last avenue of appeal.
The cardinal has until Sept. 18 to lodge an appeal to the Australian High Court, the country's top judiciary, similar to the U.S. Supreme Court and the United Kingdom's Privy Council.
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New accusations surface against retired Wyoming bishop (Fri, 13 Sep 2019)
Retired Bishop Joseph H. Hart of Cheyenne, Wyo., is pictured in an undated photo. The Cheyenne Diocese said Sept.
10 three new abuse claims dating to the 1970s and '80s have been made against Hart. The allegations have been reported to the civil authorities, the diocese said. (CNS files)
A retired bishop already facing a Vatican trial for allegations that he sexually abused minors years ago is facing three new accusations of abuse, said the Diocese of Cheyenne, Wyoming.
This summer, retired Bishop Joseph H. Hart appeared on a roster the Diocese of Cheyenne released listing 11 clergy with substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of minors or vulnerable
Since then, the diocese said in a Sept. 10 statement, three additional individuals have come forward saying they, too, were sexually abused by the prelate in the 1970s and 1980s — the
period during which all the incidents in the state are alleged to have occurred. The 87-year-old bishop has maintained his innocence.
Because Wyoming does not have a statute of limitations, decades-long claims can still be investigated and prosecuted, and Hart could become the first U.S. prelate to face a criminal trial for the
In mid-August, authorities in Cheyenne recommended sex abuse charges be brought against an unnamed clergy member, believed to be Hart, as well as against a second unnamed "person seeking
membership" in the Catholic clergy for accusations of abuse that may have occurred in the 1970s and 1980s, said an Aug. 14 news release by the Cheyenne Police Department.
Though the diocese didn't release details about the new allegations, it says they "have been reported to the civil authorities, and the Diocese of Cheyenne has cooperated fully with the
Cheyenne Bishop Steven R. Biegler announced June 12 that the Vatican trial of the retired prelate would take place. Biegler included Hart's name in a list of all Catholic clergy with substantiated
allegations of sexual abuse of minors or vulnerable persons for whom the diocese had files and who were in active ministry from 1950 to the present in the Diocese of Cheyenne.
The June online issue of the Wyoming Catholic Register, Cheyenne's diocesan newspaper, said after the retired prelate's name that Pope Francis had imposed restrictions on him and "authorized a
Hart, who was auxiliary bishop of the statewide diocese from 1976 to 1978, when he became head of the diocese and served until his 2001 retirement, has "categorically and completely" denied any
In its September statement, the diocese said it asked him for an interview to respond to the accusations, but "he declined to be interviewed."
Hart has long faced such accusations, but in 2002, authorities in Wyoming, saying they had not found evidence to support the allegations, did not press charges. When Biegler became Cheyenne's new
bishop, he continued restrictions his predecessor had placed on the retired bishop's public ministry and then pressed for a new investigation, leading Wyoming authorities to look deeper.
In the most recent statement by the Diocese of Cheyenne, Biegler thanked those who offered new information.
"I applaud the victims who have come forward to report sexual abuse to the police or the church. Your courageous action helps us to address these terrible crimes, and your example encourages other
victims to find their voice," he wrote. "As the church, we promise to protect the most vulnerable and to accompany those who have been harmed on a journey of healing."
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Indian church leaders: Child rape charges concocted against priest, nurse (Fri, 13 Sep 2019)
A priest and a nurse working at a Catholic school in India's eastern state of Jharkhand have been held in custody after being charged with sexually abusing a 9-year-old girl.
Church officials in the state, where the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party runs the government, say the case was fabricated amid a hostile atmosphere generated toward the state's Christians, mostly
tribal people, reported ucanews.com.
Fr. Julian Ekka, vice principal of the Jesuit-run De Nobili School in Koradih, and the nurse, Emerencia Lomga, were arrested following a complaint from the father of the alleged victim, said
district Police Chief Aman Kumar.
