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Catholic journalism expert reflects on the moral issues around privacy and data 

Dr. William Thorn, associate professor emeritus of Journalism and Media Studies/Institute for Catholic Media at Marquette University’s Diederich College of Communication. Credit: William Thorn/CNA.

Denver Newsroom, Jul 24, 2021 / 06:01 am (CNA).

CNA spoke recently with Dr. William J. Thorn regarding the recent investigation which led to the resignation of Msgr. Jeffrey Burrill as general secretary of the US bishops’ conference.

Thorn is associate professor emeritus of Journalism and Media Studies/Institute for Catholic Media at Marquette University’s Diederich College of Communication. He holds a Ph.D. in mass communication from the University of Minnesota, an M.A. from the University of Wisconsin - Madison, and a B.A. from Loras College.

Find below the full text of CNA's discourse with Thorn:

1) At the heels of the recent controversial use of data mining to expose a Church personality, can you walk us through the outlines of investigative journalism and what constitutes the ethical limits of investigative journalism? 

 The report on Rev. Burrill underscores the challenges social media and emerging technologies have created, because it blurs the boundaries of private and public information.  Grindr describes itself as "the World’s Largest Social networking app for gay, bi, trans and queer people.  As a location-based social networking and online dating site Grindr was one of the first geosocial apps for gay men when it launched in March 2009.  As a public social network, it has limited privacy controls.  These semi-public social networks compromise the former boundaries of ethical investigation. This boundary is perhaps best illustrated by the stance of a friend who was a city hall reporter.  Whenever he got a phone call or verbal comment about some alleged malfeasance, he demanded a public document like a travel expense form or letter which contained the factual basis for an investigation.  In other words, neither personal complaints nor hearsay could be trusted, but printed information could be.  Traditionally, an ethical investigation builds on facts that are part of the public record or can be verified by public documents or interviews with reliable witnesses.  Another ethical principle is to keep the focus on actions that can be proven by factual evidence or witnesses rather than on insinuations about the subject based on circumstantial evidence.  Once the verifiable facts are known, the investigative reporter moves to confront the subject and provides an opportunity to deny, admit wrongdoing or explanation.  Libel and slander laws provide boundaries and guides to investigative journalism about individuals whose reputation and good name may be at stake. Simply drawing conclusions from an online source seriously challenges verifiability and risks libeling an innocent individual.


2) Complications are now arising in the field of data mining and journalism. In your opinion, how does the aggregation of questionably acquired data work for or against the previously established moral limits of investigative journalism? 

New data mining technology poses a plethora of privacy issues for investigative journalism,  regarding both prominent individuals and ordinary citizens, for example, in areas like health and personal habits, which require some verifiable contextual evidence to reach a fact-based conclusion.  But legal boundaries differ from moral constrains which require  care for the impact of conclusions based on less than reliable abstract which can destroy or seriously damage an individual's reputation.  One of the most egregious moral and ethical compromises of investigative journalism occurred at the early 20th century Denver Post, whose reporters wrote detailed biographies of wealthy silver magnates, including their scandalous, even illegal behaviors.  The editors then used these stories to blackmail their subjects.  The reports were accurate, their purpose illegal.



3) Does a source paying for information change the calculation about whether or not a journalist should use that source? 

A source paying for information automatically raises questions about the motivations of both payee and recipient as well as the reliability of information.




4) Many are celebrating the resignation of Msgr. Burrill and the efforts that led to his resignation. From a Catholic ethics perspective, does this apparently successful end validates the means? 

The end never justifies the means, even if they are digital and seem credible because of technology.  The celebration raises questions about ignoble motives, e.g., revenge or personal animus connected to the investigation.

4) Another argument with competing voices centers on whether corruption needs to be brought to the light to be healed. Please explain, from the perspective of Catholic ethics, when and where and to what degree it would be appropriate to publish information alleging or proving corruption that is gravely sinful but not criminal. 

Healing depends, in part on the harm involved.  In Msgr. Burrill's case there is only circumstantial evidence of behavior based on GPS location with no eye witness or other factual evidence such as a credit card receipt.  Data mining based on Grindr's location routine seems a bit specious for "bringing to light corruption," an adage based on rooting out the corruption of politicians and public officials.  Within a Church context like USCCB, the question turns o the precise corruption and how it can be healed by exposure. Grindr location data insinuate but do not demonstrate the alleged corruption, or perhaps a level of ignorance in the user about the actual privacy of the Grindr app.  Healing of sinful behavior does not require public knowledge, as the Sacrament of Reconciliation demonstrates.  On the other hand, abuse of public trust or misuse of church funds may help heal the community if exposed, e.g. the sex abuse scandal or embezzlement of Church funds.

5) Please elaborate on what distinguishes truth-telling from detraction, acknowledging that many Catholics are longing for reform that they don’t see coming from most of the Bishops. 

Facts that demonstrate actual malfeasance distinguish truth telling from detraction, libel and slander.  Reform must be based on demonstrable corruption so it cannot be simply dismissed as petty jealousy or a fervid imagination.  Clear court cases and guilty verdicts launched serious reforms in sexual abuse cases.

6) The fast and growing incorporation of technology in investigative journalism seems to be inevitable and frequently positive. What lines do you think were crossed, if any, in the "investigation" that forced the resignation of Msgr. Burrill? 

Two lines:  what hard, non-digital evidence was there of wrongdoing?  What corroborating documentary or eyewitness evidence warranted the publication? Was Msgr. Burrill properly and timely informed of the digital evidence and given a chance to defend himself? Or was he blackmailed into resigning "for the good of USCCB?"



7) Is a Church official such as Msgr. Burrill a private citizen or a public official? And what the legal ramifications can be?   

He is a private citizen in U.S. legal terms.  His role in the USCCB makes him a public church official, but whether that makes him a public figure under U.S. libel law as defined in 1966 by the Supreme Court in NY Times v. Sullivan seems to be an open legal question.   Under the Sullivan decision, elected public officials must expect harsh even vitriolic criticism, and are required to demonstrate "actual malice" .i.e. knowing falsehood or careless disregard for the truth in order to win a libel case.  As neither an elected politician nor public figure, Msgr. Burrill would be protected by libel laws as an ordinary citizen.

How French Catholics are responding to Pope Francis’ Traditional Latin Mass restrictions

Tridentine Mass in Strasbourg Cathedral, France. / Christophe117 via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0).

Paris, France, Jul 24, 2021 / 03:00 am (CNA).

Responding to concerns raised by Pope Francis’ motu proprio restricting the Traditional Latin Mass, French Church authorities have issued a series of communiques seeking to reassure Catholics attached to this liturgy.

