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As Florence subsides, Catholic Charities in NC ready to offer assistance

Raleigh, N.C., Sep 19, 2018 / 03:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- While Hurricane Florence has decreased to a tropical depression, it is still churning up tornadoes and bringing record flooding throughout the affected areas.

Many volunteers and donations will be needed to help with clean-up and rebuilding efforts, so Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Raleigh, North Carolina has already set up a website where information about disaster relief assistance, volunteer efforts, and donation links can be found.

“A disaster can be one of the most traumatic things a family can experience,” Daniel Altenau, Director of Disaster Services for Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Raleigh, North Carolina, told CNA.

“During this vulnerable time, our staff compassionately work with families to help them recover and persevere through this troubling time.”

Hurricane Florence rolled through North and South Carolina and the surrounding areas over the weekend, dumping rain that brought one of the most deadly parts of the storm - historic flooding that is expected to last for days. As many as 32 deaths have been linked to the storm thus far, but officials have said the danger is far from over.

“Flood waters continue to rise in some of the impacted areas and may not crest until Monday or Tuesday,” Altenau said.

“It won’t be until after the flood waters recede that we are fully able to understand the damage of the storm. There are projections that some rivers may rise to higher levels than were experienced in Hurricane Matthew two years ago,” he added.

Catholic Charities staff are prepared to help families by providing groceries, diapers, food gift cards and clean-up supplies, as well as assistance with finding housing, Altenau said. Because Hurricane Florence swept through smaller towns which have fewer available apartments, finding housing after the storm could prove difficult for the displaced, of whom there are thousands.

As for volunteer opportunities, a primary need at the moment is for box truck drivers who can take supplies from a warehouse in Raleigh to impacted areas in eastern North Carolina, including Fayetteville and Wilmington.

Other volunteer opportunities can also be found at the Raleigh Catholic Charities website, as well as a link to provide donations for disaster relief.

“Monetary donations are helpful because disasters are constantly changing events and cash donations can be adapted to meet the varying needs of families impacted by Hurricane Florence,” Altenau said.

“Catholic Charities is working with local partner agencies to address the immediate needs of families across central and eastern North Carolina,” he added.

“Our staff are present in the community before an event, during an event, and long after the event to assist families.”

Scicluna: On abuse crisis, Church must go from words to action

Poznan, Poland, Sep 19, 2018 / 12:00 am (CNA).- According to Archbishop Charles Scicluna, the pope’s recent decision to call to Rome the presidents of bishops’ conferences from around the world is a sign that prevention of abuse and protection of minors must be a concern for the entire Church.
 
Archbishop Charles J. Scicluna of La Valletta, Malta served from 2002-2012 as Promoter of Justice in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He helped establish the Church’s first responses to the 2002 sexual abuse crisis, and his work in the field is still a landmark.
 
Pope Francis twice sent Archbishop Scicluna to Chile to investigate allegations that Bishop Juan Barros Madrid had covered up crimes against minors.
 
Speaking from Poznan, Poland, where he took part in the annual gathering of the Council of the European Bishops’ Conferences, Scicluna stressed that the pope’s decision to call to Rome presidents of the different bishops’ conferences around the world “is a clear sign that protection of minors and prevention of abuse are a top priority for the whole Church.”

“The commitment of the Church as a safe place for minors should be for the whole Church, and should be the concern of everybody in the Church,” he added.
 
Scicluna also stressed that “protection of minors is something that has to be an ongoing process in the Church, and therefore it only begins with the good screening of future priests, as St. John Paul II asked for in 1992.”
 
The archbishop referred to Pope St. John Paul II’s 1992 post-synodal exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis.  

“It was St. John Paul II’s prophetic message,” he said,”as the document, speaking of the formation of future priests, valued the issue of human formation, of psychological screening and also of a clear evaluation of the candidate from the point of view of emotional authority and eligibility to be the shepherd of the flock.”
 
The document underscored that “in the seminary, that is, in the program of formation, celibacy should be presented clearly, without any ambiguities and in a positive fashion. The seminarian should have a sufficient degree of psychological and sexual maturity as well as an assiduous and authentic life of prayer, and he should put himself under the direction of a spiritual father.”
 
Scicluna said that, beyond the screening of future priests, there must also be “an empowerment to the community, to disclose abuse when it happens and also an empowerment of the community so that together we ascertain and we guarantee that the Church is a safe place for everybody, including minors.”
 
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s former prosecutor also noted that in May 2001 the Congregation asked bishops’ conferences around the world to prepare guidelines to counter abuse.
 
