Pope Francis greets residential school survivor Vicki Arcand of the Alexander First Nation during a welcoming ceremony at Edmonton International Airport July 24, 2022. The pope was beginning a six-day visit to Canada. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

MASKWACIS, Alberta (CNS) – The words “I am sorry” are powerful.

For Tammy Ward of the Samson First Nation, those words from Pope Francis brought tears as she listened on the Muskwa, or Bear Park, Powwow Grounds.

“It’s just very powerful,” Ward told The Catholic Register, Toronto-based newspaper,  after Pope Francis finished delivering his historic apology on Indigenous land for the Catholic Church’s role in residential schools and other wrongs done on the church’s behalf. “For me, it’s the healing.”

Ward leaned into her 21-year-old daughter, Aleea Foureyes, for comfort as Pope Francis confessed the sins Catholics committed against Indigenous Canadians in residential schools.

“In the face of this deplorable evil, the church kneels before God and implores His forgiveness for the sins of her children,” Pope Francis said, invoking St. John Paul II’s 1998 bull, “Incarnationis Mysterium.” “I myself wish to reaffirm this, with shame and unambiguously. I humbly beg forgiveness for the evil committed by so many Christians against the Indigenous peoples.”

Pope Francis delivered his apology on the treaty land of the Ermineskin and Samson Cree Nations, the Louis Bull Tribe and the Montana First Nation, as part of his “penitential pilgrimage” to Canada. The site was near one of Canada’s largest residential schools.

For 49-year-old Ward, it brought memories of her relationship with her parents.

“I always thought my parents didn’t love me. I was always wondering why they were silent,” she said.

Years later she understood how a childhood spent institutionalized in residential schools had left her parents unprepared for family life.

It was a day full of emotion as Indigenous people responded to Pope Francis’ presence among them.

Ted Quewezance, an elder from the Keeseekoose First Nation in Saskatchewan, had overseen the ground-penetrating radar search for unmarked graves that uncovered 42 possible graves near the Fort Pelly residential school and another 12 at St. Philips residential school. He spoke to the crowd of about 5,000 about the long process of reconciliation.

“The pope’s apology is not asking for instant trust,” Quewezance said. “Today I am willing to extend my hand to the pope and to the bishops.”

But Quewezance warned about the politicization and bureaucratization of reconciliation efforts by governments and churches.

“Reconciliation in Canada is all about recommendations, reports. It’s not about action,” he said.

Quewezance prefers to replace the word reconciliation with “real-conciliation.”

“Reconciliation implies there is a time we would like to go back to,” he said.

Jonathan Buffalo didn’t just come to hear Pope Francis. He came to dance. Indigenous dance, he said, is a path to healing.

“I dance with pride and honor. I dance for my people, my ancestors, my elders,” said the young administrative assistant at the Samson Cree Community Wellness Centre.

Buffalo said he hopes non-Indigenous Catholics hear what the pope has said and read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report, to know the truth about residential schools.

“It has to be talked about for people to understand (intergenerational trauma),” said Buffalo, whose mother is a residential school survivor.

Showing up to hear Pope Francis apologize once more was an act of hope for 78-year-old Norman Meade, who brought his 8-year-old granddaughter, Everlee Meade, with him to Maskawacis.

“I do have hope. I always have hope,” Meade said. “When we walk together — the pope is leading us that way — things are better.”

Meade is still working on his wife Thelma Meade’s claim file, seeking compensation for her years in the Presbyterian-run residential school in Birtle, Manitoba. He said getting records from government offices has proved to be a painfully slow process.

A doctor holds a stethoscope in this illustration photo. (CNS photo/Regis Duvignau, Reuters)

WASHINGTON (CNS) – The chairmen of four U.S. bishops committees said July 27 that proposed regulations from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on abortion, transgender services and other procedures threaten the Catholic Church’s ability “to carry out our healing ministries” and others’ ability “to practice medicine.”

They called the proposed regulations — a 308-page document released July 25 by HHS — “a violation of religious freedom and bad medicine.”

“They mandate health care workers to perform life-altering surgeries to remove perfectly healthy body parts,” the bishops said. “Assurances that HHS will honor religious freedom laws offer little comfort when HHS is actively fighting court rulings that declared HHS violated religious freedom laws the last time they tried to impose such a mandate.”

