Catholic Guide

Archbishop condemns attacks by organized crime in US-Mexico border area

Firefighters work at the scene of a burnt collective transport vehicle after it was set on fire by unidentified individuals in Tijuana, Baja California state, Mexico, on Aug. 12, 2022. / Photo by GUILLERMO ARIAS/AFP via Getty Images

Denver Newsroom, Aug 16, 2022 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

Francisco Moreno Barrón, the archbishop of Tijuana, Mexico, across the border from metro San Diego in the United States, condemned the 20 attacks carried out in several towns in the state of Baja California.

The archbishop issued an Aug. 13 statement regarding the public transportation vehicles set on fire by armed men on the afternoon and night of Aug. 12 in Tijuana, Tecate, Ensenada, Mexicali, and Rosarito, towns on or not far from the U.S. border.

“I condemn this painful scenario that harms the entire society, which is suffering the consequences of problems that must find other ways of being solved, never with the violence that always causes more violence,” the archbishop stressed.

According to the newspaper El Universal, witnesses to some of the incidents said that the armed men stopped the vehicles, threatened the drivers, forced them to get off with all their passengers, and then poured on fuel and set the public transport vehicles on fire.

The motive for the attacks is unclear, but the senseless violence may be related to turf wars between rival cartels.

On Twitter, the governor of Baja California, Marina del Pilar Ávila Olvera, condemned the violence and said that some individuals responsible for the incidents that occurred “have already been arrested. It’s important to remain calm, we will keep you informed.”

Moreno also asked people to “stay calm” and “be informed through official or reliable means of communication, avoid false or alarmist messages and create networks of true information and social support.”

“With thousands of people without public transport on the streets and trying to get home,” the archbishop said he appreciated and was thankful for the efforts made in solidarity with the stranded passengers to help them.

The attacks took place one day after the day of violence in Ciudad Juárez, situated across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas, which left at least 11 dead.

After assuring that he is closely monitoring information from state and city officials on public safety conditions, the archbishop of Tijuana invited the faithful to pray the following prayer for peace in Mexico and in the state of Baja California:

Lord Jesus, you are our peace.

Look at our homeland harmed by violence

and dispersed by fear and insecurity. 

Comfort the pain of those who suffer.

Give success to the decisions of those who govern us.

Touch the hearts of those who forget that

we are brothers and cause suffering and death;

give them the gift of conversion.

Protect families, our children,

adolescents and young people, our towns and communities.

That as your missionary disciples, responsible citizens,

we may know how to be promoters of justice and peace,

so that in you, our peoples may have a decent life.

Mary, Queen of Peace, pray for us.

Amen.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Cardinal Ouellet named in Canadian sex abuse lawsuit

Cardinal Marc Ouellet takes part in the Pontifical Council for Culture's Plenary Assembly on Women's Cultures in Rome, Feb. 6, 2015. / Bohumil Petrik/CNA.

Denver Newsroom, Aug 16, 2022 / 16:04 pm (CNA).

Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Prefect of the Dicastery for Bishops, was accused of sexual assault in a civil suit filed against the Archdiocese of Quebec.

AFP reported that the class action suit, filed Aug. 16, includes the testimony of 101 people who say they were sexually assaulted by clerics or Church staff from 1940 to the present. Eighty-eight clerics face accusations in the suit.

Ouellet is accused by a woman who says that he assaulted her multiple times while she worked as a pastoral intern for the Quebec archdiocese between 2008 and 2010, while he was Archbishop of Quebec. She described him kissing her and sliding his hand down her back to her buttock.

According to the CBC, the alleged incidents involving Ouellet occurred at public events.

The suit says that the alleged victim wrote to Pope Francis about Ouellet in January 2021, and she received an email Feb. 23, 2021 had appointed Father Jacques Servais to investigate the cardinal. Her last communication with Servais was the following month, and as of now “no conclusion concerning the complaints against Cardinal Marc Ouellet has been sent” to her.

Another class action suit was filed against the Brothers of the Christian Schools. In that case, 193 alleged victims have accused 116 De La Salle Brothers of sexual assault.

Ouellet, 78, was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Amos in 1968, at age 23. He joined the Sulpicians in 1972. In 2001 he was appointed secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and consecrated a bishop.

He served as Archbishop of Quebec from 2002 to 2010, when he was appointed prefect of the Congregation for Bishops and president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.

Ouellet has been outspoken about sex abuse, and priestly formation.

At a 2018 meeting of the Presidents of the Bishops' Conferences of Europe, he said that “We would need participation of more women in (training) of priests” to prevent abuse.

He reiterated this point in a 2020 interview with Donne Chiesa Mondo, saying, “for the priest, learning to relate to women in the context of formation is a humanizing factor which promotes the balance of man's personality and affectivity.”