Ucanews.com reported the two appeared in court Sept. 10 and were remanded into custody pending further inquiries. They have been charged with violating several clauses of a stringent law relating
to sexual offenses against children. Such offenses do not allow for bail.
According to police, in mid-August the fourth-grade girl was taken to the sick room after she complained of abdominal pain.
The priest and the nurse were present in the room, and police say a medical examination proved the child had been sexually assaulted. Based on " circumstantial evidence," both were arrested after
officers interviewed some staff members several weeks later, Kumar said.
Fr. Jerome Sequeira, assistant provincial of Jesuits in Jamshedpur province, told ucanews.com that Jesuits had studied the case and found the "priest and the nurse innocent" and "in no way
connected to the child abuse case."
He said the child complained of abdominal pain Aug. 8 and the nurse took her to the sick room, where she treated her before calling her parents and sending her home with them.
"It is her father who named the priest, nurse and the class teacher in the complaint," said Sequeira.
Police first went to the school Sept. 6 and detained Lomga the following day. She was interrogated for 48 hours, and her arrest was not officially recorded until Sept. 9.
Ekka, a local tribal priest, was arrested Sept.10.
Jharkhand has a history of targeting Catholic priests and their institutions.
Another Jesuit, Fr. Alphonse Aind, was jailed for life in connection with a gang-rape case in June 2018. He is still in jail; his appeal against conviction is pending in the state court.
Missionaries of Charity Sister Concelia Baxla was arrested and jailed on charges of child trafficking in July 2018. The courts have repeatedly refused her bail, keeping her behind bars.
Fr. V.J. Binoy and catechist Munna Hansda were arrested and jailed from Godda district in early September following allegations that they violated the state's anti-conversion law and grabbed the
lands belonging to a tribal man.
"They have all been framed for political gains," said Fr. Anand David Xalxo, the spokesman for Ranchi Archdiocese, in the state capital.
On Sept. 3, a mob vandalized a Jesuit mission, but police still have not made any arrests, even after mission officials named more than 25 of people in a complaint.
The church's mission to educate tribal people has resulted in hundreds of them accepting the Catholic faith, resulting in a stronger Christian community in the state.
Jharkhand has about 1.5 million Christians –
or 4.3 percent of the population –
almost double the 2.3 percent figure for India as a whole. Tribal people constitute 16 percent of the state's 32 million people.
>> Read more
Suicide is on the rise - What can the Catholic Church do to help? (Sun, 15 Sep 2019)
Denver, Colo., Sep 15, 2019 / 04:42 pm (CNA).- This past week marked National Suicide Prevention Week in the United States, a week
where mental and public health advocates share tips and advice on suicide prevention and spotting the warning signs of suicide.
On Monday of that week, popular evangelical pastor and mental health advocate Jarrid Wilson, 30, reportedly committed suicide. Just hours prior to his death, Wilson had posted a message on Twitter
about Jesus’ compassion for the depressed and suicidal.
“Loving Jesus doesn’t always cure suicidal thoughts,” Wilson wrote. “Loving Jesus doesn’t always cure depression. Loving Jesus doesn’t always cure PTSD. Loving Jesus doesn’t always cure anxiety. But
that doesn’t mean Jesus doesn’t offer us companionship and comfort. He ALWAYS does that,” Wilson tweeted.
Wilson had been a long-time advocate for mental health, and founded “Anthem of Hope,” a Christian outreach for the depressed and suicidal, with his wife. His death followed that of Pastor Andrew
Stoecklein, another young, vibrant evangelical pastor and mental health advocate, who committed suicide last year.
In the span of just 16 years, suicide rates among working-age Americans (aged 16-64 years) spiked 34% between 2000 and 2016, according to data from the Center for Disease Control. Among Americans
aged 10-24, the spike was even more dramatic - CDC data shows a 50% increase in suicides among this group between 2000-2017.
The suicides of these two pastors highlight this concerning upward trend in suicide, especially among young people, even among those who are part of a Christian community.
