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Statistical analysis seeks context for Pa. grand jury report

Philadelphia, Pa., Dec 6, 2018 / 05:13 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A new statistical analysis seeks to contextualize data about child sexual abuse by Catholic clergy in Pennsylvania, four months after a grand jury report detailed hundreds of abuse allegations in six of the state’s diocese, spanning nearly eight decades.

To “properly understand the import” of the grand jury’s findings, the statistical analysis compares the number of abuse allegations to other institutions during similar time periods, and seeks to better understand when most of the cases of alleged abuse took place.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia commissioned the analysis, which was conducted by the law firm Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie LLP.

The 884-page grand jury report, released Aug. 14, was written by 23 grand jurors who spent 18 months investigating the six dioceses with the help of the FBI, examining half a million pages of documents in the process. The six diocese are Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, and Scranton.

The report claimed to have identified more than 1,000 victims of 301 credibly accused priests and presents a devastating portrait of efforts by Church authorities to ignore, obscure, or cover up allegations - either to protect accused priests or to spare the Church scandal.

Despite the high number of abuse cases mentioned in the grand jury report, the statistical analysis focused on “factual information related to 680 separate allegations of abuse over an 84 year period,” spanning from 1934 to the present.

The details of the remaining cases, such as dates of the alleged abuse, the analysis said, were so “deficient” that they could not be included.

Of the 680 cases studied whose cases were tied to specific years, 23 cases, or roughly 3 percent, involved allegations of abuse that took place after the 2002 adoption of the Charter for the Protection Children and Young People. The Diocese of Greensburg did not report any alleged incidents that took place after 2002.

The most recent alleged abuse incident described in the grand jury report, to the extent that dates for the allegations were provided, is from 2013. The average year that each alleged incident of abuse in the grand jury report ended was 1979, the analysis says.

The analysis notes that while the grand jury report did not identify any priests with substantiated claims of sexual abuse of minors who are still in active ministry, there are three active priests from the Diocese of Pittsburgh who have been accused of sexual abuse, but the allegations were not substantiated.

By means of comparison, the authors write that in 2016, the year the grand jury began its investigation, the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services identified over 3,000 total substantiated allegations of sexual abuse during the calendar year— more than three times the number of total allegations against the Catholic Church, both substantiated and unsubstantiated, identified by the grand jury over an eighty year time span.

“What is true in Pennsylvania is also true on a national level,” the analysis reads, noting that nationally, 24.7 percent of women and 16 percent of men have experienced sexual abuse during their childhood.

“Evidence shows that sexual abuse of minors is a huge epidemic that touches every major institution in society. Further, by all accounts, few institutions have done as much as the Catholic Church to learn from past failures and take steps to prevent abuse going forward.”

Citing a 2007 New York Times report, the analysis says that insurance companies receive around 260 reports per year of sexual abuse of a minor in U.S. Protestant churches.

“This annual number is more than the total accusations against Catholic clergy since 2005,” the authors assert.

And according to a 2004 Education Week study, 290,000 students experienced some sort of physical sexual abuse by a public school employee from 1991 to 2000.

The analysis also compared this figure to the estimated 10,677 allegations of abuse against priests and deacons from 1950 to 2002, which was detailed in a 2004 report from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

 

'Have to kill me first': Florida woman refuses to remove Guadalupe from mobile home

Bradenton, Fla., Dec 6, 2018 / 03:39 pm (CNA).- Millie Francis almost died once. She’s willing to do it again.

This time, she says, it would be for Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Property managers at the retirement community trailer park where Francis lives in west-central Florida have reportedly demanded that she remove a piece of plywood from her mobile home, on which she has painted an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

But from the sound of it, they will have a hard time getting her to comply.

“They’ll have to kill me first,” Francis, 85, told the property management authorities, according to the Bradenton Herald.

“You’re not going to tell this old lady what to do,” she told the newspaper. “This is America. As long as I have two arms and two legs, I’m going to do it.”