The cardinal said he thought the Church would benefit greatly from an increased presence of women on seminary formation teams, as theology, philosophy, and spirituality teachers, and "in particular in vocational discernment."

Ouellet verbally sparred with Archbishop Vigano as details of Vatican knowledge of Theodore McCarrick emerged in recent years. 

In an October 2018 letter, Ouellet said it was communicated to Vigano in 2011 that McCarrick “had to obey certain conditions and restrictions because of rumors about his behavior in the past,” and that he “was strongly urged not to travel and not to appear in public, in order not to provoke further rumours about him. It is false to present the measures taken against him as 'sanctions' decreed by Pope Benedict XVI and annulled by Pope Francis.”

And in January 2019, Ouellet wrote that his congregation had blocked the U.S. bishops from voting on proposals to address the sex abuse crisis in November because it believed more time was needed to discuss the measures.

Nuns in the Philippines charged with aiding terrorists

Mary, Comforter of the Afflicted Parish Church in Maricaban, Pasay City, in the Philippines. / Judgefloro via Wikimedia (CC0 1.0).

Denver Newsroom, Aug 16, 2022 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

More than a dozen people, including several Catholic nuns, have been charged under the Philippines’ strict anti-terror law with allegedly financing terrorists. 

UCA News reported Aug. 16 that sixteen people stand accused by the country’s Justice Department of financing the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People's Army (NPA), which is branded a terrorist organization by the Philippine government. 

If found guilty, those accused — whose names have not been released — would face up to 40 years in prison and a fine of between 500,000 to 1 million Philippine pesos, or $10,000-20,000 U.S.

The nuns are associated with the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, a Catholic group active in the Philippines since 1969 which works to aid and educate the poor. RMP is not itself an order or congregation, and religious members remain part of their respective communities and priests of their dioceses, the group’s website says. 

The Justice Department of the Philippines froze several of the group’s bank accounts in 2019 after two people testified that RMP had wired money to the country’s Communist Party. The RMP has consistently denied any association with Communist activities in the Philippines, saying that part of their educational mission involves teaching poor people about their rights, and not about communism. 

"This is absurd. We are not a communist organization or a communist front. We are not financing terrorist activities through our projects. Our projects are all well-documented, audited, and accounted for," Sister Elenita Belardo, RMP national coordinator, told Rappler in March 2019. 

UCA News notes that the so-called process of “red-tagging,” or “red-baiting,” has been common in the Philippines since the 1960s. “Red-tagging” is the “malicious” practice of labeling individuals or groups as “terrorists” or “communists” because they criticized the government, UCA News wrote. Human rights groups have accused the Justice Department of rushing the process and not allowing the nuns to defend themselves. 

The anti-terror law under which the nuns have been charged came into force under Former President Rodrigo Duterte, who was in power from 2016 until June of this year. Duterte, who became widely known for his brutal tactics in addressing drug-related crime in the Philippines, clashed publicly with the Church on several occasions. 

Under the law in question, anyone officials deem to have incited terrorism through "speeches, proclamations, writings, emblems, banners and other representations" can be punished, NPR reported. The country’s Supreme Court upheld most of the 2020 law as constitutional while striking down a portion that they determined was overly broad in defining what constitutes terrorism, because it could have curtailed the exercise of civil rights like advocacy, protests, and strikes.

The Catholic bishops of the Philippines have likened the anti-terror law to the widely criticized national security laws that came into force in Hong Kong in 2020 and which China imposed on Hong Kong to tighten control by criminalizing broad definitions of “sedition” and “colluding with foreign forces.” 

Writing in a July 2020 pastoral letter, the country’s bishops noted that the anti-terror law had been fast-tracked during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic and that in their view the law poses a “serious threat to the fundamental freedoms of all peaceful Filipinos” whose advocacy activities could be branded as terrorism by unfriendly politicians. 

“We know full well that it is one thing to be actually involved in a crime and another thing to be merely suspected or accused of committing a crime,” the bishops noted. 

In a December 2019 speech, former President Duterte said people should "kill and steal" from Catholic bishops, stating "this stupid bunch serve no purpose – all they do is criticize.” He also called the bishops "idiots" and "sons of wh-res" and told the people that they should stay at home and pray rather than attend church services. Duterte’s opposition to the Church, according to one spokesman, stems from sexual abuse he underwent in Catholic school as a child. 

The Philippines’ newly sworn-in president, Ferdinand “BongBong” Marcos Jr., is the son of the Philippines’ late longtime dictator,  Ferdinand Marcos, whose often brutal authoritarian ruling style and corrupt practices also engendered clashes with the Catholic Church and led to his downfall in 1986. The vast majority of the Philippines’ 103 million people are Catholic. 