CNA spoke with three mental health professionals about why suicide rates, particularly among young people, are increasing, and what the Catholic Church and other faith communities can do to
Overconnected, and under pressure
Deacon Basil Ryan Balke is a licensed therapist at Mount Tabor Counseling in the Denver area, and the co-host of the podcast “Catholic Psyche,” which aims to educate people on the integration between
the psychological sciences and Catholic spirituality, philosophy and theology. He is also a married deacon with the Ruthenian Byzantine Catholic Church.
Balke told CNA that he thinks one of the driving factors of an increase in suicide among teens and young adults is their constant connectedness to the world through mobile devices, coupled with a
lack of greater meaning in their lives.
“When I was in high school...I would go home, and I wouldn't really have any contact with my friends unless I wanted it,” Balke said.
“And now with the saturation of the iPhone...you get the communication that is constantly there and constantly moving and so you can never unplug, and you can never continue on with life outside of
the image you have to put out into the world (through social media),” he said.
“They’re always distracted, always moving forward. I was a youth minister for many years as well, and it was just - these kids never had a moment's peace,” he added.
Tommy Tighe is a licensed marriage and family therapist in the Bay area in California, who also hosts a podcast on Catholicism and mental health called “St. Dymphna’s Playbook.” Tighe told CNA that
despite having more connections, young people today are more isolated than ever.
“There's so much more pressure...there’s so much more of a drive to be popular,” Tighe said, but social media connections often do not equate to “a close-knit community of close friends.”
According to a 2015 article from the peer-reviewed research journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, frequent social media use in children and teenagers is associated with poor
psychological functioning, as it limits their daily face-to-face interactions, impairing their ability to keep and maintain meaningful relationships.
The study found that students who reported using social media for two or more hours daily were more likely to poorly rate their own mental health, and experienced high levels of psychological
distress and suicidal ideation.
“There’s a trend towards superficial relationships, and of course you don't post on Instagram ‘I'm depressed’ or something like that, so I think people don't know who to reach out to,” Tighe
Furthermore, Balke said, “I think what is also happening is the younger people have lost meaning in their day-to-day lives as well. I think all of us have lost meaning as a force in our lives.”
Balke said especially for young people, there is an increasingly intense pressure to perform academically or athletically that has replaced the things that used to bring people a sense of greater
purpose, such as faith or virtue or close familial connections.
“Whether it be sports, they have to be track stars, they have to be in all AP (advanced placement) classes, they have to have like 30 college credits before they graduate high school, a 4.0 is not
good enough anymore it's gotta be a 4.3 or something,” he said. “I don't even know how you do that. They're pushing themselves so aggressively to the point where there's no meaning behind it all
because they don't have an overarching purpose. These things are substitutes for that.”
“You might do something stupid like literally eating a tide pod, laundry detergent, and you become world-famous for thirty seconds. It's so crazy,” he said. “It's like these kids are just waiting for
their next big break.”
The lingering stigma of mental health care
Another driving factor in the spike in suicides among young people and other populations is the lingering stigma of seeking out therapy or other mental health interventions, Tighe said.
“I think we try to act like we’ve really changed (as a society) in our perception of mental health, but I don't think that's really true,” Tighe said.
“Especially...it seems like every time there's one of these mass tragedies in our country, mental health gets brought up and I think that pushes people even further away from wanting to reach out or
identify as having an issue,” he added.
Additionally, Tighe said, not only do young people today have a harder time making meaningful relationships with their peers, parents are also often afraid to broach the subject of suicide and mental
health with their children.
“I'm hoping that the younger generation of parents will be a little bit more willing, but it's scary, right? That’s super scary to talk about.”
But talk about it parents must, Balke said, and the more specific they are, the better.
“You want to use that exact phrase: ‘Are you thinking about killing yourself?’ Or ‘Are you thinking about suicide?’ You don't want to use the phrase ‘self harm,’ or ‘Are you thinking about hurting
yourself?’” he said. “You want to be very clear.”
