Browsing News Entries

US bishops welcome Biden administration's easing of Cuba sanctions

Demonstrations in Havana against the government of Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel in Havana, July 11, 2021. / Domitille P/Shutterstock

Denver Newsroom, May 19, 2022 / 13:10 pm (CNA).

The U.S. bishops’ chairman on international justice and peace on Thursday lauded the government’s decision to ease sanctions on Cuba. 

“We commend the Administration’s renewed interest in restarting U.S. engagement with Cuba. Recognizing that points of contention remain between our two countries, Cuba’s punitive isolation has not produced the economic and social change that the United States has sought to effect,” Bishop David Malloy of Rockford said May 19.

The Biden administration announced earlier this week that caps on family remittances sent to Cuba will be lifted, gifts to non-family members will be allowed, family reunification programs will be restarted, and travel to the island will be be more readily available.               

“The expansion of travel opportunities for U.S. citizens, as well as the lifting of onerous remittance limitations, will strengthen familial, economic, and social ties between our countries. Cuba’s developing civil society and private sector depend on the leadership provided by active U.S. civil society engagement in Cuba,” Malloy commented.

“The U.S. bishops, including the Cuban-American bishops, in conjunction with the Holy See and the bishops of Cuba, continue to stress the vital importance of bilateral engagement and mutually beneficial trade relations between the United States and Cuba as the key to transformative change on the island,” he said.

Official relations between the U.S. and Cuba were severed shortly after communist rule on the island was established in 1959, and the U.S. imposed an an embargo on travel and trade.

The Obama administration began making small changes to these policies in 2009, and restored diplomatic relations, but many of the changes were reversed under the administration of Donald Trump.

Protests took place across Cuba in July 2021 over concerns about inflation, shortages of food and medicine, and the Covid-19 pandemic. Some protesters were beaten, and thousands were arrested. Many demonstrators remain imprisoned.

Several U.S. lawmakers have opposed the easing of sanctions announced by the Biden administration.

“The Biden White House is rewarding the Western Hemisphere’s longest ruling communist dictatorship with high level talks, easing sanctions, increased travel, and access to U.S. financial institutions,” read a May 16 joint statement from Senator Marco Rubio and four other senators, who were joined by five House members. “Appeasing Cuba’s murderous regime … undercuts America’s support for Cuba’s democratic opposition.”

PHOTOS: Madrid launches holy year in honor of St Isidore the Farmer

Opening Mass for Archdiocese of Madrid’s Holy Year of St. Isidore on May 15, 2022. / Archdiocese of Madrid/Ignacio Arregui

Madrid, Spain, May 19, 2022 / 11:15 am (CNA).

The jubilee year will last until May 2023.

Pope Francis joined by Bono for launch of international educational movement

Pope Francis meets Bono at the launch of the Scholas Occurrentes International Educational Movement at the Pontifical Urban University in Rome, May 19, 2022. / Vatican Media.

Rome Newsroom, May 19, 2022 / 09:54 am (CNA).

The pope inaugurated the Scholas Occurrentes International Educational Movement.

‘I felt I completely lost my soul’: Ex-military nurse battling addiction finds solace at Lourdes

Richard Johnson, left, and his brother Djay attend the 8th annual Warriors to Lourdes pilgrimage on May 10-16, 2022. / Solène Tadié.

Lourdes, France, May 19, 2022 / 09:10 am (CNA).

‘My family grieved me as I was basically gone,’ Richard Johnson said during a pilgrimage to Lourdes.

George Weigel on what the Vatican can learn from JPII’s diplomacy with Russia

St. John Paul II (1920-2005). / Itto Ogami via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 3.0).

Rome, Italy, May 19, 2022 / 06:23 am (CNA).

The papal biographer said the Vatican ought to realize that ‘appeasement of communist regimes never works.’

Downton Abbey: A New Era

NEW YORK (CNS) — It’s been three long years since Maggie Smith’s tart-tongued matriarch, Violet...

Military members visiting Lourdes make prayer kits for Ukrainian soldiers

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (CNS) — Participants in an annual pilgrimage to Lourdes, France, for U.S....

