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Brooklyn diocese reaches $27.5m settlement over abuse by lay volunteer

Brooklyn, N.Y., Sep 19, 2018 / 10:53 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Diocese of Brooklyn and an after-school program reached a $27.5 million settlement Tuesday with four men who were sexually abused as minors by a layman who volunteered at a parish in the New York City borough.

The men were abused between 2003 and 2009 by Angelo Serrano, 67, who taught catechism and helped to organized religious education at St. Lucy – St. Patrick's parish in Brooklyn. Serrano abused the boys, who were between the ages of 8 and 12, at the church, in his apartment, and at the after-school program. Serrano received a stipend from the church, and had a desk there.

“The diocese and another defendant have settled these lawsuits brought by the four claimants who were sexually abused by Angelo Serrano at his private apartment many years ago,” the Brooklyn diocese said in a Sept. 18 statement, the New York Times reported. “Mr. Serrano was a volunteer worker at a local parish; he was not clergy or an employee of the diocese or parish.”

A portion of the settlement is being paid by the Dorothy Bennett Mercy Center, an after-school program located next to the parish.

Serrano was arrested in 2009, and is now serving a 15-year sentence.

A suit against the diocese was set to go to trial next year, had the diocese not settled.

The victims' suit listed the then-pastors of St. Lucy – St. Patrick's, Fr. Stephen P. Lynch and Fr. Frank Shannon, as co-defendants.

According to the New York Times, a judge wrote that “The record is clear that Lynch and Shannon had knowledge that for years Serrano often had several boys, including plaintiff, sleep over at his apartment … In fact, both Lynch and Shannon testified that they visited Serrano on numerous occasions when young boys were present.”

Fr. Lynch testified, the Times reported, that he saw Serrano “kiss an 8- or 9-year-old boy on the mouth and inappropriately embrace the boy.”

A secretary at the parish, Beatrice Ponnelle, also testified about Serrano's behavior with minors.

Earlier this month, the New York attorney general issued subpoenas to the state's dioceses asking for documents related to sexual abuse allegations and the Church’s response to them.

Attorney General Barbara Underwood announced a civil investigation into Church entities and said the office’s criminal division is willing to partner with local district attorneys “to investigate and, if warranted, prosecute any individuals who have committed criminal offenses that fall within the applicable statutes of limitations.”

 

As Florence subsides, Catholic Charities in NC ready to offer assistance

Raleigh, N.C., Sep 19, 2018 / 03:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- While Hurricane Florence has decreased to a tropical depression, it is still churning up tornadoes and bringing record flooding throughout the affected areas.

Many volunteers and donations will be needed to help with clean-up and rebuilding efforts, so Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Raleigh, North Carolina has already set up a website where information about disaster relief assistance, volunteer efforts, and donation links can be found.

“A disaster can be one of the most traumatic things a family can experience,” Daniel Altenau, Director of Disaster Services for Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Raleigh, North Carolina, told CNA.

“During this vulnerable time, our staff compassionately work with families to help them recover and persevere through this troubling time.”

Hurricane Florence rolled through North and South Carolina and the surrounding areas over the weekend, dumping rain that brought one of the most deadly parts of the storm - historic flooding that is expected to last for days. As many as 32 deaths have been linked to the storm thus far, but officials have said the danger is far from over.

“Flood waters continue to rise in some of the impacted areas and may not crest until Monday or Tuesday,” Altenau said.

“It won’t be until after the flood waters recede that we are fully able to understand the damage of the storm. There are projections that some rivers may rise to higher levels than were experienced in Hurricane Matthew two years ago,” he added.

Catholic Charities staff are prepared to help families by providing groceries, diapers, food gift cards and clean-up supplies, as well as assistance with finding housing, Altenau said. Because Hurricane Florence swept through smaller towns which have fewer available apartments, finding housing after the storm could prove difficult for the displaced, of whom there are thousands.

As for volunteer opportunities, a primary need at the moment is for box truck drivers who can take supplies from a warehouse in Raleigh to impacted areas in eastern North Carolina, including Fayetteville and Wilmington.