They added: “The proposed regulations announce that HHS is also considering whether to force health care workers to perform abortions against their will or lose their jobs. We call on HHS to explicitly disavow any such intent.”

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops released the joint statement from Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman, Committee on Pro-Life Activities; Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, chairman, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman, Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth; and Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, chairman, Committee for Religious Liberty.

The proposed HHS regulations would apply to implementation of the Affordable Care Act’s Section 1557, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability or sex – including pregnancy, sexual orientation and gender identity – in covered health programs or activities.

In 2020, the Trump administration put in place a final rule that eliminated the general prohibition on discrimination based on gender identity and also adopted abortion and religious freedom exemptions for health care providers. But the courts blocked this rule change.

In 2021, shortly after he was inaugurated, President Joe Biden issued an executive order declaring that his administration would apply the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2020 ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County in all areas of government — including the ACA.

In a 6-3 ruling, the court held that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity is necessarily also discrimination “because of sex” as prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Biden administration’s so-called “transgender mandate” required that doctors and hospitals perform gender-transition procedures on any patient despite any moral or medical objections of the doctor or health care facility.

Last year a number of Catholic health care organizations filed a lawsuit challenging the mandate. A federal court blocked it mandate last August, granting the plaintiffs’ request for a permanent injunction.

The court permanently enjoined HHS, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra and all HHS-related divisions, agencies and employees “from interpreting or enforcing Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act.”

Also last year, lawyers for the plaintiffs discovered a 74-page legal memorandum attached to a court filing from a consortium of 30 sexual rights groups revealed that HHS had promised to revise its mandates on health plan coverage and performance to include surgical abortion, cross-sex hormones, gender-transition surgeries, gender-affirming cosmetic surgeries and voice modification — along with a host of expanded services dealing with fertility treatments, contraception, abortifacients and sterilizations.

Once the newly released HHS proposed regulations are published in the Federal Register, a period for public comment will begin. HHS said this period will be 60 days after publication. As of July 27, the HHS proposal had not yet been published on the website https://www.federalregister.gov.

“Catholics have been called to care for the sick since the earliest days of our faith,” said the USCCB committee chairmen. “Today, the various agencies and social service ministries of the Catholic Church taken together are equivalent to the largest nonprofit health care provider in the country.”

The church does “this work in fulfillment of the direct command of Jesus Christ and in imitation of his divine ministry here on earth,” they said.

“Catholic health care ministries serve everyone, no matter their race, sex, belief system or any other characteristic,” the bishops continued. “The same excellent care will be provided in a Catholic hospital to all patients, including patients who identify as transgender, whether it be for a broken bone or for cancer, but we cannot do what our faith forbids. We object to harmful procedures, not to patients.”

The bishops said they “will continue to review these proposed regulations and will file more thorough comments at the appropriate time.”


July 25, 2022

His Excellency, Bishop Joseph C. Bambera, announces the following appointments, effective as indicated:

Reverend Arun Lakra, from Parochial Vicar, St. Rose of Lima Parish, Carbondale, and Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish, Carbondale, to Administrator, Ascension Parish, Forest City, and Saint Katharine Drexel Parish, Pleasant Mount, effective July 19, 2022.

Reverend Jeffrey D. Tudgay, J.C.L., to Administrator pro tem, St. Eulalia Parish, Elmhurst, effective July 26, 2022 to August 16, 2022.  He will remain Pastor, Cathedral of St. Peter, Scranton.

Reverend Shinu Vazhakkoottathil John, from the Diocese of Kottapuram, India, to Parochial Vicar, Epiphany Parish, Sayre, effective July 26, 2022.

Pope Francis greets residential school survivor Vicki Arcand of the Alexander First Nation during a welcoming ceremony at Edmonton International Airport July 24, 2022. The pope was beginning a six-day visit to Canada. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

EDMONTON, Alberta (CNS) – After a flight of more than 10 hours from Rome, Pope Francis landed in Edmonton and met briefly at the airport with Indigenous leaders, Canada’s governor general and prime minister before heading to the local seminary for a rest.

Governor General Mary Simon and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau walked alongside the pope as an aide pushed him in a wheelchair into an airport hangar for the informal welcome. Four Indigenous drummers heralded the arrival of their special guest.

The pope, governor general and prime minister were greeted by: RoseAnn Archibald, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations; Gerald Antoine, regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations; Natan Obed, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami; and Audrey Poitras, president of the Métis Nation of Alberta.