For sexual abuse victims in Santa Fe archdiocese, $122 million settlement a 'next step'

The Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi in Santa Fe, N.M. / Nagel Photography/Shutterstock

Denver Newsroom, May 18, 2022 / 16:42 pm (CNA).

The Archdiocese of Santa Fe has agreed on a $121.5 million bankruptcy settlement to provide compensation for hundreds of sexual abuse victims, the archdiocese announced Tuesday.

“The Church takes very seriously its responsibility to see the survivors of sexual abuse are justly compensated for the suffering they have endured,” Archbishop John Wester of Santa Fe said May 17. “It is our hope that this settlement is the next step in the healing process of those who have been harmed.”

The alleged sexual abuse victims involved in the settlement number more than 370, and some incidents of abuse date back more than 60 years, KOB 4 News reports. When the archdiocese first filed for bankruptcy in November 2018, it faced only 35 to 40 active claims.

“We in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe never cease to keep those who have been harmed by sexual abuse our first priority. We must keep our children safe; it is a responsibility we all share,” Wester said.

“It is our sincere hope that all parties will see the wisdom of the settlement and help bring the bankruptcy case to a conclusion for the good of the survivors of sexual abuse, the good of the Church, and Catholics throughout the archdiocese,” he said.

There were a total of six mediation efforts before the settlement was reached. The bankruptcy plan of the archdiocese’s Chapter 11 reorganization will be filed with the bankruptcy court.

Settlement funds will not pay for the archdiocese’s attorney fees and other expenses, which will be paid from separate funds.

The settlement will be funded by the archdiocese, its parishes, other Catholic entities, and the insurance carriers of the archdiocese. Parishes have collectively agreed to contribute “significant amounts” to help fund the settlement plan.

“These contributions will also help relieve them of potential individual financial burdens from any current or future lawsuits,” the archdiocese said. “Other parties have also agreed to contribute in return for the same protections.”

According to the archdiocese, the settlement includes “many critical non-monetary actions,” including the creation of an archive documenting sex abuse, prayer services, and meetings with victims of sexual abuse.

“The archdiocese hopes that these and other positive steps will help to bring healing to survivors of sexual abuse and the larger community,” its statement said.

One alleged abuse victim, identified only as Ana, told KOB 4 News she was sexually abused for all of seventh grade and part of eighth grade.

“It’s just all very traumatic,” she said of her abuse. “I don’t know that there would ever be an amount that would make that better or worth it because I can’t speak for anybody but myself. I would have done anything to not have survived that, and just have had a regular middle school experience.”

She said she has gone through years of legal mediation and has had to revisit her trauma in legal proceedings. In her view, this needed to happen so that she and other abuse survivors could move on.

“I need peace,” she told KOB 4 News. “I need closure, and I need to know that in some way, that it’s been settled.”

The archdiocese said it “remains vigilant” and has maintained a “zero tolerance” policy towards sex abuse for over 25 years. It follows the child protection procedures of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, including background checks for prospective employees and “regular and frequent” safe environment training for every employee and volunteer.

“This is to provide a safe environment for the young people in the Catholic community,” the archdiocese said.

In 2021, the archdiocese aimed to sell off over 700 properties to help pay off settlements. Most properties were small vacant lots, fields, or grazing land donated to the archdiocese by families.

In August 2020, the archdiocese listed the vacant St. Francis Cathedral School in downtown Santa Fe for $3.6 million. It sold for $4.75 million in June 2021 to former golf pro Racquel Huslig, who is now a real estate developer, The Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper reported last year.

Last year’s annual report by the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat for Child and Youth Protection, covering the time period from July 2019 through June 2020, found that there were under two dozen recent cases of abuse reported, only about 25% of which had been substantiated so far. At the same time, over 4,200 new allegations of historic abuse were reported, concerning victims who are now legal adults and incidents years or decades ago.

Statistical graphs of the dates of reported abuse incidents continued to show a bell curve that peaks in the 1970s. The report said that since 2014, total costs to U.S. dioceses related to responding to sexual abuse claims, including settlements and attorneys’ fees, were close to $312 million.