Other volunteer opportunities can also be found at the Raleigh Catholic Charities website, as well as a link to provide donations for disaster relief.

“Monetary donations are helpful because disasters are constantly changing events and cash donations can be adapted to meet the varying needs of families impacted by Hurricane Florence,” Altenau said.

“Catholic Charities is working with local partner agencies to address the immediate needs of families across central and eastern North Carolina,” he added.

“Our staff are present in the community before an event, during an event, and long after the event to assist families.”

Indiana diocese releases names of credibly accused clerics

Fort Wayne, Ind., Sep 18, 2018 / 03:22 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend published Tuesday the names of the 18 priests and deacons who have served in the diocese and have been credibly accused of at least one act of sexual abuse of a minor.

“It is my hope that by releasing these names, the innocent victims of these horrific and heartbreaking crimes can finally begin the process of healing,” Bishop Kevin Rhoades said ahead of the Sept. 18 release.

“We must be vigilant in our efforts to protect our youth. With the Lord’s guidance and love, we will do so.”

The list of those credibly accused as developed with the help of the Diocesan Review Board, which is largely composed of laity.

A credible accusation, a statement from the diocese said, is one that “after a thorough investigation and review of available information, appears more likely true than not in the judgement of the Diocesan Review Board, and is accepted as credible by the Bishop.”

The diocese added that Bishop Rhoades “followed the recommendations of the Diocesan Review Board” in determining credibility, and that the credibility of accusations against religious were made “by the accused priest’s religious congregation.”

It added that it “stands firm in its commitment to investigate any allegation of sexual abuse by a member of the clergy and to listen to and support anyone who has been abused,” and provided contact information for the diocese's victim assistance coordinator and its vicar general.

The credibly accused clerics who have served in the Fort Wayne-South Bend diocese are: James Blume, Michael Buescher, Brian Carsten, William Ehrman, William Gieranowski, John Gillig, Gabriel Hernandez, Edward Krason, Paul LeBrun, CSC, Thomas Lombardi, Robert Mahoney, Eldon Miller, Edward O. Paquette, Cornelius Ryan, CSC, James Seculoff, Richard Stieglitz, Richard Thompson and James Trepanier, CSC.

Of these, seven have died. Of those who are alive, eight have been dismissed from the clerical state, two are Holy Cross Fathers whose faculties for ministry in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend have been removed, and one has been removed from public ministry.

One was ordained in the 1920s, one in the 1940s, five in the 1950s, three in the 1960s, five in the 1970s, two in the 1980s, and one in the 2000s.

Priest faces trial after alleged assault of San Diego seminarian

San Diego, Calif., Sep 18, 2018 / 01:58 pm (CNA).- A California priest has been charged with sexual battery, after he is alleged to have sexually assaulted a San Diego seminarian.

The priest, Fr. Juan Garcia Castillo, is a member of the Congregation of Jesus and Mary, a religious community of priests also known as the Eudists. On May 14, Castillo was charged with one count of misdemeanor sexual battery by the San Diego County District Attorney’s office. A preliminary hearing in his case will take place Sept. 21.

Castillo is alleged to have forcibly groped and made sexual advances toward a seminarian after a parish event in early February. The assault was reported to police and diocesan authorities almost immediately, sources say.

Kevin Eckery, a spokesman for the Diocese of San Diego, confirmed that the diocese had received a report that Castillo engaged in misconduct with an adult. He also told CNA that Castillo no longer has priestly faculties in the diocese.

Eckery said he would not confirm or deny whether the adult was a seminarian.

Castillo, 35, was listed as associate pastor of St. Patrick’s Parish in Carlsbad, California until late March, six weeks after the assault was allegedly reported to the diocese.
 
Although Castillo was the subject of a criminal investigation at the time he was removed from the parish, the diocese did not disclose the circumstances of his departure to parishioners, or make any statement at the time Castillo was charged with sexual battery.