Police harassment forces priest to celebrate Mass outside church in Nicaragua

The faithful gather for Mass behind the fence of the church as the parochial vicar celebrates Mass in the atrium of Santa Lucía Parish in Matagalpa, Nicaragua, Aug. 16, 2022. / Photo credit: Diócesis Media – Radio Stereo Santa Lucía

ACI Prensa Staff, Aug 16, 2022 / 14:30 pm (CNA).

A group of police officers from the Daniel Ortega dictatorship in Nicaragua arrived at a parish Aug. 16 with the intention of arresting the pastor, forcing the celebration of Mass outside the church by the parochial vicar.

ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language sister news agency, contacted Santa Lucía parish in the Diocese of Matagalpa, where this morning a group of police officers arrived asking for the pastor, Father Vicente Martín.

A person at the parish, who prefers to remain anonymous for fear for his personal safety “and because we don’t know if the phones are tapped,” said that the police arrived at the church at 5:55 a.m. local time and that the day before they had also been there in the afternoon.

“To protect the priest, the parochial vicar, Father Sebastián López, came out and told the police that Father Vicente was not in the church,” the person said.

So the police stayed outside waiting for the pastor.

The person told ACI Prensa that at 6:30 a.m. the bells were rung once for Mass, drawing a large group of the faithful.

“The gates to the fencing (enclosing the open area in front of the church)  weren’t opened up because if they were, the police would get in” and gain entrance to the church, the person said.

López celebrated Mass by improvising the altar with a table outside the church, while the faithful participated behind the fencing. The police looked on and were joined by riot police.

“There were a lot of people crying, a lot of people praying. Many said ‘you are not alone,’” the person said.

Along with the two priests at Santa Lucía parish, there are nine other people in the rectory.

The dictatorship has recently ramped up harassment and intimidation of the Catholic Church.

Over the weekend, three priests were prevented by the police from going to the cathedral in Managua to receive a replica statue of the pilgrim statue of Our Lady of Fatima. The police searched the pickup truck that one of the priests was traveling in and confiscated the vehicle registration and proof of insurance as well as the driver’s license. Another of the priests was arrested.

The bishop of Matagalpa, Rolando Álvarez, has been held under house arrest at the chancery along with five priests, two seminarians and three lay people since Aug. 4. The chancery is surrounded by police and is under aerial surveillance by drones.

In a press release published Aug. 5, the Nicaraguan national police accused high-ranking authorities of the Catholic Church in Matagalpa — and Álvarez in particular — of “using the communications media and social media” to try to “organize violent groups, inciting them to carry out acts of hatred against the population, creating an atmosphere of anxiety and disorder, disturbing the peace and harmony of the community.”

Such actions have the “purpose of destabilizing the State of Nicaragua and attacking the constitutional authorities,” the press release continued.

The Ortega regime’s police force announced it has already started an investigation “in order to determine the criminal responsibility of the people involved.”

The statement adds that “the people under investigation shall remain in their homes.”

Ortega, who has been in power for 15 years, has been openly hostile to the Catholic Church in the country. He alleged bishops were part of an attempted coup to drive him out of office in 2018 because they supported anti-government demonstrations that his regime brutally suppressed. The Nicarguan president has called the bishops “terrorists” and “devils in cassocks.”

According to a report titled “Nicaragua: A Persecuted Church? (2018–2022),” compiled by attorney Martha Patricia Molina Montenegro, a member of the Pro-Transparency and Anti-Corruption Observatory, in less than four years, the Catholic Church in Nicaragua has been the target of 190 attacks and desecrations, including a fire in the Managua Cathedral as well as police harassment and persecution of bishops and priests.

On Aug. 6, unidentified vandals stole the main switch to the cathedral’s electrical control system, leaving the cathedral and surrounding grounds without power. The stolen switch has been replaced, restoring electricity.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Bianca Jagger implores Pope Francis to aid persecuted Catholic Church in Nicaragua

Daniel Ortega celebrates his re-inauguration as president of Nicaragua, Jan. 10, 2012. / Cancilleria del Ecuador via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Aug 16, 2022 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

Human rights activist Bianca Jagger is raising awareness of the Nicaraguan regime’s oppression of the Catholic Church, calling on Pope Francis to condemn the government’s targeted attacks on the faithful. 

In a statement earlier this week, Jagger said she was “deeply saddened and concerned … by the silence of the Holy Father.”

In an interview with Crux, Jagger – who is Nicaraguan herself – stated that the Catholic Church is one of the last targets standing in the breach against Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega and his wife and vice president, Rosario Murillo.

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

He 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.

Nicaraguan attacks against Catholics intensify

According to Jagger, the Ortega regime – which has long oppressed Nicaraguan citizens, civil organizations and media – is now turning its focus to attacking the Church. 

Now that the regime has silenced independent journalists, political opposition, and human rights activists, they “understand that the great leaders of the country are members of the Catholic Church: the bishops, the priests, the religious sisters and the laity,” Jagger said. 