Francis said she feels blessed to even be alive, after a scrape with death during surgery 16 years ago, during which she says she was declared clinically dead for 15 minutes.

Her fierce devotion to her Catholic faith and to Our Lady of Guadalupe, patron saint of the Americas, have remained strong, and she said she’ll go to court if she has to. She does not plan to remove her painting.  

The painting of the Virgin Mary was done on a piece of plywood that replaced a window Francis had removed from her mobile home. She said wanted to replace the window with plywood because of a nosy neighbor, and because light from security guards’ flashlights bothered her at night.

Francis said she obtained permission for the removal from Vanguard Property Management at Bradenton Tropical Palms, the 55+ trailer park where she lives.

The inspiration for the image came to her during Mass, she said, when she was praying about what to do with the piece of plywood that would cover the space where he window once was.

“I don’t want to say I had a vision or anything like that, but felt enlightened and received the inspiration from our Lady of Guadalupe to paint her image. So I promised that I would,” she told the Bradenton Herald.

Janet Nowakowski, a Vanguard property manager based in Tampa, demanded that Francis remove the painted plywood, allegedly because Francis did not have the window removal project completed by Oct. 31, per her agreement with property management.

Vanguard representatives also told reporters that Francis did not fill out an architectural request form, or seek permission from the trailer park's architectural review committee, before painting the Blessed Virgin Mary on the plywood that replaced the window.

Francis said that the window removal was completed on time, and believes the order to remove the plywood image is an act of discrimination against her Catholic faith.

Other neighbors have decorated their lawns and trailers with all kinds of things, she said, and her painting “isn’t hurting anyone.”

“There’s all kinds of stuff out there, but this is because I’m Catholic and it’s wrong,” she said. “With all the things going on in the world, I would think there would be more important things to worry about than this.”

On November 9, lawyers representing Vanguard gave Francis 30 days to remove the image. The deadline is fast-approaching - and falls three days before the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which is on December 12.

 But Francis refuses to budge.

According to reporting by Mark Young at the Bradenton Herald: “Documents indicate that Francis did have permission from the committee to replace the window, and she was inspired to have the painting done while at church at the last minute. Francis said she not only completed the project on time, but also there is nothing in the park rules regarding decorating after the fact.”

CNA has contacted Tropical Palms trailer park for a copy of their property guidelines, but did not receive a response by press time.

More than 22 million Americans live in manufactured housing, the Manufactured Housing Institute reports. Manufactured home residents have a median annual income of less than $30,000. Mobile home parks are often owned by large corporations or distant landlords, and managed by third-party property management corporations.

Francis believes she has followed the rules at the trailer park where she lives.

While the stress of going to court has been affecting the octogenarian's health, she said she plans to decorate for Christmas and shine a laser on the image.

She does not plan on re-applying for permission for the project. She said she has appealed to her local Knights of Columbus chapter, through her parish at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, for help.

“I just don’t know anything about this legal stuff,” she told the Bradenton Herald.

“They say I’ll have to pay their attorney fees if they prevail in court. I can’t afford this. I need help and I don’t know what will happen to me, but I do know I’m not taking it down.”

Hours before execution, Tennessee governor rejects killer’s plea for mercy

Nashville, Tenn., Dec 6, 2018 / 01:43 pm (CNA).- Hours before David Miller is scheduled to be executed in Tennessee’s electric chair, the state’s governor has rejected Miller’s request that his sentence be commuted to life in prison.

Gov. Bill Haslam released a one-sentence statement Dec. 6, saying that “after careful consideration of David Earl Miller’s clemency request, I am declining to intervene in this case.”

Miller, 61, was convicted of the 1981 murder of Lee Standifer, whom he bludgeoned to death and stabbed. He was sentenced to death, and chose to be executed by the electric chair rather than by the state’s controversial lethal injection protocol.

Attorneys for Miller filed a clemency petition with the governor last week. The petition said that Miller “accepts responsibility for the death of his friend.”

The petition also argued that Miller suffers from “severe mental illness” that renders him “far outside that group of offenders who are the worst and for whom the death penalty is reserved.”

