News Analysis

In brief

New Orleans

Centre to promote African-American sainthood candidates

Xavier University of Louisiana has announced that its Institute for Black Catholic Studies will become a centre for promoting the Causes of African-American Catholics, pursuing scholarship into their lives and work. Among the candidates it plans to focus on are Fr Augustus Tolton, the first recognised African-American priest, and Sister Thea Bowman, a Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration who taught at the Institute. Both have the title “Servant of God”, as their Causes have already been formally opened. Another candidate for sainthood is Venerable Pierre Toussaint – a former slave turned hairdresser who turned his New York home into an orphanage.


Stop abduction of protesters, urges cardinal

Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes of Managua has disputed a claim by President Daniel Ortega that Nicaragua has “returned to normal” after weeks of protests left hundreds dead. The cardinal said the country would reach a “true normality” when protesters stopped being persecuted. “It is sad that, when people talk about the country being normal, these cases [threats or kidnappings] occur, because that does not mean there is normalcy,” he told reporters. The Nicaraguan Pro-Human Rights Association says 600 protesters have been kidnapped and hundreds more are missing. The Catholic Church is seeking to restart talks with Ortega’s government.


Province in Argentina declares itself to be pro-life

A province in northern Argentina has joined a number of cities in declaring itself to be pro-life ahead of a vote on legalising abortion on demand. The declaration by legislators in Tucumán is symbolic, as any law passed would apply nationwide. It was backed by 39 elected officials out of a total of 43. Sandra Mendoza, who proposed the declaration, said most of the 1.5 million inhabitants of the province were pro-life. As we went to press, the senate was due to vote on Wednesday on a bill broadly legalising abortion until the 14th week of pregnancy. It was expected to be rejected by senators. The bill passed through congress last month by 129 votes to 125.


Chilean bishops apologise for failures over clerical abuse

Bishops in Chile have apologised for collectively failing to protect children from sex abuse by priests. “We have failed in our role as pastors, for not having listened, believed, attended or accompanied the victims of grave sins and injustices committed by priests and Religious,” they said. In May, all of Chile’s bishops submitted their resignations to Pope Francis; so far Pope Francis has accept­ed the resignations of five of them. One, Bishop Juan Barros, had been accused of remaining silent about his mentor, Fr Fernando Karadima, found guilty by the Church of abusing minors.

Lincoln, Nebraska

Vocations director accused of sexual misconduct

The diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska, has said it is “aware” of allegations of sexual misconduct against a vocations director who died in 2008. The diocese released its statement after allegations from a former priest, Peter Mitchell, made in an article for the American Conservative. Mitchell alleged that Mgr Leonard Kalin, the diocesan vocations director and pastor of the University of Nebraska Newman Centre from 1970 until the late 1990s, would habitually make sexual advances to seminarians, including asking them to help him shower. Acknowledging the article, Bishop James Conley of Lincoln wrote last week: “Because sexuality is such a powerful gift, I believe that the evil one – Satan – tempts us to sin against chastity … because doing so can cause great harm.”


Brazil’s court debates abortion

Brazil’s Supreme Court has been holding a two-day public hearing on the possible decriminalisation of abortion in the country. More than 40 experts were expected to testify on whether abortion should be broadly allowed for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Abortion is illegal in Brazil except in cases of rape, if a mother’s life is in danger or if the baby has anencephaly, a form of brain damage. According to the New York Times, the court hearing is unlikely to lead to the legalisation of abortion, but pro-abortion activists hope it will spark a public debate. They claim that hundreds of thousands of women have illegal abortions each year.


Varadkar: I will talk to Francis about same-sex parents

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has said he will tell Pope Francis during his visit to Ireland later this month that “our view as a society and as a government [is] that families come in all sorts of different forms and that includes families led by same-sex parents”. Varadkar also said he would “want to express to him the real concerns Irish people have in relation to the legacy of the past”. Health minister Simon Harris also attacked Church teaching on contraception on Sunday. The minister tweeted “Please make it stop!” after a bishop said the principles of Humanae Vitae had been ignored for too long.


Legal Catholic church demolished without warning

Government authorities have bulldozed a legally registered church in Jinan diocese, China, to make way for houses and a train station. Three caretakers were searched and then ejected from the church before bulldozers razed the building. Although talks about relocating the church had been taking place, no warning was given of its destruction. It is the latest in a recent wave of churches and crosses being destroyed by authorities. The clampdown on religion includes signs outside churches banning children from entering them.


Boxer against Pope

Filipino Senator and former top boxer Manny Pacquiao has criticised Pope Francis for opposing the death penalty, saying the Bible allows gov­ern­ments to impose it. “This is not about me or what I want but this is in the Bible and also in our constitution, so there is no problem,” he said.


Police investigate death of Coptic bishop

Egyptian police are investigating the death of a Coptic Orthodox bishop whose body was found in his monastery with injuries to his head and back. Bishop Epiphanius, head of the Anba Makar Monastery in Beheira, northwest of Cairo, was a “kind and gentle man”, according to Archbishop Angaelos, Coptic Archbishop of London. After the death, the Coptic Orthodox Church announced it would not be taking in new monks in monasteries for a year. According to Open Doors, 128 Christians were killed in Egypt for their faith last year, and more than 200 were driven out of their homes.


Bishop denies trying to silence nun who accused him of rape

A bishop accused of raping a nun in India denies attempting to mediate a deal so that the nun would drop charges. Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jalandhar, Punjab, is accused of 13 counts of sexual assault against a Sister belonging to the Missionaries of Jesus. Police in the state of Kerala are investigating the accusations, which Bishop Mulakkal has consistently denied. A priest, Fr James Erthayil, has been charged by police with trying to convince the nun to drop the charges in exchange for land. His conversation with the Sister was secretly recorded.