Eckery told CNA that the diocese did not disclose to Castillo’s parish the allegation of sexual assault because “it would be wrong for us to influence the case.”

“We need to see what happens to the criminal case because the issue of consent is so important and if it’s not clear, we wait for that to get made clear,” he added.

The diocese would not explain the priest’s removal from ministry to the parish where he served, Eckery told CNA, without trying first to determine if an act of sexual misconduct took place, and whether any sexual act was “non-consensual.”

“We’re in a holding pattern,” Eckery said.

In an Aug. 27 statement on the crisis of sex abuse in the Church, San Diego’s Bishop Robert McElroy wrote that “This is a moment when the bishops of our nation, in union with the Holy Father, should be focused solely on comprehensively revealing the truth about the patterns of the sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults by clergy in our Church, so that deep reform can be enacted.”

“We as bishops cannot allow the pathway of partisanship to divide us or to divert us from the searing mission that Christ calls us to at this moment. We must make public our sinful past. We must engage and help heal the survivors of abuse. We must develop new, lay-governed instruments of oversight and investigation in every element of how we confront sexual abuse by clergy at all levels in the life of the Church. And we must reject all attempts to subordinate these goals to ideological or personal projects. For if we do not, we will have betrayed the victims of abuse once again,” McElroy added.

Castillo was born in Honduras, and in 2011 was ordained a priest at St. Patrick’s Parish by Cardinal Oscar Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa.

The website of the Congregation of Jesus and Mary’s U.S. region lists Castillo, as of Sept. 17, as “Local Superior of the San Diego Community of the CJM.” He is said to be “working with Eudist seminarians on a family-formation program for the Spanish speaking community.”

Castillo has recently inquired into the possibility of ministry in at least one other U.S. diocese, multiple sources have told CNA.

The Eudists serve at parishes in the Diocese of San Diego and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, as well as in France, Canada, the Philippines, and several South and Latin American countries. As of 2016, there were 560 members of the congregation in 76 houses worldwide. The Eudist community of San Diego occupies two houses in Carlsbad and two houses in nearby Solana Beach.

California’s penal code establishes that “any person who touches an intimate part of another person while that person is unlawfully restrained by the accused or an accomplice, and if the touching is against the will of the person touched and is for the purpose of sexual arousal, sexual gratification, or sexual abuse, is guilty of sexual battery.”

According to a spokesman for the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office, a protective order forbids Castillo from contact with the victim.

A jury trial is scheduled for Oct. 22. If convicted, Castillo could face up to six months of incarceration, and be listed for life on California’s sex offender registry, the spokesman told CNA.

Eckery said that the Diocese of San Diego does not yet know whether Castillo will face any ecclesiastical disciplinary process after his criminal trial. “We’ll be waiting to see the outcome of the criminal case. At that point, we’ll be informed and we’ll know what the next steps are,” he said.

The Congregation of Jesus and Mary did not respond to requests for comment from CNA.

Historic low on US refugee cap lamented as 'deeply disturbing'

Washington D.C., Sep 18, 2018 / 01:18 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Catholic leaders have criticized an announcement that the United States will be reducing its refugee cap to historic lows, while global rates of refugees and forcibly displaced persons are at an all-time high.

“To cut off protection for many who are fleeing persecution, at a time of unprecedented global humanitarian need, contradicts who we are as a nation,” said Bishop Joe Vásquez of Austin, Texas, chair of the U.S. bishops’ migration committee.

He said the lowered refugee limit “is deeply disturbing and leaves many human lives in danger.”

On Sept. 17, the Trump administration announced its intention to cap U.S. refugee resettlement at 30,000 next year, the lowest cap since the nation’s refugee program began in 1980.

The announcement comes as the world continues to witness its highest recorded number of forcibly displaced persons – more than 65 million across the globe, according to the United Nations. The number of refugees is also at its highest recorded level at over 22 million, more than half of whom are under age 18.