In a recent attack, the government arrested Bishop Rolando Álvarez of Matagalpa Aug. 4, along with several priests, seminarians, and laypeople following the banning of an Our Lady of Fatima procession by Nicaraguan police. Álvarez remains under house arrest, an effort to “declare war against the Catholic Church,” according to Jagger.

Ortega also expelled the Missionaries of Charity from the country in July.

Pope Francis has not spoken out 

When asked by Crux about Pope Francis’ silence, Jagger stated, “I am deeply saddened and concerned, surprised, by the silence of the Holy Father.”

Jagger has publicly appealed to Pope Francis to address the unfolding situation in Nicaragua.

“I am appealing to him not to order Bishop Rolando Alvarez to leave the country,” she said, urging that “Getting rid of all the bishops and priests who stand up, who have the courage to stand up, is not the answer. The answer is to intercede, and speak up against the man who has declared a war against the Catholic Church.”

Bishop Silvio José Báez Ortega, an auxiliary bishop of Managua, has been living in exile since 2019 at the pope's request.

The Vatican did not immediately respond to CNA’s request for comment.

The far-left Ortega regime has been accused of corruption, voter fraud, imprisoning critical dissenters and journalists, and committing violent human rights abuses against the people of Nicaragua. 

Both the current and former U.S. presidents have condemned Ortega for these acts. The Trump administration first imposed sanctions against the regime in 2018. President Biden signed the bi-partisan RENANCER Act, which extended sanctions, and called the 2021 re-election of Ortega a “sham.”

Jagger’s activism and faith

Bianca Jagger is a human rights activist, former actress, and ex-wife of Mick Jagger, the lead singer of The Rolling Stones, whom she married in a Catholic ceremony in 1971. The couple divorced in 1978, but Jagger continues to practice the faith.

“Once a Catholic, always a Catholic…Religion is a very important aspect of my life,” she said in a 2008 interview with High Profiles.

Her past activism has included lobbying for wider celebration of the Latin Mass (TLM) in England.

The Bianca Jagger Foundation did not immediately respond to CNA’s request for comment.

Rosaries are flying off the shelves after ‘The Atlantic’ article suggests link to ‘extremism’

null / Shutterstock

Boston, Mass., Aug 16, 2022 / 13:04 pm (CNA).

Three online shops that sell rosaries have reported a boost in sales following a controversial article published Sunday in The Atlantic magazine which attempted to link the rosary to right-wing extremism in the United States.  

In the article, Daniel Panneton claimed, “The rosary has acquired a militaristic meaning for radical-traditional (or “rad trad”) Catholics.”

“Militia culture, a fetishism of Western civilization, and masculinist anxieties have become mainstays of the far right in the U.S.—and rad-trad Catholics have now taken up residence in this company,” he continued. 

The article sparked a frenzy of comments on social media, as Catholics shared photos of their rosaries. Some observed that the article's thesis had an anti-Catholic bias.

Shannon Doty, CEO of Rugged Rosaries, told CNA Monday that she saw “a pretty good boost in sales” on both of her websites, RuggedRosaries.com and MonkRosaries.com amid the reaction to the article.

Rugged Rosaries sells durable rosaries, inspired by rosaries that used to be used in the military during World War I. 

Doty said that both websites have a loyal customer base and added that “we are not discouraged, and are in fact strengthened in our determination to make strong rugged rosaries for everyone.”

Doty began making rosaries out of paracord for her son’s friends in the army more than ten years ago. She began selling a "Soldier's Combat Rosary" and it gradually turned into a business.

Jonathan Conrad, founder of the Catholic Woodworker, told CNA Tuesday that his company had the best sales day of the month on Monday. 

“It wasn't anything special relative to the rest of the year, but best this month,” he said. 

The mission of Catholic Woodworker, he said, “is to equip families for battle in the modern world, with a scriptural emphasis that we are not contending with flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers of this present darkness.”

The World Apostolate of Fatima USA in Asbury, New Jersey, has also reported a boost in sales of the rosary since The Atlantic article was published. 

David Carollo, executive director of the apostolate told CNA Tuesday that there was a sure boost in sales of the rosary and other religious items. He said there has been lots of “buzz” since the “downright insulting” article ran and added that he plans to respond to it with his own article. The apostolate's social media also gained an increase in followers, he said. 

“We don't pray against people, we pray for people,” he added. “That's what the rosary is all about.”

The apostolate’s mission is to foster devotion to Our Lady of Fatima by helping people understand the Blessed Virgin Mary’s requests to establish peace on earth and spread devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. 

Pierce Toomey, who runs the website ​​catholicguardians.com said his rosary sales only received a small increase after The Atlantic article. However, he said, his social media following increased.