Miller’s attorneys said that sentencing courts had not considered “years of horrific physical abuse, sexual assault and neglect,” or their ensuing effects, when the man was sentenced to death.

Court records say that as a child Miller was routinely beaten by an alcoholic stepfather, and Miller says he was serially sexually abused by family members, including his mother, beginning at age 5. His family disputes his claims.

According to The Tennessean, Miller attempted suicide at age 6, and spent most of his childhood in state institutions. After a brief stint in the Marine Corps, he became a drifter, doing manual labor and hitchhiking.

In the early 1980s, Miller lived briefly with a Baptist pastor and his family in Tennessee, and during that time he met Standifer. She was, like Miller, in her early twenties. She was mildly brain damaged, and lived at the YWCA in Knoxville. The two became friends.

On May 20, 1981, Miller killed her. He was using LSD at the time, and drinking. He claims not to know exactly what happened, though he acknowledges his responsibility for Standifer’s death. He fled, and was arrested a week later, passing counterfeit bills in Ohio.

Miller’s attorneys have argued that Standifer’s death was the result of a psychotic fury, the result of post-traumatic stress disorder and other psychological illnesses, manifested amid an argument between the two.

He was convicted in 1982 and sentenced to death.

Tennessee's bishops say that while “there was absolutely no justification for the crime Mr. Miller committed 38 years ago,” the death penalty is not necessary.

In a Dec. 5 statement, Bishops Richard Stika of Knoxville, Mark Spalding of Nashville, and Joseph Kurtz, apostolic administrator of Memphis, wrote that “the Church teaches that the death penalty is simply not necessary when society has other means to protect itself and provide a just punishment for those who break civil laws. Rather than serving as a path to justice, the death penalty contributes to the growing disrespect for human life.”

“We believe that all those convicted of terrible crimes still retain their human dignity and deserve a chance to live,” they added.

“To recognize the dignity of the lives of those on death row is not to deny the dignity of the lives of their victims or their grieving loved ones left behind. The lives of victims and sinners alike should be respected; the taking of another life will serve no purpose but vengeance.”

Pope Francis is an outspoken opponent of the death penalty, revising in August the Catechism of the Catholic Church to classify its use as “inadmissible.”

The pope’s predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, called leaders in 2011 to “make every effort to eliminate the death penalty.”

Pope St. John Paul II prayed publicly for universal abolition of the death penalty.

In the 1995 apostolic exhortation Evengelium vitae, he wrote that governments “ought not go to the extreme of executing the offender except in cases of absolute necessity: in other words, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society. Today however, as a result of steady improvements in the organization of the penal system, such cases are very rare, if not practically non-existent.”

Haslam has declined to stop two other executions in 2018.

Miller’s legal team has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for a stay of execution. He is scheduled to be executed at 7 p.m., Dec. 6.

 

How one diocese is inviting people back to the Church this Christmas

Detroit, Mich., Dec 6, 2018 / 12:54 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As part of a recent evangelization outreach, the Archdiocese of Detroit is launching a Christmas campaign to welcome Catholics who may have been away from the Church.

“This is the way that we are responding to the invitation to share the Gospel with others. This is part of the transformation of being a mission-oriented diocese,” Edmundo Reyes, the archdiocese’s communication director, told CNA.

The campaign is called “Part of the Family.”  Its goal is to create a welcoming environment at Mass and encourage evangelization among the parishioners through virtual tools.

Reyes said these efforts are an extension of the pastoral letter “Unleash the Gospel” released at Pentecost last year. The letter followed several years of preparation, including a year of prayer in 2014 and a synod meeting in 2016.

He said the campaign includes three parts: evangelization training, videos, and a newly published website, specifically focused on Christmas Mass times.

“Our hope is that, with these combined efforts, people that attend Mass once a year or are there for the first time, they experience what we are calling radical hospitality,” he said.

“We target at Christmas knowing there are people who come there for the first time or they haven’t been with us for a while,” he said. “One of the things is we want to be unusually gracious and hospitable for people that come to our churches.”