On the long flight from Rome, Pope Francis kept his habit of making a few brief remarks to reporters traveling with him and then – leaning heavily on a silver cane – walking all the way down one aisle and back up the other to personally greet the more than 75 reporters, photographers and camera operators traveling with him.

“I’m happy to greet you like always,” he said. “I think I can get around.”

The pope had boarded the plane by “ambulift,” a platform that lifted him in his wheelchair to the ITA plane.

Pope Francis told the reporters his visit to Canada July 24-29 would be “a penitential trip” to meet with, listen to and apologize to members of Canada’s First Nation, Métis and Inuit communities, especially those who experienced abuse or attempts at forced assimilation at church-run residential schools.

Pope Francis also noted that he would be flying to Canada when he usually would lead the recitation of the Angelus prayer. “But let’s do an Angelus here,” he said, referring mainly to his customary Sunday midday address.

With the Catholic Church around the globe marking the World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly July 24, the pope’s mini-, airborne-Angelus address focused on how “grandfathers and grandmothers are those who have handed on history, traditions, customs — many things.”

“Young people need contact with their grandparents, to go back to them, to their roots, not to remain there, not, but to carry them forward,” he said, like a tree that draws nourishment from its roots to flower and produce fruit.

As a Jesuit, Pope Francis said he also wanted to urge members of religious orders to treasure their elderly members – “the grandparents of consecrated life.”

“Please, don’t hide them away,” the pope said.

The importance of elders as the keepers of wisdom and as educators of the young was expected to be a recurring theme during the pope’s visit to Alberta, Quebec and Nunavut.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, was accompanying Pope Francis on the trip. He told Vatican News July 23 the pope’s focus would be on acknowledging and apologizing for the past, but also looking at the present and future.

When the pope met April 1 at the Vatican with First Nation, Métis and Inuit representatives, the cardinal said, “the pope expressed shame and indignation at the actions of not a few Christians who, instead of bearing witness to the Gospel, conformed to the colonial mentality and past government policies of cultural assimilation, which severely harmed indigenous communities.”

“Especially painful was the role of some Catholics in the so-called residential school system, which resulted in the removal of many indigenous children from their families,” the cardinal said. Many children endured emotional, physical and sexual abuse at the schools, in addition to being cut off from their native languages, customs and ceremonies.

That past, Cardinal Parolin said, is why Pope Francis described his trip as a “penitential pilgrimage” and will focus on “healing wounds and reconciliation.”

However, he said, the pope’s visit also will include a reflection on Indigenous values that can and should be shared with the wider society and church today.

“Indeed, it can be fruitful for everyone to rediscover many of their values and teachings,” such as concern for family and community, care for creation, the importance of spirituality, the strong bond between generations and respect for the elderly, the cardinal said.

The pope’s trip was planned around the feast of Sts. Joachim and Anne, the grandparents of Jesus. Pope Francis is scheduled to join Indigenous pilgrims on the feast day, July 26, at Lac Ste. Anne.

At a news conference broadcast on YouTube before the pope’s arrival, Archbishop Richard Smith of Edmonton told reporters, “I believe that this will be a very important moment in the history of our country.”

Father Cristino Bouvette, an Indigenous priest from the Diocese of Calgary, said everything about the papal visit was planned around the Indigenous communities, especially the survivors of residential schools, and their search for justice, healing and reconciliation.

The program, he said, “has been designed with the explicit intention of highlighting and remaining present to the needs and concerns that have inspired the pope to come here in the first place. He probably likes Canada, but he’s not coming here because he likes Canada. He is coming here to address this specific and particular pastoral need as a pastor.”

The Reverend Stephen A. Krawontka, pastor, Ascension Parish, Forest City and St. Katharine Drexel Parish, Pleasant Mount, died on July 19, 2022, at Wayne Memorial Hospital, Honesdale.

Father Krawontka, son of the late Jan and Julia Nowobilska Krawontka, was born in Lapsze Nizne, Poland, on March 27, 1950. He received his early education at Lapsze Nizne grammar school and graduated from Zakopane High School, Poland. Father attended the Papal Faculty of Theology in Krakow where he completed his studies for the priesthood with a Master in Theology. Father was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Krakow on May 22, 1977 by then Karol Cardinal Wojtyla, Pope Saint John Paul II.