Toomey said after starting his rosary business, he realized that masculine-styled rosaries were a tough find at a good price. “To put the rosary back into the hands of young men it needs to appeal to them aesthetically and that won’t happen if the only rosary you can find is rainbow colored or an antique,” he said. 

Toomey made an Instagram story posting a photo of The Atlantic article’s headline and wrote: “Hosting another sale for all the ‘rad trads’ out there ‘co-opting’ the Rosary. Use code ‘theatlantic’ for 20% off any masculine rosary.”

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Fr. Donald Calloway, M.I.C., whose talk on the rosary has received over 2 million views on YouTube, told CNA Tuesday that he did not know whether there was a boost in sales at his congregation’s online gift shop. However, he did report a “massive increase” in followers on his social media accounts. 

CNA also attempted to reach Roman Catholic Gear, which is included in links three times in The Atlantic article. They did not respond for comment. 

Swiss bishops' Synod report: Catholic Church denies equality to women and excludes LGBT people

The Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Lungern, Switzerland / Shutterstock

CNA Newsroom, Aug 16, 2022 / 09:02 am (CNA).

On Monday, the Swiss Bishops' Conference published a document for the upcoming Synod on Synodality in Rome reporting the Catholic Church was seen as suffering from clericalism —as well as "denying equality to women" and excluding "people with LGBTQ identity."

"Several official church positions on the role of women in church and society, on sexuality and lifestyles are perceived as pejorative and exclusionary," the Swiss report said according to CNA Deutsch, CNA's German-language news partner.

"The Synodal Assembly of Switzerland, held on May 30, 2022, in Einsiedeln Abbey, finalized the report based on comments and requests for adjustments," the bishops explained. 

"This assembly had the task of combining the reports that emerged from the diocesan phase of the synod into an overall national report."

The document says nothing about the number of participants in the surveys that were to be part of the worldwide synodal process. 

In Germany, the "number of faithful who participated in the survey on the World Synod of Bishops in the dioceses" had been only "in the lowest single-digit percentage," reported CNA Deutsch.

"In Switzerland, the debates and the synodal questionnaires raised awareness of the importance of baptism for the life of the Church," the bishops said

"It was emphasized that a synodal church increasingly recognizes 'the royal, priestly and prophetic dignity and vocation' of the baptized."

Two points, in particular, were emphasized, namely "overcoming the experience that many people are excluded from full participation in the life of the church" and a critical examination "of the clericalism that still exists in some places."

The report also said synodality would only succeed once "clericalism is overcome and an understanding of the priesthood increasingly develops as an element that promotes the life of a more synodically oriented church."

On clericalism, the 11-page report said: "Criticism of the exercise of power by ministers is ignited by observations of clerical mentality, abuse of power, ignorance of the realities of life and culture in Switzerland, devaluation of women and rejection of people from the LGBTQ spectrum, retreat into individual identity notions of being a priest, lack of attention to people, disinterest in the poor, etc."

In another section, the report also cites minority votes. These are mainly aimed at "questioning the need for a synodal culture for the Catholic Church, not changing the role of priests and the current hierarchical shape of the Church, limiting the influence of lay men and women in the Church, and more preservation and promotion of traditional forms of liturgy, especially the 'extraordinary form.'"

Pope Francis announced a Synod on Synodality in March 2020 to "provide an opportunity for the entire People of God to discern together how to move forward on the path towards being a more synodal Church in the long-term."

The process to prepare the synod started with consultations at the diocesan level in October 2021. A continental phase is scheduled to commence in March 2023, according to the Synod on Synodality's website. The final and universal phase will begin with the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, on the theme "For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission," at the Vatican in October 2023.

After Maronite archbishop detained in Lebanon, U.S. bishops voice solidarity

A scene from a papal visit to Lebanon, Sept. 14, 2012. / Vatican Media

Denver Newsroom, Aug 15, 2022 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

A Maronite Catholic archbishop was bringing aid back to Lebanon when he was wrongly detained by Lebanese authorities at the Israeli border, his supporters say. The U.S. bishops have spoken in his defense, objecting to the confiscation of medical aid and hundreds of thousands of dollars in monetary aid.

“The arbitrary detention and interrogation of Archbishop Moussa El-Hage, the Maronite Archbishop of Haifa and the Holy Land, by Lebanese security, is cause for alarm,” Bishop David Malloy of Rockford, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, said Aug. 12.

“The archbishop was returning from one of his regular visits to the Holy Land and bringing much-needed aid that the Lebanese diaspora in Israel wanted to send to family members in Lebanon,” Malloy said. “All this was confiscated by Lebanese security forces, along with his cell phone and passport.”

The U.S. bishops favorably cited the statement from the Permanent Synod of Maronite Bishops which condemned their fellow bishop's detention. The bishops issued the statement after a July 20 meeting convened by Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Bechara Rai.

