In brief

Newark, United States

University asks for courtesy as students abuse seminarians

Students at a Catholic university have been urged to be civil after seminarians on campus were reportedly verbally abused.Mary Meehan, interim president at Seton Hall, New Jersey, said her office had been informed of “several instances of foul language and incivility being aimed at members of our Immaculate Conception Seminary”. In a letter to staff and students, she added: “This is unacceptable and cannot be tolerated.” Seton Hall, named after St Elizabeth Ann Seton, is a diocesan university founded in 1856. It has about 10,000 students. In August it hired a law firm to investigate sex abuse allegations involving seminarians. Some of the allegations concerned Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, the former president of the university’s board of trustees.

Ottawa, Canada

Legal marijuana will be a disaster, say bishops

canada’s bishops have restated their opposition to the country’s new law allowing marijuana to be used recreationally. A statement signed by Bishop Lionel Gendron, president of the bishops’ conference, pointed to the “growing problems of a society more and more dependent on drugs and alcohol, [and] the possibility of brain damage”, especially to under-25s. Canada is the second country after Uruguay to make marijuana legal. Licensed shops began selling the drug last week. The bishops’ conference previously criticised the government for encouraging widespread use of a substance that would have “disastrous effects for so many people”. The catechism says the use of drugs – unless it has a therapeutic purpose – constitutes a “grave offence”.

Mexico City

Cardinal’s bodyguard is shot dead

A Police officer who was guarding the house of a cardinal was shot dead on Sunday, in a suspected attempted robbery. Cardinal Norberto Rivera (pictured), the Archbishop Emeritus of Mexico City, was inside his home at the time. The country’s bishops’ conference called it a “direct attack” on him. According to the city prosecutor, a man in military clothing approached the entrance of the house to deliver a package. The man then shot the guard but was forced to flee by other guards who returned fire. Cardinal Rivera was Archbishop of Mexico City from 1995 to 2017.

Rio de Janeiro

Bolsonaro promises cardinal that he will oppose abortion

The most likely candidate to become Brazil’s next president has reassured the Archbishop of Rio de Janeiro that he will oppose the introduction of abortion.Jair Bolsonaro, a right-wing populist, said in a campaign video that he had signed a commitment “defending the family, defending the innocence of children in schools [by opposing sex education on homosexuality], defending the freedom of religion, against abortion and the legalisation of drugs”. He said he had made the promise at a meeting with Cardinal Orani Tempesta.

Santiago, Chile

Confusion as court denies reaching verdict against diocese

The Chilean church had to react to a major false alarm on Monday, after a newspaper report suggested that a court had reached a decision on an abuse case. La Tercera newspaper claimed that the Archdiocese of Santiago would have to pay damages to survivors Juan Carlos Cruz, José Andrés Murillo and James Hamilton, who claim that Cardinals Francisco Javier Errázuriz and Ricardo Ezzati covered up for a priest who assaulted them. (Both deny the claims.) The president of the appeals court issued a statement dismissing the report. It said: “There is no ruling, no sentence has been issued nor is there even a draft decision.”

Trelew, Argentina

Feminist rioters attack church

Radical feminists firebombed a town hall and spray-painted a church with graffiti during a march in the city of Trelew last week. Reports suggested that 50,000 women took part in the rally. They were in the city attending the “National Encounter of Women” conference. According to the news site Crux, they held placards with slogans such as “Abort your heterosexuality” and “Church and State, separate affair”. Several Catholic churches have been vandalised in Argentina in recent weeks after the senate rejected a bill legalising abortion.


Vatican refuses request for cardinal to appear in court

The Vatican has denied a request for doctrinal chief Cardinal Luis Ladaria to testify at a trial over an alleged abuse cover-up. In a response to the French foreign ministry, the Holy See invoked diplomatic immunity, saying it had not informed Cardinal Ladaria of his court summons. The trial is a civil lawsuit against Cardinal Philippe Barbarin of Lyon and two other priests for failing to report an abuser to the police. Abuse survivors had wanted Cardinal Ladaria to testify because in 2015, as secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he had advised Cardinal Barbarin to discipline Fr Bernard Preynat “while avoiding public scandal”. They allege that this meant “don’t tell the police”. Both cardinals deny wrongdoing.

Vatican City

Viganò says Cardinal Ouellet missed key facts in his letter

Whistleblower Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò has challenged a senior Vatican cardinal who defended the Vatican’s lack of earlier action against Theodore McCarrick. Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, responding to Viganò, said that, unlike today, the Vatican knew only of “rumours” about McCarrick’s behaviour. But in his third letter Viganò said the Holy See had “documentary proof” dating back to the 2000s and that officials failed to act.


Pornography ban

Nepal is seeking to ban pornography in an effort to curb rising rates of sexual assault. Reported rapes have increased threefold in less than 10 years. Amid an outcry, the government has ordered internet service providers to block pornography or face large fines or lose their licence.

Jalandhar, India

Witness in bishop’s trial is found dead

A priest considered a key witness against a bishop accused of rape has been found dead. Fr Kuriakose Kattuthara, 67, had given testimony against Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jalandhar (pictured), who denies allegations that he raped a nun. The priest was found dead in his room. His family say they suspect foul play and that he was under “tremendous pressure” to withdraw his testimony. But a local doctor, said he was receiving treatment for hypertension and diabetes and that his “blood pressure and sugar levels were dangerously high”.

Pangkham, Burma

China-backed army launches crackdown on Christians

A China-backed statelet in Burma is cracking down on Christians. The Wa region, a mountainous area on the Burma-China border, is effectively governed by the United Wa State Army (UWSA), a former communist rebel group. In recent weeks priests, nuns and Catholic teachers have been expelled from the region. Churches have been destroyed and dozens more closed. Nearly 100 Christians were detained and only released after promising to pray only in private. Benedict Rogers, of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, has urged the international community to act, saying: “The scale, suddenness and severity of this crackdown is profoundly concerning.”