The motu proprio Traditionis custodes, published July 16, arrived like a thunderbolt for a significant part of the French Church because of its perceived severity towards traditionalist communities, which are regarded as places of strong missionary dynamism and magnets for de-Christianized youth.

According to an investigation recently published by the Catholic magazine La Nef, traditionalist Catholicism is growing constantly in France, although it still represents a small minority (4% of all practicing Catholics, 7% if we include the Society of St. Pius X, or SSPX.)

Estimating that there are around 60,000 traditionalist Catholics in France, the study concluded that traditional communities are slowly but steadily growing each year, with a very young average age.

The day after the motu proprio was issued, the French bishops’ conference reaffirmed the bishops’ intention to pursue dialogue with these communities.

“The French bishops […] wish to express to the faithful who usually celebrate according to the missal of St. John XXIII and to their pastors, their attention, their esteem for the spiritual zeal of these faithful, and their determination to continue the mission together, in the communion of the Church and according to the norms in force,” a communique said.

This statement led several observers, including the Catholic historian Yves Chiron, quoted by Le Figaro, to conclude that the new norms would be applied with flexibility and benevolence by a number of French bishops.

In the diocese of Versailles, located in the western suburbs of Paris and considered a bastion of traditionalism, Bishop Luc Crepy said that the situation was “peaceful” with the six communities usually celebrating Masses using the 1962 Roman Missal.

“Although some communities have experienced painful events in the past, I’m glad to see the progress made towards effective ecclesial communion,” he wrote.

The same peaceful climate, coupled with a “loyal application” of Benedict XVI’s 2007 apostolic letter Summorum Pontificum, was observed by Bishop Marc Aillet in his diocese of Bayonne, in southwestern France.

While reiterating his trust in the communities involved and inviting them to “continue their efforts in the same direction,” Aillet said that he would keep in place the existing groups and priests allowed to celebrate Mass according to the 1962 Missal.

The bishops of the southern dioceses of Toulon-Fréjus and Bordeaux -- two other breeding grounds for traditionalist communities -- sought to reassure their flocks by saying that the detailed rules for the application of Traditionis custodes would be reviewed and discussed collegially.

Meanwhile, Bishop Matthieu Rougé of Nanterre, in the western suburbs of Paris, claimed that his diocese was “hardly impacted by the new directives” and that the communities concerned should “be assured of the lasting, benevolent, and prayerful solicitude of their bishop.”

Some Catholic authorities, such as Bishop Jean-Pierre Batut of Blois, in central France, and Bishop Olivier Leborgne of Arras, in the north, welcomed the motu proprio quite favorably, denouncing the misuse of Summorum Pontificum by those who questioned the validity of Vatican II.

But many voices have been raised in defense of the Traditional Latin Mass, including in some surprising quarters.

Indeed, the most vibrant speech in favor of the Tridentine Mass came from the atheist and left-wing philosopher Michel Onfray. In a column published on July 18, he argued that it embodies “the heritage of the genealogical time of our civilization.”

“It inherits historically and spiritually a long lineage of sacred rituals, celebrations, and prayers, all crystallized in a form that offers a total spectacle,” he wrote.

The president of the Catholic lay organization behind the traditionalist Chartres pilgrimage, for his part, roundly condemned the motu proprio, claiming that “it will be difficult to apply in a Church which is in a catastrophic situation and has many other difficulties that the Vatican pretends not to see.”

A few priests who only celebrate according to the Novus Ordo have also expressed surprise at what they regard as the harshness of Pope Francis’ letter.

“It brings me sadness because this text seems to sweep away the efforts made by Benedict XVI to maintain the unity of the Church and to despise the efforts made by the traditionalist communities for 15 years,” Fr. Guy-Emmanuel Cariot, rector of the Basilica Saint-Denis of Argenteuil, in the suburbs of Paris, told the weekly magazine Famille chrétienne.

But for those directly affected by the motu proprio, emotions are still raw.

“I expected a text that would change things, but I would have never expected such an unjust document,” Fr. Matthieu Raffray, a Rome-based French priest of the Institute of the Good Shepherd, told CNA.

“Wherever there are traditional communities in France, I think the situation is calmed, and the bishops’ reactions are a proof of that,” he continued.

He suggested that, although it is true that some people may have used the freedom granted by the Pope emeritus to destroy unity in the Church, such a phenomenon is far more intense and widespread in the circles that follow Paul VI’s liturgy, through topics such as married priests or the German bishops’ “Synodal Way.”

In his view, the risk of spiritual impoverishment is among the most worrying possible consequences of the papal text.

“How can we possibly favor a liturgical renewal and put the mystery of the Eucharist back at the center of Mass by separating the Church from its tradition?” he asked. “A tree whose roots are cut off dies.”

Raffray argued that the motu proprio, which seeks to bring people back to the ordinary form of the Latin Rite, could also prove to be counterproductive.

“I must marry a couple this summer in France, and we’ve already agreed that if the parish priest eventually refuses to welcome us in his church, we would go outside or to a nearby barn,” he said.

“No faithful accustomed to the Traditional Latin Mass will suddenly decide to stop going because of this document.”

“There is a real movement of the youth toward traditional Mass nowadays, because they need cultural and identity landmarks,” he added.

“This text could be, in this sense, an engine that will make traditionalists even more devout, more confident in the Church, while praying for the pope and growing in faith and charity.”

The Church accompanies the people in ther legitimate claims, priest says of Cuba protests

A man waves a Cuban flag during a demonstration against the government of Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel in Havana, July 11, 2021. - Thousands of Cubans took part in rare protests Sunday against the communist government, marching through a town chanting "Down with the dictatorship" and "We want liberty." Credit: Adalberto Roque/AFP via Getty Images.

Camagüey, Cuba, Jul 23, 2021 / 18:01 pm (CNA).

The Church is accompanying those protesting Cuba’s communist government, according to a priest of the Archdiocese of Camagüey.

“I will speak about the part of the Church that I know, the one that touches me closely in this effort to accompany the people in their legitimate claims. Above all, we are welcoming, where people can speak without fear, dream of the future, think and imagine the Cuba they want. We commit ourselves to everyone in these works and we try to guide them from Gospel criteria. So that the Cuba that is reborn is in accordance with God. A Cuba that promotes the fullness of the human being that Christ revealed to us,” Fr. Fernando Luis Gálvez, pastor of San José de Lugareño parish in Camagüey, told ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language news partner, July 22.