The lowering of the refugee cap for the 2019 Fiscal Year comes after the Trump administration previously lowered the cap to 45,000 for 2018, although fewer than half that many refugees have been resettled as the fiscal year comes to a close. In the final year of the Obama administration, the U.S. settled nearly 85,000 refugees.

In announcing the change, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo cited the importance of screening for national security, and emphasized that refugee admissions are only one part of the United States’ global humanitarian assistance efforts, which will also include processing a back-logged system of asylum-seekers and providing foreign aid to refugees overseas.

Responding in a Sept. 18 statement, Bishop Vásquez stressed that the United States is a nation built upon a commitment to welcoming those fleeing violence and persecution, and has the resources to continue doing so.

“In the coming days, we pray that Congress will have the opportunity to engage in the formal consultation process with the Administration that is required by law,” the bishop said. “Congress should strongly urge the Administration to return to a refugee admission level that reflects the local community response and support of refugees, global refugee protection needs, and our long history of compassionately welcoming refugees.”

Jesuit Refugee Service / USA, an organization that works with and advocates for refugees, also criticized the announcement.

“With the world’s refugee population at its highest in recorded history, now is not the time to abandon the U.S. resettlement program,” said Giulia McPherson, director of advocacy and operations for Jesuit Refugee Service / USA.

The organization said in a Sept. 18 statement that “lowering the level of admissions to the U.S. will not only have a detrimental effect on thousands of individuals and families, but will also continue to weaken the leadership role that the U.S. has maintained in meeting the needs of suffering people around the world.” 

It called on Congress and the Trump administration to work toward a new goal of at least 75,000 in the coming Fiscal Year.

 

Religious priest named auxiliary bishop of Hartford

Hartford, Conn., Sep 18, 2018 / 11:07 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Father Juan Miguel Betancourt Torres, a member of the Institute of the Servants of the Holy Eucharist and the Blessed Virgin Mary, was appointed auxiliary bishop of Hartford on Tuesday.

“I am honored and grateful to be entrusted with this mission of service in the Lord’s Church,” Fr. Betancourt, 48, said Sept. 18. “My prayers are for my seminary family, for my parish family, and for my new family in the Archdiocese of Hartford.”

Archbishop Leonard Blair of Hartford said that “the appointment of Father Betancourt is a cause of rejoicing not only for me personally, but for all our clergy, religious and laity. For me and for our clergy it means the welcome arrival of a dedicated co-worker in the Lord’s vineyard who brings a variety of talents and of experience to our shared ministry.”

“For the laity of the archdiocese in all its present-day diversity, Fr. Betancourt’s Hispanic/Latino heritage will only enhance the pastoral care that he will exercise for the good of everyone of every race and ethnicity,” he said.

“For those in religious life, Fr. Betancourt’s membership in the Society of the Servants of the Eucharist and Mary only serves to underscore the value and contribution that consecrated religious men and women make to the good of the Church.”

Fr. Betancourt was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico in 1970.

He entered the Institute of the Servants of the Eucharist and the Virgin Mary, a contemplative community which is part of the Schoenstatt Movement and which was founded in Puerto Rico, as a postulant in 1992. He professed vows as a religious in 1994, studied at the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico, and made perpetual vows in 2000.

He was ordained a priest of the religious institute in 2001, and received a licentiate in scripture from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in 2005.

After receiving his licentiate Fr. Betancourt taught scripture at the Pontifical University of Puerto Rico and Regina Cleri Major Seminary, before beginning work in the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis in 2006.

Since then, he has been a professor of sacred scripture at the Seminary of Saint Paul and the University of St. Thomas, local superior at the Casa de San José, and pastor of St. James and St. Francis de Sales parish.

Fr. Betancourt currently serves as vice rector and associate academic dean at St. Paul Seminary, in addition to teaching. He is also vicar general of the Society of the Servants of the Eucharist and Mary.

He has served on the Saint Paul-Minneapolis archdiocese's presbyteral council, and is a board member of the National Conference for Seminarians in Hispanic Ministry.