TikTok lifts ban on Ruth Sent Us. Here's what we know about this anti-Catholic group

Pamela Smith dressed as characters of "The Handmaids Tale" walks with a noose around her neck as she joins pro-choice protesters gather in large numbers in front of the federal building to defend abortion rights in San Francisco on May 3, 2022. / Nick Otto/AFP via Getty Images

Denver Newsroom, May 18, 2022 / 15:30 pm (CNA).

TikTok's "permanent" ban on the anti-Catholic, pro-abortion group Ruth Sent Us didn't last very long.

The activist group in recent weeks has made headlines for coordinating protests outside the homes of U.S. Supreme Court justices, rallying demonstrators to disrupt Catholic Masses on Mother’s Day, and threatening to burn the Eucharist.

On May 14 the group’s main account was “permanently banned" from TikTok "due to multiple violations of terms of service,” according to a message on the social media platform.

But two days later, Ruth Sent Us announced that the ban was lifted.

“GREAT NEWS: our TikTok @ruthsent which was ‘permanently banned’ due to mass reporting is back up due to mass appeals! There’s more of us than them. Take that, haters!” the group tweeted. TikTok has yet to explain the ban, or its rapid reversal.

Unlike NARAL Pro-Choice America, Women’s March, and other better-known, well-funded abortion rights groups, Ruth Sent Us has no publicly known leaders, spokespersons, or financial backers. Its low-budget website, RuthSent.Us, is little more than a bare-bones homepage with a handful of links.

Yet the group’s inflammatory rhetoric and provocative, theatrical tactics have thrust it into the forefront of the media’s coverage of the furor surrounding a possible overturning of Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that legalized abortion throughout the U.S.

And the Catholic Church is one of its prime targets.

On Feb. 27 — months before the May 2 leak of a draft opinion that suggested Supreme Court justices were poised to overturn Roe — Ruth Sent Us took responsibility for disrupting Mass at the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption in San Francisco. Demonstrators wore hooded red gowns inspired by the television series “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

Similarly dressed demonstrators disrupted Mass on Mother's Day, May 8, at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles, but Ruth Sent Us has not taken responsibility for that incident. 

The group contends that the Supreme Court is “extremist” and should be held accountable “using a diversity of tactics.” It demands that pro-abortion rights Catholics, including President Joe Biden and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, engage in further activism or legislation to preserve legal abortion. On its social media, the group frequently rails against Catholicism and “Christian Fascism.” Some of its coalition partners also embrace “anti-fascism” and protests outside of churches.

Here’s a closer look behind the group.

Who is Ruth Sent Us?

“Ruth Sent Us” has a social media presence on TikTok, Twitter, and Instagram. The group promotes protests of political figures, judges and organizations, including churches, which oppose legal abortion or the Roe v. Wade decision.

The group is part of a coalition of like-minded pro-abortion rights groups that aims to rally protests in support of Roe and other pro-abortion rights precedents which mandate legal abortion nationwide.

Its webpage RuthSent.Us lists no identifying information about its leadership. While it lists an email address, the group has no mailing address. Instead, it refers visitors to a pro-abortion rights action called “Strike for Choice,” set for May 8-15. Ruth Sent Us is one of 12 groups backing this action.

There are no indications whether Ruth Sent Us is a registered business or a registered non-profit or whether it has an official fiscal sponsor.

What else do we know?

A WhoIs webpage registration shows that the Ruth Sent Us website was set up in November 2020 and has a Palo Alto, California-based post office box. The RuthSent.Us web domain name is registered to an individual named Sam Spiegel.

Spiegel’s Twitter profile mentions direct democracy mass mobilization strategy “to jam media with vigil and protest stories.” His Twitter page links to Vigil for Democracy, a self-described “mass mobilizing” group whose Twitter account shares Ruth Sent Us tweets to its 5,000 or so followers.

People protest in reaction to the leak of the US Supreme Court draft abortion ruling on May 3, 2022 in New York. Bryan R. Smith/AFP via Getty Images
People protest in reaction to the leak of the US Supreme Court draft abortion ruling on May 3, 2022 in New York. Bryan R. Smith/AFP via Getty Images

The Vigil for Democracy is presently an LLC with a Phoenix, Arizona mailing address, but business records show it once had the same California post office box as Ruth Sent Us.