Fr. Gálvez, 33, said that the clergy in Camagüey tried to be "a father" to their parishioners amid the emonstrations that began July 11 across Cuba.

“With such a Church, the future can proceed in the ways of God, otherwise the future will most likely be alien to the Gospel. If we do not accompany this rebirth, we would be mortgaging the future of the Church and therefore the salvation of future generations,” Fr. Gálvez stressed.

Protesters cited concerns about inflation, shortages of food and medicine, and the Covid-19 pandemic. Some protesters were beaten, and at least 100 were arrested.

“Cuba is a country in a state of collapse … When we watch national television it looks like an average country. When someone lies about many things, nothing they say is credible anymore. It is a deplorable situation,” charged Fr. Gálvez. Every day he hears "laments and complaints," he added.

“There’s nothing we can say is okay. There’s no food, no medicine, no efficient medical services, no transportation, and no properly functioning  institutions. Nothing works and almost nothing that is needed and sought out can be found. I experience this in the towns I serve as pastor, and it’s practically the same throughout the nation,” he explained. 

The protests drew a violent response from Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel, who ordered law enforcement to crack down on them.

Díaz-Canel denied July 14 that there was repression going on. However, videos posted on social media showed agents beating and arresting protesters.

“The image of those groups of ‘civilians,’ sent and protected by the communist government, armed with clubs and stones, scares me. It’s a terrifying image, totally reprehensible. So much manipulation scares me, so much intolerance of free expression, so much hatred,” the priest said.

In the context of the protests, Fr. Gálvez noted that he is seeing a Cuba that is “vigorous, with a desire for change, hopeful, with a fighting spirit,” despite the “pain and disappointment of the past and present.”

“The latest events and the government's response have awakened many who still didn’t see things clearly, who doubted, who perhaps still believed in the benefits that were only proclaimed in words. The government's violent response has been the clearest evidence of its identity. And the feeling that the people are experiencing, now in enforced silence, is: ‘no more.’ And this is the beginning of a path that sooner or later will bring change,” he continued.

The priest told ACI Prensa that in "the small towns he serves pastorally there were no demonstrations, but in some parts of the diocese there were, and I know and esteem a lot some of the detainees."

“It is precisely because of this personal knowledge that I am absolutely convinced of the human quality of many of the protesters. They are just people who love Cuba very much. There are many of them whose love for God has led them to a commitment to those who suffer, a commitment to justice, to the truth,” Fr. Gálvez said.

In addition, he said that "there are still people who have gone missing … For them we continue praying, looking for them, making demands. Others are already in their homes awaiting trial under trumped up charges. This situation is sad and very uncertain," he added.

Fr. Gálvez told ACI Prensa that he is a close friend of Fr. Cástor Álvarez Devesa, a priest who was beaten, detained during the demonstrations, and later released.


“It was 24 hours of great anguish. He wanted to know what had happened to him. Where did they take him? What are they doing to him? What will be the consequences? We were afraid for him, who had already been violently attacked during the demonstration,” he said.


According to Fr. Álvarez, “he wasn’t physically abused inside the police station. Although his arrest was already arbitrary in itself. Fr. Castor was faithfully fulfilling his priestly mission: to care for his children,” he continued.

Fr. Gálvez told ACI Prensa that "the government censors everything, including the Church."

“I don't want to talk more about this now, because it is very painful. I have marks on me and I still can’t discover the future consequences for my life and ministry. I ask you to pray for the freedom of the Church in Cuba. May we be faithful to our Christian conscience,” continued the priest.

Fr. Gálvez believes that “the clergy could be more committed to solving the real problem. The root of the problem.”

“It’s easier to give out medicine, food, etc. We are looking for fewer inconveniences. But all that’s over. I no longer have anything to give. All I have left is my voice. That I can give. And I will use it to demand justice,”  he pledged.

The priest also said that this demand for justice is related to the right to decent work and, therefore, to a better life.

“So that they, by themselves, can buy their food and get their medicines and whatever needs they may have. In Cuba we all have basic needs right now. So this material charitable service isn't enough. You have to go to the root of the problem. What are the causes of this precarious situation? There we would have to reflect and face the consequences for the good of all,” he said.

Fr. Gálvez stressed that the "unity of the Cuban Church is in Jesus Christ" and that "faith and morals unite us."

“The rest is up for discussion. That’s diversity, not division. God speaks to each one and suggests fields of action according to the needs of the people entrusted to us. That is what we would have to discern at this dramatic moment,” he stressed.

Finally, the priest said that he always remembers the Cross of Christ in order to overcome the dark hours.

“The Cross, I always invite you to contemplate the Cross, which is not resignation. The Cross since that Good Friday is the greatest paradox in history. There, by reflecting within ourselves, we could find paths and facet them with supernatural forces,” he concluded.

Venezuelan president rejects Vatican letter calling for dialogue 

Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro speaks at a rally in Caracas in support calling a constituent assembly, May 23, 2017. / Marco Salgado/Shutterstock

Caracas, Venezuela, Jul 23, 2021 / 17:01 pm (CNA).

Nicolás Maduro, the president of Venezuela, called "garbage," "poison," full of "hatred" and "cynicism" a letter that the Vatican Secretary of State sent to a Venezuelan business leader encouraging dialogue to overcome the crisis in the country.

Under Maduro’s socialist administration Venezuela has been marred by violence and political and social upheaval, with severe shortages of food and medicine, high unemployment, power outages, and hyperinflation. Over four million Venezuelans have emigrated since 2015.

In a July 21 televised event, Maduro said that “when everyone is talking about production, uniting for Venezuela, overcoming the economic crisis,  here comes a totally unknown priest, I don't know if he’s a monsignor or a bishop, and he read a letter supposedly from Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, who was the Vatican's ambassador here in Venezuela.”

Cardinal Parolin was apostolic nuncio to Venezuela from 2009 to 2013, during Hugo Chávez' last years as president. In 2013 Pope Francis appointed Cardinal Parolin Vatican Secretary of State.

The cardinal’s June 23 letter was addressed to Ricardo Cusanno Maduro, president of Fedecámaras, the Venezuelan Federation of Chambers of Commerce. The letter was announced during the 77th annual assembly of the organization, and addresses "issues about the future of the country's economy and its relationship to peace.”

According to the weekly Colombian magazine Semana, the letter was read at the event by Bishop Ricardo Aldo Barreto Cairo, an auxiliary bishop of Caracas.

For Maduro, the Vatican text is “a letter that was a compendium of hatred, poison, quarreling, cynicism, it’s ridiculous; a letter truly full of hatred, a national disaster, the letter from Pietro Parolin.”