 “The circular letter,” Scicluna said, “gave important indications, as it talked about formation of future priests but also talked about the protection of the community and it also mentioned cooperation with civil authorities.”
 
The letter read that “sexual abuse of minors is not just a canonical delict but also a crime prosecuted by civil law. Although relations with civil authority will differ in various countries, nevertheless it is important to cooperate with such authorities within their responsibilities.”
 
Archbishop Scicluna commented that these things “need to be implemented and constantly put in the local Church’s agenda.”
 
He also said that most bishops’ conferences have issued guidelines following the CDF’s advice, and that all existing guidelines have been now screened by the Vatican.
 
However, Scicluna added, “documents are not enough. We need to sensitize whole communities, because this sad phenomenon cannot be solved with hierarchical decisions, but must involve everyone.”
 
Speaking about the meeting convoked by Pope Francis for February 2019, Scicluna said that the meeting comes from a decision of the Council of Cardinals, but it is also “a response to people’s expectation that we move from documents to actions.”
 
He said that “people need to understand that nice words and promises are not enough, while a diffused commitment involving the whole Church and everyone in the Church is much needed.”
 
“After years,” he concluded, Church leaders must “renew our commitment to child protection in the Church.”

 

Indian bishop accused of rape steps aside, requests leave from Vatican

Jalandhar, India, Sep 18, 2018 / 07:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A Catholic bishop in India accused of raping a nun repeatedly over the course of two years has written to the Vatican asking permission to be relieved of his duties as bishop while the case is investigated.

“Bishop Franco Mulakkal wrote a letter to Holy Father Pope Francis expressing his desire to step aside temporarily and requested to be relieved from the administration of the Diocese," the Diocese of Jullundur, which Mulakkal leads, said in a statement released over the weekend and reported by Reuters.

The request came days before Sept. 19, when Mulakkal is set to be questioned by police in the southern state of Kerala, and after protests calling for his arrest have escalated.

Seven nuns gathered in a public square in Kochi earlier this month to protest how both police and the Church have responded to one nun's accusation that Bishop Mulakkal raped her in 2014 and sexually abused her multiple times over two years.

A lay group in the Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly, called the Movement for Transparency, has filed a police complaint charging that Cardinal George Alencherry, who heads the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, received the nun’s complaint six months ago but failed to report it to the police.

“The Church has not given us justice. Neither have the police or government. So, we will fight. We feel that it was the Church which forced us onto the streets,” Sister Anupama of the Missionaries of Jesus, one of the Kochi protesters, told the Times of India Sept. 8.

A Kerala nun has said that Mulakkal raped her during his May 2014 visit to her convent in Kuravilangad, in Kerala state. In a 72-page complaint to police, filed June 29, she alleged that the bishop sexually abused her more than a dozen times over two years.

Mulakkal has denied the accusations, claiming that they were made in retaliation against him because he has acted against the nun’s sexual misconduct, according to UCA News. He said the nun was alleged to be having an affair with her cousin's husband.

Three more women have accused the bishop in recent days of sexual misconduct against them, but the congregation's superior general maintains that the bishop is innocent.

According to Reuters, the nun who first filed a complaint against Mulakkal has also filed a complaint with the Vatican against the bishop last week.

UCA News also reported that Mulakkal filed an anticipatory bail plea with the Kerala High Court Sept. 18, which was accepted.

The Vatican has not yet commented on the case, nor has it announced whether Mulakkal’s request has been accepted.

Before leaving for his meeting with police in Kerala, Mulakkal handed over the administrative duties of his local Church to Monsignor Mathew Kokkandam, The News Minute reported.

Canadian cardinal: Women should help screen, train priest applicants

Poznan, Poland, Sep 18, 2018 / 06:00 pm (CNA).- Increasing the role of women in screening and training priests is among the steps that should be taken to prevent future sex abuse, said Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.

“We would need participation of more women in (training) of priests,” the Canadian cardinal told reporters at a recent meeting of the Presidents of the Bishops’ Conferences of Europe, a four-day assembly in Poznan, Poland.

He said bishops need to be chosen more carefully and that women should have more involvement in the selection of potential priests by assessing candidates’ suitability.

“We are facing a crisis in the life of the Church,” he said. “This is a very serious matter that has to be dealt with in a spiritual way, not only in a political way.”

Ouellet’s comments come amid a string of revelations regarding allegations of sexual abuse and cover-up by clergy in several regions of the world.

In late July, Pope Francis accepted the resignation of retired Washington, D.C. Archbishop Theodore McCarrick from the College of Cardinals, and suspended him from the exercise of any public ministry, amid allegations of sexual abuse and coercion.