The web registration for the Ruth Sent Us protest group uses the same email as Vigil for Democracy.

The costumed protesters’ web page embedded a Google map of “extremist justices” created by the Vigil for Democracy group to list the streets on which several Supreme Court justices lived. The map was later removed by Google for possible terms of service violations.

What do we know about the Vigil for Democracy group?

Snowden Bishop, radio show host and editor-in-chief at a Scottsdale, Ariz.-based cannabis business magazine, identifies herself as the principal for the Vigil for Democracy and another group, Just Resisting, on her public LinkedIn page. In these roles, she said, “she promotes pro-democracy initiatives and continues to pursue projects aligned with her personal mission to create a better world, one word at a time.” She claims expertise in journalism, marketing, content creation, and political strategy/activism.

In a May 10 phone-call, Bishop told CNA that the Vigil for Democracy group supports “activism of all kinds” but it is not directly in charge of the Ruth Sent Us group.

Bishop did not respond to a follow-up email by deadline. CNA sought comment from Ruth Sent Us and from the email listed on the RuthSent.Us web domain registration but did not receive a response by deadline.

Why “Ruth Sent Us”? Why costumed protesters?

“Ruth Sent Us” was a slogan used in the wake of the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a strong backer of abortion rights. A periodical search indicates that the phrase was first reported in a September 2020 protest outside then-Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s home, when the Senate was proceeding with the confirmation of Justice Amy Comey Barrett.

Pro-abortion rights women’s marches used the phrase in October of that year. One year later, the Women’s March of South Florida used “Ruth Sent Us” as the theme for its October 2021 protests.

While costumed protests have taken place for years, the Ruth Sent Us group did not appear in mainstream news media reports until early May 2022. It made the news for two reasons: It posted a map of the streets where U.S. Supreme Court justices lived, and it linked its previous church disruption to other activists’ calls for pro-abortion rights protests on Mother’s Day.

The protesters’ costumes take inspiration from a television series based on Margaret Atwood’s novel “The Handmaid’s Tale.” The pro-feminist dystopian novel portrays life under a bizarre and tyrannical variant of Christianity that forces young women to bear children for older couples. In the novel, the sect also proscribes Catholicism and executes Catholic priests.

What is this Strike for Choice? Why Mother’s Day protests?

The Ruth Sent Us group backs a May 8-15 protest called Strike for Choice. Its social media call for Mother’s Day protests at churches was not originally part of this action, since the relevant TikTok video was posted on April 27.

In a May 3 tweet, the group posted the video and sought to link their efforts to a call for a Mother’s Day Strike. That separate call to action was other pro-abortion rights activists’ response to the leak of a Supreme Court draft opinion that appears set to overturn Roe v. Wade.

The Strike for Choice website calls for protests of Whole Foods and AT&T. This protest aims to pressure the Texas-based Whole Foods to speak out against the recent Texas abortion law and to pressure AT&T over its campaign contributions to legislators who passed the law.

A sign-up form for the strikes seeks participants in various ways of protest, including as both unpaid and paid protesters.

What do we know about Ruth Sent Us allies?

The Strike for Choice website lists 12 groups in its coalition. The best known of these is Code Pink, a women’s activist anti-war group that dates back to 2002. It had been founded to protest the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

The Vigil for Democracy group is the fiscal host of a fundraiser for the Strike for Choice at the Open Collective fundraising site. As of May 10, the group had raised under $1,400. Some 15 individuals had contributed at least $58 each to support a “striker.” It is unclear whether the money for Strike for Choice participants includes Ruth Sent Us demonstrators.

Refuse Fascism and its project Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights are two more backers of the Strike for Choice.

On its Twitter page, Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights said it protested outside St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral in New York City on Mother’s Day because “it’s a symbol for the enslavement of women.” It said “Christian fascist lunatics” on the Supreme Court aim to overturn Roe v. Wade, adding “only the people can stop this.”

The protest, which did not disrupt church services but did block a pro-life walk to an area abortion clinic, drew dozens of people to the historic Catholic church.