“What does the Vatican foreign minister have to do with the assembly of a Venezuelan business organization? I ask, what does he have to do with it? Explain that, Pietro Parolini (sic),” Maduro questioned.

Maduro also said that the letter "totally unsettled the atmosphere (of negotiations)," was a "disaster" and that “the letter that Pietro Parolin supposedly sent was rubbish. I don’t know that he sent it.”

In the letter sent to the Fedecámaras assembly, Cardinal Parolin said he is aware of the organization's commitment “to the economic and social development of the country, and the efforts they are making to promote a more just, democratic, productive and entrepreneurial Venezuela, in which true social justice reigns.”

"Like you, I consider it important that civil society also be the protagonist of the solution to the current crisis in that beloved country, a solution that will only be provided if Venezuelans, and especially those who have some kind of political responsibility, are willing to sit down and negotiate, in a serious way, on specific issues that respond to the true needs of Venezuelans, and for a set period of time," the letter continues. 

For cardinal Parolin "this requires political will on the part of those involved, willingness to let the common good prevail over private interests, and the responsible support of civil society and the international community."

"Therefore, I encourage you to support all initiatives that promote understanding and reconciliation among Venezuelans," the cardinal wrote.

"If negotiations like the ones mentioned are successful, great generosity and patience will be necessary, since the current crisis will not be resolved immediately, but multiple efforts and sacrifices will still be necessary on everyone’s part," he continued.

"I assure you of my prayers so that the meeting is fruitful and that, through the intercession of Blessed Dr. Hernández, all of us, with generosity of spirit, know how to put the good of our neighbor, the common good, above our personal interests," Cardinal Parolin said.

For several months, representatives of the Maduro regime and the opposition have been negotiating about setting up talks that could take place in August in Mexico, and could have the Norwegian government as an intermediary.

However, in recent days government officials came to the house of opposition leader Juan Guaidó with the intention of arresting him but were thwarted because his wife, Fabiana Rosales, got on Twitter to report it, causing neighbors to react and prevent his arrest.

While that was happening, former opposition assemblyman Freddy Guevara got a message out on Instagram from his car the moment he was surrounded by masked officials who took him into custody.

The government accuses Guevara of terrorism, treason, and criminal association, and his supposed ties to the death of 26 people in a Caracas neighborhood, who according to the government were part of gangs that sought to overthrow Maduro.

The accusations against Guevara - which his legal defense team has called as false - are for the government consistent with the conditions that Maduro set for talks to take place.

Maduro's conditions to go to Mexico are that the United States and the European Union lift all sanctions against Venezuela, that all political parties recognize the legitimacy of his government, and that “all sectors renounce violent plans with criminals, coups, the assassination of officials and other avenues of violence.”

On July 22, the Secretary General of the Organization of American States, Luis Almagro, met with Guevara's family and collaborators, who informed him of the opposition leader’s "arbitrary arrest and his delicate state of health."

"We demand from the Venezuelan dictatorship full respect for his rights and his immediate release," Almagro said on Twitter.

Major donations mean 'tremendous impact' for Catholic school students in western Pennsylvania

Stephen Kiers/Shutterstock

Greensburg, Pa., Jul 23, 2021 / 16:01 pm (CNA).

An anonymous donor and new partners will help continue millions of dollars in funding for a tuition aid program for the Diocese of Greensburg’s Catholic schools. The program is set to support hundreds of students in southwestern Pennsylvania over the next five years.

 

“These are true evangelization efforts. These monies help to ensure that more students will be knowledgeable in the faith,” Dr. Maureen Marsteller, Superintendent of Catholic Schools in the diocese, said July 21.

 

In 2020, the St. Pope John Paul II Tuition Opportunity Partnership gave nearly $2.5 million in tuition assistance to support more than 800 students. These resources offset tuition for 250 students new to the Catholic school system. This boosted Catholic school enrollment by more than 13%.

 

“These are major opportunities for our Catholic schools, each made possible by community-minded individuals who understand the impact that Catholic education can have in a person's life,” Bishop Larry Kulick of Greensburg said. “We are grateful for their commitment to our schools and families through these partnerships.”

 

The scholarship partnership was first announced in July 2020. It was launched with $2.5 million from an anonymous donor the diocese said is “committed to fortifying Catholic education in western Pennsylvania.”

 

To qualify for assistance for the scholarship program, students must show commitment to and enthusiasm for learning. The student or family must be registered members of a faith community, and the student must demonstrate service to that community. A student’s parent or guardian must also show some financial commitment to the cost of education.

 

Beneficiaries do not need to be Catholic. The amount of monetary aid for each student depends on factors such as financial need, other financial aid options, and the number of siblings who attend Catholic schools, according to the Valley News Dispatch.

 

The five-year extension to the program has the support of the previous anonymous donor as well as new named donors including Jay W. Cleveland, Jr., president and CEO of Cleveland Brothers. The Pennsylvania Educational Income Tax Credit program, with commitments from over 100 businesses and individuals, have helped provide tuition assistance forecasted at $20 million over the next five years.

 

“It is truly a great day for us here in the Diocese of Greensburg with this historic and monumental announcement,” Bishop Kulick said at a press conference at Aquinas Academy in Greensburg. The program is a “wonderful opportunity” to ensure that every student who wants a Catholic education will receive it, he said.

 

He said that Aquinas Academy saw a 10% increase in enrollment, aided by the donation.

 

Cathy Collett, principal at Aquinas Academy, said that adding $2.5 million to tuition aid programs “certainly makes a tremendous impact.”

 

There are 11 Catholic elementary schools and two junior-senior high schools in the diocese’s school system, which has more than 2,300 students, according to the diocese’s website. Forecasts suggest the tuition program could help enrollment grow by 80 students, another 10% increase.

 

The diocese also welcomed capital project donations for many school campuses that totaled more than $300,000 in manpower and resources from Lindy Paving, Golden Triangle Construction and Arch Masonry at many of the school campuses. The diocese’s statement voiced gratitude for attorney John Goetz and the law firm Jones Day, Pittsburgh for pro bono legal services regarding the donations.

 

There are about 128,000 Catholics out of a total population of some 640,000 people who live in the territory of the Greensburg diocese.

Sympathizers in Nigeria's high-ranking positions stall fight against militants, priest says

St. Leo the Great Catholic Church in Enugu, Nigeria was vandalized Nov 4, 2013. / Aid to the Church in Need/www.kirche-in-not.ch.

Lokoja, Nigeria, Jul 23, 2021 / 15:39 pm (CNA).