Father Krawontka ministered in Poland for thirteen years. He moved to the Diocese of Scranton in July 1990 and was appointed parochial vicar at Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church, Dickson City.

With the consent of the Archdiocese of Krakow, Father Krawontka was incardinated into the Diocese of Scranton on November 23, 1993.

Father was appointed parochial vicar at St. Joseph, Hazleton in July 1997 and served for eleven years. In July 2008, he was appointed Administrator, St. Mary, Our Lady of Perpetual Help and Ascension of the Lord Churches, Mocanaqua and St. Martha, Fairmount Springs. In July 2010, Father was appointed parochial vicar at St. Patrick Church, Scranton where he also served as Administrator pro tem and Senior Priest for periods of time.

Father received his next appointment as Senior Priest at Our Lady Help of Christians, Dorrance and St. Jude, Mountain Top in November 2017. In July 2019, Father was appointed pastor at Ascension Parish, Forest City and St. Katharine Drexel, Pleasant Mount where he remained until his death.

Father is survived by sisters, Teresa Klapacz and her husband, Peter; Maria Olszowska and her husband, Wlodek; a brother, Emil Krawontka and his wife Marta and numerous nieces and nephews.

A viewing will take place at Ascension Parish, Forest City, on Monday, July 25, 2022, from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Vespers will be celebrated at Ascension Parish at 7:00 p.m.

A Pontifical Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated by the Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, D.D., J.C.L., Bishop of Scranton, on Tuesday, July 26, 2022, at 11:00 a.m., at St. Jude Church, Mountain Top. The Mass will be livestreamed. Anyone wishing to pray via livestream, please visit the St. Jude webpage at https://www.stjc.org.  A viewing will also take place Tuesday morning, at 10:00 a.m., prior to the funeral Mass.

Interment will be in Calvary Cemetery, Drums.

SCRANTON – Thousands of people have been making their way to the Basilica of the National Shrine of Saint Ann in West Scranton this week for an annual pilgrimage that has been ongoing for 98 years.

The Solemn Novena in honor of Saint Ann, the mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary, began on Sunday, July 17, and will continue for nine days, culminating with the celebration of the Feast of Saint Ann on Tuesday, July 26.

“It is such a holy place. As soon as you walk on the grounds, you can feel it. It is inspiring and a time when you can reflect on your faith,” Novena volunteer Debbie Coval said.

Coval and other volunteers have been happy to see so many worshippers turn out over the first few days.

“With all of the bad stuff going on, it’s good to see a lot of people practicing their faith,” volunteer Noah Palauskas added. “Everybody is extremely friendly here. You can come and make new friends without even trying.”

The guest preacher for this year’s Novena is Passionist Father Paul Fagan.

“Each day is more energizing,” Father Fagan said, indicating he is preaching about Saint Joseph, the son-in-law of Saint Ann, this year.

“We started with looking at Saint Joseph generally and for the rest of the Novena, we’re taking a title of Saint Joseph each day and reflecting on that,” he explained.

Carol Ann McNulty of Laflin has been coming to the annual Novena for more than 25 years. She says Saint Ann has blessed her with health, happiness, holiness and prosperity.

“When I have asked Saint Ann to intercede for my family, if it were health problems or whatever it may be, she has come through for us,” McNulty explained. “My brother who had cancer, we brought him here for the very first time when he was going through treatments. When he came, he was amazed at the size of the Saint Ann statue and he said he felt different after he left, it was like a special blessing he received.”

This year, the tradition of blessing the faithful with a relic of Saint Ann has returned after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Saint Ann Novena devotions will include outdoor Masses and Novenas (weather permitting) at 8 a.m., 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. The 11:45 a.m. Mass and Novena will be celebrated indoors, except on Sundays, and the 3:30 p.m. Novena service is offered inside the main Basilica church.

Bishop Joseph C. Bambera will celebrate the Solemn Closing of the Novena on the Feast of Saint Ann, July 26, at 7:30 p.m. The Mass in Polish will be celebrated at 1:30 p.m., featuring Polish hymns.

A general view shows Vjosa River in Tepelena, Albania, June 12, 2022. Pope Francis issued a message for the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, Sept. 1, calling for “a covenant between human beings and the environment” in order to combat climate change. (CNS photo/Florion Goga, Reuters)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Humanity can no longer ignore the cries of the earth that is suffering due to greed and the excessive consumption of its resources, Pope Francis said.