Bishop Andrew Cozzens, auxiliary bishop of Saint Paul and Minneapolis and interim rector of St. Paul Seminary, said: “I have known Father Juan Miguel Betancourt for almost 15 years to be a man of deep prayer and a joyful servant in everything he does. His love for the study of sacred Scripture and his gifts for teaching will be a great blessing for his new episcopal ministry. He is a man who desires to be a servant in all he does, as is reflected in the name of his religious community the Servants of the Eucharist and Mary. We will miss the dedication, his wisdom in formation of men, and his joyful Puerto Rican spirit!”

Archbishop Bernard Hebda of Saint Paul and Minneapolis said that Fr. Betancourt's “sharp intellect, pastoral heart and joyful spirit suggest that the Lord has long been preparing him for this new ministry as a successor to the apostles. While he will be sorely missed at St. Francis de Sales parish and at the St. Paul Seminary, where he has served with distinction, I rejoice with the Church of Hartford at this appointment.”

Fr. Betancourt will be consecrated a bishop Oct. 18 at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Hartford.

Director of Courage releases letter on Penn. abuse report

Washington D.C., Sep 17, 2018 / 06:02 pm (CNA).- Courage International, an apostolate to support people with same sex-attraction in leading chaste lives, has issued a statement on three priests mentioned as credibly accused of sexual abuse in the Pennsylvania grand jury report.

Released last month, the report found more than 1,000 allegations of abuse at the hands of some 300 clergy members in six dioceses in the state. It also found a pattern of cover up by senior Church officials.

“The horror of these crimes of sexual abuse and harassment is amplified by the failure of some bishops and diocesan officials to take corrective action against the offenders, and to communicate honestly with the faithful about what has happened and how they are responding,” said Father Philip Bochanski, executive director of Courage, in a Sept. 15 statement.

“I am writing to you to share some information regarding connections between the Grand Jury Report and Courage International, as well as to discuss some other issues related to the apostolate and how we handle allegations of sexual abuse.”

Father Bochanski said no reports of sexual abuse of minors had been made to him or his staff during his time in the Courage Office.

However, he noted three priests named in the Grand Jury report who have connections to the apostolate.

Fr. Michael Lawrence was assigned by the Diocese of Allentown as a Courage chaplain for two years before his 2002 retirement. Lawrence had been accused of an incident of abuse in 1982, was reported to the diocese, sent for treatment and returned to ministry. In 2009, another accusation was made against him, with the time of alleged abuse being unspecified in the report. Lawrence died in 2015.

Fr. Martin Boylan of Scranton was among 24 priests recommended in 1989 by the Scranton vicar general to meet with Courage founder Fr. John Harvey about establishing a diocesan chapter of the apostolate. Bochanski said it is not clear whether such a meeting ever took place and noted that no further connection between Boylan and Courage has been documented. Boylan was later accused of several incidents of sexual misconduct.

Fr. David Soderlund of Allentown admitted in 1980 to sexually abusing three minor boys. According to the grand jury report, he was placed under the spiritual care of Fr. Harvey.

Bochanski said Harvey was “well-known for providing pastoral care and spiritual direction to priests and religious brothers who experienced same sex attractions and were striving to live chaste celibate lives,” and that this included some ministry to priests who had been sent to treatment after being credibly accused of sexual misconduct.

Harvey worked within the psychology of the time, Bochanski said that Harvey was "a keen student of moral theology and psychology, and by all accounts his pastoral care was consistent with the advice given by professionals at the time."

"Clearly, thanks to major advances in their understanding of the nature of pedophilia and ephebophilia in the last two decades, psychiatrists and psychologists today make much different assessments of, and propose much different treatment for, sexual abusers than those working 30 or 40 years ago. Given Father Harvey’s evident interest in staying up-to-date with advances in psychology, as well as his faithful, loving concern for the good of the Church, I am confident to say that, were he working today, he would take the advice of these professionals very seriously and shape his pastoral approach accordingly."