What does Ruth Sent Us think of Catholicism?

A TikTok video of the group’s Feb. 27 disruption at San Francisco’s Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption gives us an idea.

“For 2,000 years the Catholic Church has been an institution for the enslavement of women,” one costumed disruptor shouted at the front of the cathedral. This first disruption video, titled “take it to the oppressors,” drew about 234,000 views on TikTok.

On its social media Ruth Sent Us has polemicized against Catholicism and even threatened to burn the Eucharist.

It also objects to a Catholic majority on the Supreme Court.

“Seven of nine Justices on our Supreme Court are Catholic. That’s 78% of Justices, compared to 23% in the population. WHY?!” the group said in its Feb. 27 TikTok post.

Neil Gorsuch reportedly was raised Catholic. Sonia Sotomayor is expected to be a safe vote to preserve Roe v. Wade.

What does Ruth Sent Us say about itself?

On Twitter May 15, the group invoked anti-segregation sit-in protests of the civil rights movement, saying “Extremist Catholic and Evangelical Churches and Judges are 'lunch counters' of today,” using a hashtag to ask “What would Martin Luther King do”?

It contends that protests backed by Planned Parenthood and NARAL are “massive rallies” that are “easy with social media” but ineffective. Ruth Sent Us contended that “direct action” and intentional crossing of “societal red lines” is a more effective path. Its comments sometimes praise peaceful action but also declare the need to make its foes uncomfortable.

“To fight the theocracy, we believe we must take it to extremist judges and churches,” the group said.

Pro-life groups see double standard

Some pro-life advocates see a double standard in how a group like Ruth Sent Us is treated by TikTok and other social media platforms.

“The social media platform pro-abortion bias cannot be denied,” Caroline Wharton, a staff writer with the pro-life group Students for Life of America, told CNA. “It's very conspicuous that pro-abortion groups are allowed to exercise their freedom of speech, even up to and including violating the law, while pro-life groups like Students for Life of America get arrested for merely chalking public sidewalk.”

In August 2020, police arrested both an employee and a student member of Students for Life for writing the pro-life message “Pre-born Black Lives Matter” on the sidewalk outside a Washington, D.C., Planned Parenthood clinic. 

Link: https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/45384/pro-life-protestors-arrested-for-sidewalk-chalk

“There are double standards on these apps, and every effort is taken to drown out the voices for the vulnerable preborn,” Wharton said.

In late January 2020, the pro-life group LiveAction was banned from TikTok for allegedly violating “multiple community guidelines” and then reinstated quickly. TikTok said the ban was a result of human error by a moderator.

LiveAction was permanently banned from Pinterst in 2019 for alleged misinformation regarding vaccines and “medically inaccurate information and conspiracies that turn individuals and facilities into targets for harassment and violence.”

The group rejected the allegations.

Before LiveAction was banned, former Pinterest employee Eric Cochran, a reputed whistleblower, said that the social media company had classified as a conspiracy theory the reports from investigative journalist and activist David Daleiden, who has explored connections between abortion providers and possible illegal sales of fetal tissue from abortions.

Link: https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/41547/pinterest-suspends-pro-life-groups-account-citing-health-misinformation

TikTok’s terms of service bar any material which is “defamatory,” “hateful” or “inflammatory.” Its terms bar material that is discriminatory on the basis of religion, among other characteristics. The terms of service bar “any material that would constitute, encourage or provide instructions for a criminal offense,” as well as “any material that is deliberately designed to provoke or antagonise people, especially trolling and bullying, or is intended to harass, harm, hurt, scare, distress, embarrass or upset people.”

CNA contacted TikTok for comment but did not receive a response by deadline.

CNA staff writer Katie Yoder contributed to this story.

John Paul II’s mom chose life after her doctor advised an abortion

Karol Wojtyla with his parents. Photo courtesy of the Dicoese of Krakow. / null

Rome Newsroom, May 18, 2022 / 12:01 pm (CNA).

Over one hundred years ago on May 18, Emilia Wojtyla gave birth to her second son, Karol, after a difficult and life-threatening pregnancy. The child would grow up to be St. John Paul II.