The first component of the campaign was a day-long evangelization event that included discussions, training, and resource material. More than 800 people from over 120 parishes in the archdiocese attended.

According to the Detroit Catholic, one of the speakers broke down the Gospel into four essential parts. Fr. John Riccardo, pastor of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in Plymouth, said the Gospel’s message is on the goodness of God found in his creation, sin and its repercussions, God’s response to sin, and mankind’s response to God.

Hospitality was another major focus of the event, which was held Nov. 16. Regular Mass-goers were presented with simple steps to make people feel welcome, like greeting strangers and sitting in the middle of the pews to allow room on the outsides.

The second element of the campaign is a series of Christmas videos, focusing on the universal Catholic family and God’s incarnation, Reyes said.

“We are all part of the same family, and it’s hard to imagine, but we are celebrating God becoming part of our family. So let’s do it together,” says the narrator in the video. “This Christmas, we are thankful that you are one of us, a Catholic, part of the family.”

The first video was released on Saturday, Reyes said, and it has already received roughly 30,000 views. He said more videos will be released weekly.

In addition, paid ads will be run on spotify, youtube, and social media, inviting people to attend Christmas Mass and bring their friends and family. The ads will use geoparameters to reach people in areas near churches in the archdiocese.

The third aspect of the campaign, Reyes said, is a new website, massfinder.org, to help people navigate Christmas Mass times in the Archdiocese of Detroit. He said the website is accessible, giving people an easy way to discover Mass times and invite friends and family.

“If we want to be truly hospitable, the first encounter the people have with us is going to be trying to find out what time Christmas Mass happens.”

The website includes “share buttons” for people to send links of a specific Mass time via social media, email, or text. When it is shared, the user has access to a virtual reminder of that Mass and a map to the parish.

Especially during this season of giving, Reyes said, the most important gift that can be given is the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the love of the Father.

“This is a time we celebrate the Nativity of the Lord, God becoming part of the family. And that's the theme - Part of the Family. We want make sure that people feel welcome and invited in the celebration of Jesus' birth.”
 

 

Satanist statue erected for the holidays in Illinois capitol

Springfield, Ill., Dec 5, 2018 / 04:35 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Between a Christmas tree and a menorah display in the Illinois state capitol, a statue from the Satanic Temple is standing for the holiday season.

The display shows an apple upheld by an arm which has been encircled by a snake. The words “Knowledge is the greatest gift” is written across the front of the black base.

The satanic tribute was erected at the statehouse rotunda in Springfield. Near the display is an explanation from the local government.

“The State of Illinois is required by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution to allow temporary, public displays in the state capitol so long as these displays are not paid for by taxpayer dollars,” it reads.

“Because the first floor of the Capitol Rotunda is a public place, state officials cannot legally censor the content of speech or displays.”

The Satanic Temple in Chicago ran a campaign on GoFundMe, calling it Snaketivity. The project funded just over its goal of $1,500. The leftover proceeds are expected to be donated to the Satanic Temple.

Organizers said the goal of the display is to “no longer allow one religious perspective to dominate the discourse in the Illinois State Capitol rotunda during the holiday season.”

The Satanic Temple was founded in 2012 in Salem, Massachusetts. The group describes itself as non-theistic and does not believe in a literal Satan. On the website, the organization said the group’s goal is to “exercise reasonable agnosticism in all things.”

The group has launched similar campaigns in the past.

In 2015, they proposed a display on the grounds of the Oklahoma state capitol. Shortly afterward, a court ordered the removal of a Ten Commandments monument on the capitol grounds, and the temple’s request was withdrawn.

They have also filed a lawsuit against the state of Missouri, challenging informational pamphlets that the state requires abortion providers to distribute. The literature reads, “The life of each human being begins at conception. Abortion will terminate the life of a separate, unique, living human being.” The Satanic Temple argued that the requirement violated its members’ religious freedom, because they believe in the inviolability of one’s body.