Some people fear that bringing up suicide may plant the idea of suicide in their child’s head, or may worsen their depression, but Balke said that studies show that these fears are unfounded.
“Statistically speaking - you can't catch suicidal thoughts,” Balke said. “You're not going to be pushing kids to become suicidal by asking, ‘Are you thinking about suicide?’ That’s actually...
helping them come out of that isolation.”
The Soul Shop movement: helping congregations prevent suicide
In 1999, Fe Anam Avis was the pastor of a Presbyterian church in a small suburban town in southern Ohio when the suicide of three students within seven months rocked his community.
Searching for help and resources for his grieving congregants, he found that there was little to nothing when it came to faith-based resources for suicide prevention and mental health. He started
traveling to speak about suicide, but noticed that clergy and church leaders weren’t among his audience members.
“He said, ‘I would go to these towns and they would have me in a fire hall and I would give a presentation about suicide and a hundred people would show up in a small town. And not one of them would
be a clergy person,’” Michelle Snyder told CNA. Snyder is the director of Soul Shop, an organization founded by Fe that trains clergy and congregations in suicide prevention and interventions. Fe has
“(Fe) said consistently it felt like people in the church were not connecting this issue of suicide prevention with faith, and pastors were just not showing up to engage with this as an issue as a
matter of faith.”
That’s what spurred Fe to found Soul Shop movement, a group which now travels the country to give workshops to congregations on how to speak about suicide, how to prevent it, and what the warning
“I'll often say to a group of faith community leaders, if you're asking yourself the question, is anybody in my parish thinking about suicide? You're asking yourself the wrong question. Because the
right question is, which six people out of the hundred here are thinking about suicide right now?” Snyder said.
Part of the training consists in simply raising the awareness among clergy and church leaders that there are people in desperation within their own congregations who are at risk for suicide and need
help. Snyder said they also train congregations on how to support people who have been impacted by the suicide of a family member or friend.
In addition, they study the stories about suicide, or suicidal ideation, found in Bible passages.
“There's quite a few,” she said. “We've got Judas, the story of Judas, and that's a suicide. But you've also got stories like Elijah (who was) praying to die. You've got Saul, who fell on his own
sword and killed himself...you've got Job, who said death would be better than what I'm experiencing. You've got lots of heroes in the Bible who thought about (it) or else just said, ‘I'm in so much
pain. Death would be better,’ but who didn't attempt (it). So you've got lots of suicide - you've got suicide attempts, you've got suicides, you've got suicide intervention.”
They also train church leaders in spotting some of the warning signs of a person who is at risk for suicide.
Tighe said some of those warning signs include people who have been noticeably depressed for long periods of time, social withdrawal, talking about suicide or self-harm, or the giving away of prized
pocessions, among other things.
A warning sign that might seem strange, Tighe said, is when someone who has been depressed for a while is suddenly and inexplicably happy again.
“If someone's been super depressed and then all of a sudden they're sort of feeling really good...that makes us very nervous, because sometimes it’s because they’ve made the decision like, okay, on
Friday, I'm going to do it. And they feel like a burden lifted off their shoulders, because there's an end in sight,” he said.
When those risk factors are spotted, those are the times to specifically ask people if they’re considering suicide, Tighe added.
During the Soul Shop trainings, Snyder said, the group takes a public health approach to suicide, meaning that they train faith communities to take a collective responsibility for the health of their
“We spend a whole day equipping communities of faith on how to be communities of faith in relationship to this issue,” she said.
One of the biggest suicide prevention tools that communities of faith can provide, Snyder said, is being full communities of faith, where people feel connected and valued as whole people, and not
just for one aspect of their identity.
People who are more resiliant to suicide are those whose don’t have all of their “eggs in one basket,” Snyder noted.
