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Augustinians reach $1m settlement with sex abuse victims

Boston, Mass., Jul 18, 2018 / 01:07 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Order of Saint Augustine has reached a $1 million settlement with eight people who were sexually abused by two members of the religious order in the 1970s and '80s.

The victims' lawyer, Mitchell Garabedian, announced the payment July 17, the Boston Globe reported.

“Because we are committed to justice in upholding the dignity of every person, and in a desire to promote healing, we have concluded the claims made against our Province,” the Augustinian Province of St. Thomas of Villanova stated. “At the same time, we continue to work diligently to ensure the safety and protection of all children and adults.”

The victims were five men abused by Fr. Robert Turnbull at Austin Preparatory School in Reading, 14 miles north of Boston, and three women abused by Fr. John Gallagher at St. Mary of the Assumption parish in Lawrence, 30 miles north of Boston. The victims were between the ages of 9 and 13.

Both Fr. Turnbull and Fr. Gallagher have died.

The Augustinians reached the settlement with the victims outside of court last month, after two years of negotiations.

One of Fr. Gallagher's victims wrote in 1992 to Cardinal Bernard Law, then-Archbishop of Boston, detailing the abuse she suffered.

Law was appointed Archbishop of Boston in 1984, and resigned Dec. 13, 2002, after reports revealed that he did not disclose multiple allegations of clerical sexual abuse to the police or to the public, or intervene to remove priests accused of sexual abuse from priestly ministry.

The sexual abuse scandals in the Archdiocese of Boston led to nationwide outrage regarding practices which failed to protect children from abuse in the Catholic Church.

In June 2002, the United State Conference of Catholic Bishops passed The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, known as the “Dallas Charter,” which established procedures and policies for addressing allegations of sexual abuse in the Church, and for fostering safe environments for children and other vulnerable individuals.

Don’t let Philadelphia shut down Catholic foster agency, appeal says

Philadelphia, Pa., Jul 18, 2018 / 12:15 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The City of Philadelphia is selectively targeting religious foster agencies that cannot place children with same-sex couples, and a federal court wrongly ignored the legal protections affirmed in recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions like Masterpiece Cakeshop, lawyers for the Philadelphia-based Catholic Social Services and several foster parents have said in an appeal.

“The city’s policy prohibits Catholic Social Services from placing at-risk children in available homes solely because the city disagrees with the foster agency’s religious beliefs about marriage,” the legal group Becket said July 17.

The legal group saw a contradiction between the city’s policy and its call in March for 300 more homes willing to foster children, 6,000 of whom are in the city’s foster system.

“This discriminatory policy has caused devastating problems for at-risk children,” Becket said. “Although Catholic Social Services has dozens of open homes available right now, city officials won’t allow any children to be placed in them because they think the agency’s religious beliefs, which drive its mission to help children, are outdated and need to change.”

City officials have said that the Catholic agency’s refusal to place children with same-sex couples violates the Fair Practices Ordinance that prohibits city contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation.

U.S. District Judge Petrese B. Tucker on July 13 denied a request for a temporary restraining order that would allow the agency’s foster care work to continue, saying that “the pool of foster parents and resource caregivers is as diverse and broad as the children in need of foster parents.”

In response to the appeal, Deana Gamble, a city spokesperson, said “We are committed to ensuring that government services are provided in an accessible way to all Philadelphians and we must ensure that the foster care services CSS provides are done so in a non-discriminatory way according the Fair Practices Ordinance and our contracts.”

Sharonell Fulton, who has fostered over 40 children in 25 years through the agency, is also a party to the lawsuit.

“Catholic Social Services has meant so much to me and to the children I’ve loved and cared for,” she said. “I don’t understand why the city is threatening to shut down the agency that has given hope and a family to so many children.”

According to Becket’s July 16 motion to appeal Judge Tucker’s ruling, the city’s action violates both Pennsylvania law and the U.S. Constitution. The motion objected that the U.S. district court did not cite recent Supreme Court religious liberty and free speech decisions like Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission and Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer.

A June hearing showed that the city policy is “directly motivated by religious hostility” and showed that “high-ranking City officials have criticized Catholic Social Services’ religious beliefs,” Becket’s motion charged.

The Catholic agency has been “the target of coordinated actions by every branch of city government,” Becket’s motion continued. It cited the city council’s passage of a resolution against “discrimination that occurs under the guise of religious freedom,” as well as other actions.

For instance, the Philadelphia Department of Human Services commissioner summoned the Catholic agency’s leadership to its headquarters, accused them of not following “the teachings of Pope Francis,” and telling them it was “not 100 years ago.”

The city told the agency that future contracts would explicitly require agencies to certify same-sex couples and that the city “has no intention of granting an exception” to the Catholic organization. The motion to appeal charged that the refusal to grant an exemption failed to pass legal scrutiny, given the existence of other relevant secular exemptions. It added that the city targeted religious agencies, not secular ones, for investigation.

The Catholic program will be forced to close if the contract isn’t restored. It has asked the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit to issue an order by Aug. 2. The new policy has already forced the agency to move two employees to other offices in the archdiocese, Lori Windham, senior counsel at Becket, told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Windham praised foster parents like Cecelia Paul, who has fostered over 100 children, and is another plaintiff in the suit.

“Foster children deserve loving homes, and foster parents like Ms. Paul have been waiting with open arms to welcome them,” said Windham. “But the trial court allowed the city to continue its harmful policy – a decision we expect to change with this appeal.”