According to the Maronite bishops, the incident “brought us back to the times of occupation and rulers in the previous centuries, when the invaders and occupiers were trying to undermine the role of the Church in Lebanon and the East and its brotherhood between religions.”

Archbishop Joseph Spiteri, the apostolic nuncio to Lebanon, said the detention was “a dangerous precedent,” the U.S. bishops noted.

Cardinal Rai had denounced the detention of the archbishop as a fabrication and said that the confiscated money was intended for charitable purposes.

The Maronite Catholic Church is the largest Christian group in Lebanon, where Christians make up almost 35% of the country’s 7 million people. An estimated 60% of Lebanese are Muslim and are about evenly split between Shiite and Sunni adherents. 

Criticism has intensified between the Maronite Church and Lebanon’s Shiite Muslim Hezbollah group, which is backed by Iran, the Associated Press reports. Lebanon’s religious power-sharing constitution means that its president must always be a Maronite. The incumbent president, President Michel Aoun, is an ally of Hezbollah. In the country’s parliament, Hezbollah and its allies are now roughly tied with its foes.

In general, foes of Hezbollah criticize its influence over Lebanese institutions and security agencies and argue it uses this influence to target the Maronite Church. 

Other backers of Archbishop El-Hage include the religious advisory board for the U.S.-based group In Defense of Christians. In a July 20 statement, the board alleged the archbishop’s detention “occurred in flagrant contempt of his pastoral duty” and threatened Lebanon’s tradition of religious freedom. 

The board, which includes the two U.S.-based Maronite bishops, characterized the arrest as “an apparent attempt to intimidate Maronite Patriarch Rai for his opposition to Hezbollah’s political coercion.” It noted the patriarch’s call for full sovereignty and neutrality in Lebanon and the “unconditional enforcement” of U.N. resolutions for the disarmament of Hezbollah.

On July 19 El-Hage was detained by Lebanese border agents. The agents confiscated 20 suitcases filled with medicine and $460,000 in cash, citing laws against normalization with Israel, the Associated Press reports. The archbishop said he was delivering money and aid from Lebanese Christians in northern Israel to their relatives in Lebanon, which is suffering from a major economic crisis.

Israel and Lebanon have been formally at war since 1948, when Israel was founded. In the year 2000, thousands of Lebanese moved to Israel after it ended its occupation of some regions in southern Lebanon. Many of these Lebanese had links to the South Lebanon Army, a pro-Israeli militia which collapsed when the Israelis withdrew.

The Jerusalem Post reported July 22 that Justice Fadi Akiki, who is in charge of the case, told the Lebanese newspaper Annahar that the funds came from Israeli residents, “the majority of whom work in the interest of the enemy.”

The money is subject to laws regulating everything that enters Lebanon from Israel, he added. According to the judge, the archbishop was not arrested but only subject to the same inspection rules for all those crossing the border.

“I respect the church, but there is a law that is the boycott of Israel and it is my duty as a judge to implement it,” the judge said. 

The U.S. bishops’ conference voiced support for the Maronite Church.

“As Lebanon goes through difficult times and crises, we renew our stand in solidarity with Cardinal Rai and the Synod of Bishops,” Bishop Malloy said Aug. 12. “We also pray for the protection of the Church in Lebanon and its charitable work as it comes under increasing pressure. We further support the call of Patriarch Rai for the ‘active neutrality’ of Lebanon, so that it will remain a place of conviviality between Christians and Muslims and a beacon of hope for all Christians of the Middle East. May Lebanon prosper again and enjoy total sovereignty and lasting peace.”

There are two Maronite eparchies in the U.S. Both Maronite bishops, in a July 29 letter to Cardinal Rai, said they were “deeply saddened” to hear of Archbishop El-Hage’s arrest and detention. 

Bishop Gregory Mansour of the Eparchy of St. Maron of Brooklyn and Bishop A. Elias Zaidan of the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles voiced solidarity with the cardinal, the Synod of Bishops, and with “all our brothers and sisters suffering in Lebanon.”

“Lebanon is a beautiful country, where religious beliefs are a bridge, not a hindrance, to conviviality and cooperation,” they said, voicing support for the “active neutrality” of Lebanon.

“If we do not stand united as one people working together for the future of our country, we are liable to fall victim to outside influence,” the two bishops said, voicing prayers for a peaceful, sovereign and prosperous Lebanon. 

In a July 31 statement, Cardinals Wilton Gregory of Washington, Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, and Timothy Dolan of New York voiced solidarity with the detained Lebanese archbishop, speaking in their roles as honorary chairs of the religious advisory board for In Defense of Christians.

“Archbishop El-Hage is the spiritual shepherd of many peoples and he travels between those lands regularly. His recent arrest, detention and interrogation by Lebanese authorities upon his return from his Episcopal See in Haifa — as well as the confiscation of medical and financial aid intended for the needy in Lebanon — are most disturbing,” they said.