“If every egg is in the basket of being on a full scholarship for football, and then I get injured, every egg was in that basket. I have no Plan B, and so that becomes a risk. And helping our people
in our congregation become well-rounded people with lives that are full and rich and diverse can be a suicide prevention initiative.”
Soul Shop, church communities that are trained in suicide awareness and prevention are called “full faith communities,” Snyder said, which are “communities where people are intentionally connected to
each other...communities where everybody knows what to look for. Communities where we are aware of our tendency to shun when we get uncomfortable and are challenged to not do that.”
What else can be done?
Besides hosting a Soul Shop or other suicide prevention training, what else can pastors and parishes do to help prevent suicide?
Balke said he would encourage all pastors to meet with their staff and frequent volunteers in order to familiarize them with locally available mental health resources. They should know the location
of clinics, the hours of those clinics, and what crisis numbers to call, he said.
“They need to have quick access to them, so that when someone is coming in their office, or after a bible study or whatever it is when this kind of conversation comes up, they have it on their phone
ready to go and they won't have to go searching for it,” he said.
Tighe said he recommended that parishes have flyers posted on their bulletin boards with information on local mental health resources, as well as local crisis hotlines to call or text. In the United
States, texting “741741” will connect users to a crisis text line.
Text lines get great response rates, Tighe said, because “everyone's like, okay I would send a text, because it's easier. And they're incredible. We get people who come to our clinic who are like, ‘I
was driving to the bridge, (because that's a very popular thing here in the Bay Area for people who are suicidal), and for whatever reason texted these people and they told me to come to your clinic
before I went.”
Pastors and clergy should also make it a point to build a personal relationship with the mental health professionals in their congregation, Balke said.
“Someone that they can just phone and say, ‘Hey, what do you think about this? What should I do in this situation?’” he said. “I have a number of priests and deacons who have phoned me on a regular
basis and say, ‘You know, someone came into my office and said this this and this. What's going on here?’”
Pastors and other church leaders also need to treat suicide and mental health issues with the seriousness they deserve, Balke said, and not treat them as something that is either not a serious issue,
or something that can be solved solely by prayer or spiritual direction.
“Mental health in the Church is a real problem, and...it's not necessarily being addressed with the seriousness, from an institutional level, that it deserves. People are committing suicide in our
parishes and in our churches.”
Snyder said that she is confident that, if properly trained, churches and parishes have a key role to play in preventing suicides in their communities.
“We talk a lot about putting your seatbelt on before the accident happens. And that's kind of what we're describing here, is how do we do that in faith communities long before crisis strikes,” she
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A bowl of soup, and a chance for compassion (Sat, 14 Sep 2019)
Elmira, NY, Sep 14, 2019 / 04:25 am (CNA).- For nearly 15 years, a Catholic charity in south-central New York has sold ceramic bowls
to raise both money for a local food pantry and awareness about the problem of homelessness in the region.
Catholic Charities of Chemung and Schuyler Counties is preparing for its 14th annual Empty Bowls Luncheon on Oct. 15, where donors will eat
soup and hear the stories of homelessness.
Lindsay Baker, director of development for Catholic Charities in the area told CNA that the project informs people on poverty statistics and provides them with a souvenir bowl as a reminder of all
the “empty bowls in the community.”
The project is a major event for the region. Local artists, including high-schoolers and students and faculty from nearby Elmira College, handcraft commemorative bowls for the luncheon.
“[We have partnered] with our local potters. They create commemorative bowls for each participant to take home with them. It’s meant to be a reminder of hunger in the community,” Baker said.
Most of the bowls are made by professional artisans, like Gene Carr, a local artist who helps each year with the pottery. Bowls are also made by two Elmira professors - Doug Holtgrewe, a former
teacher of ceramic, and Chris Longwell, a professor of art. So far, they have made more than 200 bowls for the event.
Participants choose a custom-created bowl when they enter the luncheon, and are served soup from a local deli. Baker said last year the soup was chicken noodle and pumpkin squash.