No other sexual abuse or misconduct allegations involving Courage chaplains have been made in recent years, Bochanski said, however there has been one instance of inappropriate behavior involving a priest who is not a Courage chaplain in an online Facebook group.

The priest had made sexual remarks and sent inappropriate photos in a private Facebook Messenger account to a lay man whom he had met in a “Courage on Call” Facebook group, which is not officially run or monitored by Courage International, Bochanski said.

The lay man informed Bochanski of the interaction, and Bochanski contacted the priest’s diocese. The priest was subsequently removed from ministry.

Reiterating a commitment to transparency, Bochanski urged Catholics to not withhold any information about admitted or suspected sexual abuse.

“If you suspect or become aware that anyone has abused or is abusing a minor or a vulnerable person, I urge you to report it to law enforcement and child protection authorities immediately.  If the abuser is a member of the clergy, you should also report it to his diocese or archdiocese.”

The director said this abuse has understandably provoked anger and sadness among the members of the Church. He said his letter may especially stir up painful feelings for abuse victims and encouraged concerned individuals to bring their questions to Courage International.

“Should you have questions or concerns about this letter, or should it cause hurt that I can help to heal, please do not hesitate to contact me,” he said.

“I intend to continue to communicate with you, through the Courage and EnCourage Newsletter and in other forums, about the crisis the Church is facing and how we, as individuals and as an apostolate, can respond with charity in a spirit of service and witness.”

Congressmen object to FDA's 'barbaric' research method using human fetal tissue

Washington D.C., Sep 17, 2018 / 04:56 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The purchasing of aborted fetal tissue for use in research is ‘abhorrent’ and must stop, said 85 members of the United States House of Representatives in a letter to the Food and Drug Administration.

The FDA in July gave a $15,900 contract to Advanced Bioscience Resources (ABR) for “fresh human fetal tissue,” which would be transplanted into mice in order to create human-like immune systems for research purposes. It is the eighth contract between the FDA and the company since 2012, and seven of the contracts appear to relate to the same or similar programs.

Federal law prohibits the sale of human fetal tissue for “valuable consideration.” Furthermore, the letter states, Congress investigated ABR in 2016 as a part of their investigation into the fetal tissue procurement and late term abortion industries, and found ABR’s practices to be unethical and possibly illegal.

The 2016 investigation was spurred after David Daleiden, a pro-life advocate and a journalist with the Center for Medical Progress, released a series of videos which called into question the fetal tissue procurement and sales practices of Planned Parenthood.

“ABR plainly admitted to Congress that it obtained tissue by collecting human fetal remains from abortion clinics, paying $60 per ‘singe aborted fetus’ - and then upselling the child’s body parts separately to researchers at fees of $325 per ‘specimen’ - brain, eyes, liver, thymus and lungs,” the letter states.

Congress referred ABR to the Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the District Attorney of Riverside County, California for further investigation.

Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., said Sept. 17 that the FDA is using taxpayer dollars “to fund a barbaric research method that treats babies like research guinea pigs.”

More ethical methods of research exist, Smith said, such as developing human-like immune systems from human bone marrow or umbilical cord blood instead of obtaining tissue “through the destruction of unborn children.”

Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo., who was part of the House investigation into ABR in 2016, said that she was “alarmed” that the FDA would partner with a ABR, which has a “checkered history of purchasing the remains of aborted children and reselling the babies.”

“While our letter calls on the FDA to cancel its contract with ABR, I would go the next step and call on all federal agencies including the National Institute of Health (NIH) to cease and desist in furthering the abhorrent and highly unethical practice of using aborted babies as research specimens. This is a grisly, disturbing, and unnecessary business,” she added.

Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C., said that companies such as ABR “have suffered no consequences” despite the findings of Congress’ 2016 investigation.

“Considering President Trump’s pro-life promises, the FDA should immediately cease all government business with ABR and no longer use any aborted fetal cells for future research,” he added.

On Sept. 10, Daleiden said of the contract that it is “unconscionable that the United States government is still paying top-dollar in taxpayer money for the freshest, most high-quality dismembered baby hearts, lungs, livers, and brains.”