Boko Haram sympathizers and others who support Nigeria being an Islamic State are stalling the fight against militants in the West African country, a local priest has said.

According to Fr. George Ehusani, a priest of the Diocese of Lokoja and executive director of the Lux Terra Leadership Foundation, many of those secretly backing the activities of militants in Nigeria occupy key positions in various sectors of the country.

In a July 22 interview with ACI Africa, Fr. Ehusani said that the sympathizers are thwarting every effort to defeat the militants by either supporting them materially or leaking key information pertaining planned offensives from the country’s military ranks.

“There are people who may not be as radical and as brutal as this Boko Haram or these violent bandits, but who share their sentiments, who share some of their ideological orientations, who sympathize with them; people who believe that Nigeria, or at least most of Nigeria, the Northern part of Nigeria, should be fully Islamic,” Fr. Ehusani says.

He adds, “There are people of that orientation in government. Everybody knows that there are people of that orientation in schools and colleges. There are people of that orientation in the military forces, in the security forces.”

“There are allegations that when plans are made as to how to swoop on these people and end this menace, the plans will leak out from the highest military command,” the priest said, adding, “The plans will leak out to the terrorists.”

Because the sympathizers occupy key positions in government and other influential positions in the public and private sectors, Fr. Ehusani says they are treated “with kid gloves”.

“We can see the lack of action, the inaction and treating these criminals with kid gloves all these years. We can see that some people in high places in government sympathize with these bandits and these criminals, and they will not easily allow, let’s say, the Nigerian air force to go and bomb their enclave,” he says.

The priest asserts that the government has been “more unwilling than unable” to fight the militants who continue to wreak havoc against populations in Nigeria, most of them Christian.

He finds it baffling that the Nigerian military has been able to quell violence in the neighboring countries, only to appear defeated by militants.

“Many of us are at a loss,” Fr. Ehusani said, asking, “How can a country that has trained military, trained army, navy, air force that has done very well in international peacekeeping, one that has done very well in helping to quell the crisis in Sierra Leone, in Liberia… say they cannot quell this Boko Haram problem?”

The priest said that Nigeria played a principal role in bringing to an end the 11-year war in Sierra Leone and in many other countries, including Liberia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Fr. Ehusani says that militants are establishing territory in many places, especially in the north of the country, where many places have their specific flag.

“As we speak, swathes of territories in Northern Nigeria are no go areas except for them; meaning swathes of territories that I as a priest, as a Christian, cannot go into because they have taken over; they have hoisted their flag,” he stated.

He explained that in Borno state, for instance, there are vast territories where citizens are forced to pay taxes to Boko Haram and other bandits so as to be allowed to carry on legitimate activities like going to their farms.

“I am not able to give you the number or the geographical dimension or size but there are swathes of territories here and there where the average person cannot go to, that even government officials cannot go to,” he said, adding, “If the governor of the state wants to go there, he will need a battalion of the military to be able to go to that area.”

He noted a November 2020 incident in Zabarmari in Borno state. He said at least 39 farmers were killed, and “their offence was that they went to the farm.”

He says that although many of those killed were Christians, Muslims were also victims of the violence.

Fr. Ehusani told ACI Africa that over time, militants who only targeted Christians have started killing Muslims who refuse to be part of them.

In the beginning of the Islamist attacks, only Christian places of worship were being burnt down, the priest recalled. With time, he said, the attacks degenerated and now, everybody who is not part of the militants is targeted.

“When it started, even the moderate Muslims either were too scared to speak out or they sympathized with these people. So, they kept quiet. So, part of the ways in which this thing became a wildfire is that at the beginning in 2009, 2010 and 2011, many moderate Muslims in Northern Nigeria kept quiet,” he said.

Fr. Ehusani said in reference to the Muslims, “At that time they thought that it is only us Christians who will be victims. Now when you ignore a wildfire, it will consume you yourself.”

“It is no longer just about Christians,” he reiterated, explaining that “Today, even mosques are being ransacked. Islamic schools have been ransacked.”

He said that when the attacks began, militants picked out Christians on abducted buses, killed them, and allowed Muslims to go. But “now they will kidnap everybody in the bus and ask for ransom. And if they don't get the ransom, they kill all of them.”

The priest expressed concern that militants in Nigeria are evolving in their tactics and are accessing sophisticated weapons.

He explained that “Just four days ago, the criminals downed an air force plane. So, we're no longer just dealing with ground level troops anymore. We're dealing with people who have the capacity to either launch grenades, rockets or something to bring down a fighter jet.”

The leadership of Nigeria  “as presently constituted” has failed in protecting its people, he asserted, noting that at the moment the people can only trust in God.

“God alone is our trust because the government as presently constituted cannot even protect its own government officials not to talk of protecting Christians,” he said, adding, “Christians are the most vulnerable now since most of these bandits are determined to bring about Islamic rule.”

“As a Christian living in Northern Nigeria today, I do not have anything to look up to as anything coming from the government to be able to protect me,” Fr. Ehusani said.

He referred to the July 16 murder of Major General Hussaini Ahmed, saying, he “was brutally shot and killed on the road that he was traveling two hours away from Abuja.”

Fr. Ehusani said Ahmed’s sister, who was travelling with him, was kidnapped.

“He was brutally shot and killed, a major general in the army, former provost Marshal; and we have had such high-level people that are just killed like chickens,” the priest said.

He posed: “So, what kind of hope do you think that I have if I step out of my house that I cannot be killed? That's why I say to your question, I look up to this sky from where does my help come from. My help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth. That’s all we can say as Christians in Nigeria today.”

The people have unceasingly reached out to the international community for help, where the government has failed, he said.

“We have also cried to the international community that, even if the government does not ask for help, see the number of people who are dying. Can you imagine that over 1,000 people are being killed every month, and we are not at war?”

He added, “There is no declared war. There is what is called low intensity conflict and high intensity conflict. By the time you have more than a thousand people having been killed every month, it is no longer low intensity. It is a high intensity conflict.”

The priest expressed regret that despite what has been described as a genocide in Nigeria, the government has done little to show concern.

The prayer chanted by Christians in Nigeria, the priest said, is, “Lord help us because the government of the day cannot help us.”

Lawsuit brings sex abuse allegations against New Hampshire bishop

Bishop Peter Libasci of Manchester. Credit: Jeff Dachowski.

Rockville Centre, N.Y., Jul 23, 2021 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

Bishop Peter Libasci has been accused in a lawsuit of committing sexual abuse while a priest in New York during the 1980s. 