“The idea is that you are satisfied but you are not stuffed. It’s a hunger awareness event so you may not leave extremely full, but people leaving the soup kitchen don’t always leave full too,” she
During the event, those who have been homeless, or whose family members have been homeless, tell their stories.
“Last year, we had a woman share her story. Her son had been in a homeless shelter and he’s a heroin addict. She talked about the struggle she went through and how Catholic Charities met him where he
is at and how is on a much better path,” Baker said.
She said the testimonies are a cause for personal reflection, but they’re also fun.
During lunch this year, Baker will read three testimonies from community members who have struggled with poverty. After the three people gather on stage, the crowd will guess which story belongs to
She said the testimonies emphasize the work of Catholic Charities and the success of people who have overcome homelessness. She said stories help contextualize the reality of poverty because the
testimonies are from ordinary people in the local community.
“I think this is one of the few events that highlight that it can happen to anybody. We have community members, we have volunteers, we have donors who will share their story. It’s not just somebody
else’s problem. It’s actual human beings you can see.”
Proceeds will go to the Samaritan Center, an emergency shelter and a food pantry for homeless families and individuals. According to Catholic Charities, $40, the cost of a single ticket, will allow
the organization to feed a family for a week, and $320, the cost for a table of eight, will cover the cost to temporarily shelter 15 people.
Baker said the event is a force for good in the region. She said the project is not only a fundraiser for the Samaritan Center, but it also promotes mental healthcare and awakens people to a reality
which is often neglected.
“I think people are kind of numb to the reality of what life is like for some people,” she said. “[This event], in a nice way, slaps them in the face and tells them what life is like. People really
leave moved. They have a better appreciation for what is going on behind the scenes.”
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Missouri AG refers 12 former clerics for prosecution (Fri, 13 Sep 2019)
St. Louis, Mo., Sep 13, 2019 / 05:01 pm (CNA).- Missouri attorney general Eric Schmitt released Friday a report on his investigation
into sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clerics in the state, and referred 12 former clerics for potential criminal prosecution.
“Since I took office, one of my top priorities has been conducting a thorough, exhaustive review of allegations of abuse by clergy members in the Roman Catholic Church. Today, as a result of that
review, we are announcing that we will refer 12 cases of alleged abuse to local prosecutors for further investigation and possible prosecution – more referrals than any other state attorney general,”
Schmitt, who is a Republican and a Catholic, said Sept. 13.
He added that his office will assist any local prosecutors who want to pursue charges.
“Additionally, we’ve provided concrete recommendations to the Catholic Church moving forward,” he added. He noted that his “suggestions for reform” are “aggressive and substantive.”
The attorney general's office made five recommendations in its report, the
first of which was that “the Church should assume greater responsibility and oversight over all religious order priests and priests visiting or relating from other dioceses to subject them to the
same procedures and oversight with regard to youth protection and clergy abuse as if they were diocesan priests.”
The report said that dioceses have less oversight over religious priests than their secular counterparts, and stated: “this arrangement has prevented the AGO from conducting a complete review of
religious order priests working in Missouri. The AGO has had to rely on the scant diocesan records provided to it regarding these priests, along with information gathered from victims presenting
evidence relating thereto.”
“Before granting faculties to a religious order priest or a priest from another diocese, the IRB should complete a meaningful and thorough review of the prospective priest’s records, rather than
simply accepting a simple attestation from another bishop or provincial,” the office said.
It also recommended that each diocese ensure its “Independent Review Board is composed entirely of lay people and its determinations of credibility and sanctions will be given authoritative weight
with respect to the ability of an offending priest to minister in its diocese.”
The third recommendation was that dioceses review all claims of abuse from before the 2002 adoption of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, subjecting them to the Charter's
The office said that when the review boards have found credible allegations against priests, this “should be publicly disclosed without delay.” It stated that an offending priest's age and health
should not be considered a reason to forgo dismissal from the clerical state, and that dioceses “should advocate for reforms of the laicization process so that it may be completed within one year
after the IRB makes its decision,” or that “discussions of reform within the church should include proposals for expediting the process of laicizing priests after the completion of a diocesan review
of misconduct and the establishment of a complete corroborating factual record.”