Catholic Social Services has worked in the city for more than a century and has partnered with the City of Philadelphia for 50 years. The agency cannot provide foster services at all without a city contract. The agency aids the foster families it works with through provision of resources, training and guidance. The agency does this work because of its religious beliefs, Becket said.

In 2017 the Catholic agency placed 266 children and aided more than 2,200 children in the Philadelphia area.

Catholic Social Services has not been the subject of discrimination complaints by same-sex couples. The agency says that it assists all children in need, regardless of a child’s race, color, sex, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity.

In March, the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News reported that both the Catholic agency and Bethany Christian Services had a policy not to place children with same-sex couples. In response, Bethany Christian Services changed its policy. The city works with 29 foster care agencies in all.

At the time of the March news report, Department of Human Services spokeswoman Heather Keafer said both groups’ positions was “deeply concerning,” considering the city’s ongoing effort to recruit more self-identified LGBTQ people to become foster parents.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania has backed the city and has said the case could have consequences for similar cases in Michigan and Texas.

The conflict comes amid a strong political push to limit religious freedom protections. Millions of dollars in grants have helped fund efforts to argue against religious freedom considered discriminatory on LGBT issues and reproductive rights. CNA has recorded about $8.5 million in foundation grants earmarked for such purposes, including grants to the American Civil Liberties Union.

Catholic adoption and foster agencies in other states have been shut down or defunded because they do not place children with same-sex couples.

Oregon Catholic school leader charged with embezzling $50K

Eugene, Oregon, Jul 18, 2018 / 11:57 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A former advancement director at a Catholic school in Oregon has been charged with embezzling more than $50,000 from the school and its scholarship program.

Sean Jones, 42, was indicted on July 12 by a Lane County jury on numerous counts of theft, computer crime, and forgery.

Jones was the advancement director for O’Hara Catholic School in Eugene, Oregon, and served on the board of directors for the Open Door Foundation, which sponsors students from low income families at the school.

Eugene police said Jones embezzled $3,900 from the school itself and $50,800 from the scholarship organization. Jones has pleaded not guilty.

According to the local CBS affiliate, the authorities said, “It is believed that he used his position to forge documents and fraudulently obtain access to financial accounts in order to divert funds for his personal use during a three year period.”

The police also said the school and scholarship organization have given their full cooperation in the case.

“O'Hara Catholic School and the Open Door Foundation discovered fraudulent banking activity in May of this year. Since then, the foundation and the school have been working diligently with the Eugene Police Department on the investigation of this fraudulent activity,” said a joint statement by O’Hara Catholic School and the Open Door Foundation.

“While this has been a difficult time for the foundation and the school, we are grateful for the expertise and guidance from the Eugene Police Department and the Archdiocese of Portland.”

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Chicago workshop seeks to expand immigrant-led ministry nationwide

Chicago, Ill., Jul 18, 2018 / 03:21 am (CNA).- A five-day training session in the Archdiocese of Chicago last week gathered leaders from across the country to learn about starting an immigrant-led service ministry in their dioceses.

The goal of the gathering, according to the archdiocesan website, was to “train diocesan, pastoral and lay leaders from across the United States on how to start this immigrant-led ministry for service, justice and accompaniment in parish communities to serve the needs of immigrants.”

Delegates from 11 dioceses attended the July 11-15 Instituto Pastoral Migratoria at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.

Created in 2007 by the Chicago archdiocesan Office of Human Dignity and Solidarity, Pastoral Migratoria seeks to respond to needs created by the lack of comprehensive immigration reform.

The parish-based ministry develops lay leaders who are able to identify and serve immigrants’ social and pastoral needs at a local level. In Chicago, more than 200 Hispanic lay leaders at 40 parishes are involved in the ministry.

The work they do is broad – from workers’ rights issues to financial literacy education to substance abuse awareness and prevention – “anything related to the immigrant community,” said Elena Segura, senior coordinator for immigration in the archdiocese.

“These are leaders who work in cooperation with professional organizations, who come to the parishes and provide the information and critical resources for people to learn and also to become positive members of society, to be integrated in this country,” she said.

Segura stressed that the program empowers immigrants to be leaders in their own parishes, “actors of their own development,” responding to the needs around them and transforming their communities.

“Immigrants have gifts and…they are people who are responding to their baptismal call to engage in bringing the resources needed in their parish communities,” she told CNA.

Often times, the immigrant leaders who are working to serve and accompany their brothers and sisters have themselves experienced a need for accompaniment in making the transition to life in the United States.

“It’s a journey of empowerment, it’s a journey of hope, it’s journey of compassion,” Segura said.

The July 11-15 training session is part of an effort to expand Pastoral Migratoria across the country. In the last year, the Dioceses of Kansas City–Saint Joseph and Stockton launched the program, and organizers hope to begin in three additional dioceses within the coming year.

“The ministry’s goal is to create a nationwide network of Catholic parish-based immigration ministries,” the Archdiocese of Chicago said in a press release.

Participants in the training session received formation and resources rooted in Catholic social teaching to help them implement Pastoral Migratoria in their home dioceses and form collaborative relationships with community partners. They visited Chicago parishes where this ministry is in place, and took part in a prayer vigil at a detention center. All sessions were conducted in Spanish.

Among the dioceses represented at the event were Atlanta, Des Moines, Kansas City–Saint Joseph, Little Rock, Los Angeles, New York, San Bernardino, St. Louis, and Stockton.

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