In his message for the World Day of Prayer for Creation, the pope said the current climate crisis is a call for men and women, especially Christians, to “repent and modify our lifestyles and destructive systems.”

“The present state of decay of our common home merits the same attention as other global challenges such as grave health crises and wars. Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience,” he wrote in his message, which was released by the Vatican July 21.

The theme of the World Day of Prayer for Creation, which will be celebrated Sept. 1, is “Listen to the voice of creation.”

Reflecting on the theme, the pope said that there is “a kind of dissonance” when one listens to the “voice of creation.”

“On the one hand, we can hear a sweet song in praise of our beloved Creator; on the other, an anguished plea, lamenting our mistreatment of this our common home,” he said.

The pope said the earth has fallen “prey to our consumerist excesses” and to a “tyrannical anthropocentrism,” an attitude in which people think they are the center of the universe. Such an attitude is at odds “with Christ’s centrality in the work of creation.”

Exaggerated self-centeredness, he said, has led to the loss of biodiversity and the extinction of countless and has greatly impacted the lives of the poor and vulnerable indigenous populations.

“As a result of predatory economic interests, their ancestral lands are being invaded and devastated on all sides, provoking a cry that rises up to heaven,” he said.

Furthermore, the pope said, younger generations feel “menaced by shortsighted and selfish actions” and are “anxiously asking us adults to do everything possible to prevent, or at least limit, the collapse of our planet’s ecosystems.”

Pope Francis said the Vatican’s July 6 accession to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement was made “in the hope that the humanity of the 21st century will be remembered for having generously shouldered its grave responsibilities.”

While the goal of limiting the increase of the earth’s temperature “is quite demanding,” the pope said it also serves as a “call for responsible cooperation between all nations” to confront the climate crisis by reducing net greenhouse gas emissions to zero.

Presenting the pope’s message at the Vatican press office July 21, Canadian Cardinal Michael Czerny, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, said Pope Francis’ message served as a call for bolder action by world leaders attending “this year’s COP27 and COP15 summits on climate change and biodiversity.”

“The planet already is 1.2°C hotter, yet new fossil fuel projects every day accelerate our race toward the precipice,” Cardinal Czerny said. “Enough is enough. All new exploration and production of coal, oil and gas must immediately end, and existing production of fossil fuels must be urgently phased out.”

In his message, the pope highlighted the need to change “models of consumption and production, as well as lifestyles” and transform them into something respectful of creation and integral human development.

“Underlying all this,” the pope wrote, “there is need for a covenant between human beings and the environment, which, for us believers, is a mirror reflecting the creative love of God, from whom we come and toward whom we are journeying.’

“The transition brought about by this conversion cannot neglect the demands of justice, especially for those workers who are most affected by the impact of climate change,” the pope added.

He also expressed his hope that the COP15 summit on biodiversity, which will be in December in Montreal, will adopt new agreements that will “halt the destruction of ecosystems and the extinction of species.”

Emphasizing the principles needed to prevent “the further collapse of biodiversity,” the pope appealed to the mining, oil, forestry, real estate and agribusiness industries to “stop destroying forests, wetlands and mountains, to stop polluting rivers and seas, to stop poisoning food and people.”

“How can we fail to acknowledge the existence of an ‘ecological debt’ incurred by the economically richer countries, who have polluted most in the last two centuries,” Pope Francis said.

“Even the economically less wealthy countries have significant, albeit ‘diversified’ responsibilities in this regard,” he added. “Delay on the part of others can never justify our own failure to act. It is necessary for all of us to act decisively. For we are reaching a breaking point.”

Pope Francis accepts snowshoes from Adrian Gunner, representing the Assembly of First Nations, during a meeting with Canadian Indigenous groups at the Vatican in this April 1, 2022, file photo. The pope plans to read his speeches in Spanish during his July 24-29 trip to Canada. While the Indigenous will be the focus of the trip, concern for the environment and prayers for Ukraine also are expected. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis’ July trip to Canada was born out of his meetings with the nations’ Indigenous people and was planned around encounters with them, and if the pope’s words “have value elsewhere,” like throughout the Americas, all the better, said the director of the Vatican press office.