Finally, the attorney general's office recommended that “a robust program on notification and supervision of priests removed from public ministry or from the clerical state should be
The report said it recommendations would “strengthen oversight and protect victims from future abuse.”
The Archdiocese of St. Louis said that it is “taking the Attorney General’s recommendations to the Catholic Church into careful consideration and will continue to evaluate and enhance our safe
environment programs for the safety of all of our families.”
Bishop W. Shawn McKnight of Jefferson City commented that “it is my sincere hope the report assists the Catholic Church in Missouri in achieving our goals of accountability and transparency, while
respecting the legal standards for privacy of all affected by the report.”
“I will take into consideration the recommendations from the report on how we can improve our efforts to keep our children safe and in healthy environments,” he added.
Schmitt's investigation was begun last year by his predecessor, Josh Hawley.
His office reviewed the personnel records of priests serving in the state's four dioceses dating back to 1945, and spoke to abuse victims or their families who contacted the office.
The investigation found credible allegations of 163 instances of sexual abuse or misconduct by diocesan clerics against minors. The offenses range from boundary violations, such as inappropriate
discussion or correspondence, to forcible rape.
Of the credibly accused, 83 are dead. Of the remaining 80, 46 are past the statue of limitations for prosecution, 16 have already been referred for prosecution, 12 will be referred for prosecution,
five have been or are being investigated by prosecutors, and one is still under investigation by the Church.
The instances of misconduct “overwhelmingly” occurred before 2002, the report notes, and since that year the dioceses in Missouri “have implemented a series of reforms that have improved their
response to, and reporting of, abuse.”
It added, however, “that since 2002, the church has, on occasion, failed to meet even its own internal procedures on abuse reporting andreporting to law enforcement,” citing Bishop Robert Finn's
failure for five months to report possession of child pornography by one of his priests. Finn resigned from office in 2015.
The report said that since 2002 “the church has generally taken a much more pastoral approach to engaging with victims and has, in most instances, promptly reported suspected abuse.”
The attorney general's office identified what it called “certain internal and systematic failures of the dioceses,” saying first that “there is no independent oversight of a bishop’s day-to-day
implementation of church protocols. Bishops report to no one below the Pope in the hierarchy of the church and, while uncoordinated and sometimes overlapping networks of associations and working
groups exist throughout the states, regions and country, there is simply no single source of outside oversight over each bishop and no means by which best practices are effectively
It asserted that “the lack of independent oversight of the bishops’ implementation of protocols, as well as the lack of independent review of allegations against bishops themselves, remain
significant impediments to reform and improved protections.”
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Judgment reached in Knights of Columbus contract lawsuit (Fri, 13 Sep 2019)
Denver, Colo., Sep 13, 2019 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- A federal jury concluded Thursday that the Knights of Columbus breached a verbal
contract with a technology company that hoped to become a “designated vendor” for local councils and other organizations connected to the Catholic fraternal organization. The jury awarded plaintiff
UKnight Interactive $500,000, far less than the $100 million its lawsuit petitioned for.
In a statement released Sept. 12, the Knights of Columbus said they were pleased that the jury saw the lawsuit as a “garden variety contract case,” and not the complex case of conspiracy or fraud
alleged by the plaintiff.
In the course of litigation, the plaintiff alleged that the Knights of Columbus pad membership numbers, a charge the Knights of Columbus called “baseless.”
“As testimony and evidence during the trial revealed, the plaintiffs sought in this contract case to concoct a narrative about the manner and intent behind the way the Knights track its membership
numbers. We defended ourselves vigorously against these false claims because we believe we owe it to the men who volunteer their time as members of this organization and to the many people who give
generously to our charities to remove any doubt about the honesty, character and integrity of our organization,” the Knights of Columbus said.