“We applaud Cardinal Rai and the Maronite Synod for their firm support of Archbishop El-Hage. In the interest of regional stability and human rights, we further support calls for positive action to protect Church leadership, their charitable work, and lay Christians in the Middle East,” the three cardinals said.

Doctor says Boston gender clinic mutilates and sterilizes children

null / Ink Drop/Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Aug 15, 2022 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

Controversy erupted last week when news of Boston Children’s Hospital’s Gender Clinic for kids took over social media, prompting outrage over the hospital’s “first of its kind” program to facilitate sex-changes for children in the form of hormone treatments and irreversible surgeries.  

According to the hospital’s website, Boston Children’s Center for Gender Surgery offers a “full suite of treatment options” for children and teens to “transfer seamlessly” into transition surgeries, including double mastectomies for children as young as 15 and sterilizing genital surgeries for teens. The program has seen over 1,000 patients, as young as 3 years old. 

Pediatricians are condemning the program, which comes on the heels of news that youth gender clinics around the world are closing and changing guidance due to evidence that transition procedures harm, rather than help, children with gender dysphoria.

Dr. Michelle Cretella, a Catholic pediatrician and a member of the Catholic Medical Association (CMA), the largest association of Catholic physicians across the U.S., condemned Boston’s gender program in a statement to CNA.

“These surgeries do not treat mental illness nor prevent suicide,” Cretella said in a statement, “[but] they do mutilate and permanently sterilize children who have no capacity to assess let alone consent to such life-changing interventions.”

The procedures Boston Children’s Hospital conducts on transgender children and teens include breast augmentation, chest reconstruction, “facial harmonization,” a surgical procedure that modifies the face to appear more feminine or masculine, and surgical techniques to raise or lower a child’s voice to match how they identify.  

The hospital also performs genital surgeries that are known to carry a high risk of complications for teens. Boston’s initial guidance said these surgeries could be performed on minors 17 years of age, then updated its guidance to say 18, after the story broke. 

These include metoidioplasty and phalloplasty – the surgical creation of a penis using existing genital tissue or flaps of skin  – and vaginoplasty, the surgical creation of a vagina.

These procedures are described by surgeons and physicians at Boston Children’s Hospital in a series of YouTube videos that the hospital put out to market the procedures they offer. 


Phalloplasty, as the hospital describes, is a 12-hour surgery conducted on girls seeking to transition into boys. A girl who undergoes phalloplasty must first have a hysterectomy. Then skin is “harvested” to construct a penis from another place on her body, such as the thigh or forearm. The “vagina may also be removed” and the surgeon grafts the new “penis” into place. On average, it takes a patient 12 to 18 months to heal from a phalloplasty. 

Likewise, vaginoplasty is performed on boys seeking to transition into girls, which requires inverting the penis into a vagina which Boston Children’s acknowledges requires a significant recovery time and a “lifetime” of upkeep. Boys who undergo vaginoplasties initially have to use a catheter to urinate, the webpage states, and will need to dilate their “vagina multiple times a day to keep it open,” for the rest of their life. 

Cretella describes these surgeries as “horrors.”

“It is only a matter of time before the physicians who perform these mutilating surgeries on children, and the hospitals that employ them, are bombarded by patient and whistleblower lawsuits. This is ultimately what shined a light on the horrors of Tavistock and led to its being shut down,” she said.

The Tavistock clinic in the UK was closed as a result of an independent review earlier this year, after  complaints made by whistleblowers, patients, and their families – including 25-year-old Keira Bell, who brought a high court case against the clinic for prescribing her cross-sex hormones and facilitating her sex-transition. 

"It is ironic that Boston Children's Hospital's announcement should come about now. Just 2 weeks ago Tavistock Clinic in the UK, the world's largest children's gender clinic, was shut down due to risk of harm from transgender interventions,” she added.

When CNA reached out to Tavistock, a representative said the clinic was not yet aware of Boston Hospital’s new program and therefore had no comment, but explained that Tavistock clinic was shutting down because there was a need for a new model of gender care that is more “holistic.” 

A public relations representative from Boston Children’s Hospital repeatedly told CNA over the phone that the hospital had “no comment” on its gender program, “no comment” to critics who highlight the dangers of surgical sex-changes on children, and “no comment” about Tavistock closing.

‘The Atlantic’ publishes article on the rosary as symbol of far-right, violent extremism

null / CNA

Washington D.C., Aug 15, 2022 / 16:06 pm (CNA).

An article published Sunday in The Atlantic magazine suggests the rosary has become a symbol of violent, right-wing extremism in the United States.

The article set off a frenzy of reactions among Catholics, ranging from amusement to grave concern over what some see as anti-Catholic sentiment.  