The Bishop of Manchester is accused in a July 14 lawsuit of abusing a male youth on numerous occasions in 1983 and 1984. Bishop Libasci has not spoken out publicly on the allegations, but the Diocese of Manchester says the matter has been reported to civil authorities. 

The anonymous alleged victim, an altar boy who would have been in his early teens, was a student at Saints Cyril and Methodius School in Deer Park, New York, which has since merged with another school. The lawsuit also names the Sisters of St. Joseph, an order which ran the school, claiming they were negligent in allowing the alleged abuse to occur. 

The Manchester diocese told the Associated Press in a statement that it was aware of the lawsuit and that the matter had been reported to civil authorities, but that Libasci’s status as bishop has not, for the moment, changed. 

The diocese did not respond to CNA’s request for further comment. 

Bishop Libasci was a priest of the Diocese of Rockville Centre at the time of the alleged abuse, having been ordained in 1978. The Rockville Centre diocese is one of several in New York that have recently filed for bankruptcy amid a flood of lawsuits. 

In a 2002 agreement, in return for the the state of New Hampshire agreeing not to prosecute the diocese as an institution or any individuals for their past handling of sexual abuse allegations involving clergy, though county attorneys still can pursue individual prosecutions, the diocese agreed to new policies on sexual abuse and to periodic audits of those policies, the AP reported.

Before his 2011 appointment to lead the Manchester diocese, Bishop Libasci was an auxiliary bishop of Rockville Centre, having been consecrated in 2007. 

Sean Dolan, spokesman for the Rockville Centre diocese, told CNA that because the allegations involve a current diocesan bishop, the diocese has informed the Holy See of the accusation, in keeping with the norms of Vos estes lux mundi, Pope Francis’ 2019 document which governs procedures regarding accusations against bishops. 

If a Vos estis investigation into Bishop Libasci is initiated, it will likely be undertaken by Sean Cardinal O’Malley of Boston, Libasci’s metropolitan archbishop, with a 90-day timetable for Cardinal O’Malley to complete any investigation. 

A spokesman for the Boston archdiocese told the NH Reporter that no Vos estis investigation has yet begun, and referred further questions to the Vatican. 

“Following its standard protocol, the Diocese of Rockville Centre also reported the matter to the Suffolk County District Attorney,” Dolan told CNA in a statement.

“The Diocese of Rockville Centre remains committed to the ongoing work of creating a safe environment in the Church.”

The Rockville Centre diocese filed for bankruptcy in October 2020. Several other New York dioceses including Rochester, Syracuse, and Buffalo have also declared bankruptcy. 

The passage of the Child Victims Act in New York in 2019 allowed for sex abuse lawsuits to be filed in past cases in which victims had not yet taken action, long after the statute of limitations had expired. The CVA originally created a one-year window for these lawsuits to be filed; the window closes next month, and hundreds of lawsuits have since been filed.

Cardinal Kasper assails Traditional Latin Mass community for divisiveness

Cardinal Walter Kasper. / CNA/Bohumil Petrik.

Denver Newsroom, Jul 23, 2021 / 13:30 pm (CNA).

German prelate Cardinal Walter Kasper argued that the Traditional Latin Mass was a source of division and scandal within parishes in an interview about Traditionis Custodes with the National Catholic Register on Thursday, July 22, 2021. 

The cardinal stated that those who prefer the Traditional Latin Mass “reject the Second Vatican Council more or less in its entirety” and characterized Benedict XVI’s Summorum Pontificum as a failed attempt at furthering unity.

"It’s my experience that the overwhelming majority of the faithful are firmly against it (the Traditional Latin Mass). I know many people are scandalized when they come to St. Peter’s in Rome early in the morning and see that on many altars priests celebrating the 'old Mass' without any altar boy and no participation of the faithful. They turn to the empty basilica and say: 'Dominus vobiscum','“Orate fratres' etc.," he added.

While Cardinal Kasper did recognize that other threats to unity exist within the Church--notably the German synodal way--he stayed away from characterizing them with the same degree of danger as adhering to the Traditional Latin Mass. 

“As far as I know, none of the bishops wants any schismatic act and there is a slowly growing number in the bishops’ conference who are resistant,” said the Cardinal about the German synodal way. 

The full text of the interview can be found here

Pope Francis' Traditional Latin Mass restrictions: Has your diocese responded yet?

Cardinal Raymond Burke gives the final blessing during the Summorum Pontificum Pilgrimage Mass in Rome on Oct. 25, 2014. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Denver Newsroom, Jul 23, 2021 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

Catholic clergy and lay people around the world continue to react passionately to newly imposed restrictions on the use of the Traditional Latin Mass, one week after Pope Francis released his controversial apostolic letter Traditionis Custodes.

In his motu proprio issued July 16, the pope recognized the “exclusive competence” of bishops to authorize or refuse the Latin Mass in their respective dioceses, and he directed bishops to ensure that groups dedicated to the “extraordinary form” do not deny the validity of Vatican II and its liturgical reforms. The pope also declared that Traditional Latin Masses can no longer be offered at “parochial churches,” and he ordered that readings must be in the vernacular.

Expressly aimed at unifying the Church, the document has sparked a week of fractious commentary.

Several prominent Church leaders, as well as numerous conservative commentators such as author George Weigel, have been pointed in their criticism of the surprise announcement. In a July 21 essay published in First Things, Weigel called the motu proprio "theologically incoherent, pastorally divisive, unnecessary, cruel—and a sorry example of the liberal bullying that has become all too familiar in Rome recently."

Meanwhile, Fr. Thomas Reese, in a July 20 column for Religion News Service, said the document was part of Pope Francis’ effort to “separate the pious faithful with traditional devotion to the old liturgy from the ideologues who reject the reforms of the [Second Vatican] council.”

To date the official response to the document from U.S. bishops has been muted, with 152 dioceses having said nothing publicly yet about their plans to implement the pope’s new rules.

Most of the few dozen bishops who have issued statements have chosen temporarily to allow the Traditional Latin Mass to continue in their dioceses while they review the document, while others have restricted Latin Masses in certain parish churches. Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield in Illinois issued a canonical dispensation from the document for two parish churches, allowing the Traditional Latin Mass to continue at those locations.

Below is a state-by-state list of episcopal statements on the state of the Traditional Latin Mass in their respective dioceses, as of July 23: 

Alabama 

Archdiocese of Mobile: N/A

Diocese of Birmingham: N/A

Alaska

Archdiocese of Anchorage-Juneau: N/A

Diocese of Fairbanks: N/A

Arizona

Diocese of Phoenix: N/A

Diocese of Tucson: N/A

Arkansas 

Diocese of Little Rock: Celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass has ceased at “regular parish churches.” Two parishes administered by the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter will not be affected.