Judge rules lawsuit against faith-based adoption agencies can continue

Detroit, Mich., Sep 17, 2018 / 04:15 pm (CNA).- A lawsuit seeking to end state support for faith-based adoption agencies in Michigan will continue, a judge ruled on Friday.

Federal Judge Paul D. Borman of the Eastern District Court of Michigan denied a motion to dismiss the case Dumont v. Lyon, which challenges state funding for religious agencies which will not work with same-sex couples.

The case was filed in September of 2017 by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of two lesbian couples who were turned away by a faith-based agency, as well as a former foster child. The ACLU argues that the state is violating the First Amendment’s establishment clause by providing funding to faith-based agencies who do place children with same-sex couples.

The motion to dismiss was filed in July by the state as well as St. Vincent Catholic Charities, located in Lansing, Michigan. St. Vincent is one of the organizations named in the suit.

Rejecting the motion to dismiss, Borman wrote that the two couples, Kristy and Dana Dumont and Erin and Rebecca Busk-Sutton, experienced “stigmatic and practical harm” when they were turned away by faith-based agencies in Michigan.

Mark Rienzi, president of the Becket Fund, which is providing counsel for the state in this case, said that “Friday’s court ruling allows the ACLU’s lawsuit to proceed---a lawsuit aimed at forbidding the state from working with faith-based adoption agencies to help children in need.”

Rienzi warned that if this were to happen, it would be “much harder for thousands of children to find the loving home they each deserve.”

Friday’s ruling was “just one step along the journey in this case,” said Rienzi.

While some adoption and foster care agencies in Michigan have a religious affiliation, there are many secular agencies operating in the state as well. According to the Becket Fund website, in this case four such agencies - all of which do work with same-sex couples - were located closer to the plaintiffs than the adoption agencies cited in the suit.

“Instead of going to these agencies, [the ACLU] have spent years targeting St. Vincent and trying to shut down their programs,” said a statement on the Becket Fund website. In the past, same-sex couples working through other agencies in Michigan have adopted children being cared for by St. Vincent Catholic Charities.

Dumont v. Lyon is one of several recent cases involving Catholic and other faith-based adoption agencies and their inability to work with same-sex couples.

Other states, such as Massachusetts and California, have seen Catholic Charities shut down their adoption divisions following state attempts to mandate that the agencies work with same-sex couples in violation of their religious beliefs.

Earlier this year, the city of Philadelphia announced that it would no longer work with Catholic Social Services for foster placements, citing the refusal of Catholic Social Services to facilitate foster placements with same-sex couples.

Following the Philadelphia decision, one foster mother filed suit against the city in response.

While many foster homes affiliated with Catholic Social Services are now empty, the city of Philadelphia is seeking to recruit additional foster parents to meet a growing number of children in need of care, a rise linked to the opioid addiction crisis. Catholic Social Services operated in Philadelphia for over a century with no complaints from a same-sex couple.

Penn. class action lawsuit seeks release of all sex abuse allegation records

Harrisburg, Pa., Sep 17, 2018 / 01:22 pm (CNA).- A class action lawsuit filed Sept. 17 is seeking to require the Catholic dioceses of Pennsylvania to release all records involving allegations of child sexual abuse in the last 70 years.

The lawsuit, filed in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court, claims that the dioceses failed to meet their mandatory reporting obligations, the Tribune Review reports.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of abuse survivors and Catholic school students and parents, according to Pittsburgh’s Action News 4.

Monday’s suit comes after last month’s release of a Pennsylvania grand jury report which found more than 1,000 allegations of abuse at the hands of some 300 clergy members in six dioceses in the state. It also found a pattern of cover up by senior Church officials.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court had ordered a redacted version of the report to be released after numerous individuals named in the report cited concerns of due process and reputational rights guaranteed by the state constitution.

All six dioceses in the report have released the names of clerics with credible allegations of misconduct, or said that they plan to do so.