Matteo Bruni, director of the Vatican press office, briefed reporters July 20 about details of the pope’s visit to Canada July 24-29. He said the pope planned to deliver his nine speeches and homilies in Spanish during the trip.

Asked if the choice of Spanish was meant to send a message to other Indigenous peoples of North and South America, who often suffered the same forms of colonization, Bruni said Pope Francis would be speaking to the people he met, but he also knows that his words can offer solace to other Indigenous people and a challenge to the broader society.

Bruni also noted that more Canadians are likely to understand Spanish than Italian, and it would be easier to find translators from Spanish rather than Italian.

The trip to Canada will be Pope Francis’ 37th foreign journey as pope and Canada will be the 56th country he has visited since his election in March 2013.

Pope Francis himself described the trip as a “penitential pilgrimage” to express, in person and on Canadian soil, his “indignation, sorrow and shame for all that these people suffered,” Bruni said.

Much of the suffering occurred through forced attendance at residential schools where attempts were made to uproot them from their languages, cultures and spiritualities, and where many students suffered emotional, physical and sexual abuse. Many of the schools were run by Catholic religious orders and institutions.

The main themes likely to be treated by the pope, Bruni said, include the impact of the colonialism of the past and of new forms of colonialism on Indigenous communities today as well as the desire of the Catholic Church to walk with the Indigenous communities on a path of truth-seeking, healing and reconciliation.

“These are some of the elements we may find in his words and gestures in the coming days,” Bruni said.

When representatives of Canada’s First Nations, and Inuit communities met Pope Francis at the Vatican in March and April, they asked him specifically for a formal repudiation of the “doctrine of discovery.” The phrase describes a collection of papal teachings, beginning in the 14th century, that encouraged explorers to colonize and claim the lands of any people who were not Christian, placing both the land and the people under the sovereignty of European Christian rulers.

The loss of the land, language, culture and spirituality of the Indigenous peoples of Canada and the foundation of the residential school system all can be traced to the doctrine, Indigenous leaders told reporters after their meetings with the pope.

Asked if the pope is expected to say something about the “doctrine of discovery” while in Canada, Bruni said, “a reflection is underway in the Holy See on the doctrine of discovery” and the study is nearing its conclusion. However, he said he is not certain that a statement will be completed before the papal trip ends or if the pope will speak about it while in Canada.

Given the close connections the Indigenous have to the land and to nature, Bruni said, Pope Francis also is likely to speak about care for the environment and climate change, particularly when he visits the Inuit in Iqaluit, Nunavit. The Arctic community already is dealing with the impact of global warming with the shrinking of glaciers, the thinning of sea ice, the thawing of permafrost thawing, coastal erosion and changes in the local wildlife.

Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori and New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan are seen in this composite photo. (CNS composite; photos by Knights of Columbus and Gregory A. Shemitz)

WASHINGTON (CNS) – The chairmen of two U.S. bishops’ committees said a measure passed by the House July 15 is “the most unjust and extreme abortion on demand bill our nation has ever seen.”

They implored lawmakers “who see abortion as a legitimate ‘solution’ to the needs of women to abandon this path of death and despair,” urging them to join the U.S. bishops in prioritizing “the well-being of women, children and families” by providing material resources and “personal accompaniment” so “no woman ever feels forced to choose between her future and the life of her child.”

Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee for Religious Liberty, made the comments in a joint statement July 18.

In a mostly party-line vote of 219 to 210, House members approved an updated version of the Women’s Health Protection Act of 2022, which would codify a right to abortion in federal law. An earlier version was passed in March by the House, but it failed to pass in the Senate.

The bill, H.R. 8296, would impose abortion on demand nationwide at any stage of pregnancy and would eliminate pro-life laws at every level of government — including parental notification for minor girls, informed consent, and health and safety protections specific to abortion facilities.

“Answering the needs of women by promoting taxpayer-funded elective abortion, as this bill would do, is a grave evil and a failure to love and serve women,” said Archbishop Lori and Cardinal Dolan.

“Offering free or low-cost abortions, instead of increasing the resources women need to care for themselves and their children, is not ‘choice’ but coercion and callous abandonment,” they said.

“Simply repeating the mantra that abortion is health care doesn’t make it so,” they added. “Deliberately ending the lives of defenseless and voiceless human beings is the antithesis of health care.”

They said H.R. 8296 would likely force health care providers and professionals to perform, assist in and/or refer for abortion against their deeply-held beliefs, as well as force employers and insurers to cover or pay for abortion.

