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Masked men brutally attack priest in Nicaragua

Leon, Nicaragua, Sep 18, 2018 / 05:01 pm (ACI Prensa).- A group of masked men entered the home of a priest in the Diocese of León in Nicaragua and savagely beat him in the early hours of Saturday, in a new direct attack against the Church in the country.

According to local media, unidentified men entered the home of Fr.  Abelardo Toval Ayesta, the pastor of Saint John the Baptist of Sutiaba parish in León, and struck him hard in the face and ribs, and even tried to suffocate him on Sept. 15

Fr. Victor Morales, communications director for the Diocese of León, told the media that “three people came in through the courtyard with faces masked, tied up (the priest), beat him badly and left him tied up. The stole several valuables from him.”

Following the incident, the auxiliary bishop of Managua, Silvio José Báez Ortega, strenuously protested the attack.

“I deplore and condemn the brutal aggression inflicted today by masked men on Father Abelardo Toval, the pastor of Sutiava in León. The priest is in danger of losing an eye. My prayers for him, for Bishop Bosco Vivas and for all the clergy of the Diocese of León,” the prelate wrote on Twitter.

The Archdiocese of Managua reported on Facebook that “His Eminence Cardinal Leopoldo José Brenes, the Metropolitan Archbishop of Managua, has been in direct contact with Father Abelardo Toval of the Diocese of León.”

The cardinal expressed to the priest “his closeness and prayer concerning the violent situation he experienced this morning. (The cardinal) asks the faithful to continue to pray for all the priests.”

Amid Nicaragua's recent crisis, numerous churches have been desecrated and both bishops and priests have been attacked.

Protests against president Daniel Ortega which began April 18 have resulted in more than 300 deaths, according to local human rights groups. The country's bishops have mediated on-again, off-again peace talks between the government and opposition groups.

Nicaragua's crisis began after Ortega announced social security and pension reforms. The changes were soon abandoned in the face of widespread, vocal opposition, but protests only intensified after more than 40 protestors were killed by security forces initially.

Anti-government protesters have been attacked by “combined forces” made up of regular police, riot police, paramilitaries, and pro-government vigilantes.

The Nicaraguan government has suggested that protestors are killing their own supporters so as to destabilize Ortega's administration.

The Church in Nicaragua was quick to acknowledge the protestors' complaints.

The pension reforms which triggered the unrest were modest, but protests quickly turned to Ortega's authoritarian bent.

Ortega has been president of Nicaragua since 2007, and oversaw the abolition of presidential term limits in 2014.

The Church has suggested that elections, which are not scheduled until 2021, be held in 2019, but Ortega has ruled this out.

Ortega was a leader in the Sandinista National Liberation Front, which had ousted the Somoza dictatorship in 1979 and fought US-backed right-wing counterrevolutionaries during the 1980s. Ortega was also leader of Nicaragua from 1979 to 1990.

 

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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.

UK politicians call for action against sex-selective abortion

London, England, Sep 18, 2018 / 02:30 pm (CNA).- British politicians have called for a review of the availability of early sex detection tests for pregnant women. The proposal was made by Labour Members of Parliament and prompted by concerns that the tests are leading to sex-selective abortions.

The MP’s expressed particular concern that women, especially those in the UK’s Asian communities, are being pressured or coerced into having an abortion if they are pregnant with a girl.

Labour MP Naz Shah said it was “morally wrong” that women are using the Non-Invasive Prenatal Test (NIPT) to determine whether or not they are pregnant with a girl, and then scheduling an abortion based on the result. Shah, the Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities, called for a government investigation into the practice.

The call for government intervention against the practice comes almost 18 months after the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, a government-funded think tank, found that NIPT promoted sex-selective abortions.

The NIPT consists of a blood test given to the mother at the ninth week of pregnancy, at which time the baby’s DNA is detectable in their mother’s bloodstream.

The test is currently administered by the UK’s National Health Service to screen for genetic conditions, such as Down syndrome. Pro-life advocates have already warned that the test is used to “screen out” children with Down’s syndrome and other conditions. Currently in the UK, 90% of children with a prenatal diagnosis of Down’s syndrome are aborted.

While the gender can be detected by the NIPT, the NHS does not share this information with parents unless there is a specific need to do so. While the test is not made available by the NHS expressly for gender screening, it is privately available to parents and can be purchased at a clinic for about £150-£200.

In the London suburb of Slough, which has a substantial South Asian population, roadside advertisements explicitly market the test as being able to determine the sex of the child. This, said Shah, is where the government should consider stepping in.

"NIPT screenings should be used for their intended purpose, to screen for serious conditions and Down's syndrome,” said Shah.

"The government needs to look into this exploitative practice and enforce appropriate restrictions."

Slough’s Labour MP Tan Dhesi agreed with Shah, and pointed out that some Asian countries have “made huge strides in tackling this social evil,” particularly when the government has banned prenatal gender tests.
“In the UK I think we need to be doing likewise, with regards to the private sector as well,” said Dhesi.

Prenatal sex detection has been illegal in India since 1994.

The calls follow a BBC has report on online forums where women have discussed how NIPT results will directly inform their decision to continue with their pregnancy or to have an abortion.

"I need a son to heal me…,” wrote one woman. “My only bet is NIPT followed by continuation, only if it's a boy."

Clare McCarthy, spokesperson for Right To Life UK, told CNA that she agrees with the need for government action to address the problem of sex-selective abortion.

"This BBC investigation adds to a growing body of evidence that we have a sex-selective abortion problem here in the UK,” said McCarthy.

“It’s time for the Government to stop denying there is a problem here and take urgent action to put in place a ban on sex-selective abortion.”

McCarthy, however, said it was “seriously concerning” that the same Labour MPs who are opposed to sex-selective abortion also are in favor of removing all legal restrictions on abortion, “under the guise of ‘decriminalisation.’”

If this were happen, McCarthy told CNA that “the evidence from overseas shows that this could make our sex-selective abortion problem even worse.”

While sex-selection abortion is technically illegal in the United Kingdom, women may give other reasons as for why they want to have an abortion.

In England, Scotland, and Wales, abortion must be signed off by two doctors and cannot be performed later than 24 weeks gestation. After 24 weeks of pregnancy the grounds upon which an abortion can be sought narrow significantly.

In Northern Ireland, abortion is illegal, but it is legal for a Northern Irish woman to travel to England, Scotland, or Wales for an abortion.

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.