California

Archdiocese of Los Angeles: N/A
Archdiocese of San Francisco: Priests already celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass may continue to do so.

Diocese of Oakland: Priests already celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass may continue to do so.

Diocese of Sacramento: N/A

Diocese of Fresno: N/A

Diocese of San Bernardino: N/A

Diocese of San Diego: N/A

Diocese of San Jose: N/A

Diocese of Santa Rosa: N/A

Diocese of Stockton: N/A

Diocese of Orange: N/A

Diocese of Monterey: N/A

Colorado

Archdiocese of Denver: Priests already celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass may continue to do so. 

Diocese of Colorado Springs: N/A

Diocese of Pueblo: N/A

Connecticut

Archdiocese of Hartford: N/A

Diocese of Bridgeport: Priests wishing to celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass - including in private - must write Bishop Frank Caggiano for permission to continue. Bishop Caggiano has promised to grant temporary faculties for at least private Masses.

Diocese of Norwich: N/A

Delaware

Diocese of Wilmington: N/A

Florida

Archdiocese of Miami: N/A

Diocese of Orlando: N/A

Diocese of Palm Beach: N/A

Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee: N/A

Diocese of St. Augustine: N/A

Diocese of St. Petersburg: N/A

Diocese of Venice: N/A

Georgia

Archdiocese of Atlanta: N/A

Diocese of Savannah: N/A

Hawaii

Diocese of Honolulu: N/A 

Idaho

Diocese of Boise: N/A

Illinois

Archdiocese of Chicago: N/A

Diocese of Belleville: N/A

Diocese of Joliet: N/A

Diocese of Peoria: N/A

Diocese of Rockford: N/A

Diocese of Springfield: Bishop Thomas Paprocki issued a canonical dispensation from Art. 3, § 2 of Traditionis custodes for two parishes in the diocese, allowing celebration of the Latin Mass according to the 1962 Missal to continue at those churches.

Indiana

Archdiocese of Indianapolis: N/A

Diocese of Evansville: N/A

Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend: N/A

Diocese of Gary: N/A

Diocese of Lafayette: N/A

Iowa

Archdiocese of Dubuque: Archbishop Michael Jackels said that at Immaculate Conception parish in Cedar Rapids, where the Extraordinary Form is offered, “efforts will be made, guided by the new norm, to provide for those folks.”

Diocese of Davenport: N/A

Diocese of Des Moines: St. Anthony parish in Des Moines reported that a regularly scheduled Sunday Latin Mass will continue, with permission from Bishop William Joensen.

Diocese of Sioux City: N/A

Kansas

Archdiocese of Kansas City: N/A

Diocese of Dodge City: N/A

Diocese of Salina: N/A 

Diocese of Wichita: N/A

Kentucky

Archdiocese of Louisville: N/A

Diocese of Covington: N/A

Diocese of Lexington: N/A

Diocese of Owensboro: N/A

Louisiana

Archdiocese of New Orleans: Priests already celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass may continue to do so. 

Diocese of Alexandria: N/A

Diocese of Baton Rouge: N/A 

Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux: N/A

Diocese of Lafayette: N/A

Diocese of Shreveport: N/A

Diocese of Lake Charles: Priests already celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass may continue to do so. 

Maine

Diocese of Portland: N/A

Maryland

Archdiocese of Baltimore: Priests already celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass may continue to do so. 

Massachusetts

Archdiocese of Boston: Priests already celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass may continue to do so.  

Diocese of Fall River: N/A

Diocese of Springfield: N/A

Diocese of Worcester: Bishop Robert Joseph McManus said that “in the weeks ahead,” he would meet with priests celebrating the Extraordinary Form with his “permission,” to discuss implementation of Traditionis custodes.

Michigan

Archdiocese of Detroit: Priests already celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass may continue to do so.  

Diocese of Gaylord: N/A

Diocese of Grand Rapids: Priests already celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass may continue to do so. 

Diocese of Kalamazoo: Priests already celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass may continue to do so. 

Diocese of Lansing: N/A

Diocese of Marquette: N/A

Diocese of Saginaw: N/A

Minnesota

Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis: Priests already celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass may continue to do so, conditional on writing to the bishop for permission.

Diocese of Bismarck: N/A

Diocese of Crookston: N/A

Diocese of Duluth: Celebration of the Traditional Mass may continue at St. Benedict’s parish in Duluth; authorization for other parishes offering the Traditional Mass will be examined on a case-by-case basis.

Diocese of New Ulm: N/A

Diocese of Saint Cloud: N/A

Diocese of Winona-Rochester: N/A

Mississippi

Diocese of Biloxi: N/A

Diocese of Jackson: N/A

Missouri

Archdiocese of St. Louis: N/A

Diocese of Jefferson City: N/A

Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph: N/A

Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau: N/A

Montana

Diocese of Great Falls-Billings: N/A

Diocese of Helena: N/A

Nebraska

Archdiocese of Omaha: N/A

Diocese of Grand Island: N/A

Diocese of Lincoln: Priests already celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass may continue to do so.  

Nevada

Diocese of Las Vegas: N/A

Diocese of Reno: N/A

New Hampshire

Diocese of Manchester: N/A

New Jersey

Archdiocese of Newark: N/A

Diocese of Camden: N/A

Diocese of Metuchen: N/A

Diocese of Paterson: N/A

Diocese of Trenton: Bishop David O’Connell authorized use of Mass according to the 1962 Missal at five parishes, with a sixth permitted to offer the Traditional Latin Mass on First Fridays of every other month.

New Mexico

Archdiocese of Santa Fe: N/A

Diocese of Gallup: N/A

Diocese of Las Cruces: N/A

New York

Archdiocese of New York: N/A

Diocese of Albany: Bishop Edward Scharfenberger welcomed “input” from members of the diocese on implementation of Traditionis custodes.

Diocese of Brooklyn: N/A

Diocese of Buffalo: N/A

Diocese of Ogdensburg: N/A

Diocese of Rochester: N/A

Diocese of Rockville Centre: N/A

Diocese of Syracuse: N/A

North Carolina 

Diocese of Charlotte: N/A

Diocese of Raleigh: N/A

North Dakota 

Diocese of Bismarck: N/A

Diocese of Fargo: N/A

Ohio

Archdiocese of Cincinnati: Old St. Mary’s church and Sacred Heart church in Cincinnati, as well as Holy Family church in Dayton and to-be-determined location in the north of the archdiocese, have been designated as sites for celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass. For other celebrations of Mass according to the 1962 Missal, priests must obtain permission and offer non-scheduled and non-publicized Mass at a “sacred” or “decent” place.