The House also passed the Ensuring Access to Abortion Act, H.R. 8297, which would ban states from punishing those who travel out of state “for reproductive health care.” This vote also was largely along party lines; the measure was approved 223-205.

Archbishop Lori and Cardinal Dolan invited everyone, in Congress and in the country at large, to join the U.S. bishops “in pursuing a vision we presented in ‘Standing with Moms in Need,'” which, they said, “upholds the truth that every human life is sacred and inviolable — a society in which the legal protection of human life is accompanied by profound care for mothers and their children.”

The USCCB issued the statement “Standing with Moms in Need”  earlier this year as the nation awaited the outcome of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a challenge to a Mississippi law banning abortion after 15 weeks. Oral arguments were heard in the case Dec. 1.

The bishops reiterated their statement when a draft of the court’s majority opinion in Dobbs was leaked in early May indicating Roe v. Wade would be overturned.

On June 24, the court upheld the Mississippi law 6-3, but the high court also voted 5-4 to overturn its 1973 Roe decision and 1992’s Casey v. Planned Parenthood ruling, which affirmed Roe.

In the “Standing with Moms in Need” statement, the bishops pledged “to redouble our efforts to accompany women and couples who are facing unexpected or difficult pregnancies, and during the early years of parenthood, offering them loving and compassionate care through initiatives such as ‘Walking with Moms in Need’ and countless others.”

These efforts include ensuring all parishes are places of welcome for pregnant women in need and their families.

In 2020, the U.S. bishops launched the initiative “Walking with Moms in Need,” which aims to engage every Catholic parish “in providing a safety net to ensure that pregnant and parenting moms have the resources, love and support they need to nurture the lives of their children.”

In the “Standing with Moms in Need” statement, the bishops also said they would redouble “our advocacy for laws that ensure the right to life for unborn children and that no mother or family lacks the basic resources needed to care for their children, regardless of race, age, immigration status or any other factor.”

“We are deeply conscious that, after nearly half a century of legalized abortion, more than 65 million children have died from abortion and an untold number of women, men, and families suffer in the aftermath,” they also said.

“Recognizing this pain and loss, we also recommit our committees and urge our dioceses, parishes, and Catholic agencies and institutions: To proclaim God’s mercy after abortion and compassionately accompany women and men who are suffering after an abortion,” they said.

They also pledged to expand the church’s abortion healing ministries.

The “Standing with Moms in Need” was signed by Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gomez, USCCB president, and the chairmen of eight USCCB committees: pro-life, migration, domestic policy, international policy, Catholic education, communications, evangelization and catechesis, and marriage and family life.

This is the cover of the U.S. bishops’ 19th annual report on the implementation of the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People” by dioceses and eparchies. Released July 12, 2022, the report is for audit year July 1, 2020, to June 30, 2021. (CNS photo/courtesy USCCB)

WASHINGTON (CNS) – The U.S. bishops’ annual report on compliance with the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People” shows that 2,930 victim survivors came forward with 3,103 allegations during the audit year of July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021.

The number of allegations is 1,149 less than that reported in 2020, according to the audit report released July 12 by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection.

“This decrease is due in large part to the resolution of allegations received as a result of lawsuits, compensation programs, and bankruptcies,” said a news release accompanying the report. “Of the allegations received, 2,284 (74%) were first brought to the attention of the diocesan/eparchial representative by an attorney.”

The majority of allegations received were “historical in nature,” meaning the alleged victim is now an adult and the abuse happened in years or decades past. During this audit year, there 30 were new allegations.

The report is based on the audit findings of StoneBridge Business Partners, a specialty consulting firm based in Rochester, New York. Also included in the report are results of a survey on allegations conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown.

The charter was adopted in 2002 by the U.S. bishops following widespread reports of clergy abuse and has been revised several times since to adapt to changing situations surrounding the question of clergy sexual abuse of minors. It was revised in 2005, 2011 and 2018.

Of the new allegations made by current minors, six were substantiated; nine are still under investigation; nine were unsubstantiated; five could not be proven; and one was referred to the provincial of a religious order.

“This year’s audit, once again, shows that new cases of sexual misconduct by priests involving minors are rare today in the Catholic Church in the United States,” Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gomez, USCCB president, said in a preface to the report. He added that “every offender was removed from ministry. Every allegation was reported to law enforcement.”