The magazine later changed the article’s headline from "How the Rosary Became an Extremist Symbol" to "How Extremist Gun Culture is Trying to Co-Opt the Rosary." Among other edits to the text, an image of bullet holes forming the shape of a rosary was replaced with a picture of a rosary. 

The graphic shows changes made to the article by editors of 'The Atlantic' after publication.
The graphic shows changes made to the article by editors of 'The Atlantic' after publication.


These editorial changes, nonetheless, left the article’s thesis that there is a connection between the rosary and extremism intact. The author's contention was based, in part, on his observations about the use of the rosary on social media and rosaries sold online.

“The rosary has acquired a militaristic meaning for radical-traditional (or “rad trad”) Catholics,” writes Daniel Panneton of the sacramental used in prayer by Catholics for centuries. 

“Militia culture, a fetishism of Western civilization, and masculinist anxieties have become mainstays of the far right in the U.S.—and rad-trad Catholics have now taken up residence in this company,” writes Panneton, whose article includes three links to Roman Catholic Gear, an online shop that sells rosaries.

He describes photos of rosary beads “made of cartridge casings, and complete with gun-metal-finish crucifixes,” along with warrior-themed memes and content catering to survivalists.

The Catholic reaction

Asked to comment on the article, Robert P. George, professor of political theory at Princeton University and former chairman of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), told CNA:

"It looks to me like the guy who is politicizing the rosary and treating it as a weapon in the culture war is … Daniel Panneton. I know nothing about the guy other than what he says in the article. I hadn’t heard of him before. Although it’s hard to miss the classic anti-Catholic tropes in the piece, perhaps he isn’t actually a bigot. Maybe he just overwrought and needs to take an aspirin or two and lie down for a while."

Chad Pecknold, theology professor at Catholic University of America, told CNA the publication of the article points to a "theo-political" conflict in the culture.

"The politically elite core in left-liberal media hate Western civilization and they mean to topple every natural and supernatural sign of it. That’s why it’s not sufficient to simply run a piece on right-wing gun cultures, but they must tie it to something which is theologically central to the civilization they feel most threatens their progressive ziggurat. It’s a sign of the theo-political conflict which now grips us; even still, they severely underestimate the power of Our Lady to reign victorious over evil," Pecknold said.

Fr. Pius Pietrzyk, OP, a Dominican priest of the Province of St. Joseph, told CNA, "The article is a long-running stream of inaccuracies, logical fallacies, and distortions."

The author, he said, fails to understand that "the notion of 'spiritual combat' has been with the Church from time immemorial. Recall that a traditional view of Confirmation is that it made one a 'soldier for Christ.'"

"The problem is that The Atlantic does not seem to understand what metaphor means. In no wise, does the notion of rosary as 'combat' imply physical violence," Pietrzyk added.

On Twitter, Fr. Aquinas Guilbeau, OP, responded to the article with a photo of two white-robed friars wearing their traditional rosary beads around their waists. “ WARNING: The image below contains rosaries,” read the caption.

Novelist and essayist Walter Kirn commented that The Atlantic article itself serves as an example of “extremism.”

Eduard Habsburg, Hungary's Ambassador to the Holy See, responded by conceding the rosary is indeed a weapon — used for centuries against evil:

Catholic beliefs seen as extreme

Panneton makes it clear in his article that it’s not just about the rosary.

In the course of his argument, he refers to Catholic beliefs as evidence of “extremism.”

He sees extreme views on masculinity in the Catholic faith. He writes: “The militarism also glorifies a warrior mentality and notions of manliness and male strength. This conflation of the masculine and the military is rooted in wider anxieties about Catholic manhood.”

“But among radical-traditional Catholic men, such concerns take an extremist turn, rooted in fantasies of violently defending one’s family and church from marauders,” he continues.

The Church’s defense of the right to life of the unborn is also evidence of ties to right-wing extremists, according to Panneton.

 “The convergence within Christian nationalism is cemented in common causes such as hostility toward abortion-rights advocates,” he writes.

Pietrzyk, the Dominican priest interviewed by CNA said, "The author takes what are basic Catholic positions on the nature of the Church, Christian morality, and the like, and posit that they are somehow 'extremist.' This is classic misdirection."

The rosary, a “weapon” of choice for centuries 

The rosary, first promoted by the Dominican Order in the 16th century, is a form of prayer based on meditations on the life of Christ. The beads are a tool to help keep track of prayers that are recited before and after the meditations.

Since 1571, popes have urged Catholics to pray the rosary. In doing so they have often employed military terms for these prayer “weapons.”  In 1893, Pope Leo XIII saw the rosary as an antidote to the evils of inequality born of the Industrial Revolution, and during World War II Pius XI urged the faithful to pray it in hopes that “the enemies of the divine name (...) may be finally bent and led to penance and return to the straight path, trusting to the care and protection of Mary.”

More recently, Pope St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis have recommended the rosary as a powerful spiritual tool.