Diocese of Cleveland:  Priests already celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass may continue to do so.

Diocese of Columbus: N/A

Diocese of Steubenville: N/A

Diocese of Toledo: Bishop Daniel Thomas granted a canonical dispensation from Art. 3, § 2 of the motu proprio for St. Joseph parish in Toledo, allowing the celebration of Mass according to the 1962 Missal to continue there. Other priests already celebrating the Latin Mass should request permission from him, including the location, reason for celebrating, and proposed frequency of Masses.

Diocese of Youngstown: N/A

Oklahoma 

Archdiocese of Oklahoma City:  Priests already celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass may continue to do so.  

Diocese of Tulsa: N/A

Oregon

Archdiocese of Portland: N/A

Diocese of Baker: N/A

Pennsylvania

Archdiocese of Philadelphia: Priests already celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass may continue to do so.  

Diocese of Allentown: N/A

Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown: N/A

Diocese of Erie: N/A

Diocese of Greensburg: N/A

Diocese of Harrisburg: N/A 

Diocese of Pittsburgh: Priests already celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass - currently offered at one parish in the diocese - may continue to do so. 

Diocese of Scranton: Traditional Latin Masses at St. Michael the Archangel parish in Scranton, administered by the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP), may continue. Diocesan priests who have offered Mass according to the 1962 Missal must request permission to continue doing so.

Rhode Island

Diocese of Providence: Priests already celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass may continue to do so. 

South Carolina

Diocese of Charleston: N/A

South Dakota

Diocese of Sioux Falls: N/A

Diocese of Rapid City: N/A

Tennessee

Diocese of Knoxville: Bishop Richard Stika granted a temporary canonical dispensation from Art. 3, § 2 of Traditionis custodes for parishes already offering the Traditional Latin Mass. 

Diocese of Memphis: N/A

Diocese of Nashville: N/A

Texas

Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston: Cardinal Daniel DiNardo stated, “For the time being, the celebration of Holy Mass according to the Roman Missal of 1962 may continue within the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.”

Archdiocese of San Antonio: N/A

Diocese of Amarillo: N/A

Diocese of Austin: N/A

Diocese of Beaumont: N/A

Diocese of Brownsville: Priests already celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass may continue to do so. 

Diocese of Corpus Christi: N/A

Diocese of Dallas: N/A

Diocese of El Paso: N/A

Diocese of Fort Worth: N/A

Diocese of Laredo: N/A

Diocese of Lubbock: N/A 

Diocese of San Angelo: N/A

Diocese of Tyler: N/A

Diocese of Victoria: N/A

Utah

Diocese of Salt Lake City: N/A

Vermont

Diocese of Burlington: N/A

Virginia

Diocese of Arlington:  Priests already celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass may continue to do so. 

Diocese of Richmond: N/A

Virgin Islands

Diocese of St. Thomas: N/A

Washington

Archdiocese of Seattle: N/A

Diocese of Spokane: N/A

Diocese of Yakima: N/A

Washington D.C. 

Archdiocese of Washington: Priests already celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass may continue to do so. 

Archdiocese of the Military Services: Priests already celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass may continue to do so. 

West Virginia

Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston: Priests already celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass may continue to do so. 

Wisconsin

Archdiocese of Milwaukee: Priests already celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass may continue to do so. 

Diocese of Green Bay: N/A

Diocese of La Crosse: N/A

Diocese of Madison: Bishop Donald Hying said that priests wishing to offer the Traditional Latin Mass could “presume” his authorization now.

Diocese of Superior: N/A

Wyoming

Diocese of Cheyenne: N/A

CNA would like to keep this list updated. If you have new information, please contact us at [email protected]

Hong Kong democracy activist: Most of my friends have been detained

Joseph Cheng. / Courtesy photo.

Rome Newsroom, Jul 23, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

For Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Joseph Cheng, dramatic changes occurred quickly in his city, leading him, like so many others, to leave his home. He says that his Catholic faith has given him the strength to accept suffering for the sake of the values he holds dear.

“The changes have been rapid and have been beyond the expectations of ordinary Hong Kong people, of ordinary supporters of the pro-democracy movement,” Joseph Cheng told CNA on July 23.

“Among my friends who are activists, who are staunch activists, it is quite a sad story. Most of them have been detained,” he said.

More than 10,000 people have been arrested in Hong Kong since the 2019 anti-government protest movement brought over a million people into the streets.

In the first year under the national security law imposed in June 2020, 117 were arrested and more than 60 politicians, activists, journalists, and students were charged under the law, according to AP.

“Many of the young activists have been leaving in recent months,” Cheng said.

“Almost two-thirds of the most active participants in the pro-democracy movement are either being detained or they are being prosecuted and therefore they cannot leave or they have gone,” he said.

It is estimated that up to a million people may leave Hong Kong, which has a population of 7.5 million, in the next few years.

Cheng is one of many from Hong Kong who has already opted to leave in response to the threat posed by the national security law. He left with his family for Australia in July 2020 and has since settled in Auckland, New Zealand.

Others from Hong Kong have gone to the United Kingdom or Taiwan, which have both offered special visas in light of the situation.

“I never expected to leave Hong Kong,” said Cheng, a 71-year-old retired political science professor.

“I was quite prepared to retire in Hong Kong … but I was severely attacked by the pro-Beijing mass media … and I was very worried that I may be arrested and prosecuted.”

Cheng said that due to recent events, many people are pessimistic about Hong Kong’s future, and he did not think that he would be able to return in the foreseeable future.

Yet he said that his Catholic faith had helped to give meaning to his suffering and shape his belief that values are worth fighting for even when one understands that “not much can be achieved, and the situation probably will continue to deteriorate.”

“As a Catholic, we believe in the afterlife, and we believe in everlasting life. And we believe that love of God, maintaining our faith, maintaining our love for ... members of the society are important,” he said.

“And because of our belief in these things, we tend to accept sufferings, hardships, challenges in the present world ... in a more prepared manner.”

For Cheng, this may also explain why “many of the pro-democracy leaders and activists are Catholics.”

“They have received a Catholic education,” he said. “And I am among those who hold these beliefs, who hold these values and am, therefore, slightly more willing to sacrifice, and to engage in activities to uphold the values that we treasure.”