“As we know, one allegation of abuse is too many,” he said, “But my brother bishops and I remain firmly committed to maintain our vigilance in protecting children and vulnerable adults and providing compassion and outreach to victim-survivors of abuse.”

“On behalf of my brother bishops, I again want to express our sorrow and apologies to every person who has suffered at the hands of someone in the church. And again, we pledge our commitment to the healing of victim survivors and to doing everything in our power to protect children and vulnerable adults.”

The report shows that dioceses and eparchies provided outreach and support to 285 victim survivors and their families who reported an allegation during the audit period. Continued support was provided to 1,737 victim survivors who had reported in prior audit periods.

In 2021, the church conducted 1,964,656 background checks on clergy, employees and volunteers. In addition, over 2 million adults and over 2.4 million children and youth were trained in how to identify the warning signs of abuse and how to report those signs.

Data from CARA said the costs related to allegations for diocese and eparchies for fiscal year 2021 were: settlements, $118,516,493; other payments to victims, $13,103,280; support for offenders, $9,972,414; attorneys’ fees, $45,597,100; and other costs, $6,930,931.

The grand total of costs was $194,120,218. This figure is 38% less  — or $117,860,448 less — than the grand total of $311,980,666 for fiscal year 2020.

“Six-tenths of the payments made by dioceses and eparchies between July 1, 2020, and June 30, 2021, were for settlements to victims (61%) and almost a quarter of the total cost is for attorney’s fees (23%),” CARA said.

Despite restrictions experienced due to the pandemic, elements included in the charter audit process conducted by StoneBridge Business Partners, were not altered:

Seventy dioceses/eparchies were visited either in person or via remote technology and data was collected from 122 others.

There were four instances of noncompliance due to the inactivity of their review boards: the Diocese of Corpus Christi, Texas; the Diocese of Lafayette, Louisiana; the Diocese of New Ulm, Minnesota; and the Eparchy of Newton were found noncompliant with Article 2 of the charter.

Article 2 requires they have a lay-run review board that functions as a confidential consultative body to the bishop/eparch.

Subsequent convening of the review boards of the dioceses and the eparchy brought each of them into compliance with Article 2.

Three eparchies and one diocese did not participate in the audit: the Chaldean Eparchy of St. Peter the Apostle, the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon, St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy, and the Diocese of St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands.

“May the Lord bless and preserve our efforts to make good on our promise to protect and pledge to heal,” Suzanne Healy, who chairs the National Review Board, said in a letter to Archbishop Gomez included in the report.

She said the NRB “continues to recommend that all dioceses and eparchies participate in the audit, but also audit every single parish in their ordinances. Parishes and school audits provide the most effective evaluation tool for diocesan/eparchial safe environment efforts.”

The board also “recommends examination of the efficacy of safe environment programs for both adults and children to ensure the training is working toward our promise to protect,” she added.

She said the board recommends enhancing the audit process with “possible expansion of the audit scope to include measures” in Pope Francis’ 2019 “motu proprio” “Vos Estis Lux Mundi” — which established procedures for reporting allegations of sexual abuse and for holding accountable bishops, eparchs and religious superiors who protect abusers.

The process could also include, she said, a new section of the Code of Canon Law dealing with crimes and punishments in the church: “Book VI: Penal Sanctions in the Church.

The NRB suggested a voluntary “mentorship” program between eparchies that do not participate in the audit and other eparchies that do, she said, and it also proposed there be one day when parishes in every diocese offer “a liturgy of lament for victims/survivors of clergy sexual abuse and their families.”

“Through the efforts of many individuals, both lay and ordained, the culture and attitudes surrounding the abuse of children has and will continue to change,” Deacon Bernie Nojadera, director of the Secretariat for Child and Youth Protection, said in a letter to the archbishop in the report.

He has been blessed by the survivors he has come to know, he said, by them “sharing their stories and how they learned to cope and survive and, in some cases, thrive. I am honored and humbled to be in the presence of such holy people.”

“The church will be successful in her journey toward conversion, reconciliation, healing and hope through the relationships with victims/survivors,” he said.

“The healing of such experiences is a process of listening, accompaniment and atonement. … Together, with our sisters and brothers who have been abused, we can and will weather this storm and grow in the abundant love of our Lord,” the deacon said.