UKnight Interactive first filed suit against the Knights of Columbus in 2017, claiming a verbal contract worth $100 million to UKnight had been broken, and that the fraternal organization used the
company’s proprietary website design elements to seek contracts with other technology companies.
The Knights of Columbus denied that claim.
The Knights of Columbus, founded in 1882, are a Catholic fraternal and service organization, offering life insurance and other financial products to members. The organization began, in part, to
provide insurance to Catholic immigrant laborers and their families. The Knights of Columbus claim nearly two million members worldwide, and announced in August that the organization gave $185.7
million in charity in 2018.
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Bishop Bransfield's life of luxury (Fri, 13 Sep 2019)
Wheeling, W.V., Sep 13, 2019 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- New details have emerged about the lavish lifestyle enjoyed by disgraced Bishop
Michael Bransfield. Bransfield spent nearly one million dollars on private jets and over $660,000 on airfare and hotels during his 13 years as bishop of his former diocese of
A new investigation by the Washington Post, published Sept. 12, reported that during his last year in active ministry, Bransfield took at least 19 trips in what was described as a chartered luxury
jet. Those trips cost the diocese more than $142,000.
In accord with canon law, Bransfield submitted his resignation as bishop of Wheeling-Charleston was to Pope Francis last September following his 75th birthday. It was accepted immediately.
Following his resignation, Pope Francis ordered Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore to conduct an investigation into allegations that Bransfield had sexually harassed adult males and misused
diocesan finances during his time in West Viginia.
Following that investigation, Lori banned Bransfield from public ministry within the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston and Archdiocese of Baltimore in March, and the Vatican announced a series of
sanctions in July.
In addition to restrictions on publicly celebrating Mass within the diocese, Bransfield was also prohibited from living in his former diocese ordered to “make personal amends for
some of the harm he caused.” These “personal amends” are to be determined by Bransfield’s successor, Bishop Mark Brennan, who took office on September 3, 2019.
Other examples of financially irresponsible conduct highlighted by the report included a diocesean pilgrimage to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington,
DC, which is just under a five-hour drive from St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Wheeling. Pilgrims who opted to spend the night in DC paid $190 each for bus, hotel, and breakfast, while others paid
$30 for a day-trip ticket.
Bransfield did not take the bus with the other pilgrims. Instead, he chartered a private plane for the 33-minute trip between Wheeling and Dulles International Airport, taking a limousine to and from
the airport. Bransfield’s travel costs of nearly $7,000 were paid by the diocese.
The Post also found that Bransfield had a pattern of travelling first-class when flying on commercial airlines and stays in luxury hotel suites - including a weeklong stay in The Colony Hotel’s
“Presidential Penthouse” in January 2018 that cost the diocese $9,336.
Bishop Bransfield told the Post that he was not the one who made the reservations at luxury hotels, and instead placed the blame on his staff. He declined to say who was responsible for making
On trips to Europe, both for work and personal vacation, Bransfield stayed in luxury accommodation, and often travelling with young priests in their 20s. Bransfield was accused of sexual harassment
by at least one of his travel companions.
Some of the bishop’s travel was connected to his work with the Papal Foundation, the board of which he led until his retirement last year.
Bransfield also spent thousands of dollars on jewelry and other clothing, including spending more than $60,000 of diocesean money at a boutique jeweler in Washington, DC during his time in
In an interview with the Washington Post, Bransfield said that West Virginia was unable to provide “the lifestyle [he] lived in Washington.”
The Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston met the costs for Bransfield’s travels to visit his family, and much of his month-long stays on the Jersey Shore. The diocese paid for a $276 purchase at a liquor
store, as well as a month-long car rental for $2,975.
He also chartered a jet to and from the Jersey Shore to Washington, DC, for a meeting following the announcement that he was being investigated for financial improprieties.
During Bransfield’s time as bishop, the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston either shut down or ceased funding more than 20 parishes and parochial schools.
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