Last month, a Pennsylvania grand jury report found more than 1,000 allegations of abuse at the hands of some 300 clergy members in six dioceses in the state. It also found a pattern of cover-up by senior Church officials.

Recent reports of clerical abuse and cover-up have also rocked Germany, the Netherlands, Chile, and Australia in recent months.

Vatican delegation will travel to China this month to finalize agreement, Chinese newspaper reports

Beijing, China, Sep 18, 2018 / 05:45 pm (CNA).- A newspaper tied to the Chinese Communist Party reported Tuesday that a delegation of Vatican officials will head to China "in late September" for a final round of talks before an agreement on the appointment of bishops is signed.
 
Citing unnamed “sources familiar with the matter,” the Global Times, an English-language newspaper that reflects the position of Chinese authorities, said that “there are no 'disputes on issues of principle' between the two sides, and since the meeting between the two sides was previously held at the Vatican, the Vatican delegation will come to China this time for a meeting in late September, and if the meeting goes well, the agreement would be signed.”

“A Vatican source also confirmed with the Global Times last week that a prominent figure from the Holy See would probably come to China in late September,” the newspaper reported.  

The Global Times also quoted Wang Meixiu, who is presented as “an expert on Catholic Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences,” saying that “China and the Vatican most likely agreed that the future bishops in China should be approved by the Chinese government and mandated by the Pope and the letter of appointment would be issued by the Pope.”

“Before signing the agreement,” according to the Communist party-run Chinese newspaper, “the Holy See would deliver an official document to acknowledge seven Chinese bishops who are regarded as 'illegitimate' by the Vatican, including some it previously had excommunicated.”

“The Chinese will receive a Vatican delegation by the 'end of September' to take one final step towards an agreement between the People's Republic of China and the Holy See, according to a source close to the Chinese Communist Party,” the newspaper added.

Wang is quoted as saying that “one should not expect to solve complicated problems the Catholic Church in China faces today with one agreement,” and that the two sides “still need further discussions on the complex situation in the different dioceses in the Episcopal selection.”

According to the Global Times, Chinese government sources have “stressed that the ongoing negotiations will stay on the religious level, and will not touch on any diplomatic issue such as the establishment of diplomatic ties between Beijing and the Vatican.”

The Vatican is one of the last 17 states in the world that recognizes the government of Taiwan, an island led by a democratically-elected government since 1949. Beijing considers Taiwan to be a renegade Chinese province.

In previous negotiations, China has insisted that the Vatican cut its ties with Taiwan and promise not to interfere with internal Chinese affairs in order to come to an agreement.

It is estimated that there are about 12 million Catholics currently living in China, half within official state churches in the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and the rest in the “underground Church.”

The Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association is under the day-to-day direct supervision of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) due to a major change in March 2018 in which the Chinese government shifted direct control of religious affairs to the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front Work Department (UFWD).

Some of the bishops appointed by the Chinese government in the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association also serve as members of the Chinese Communist Party’s National People’s Congress.

“We, as citizens of the country, should first be a citizen and then have religion and beliefs,” Bishop Peter Fang Jianping of Tangshan told Chinese media after he voted to eliminate presidential term limits for President Xi in March 2018. Fang was ordained a bishop in Beijing in 2000 without Vatican approval and then legitimized by the Holy See two years later.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has promoted a campaign of “Sinicization” of all religion in China, “a far-reaching strategy to control, govern, and manipulate all aspects of faith into a socialist mold infused with ‘Chinese characteristics,’” according to the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom 2018 report.

New regulations on religious practice in China went into effect in February 2018 that codify the increased scrutiny and pressure on religious activities in China. On September 10, the Chinese government placed further restrictions on evangelization, making it illegal for any religious prayers, catechesis or preaching to be published online. This is being enforced via the country’s extensive internet censorship.

Last month, the United Nations voiced alarm over reports that the Chinese government is detaining up to 1 million Uyghur muslims involuntarily in re-education internment camps.

The U.S. State Department has designated China as a “Country of Particular Concern” for religious freedom every year since 1999.

 

Masked men brutally attack priest in Nicaragua

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Indiana diocese releases names of credibly accused clerics

Fort Wayne, Ind., Sep 18, 2018 / 03:22 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend published Tuesday the names of the 18 priests and deacons who have served in the diocese and have been credibly accused of at least one act of sexual abuse of a minor.

“It is my hope that by releasing these names, the innocent victims of these horrific and heartbreaking crimes can finally begin the process of healing,” Bishop Kevin Rhoades said ahead of the Sept. 18 release.

“We must be vigilant in our efforts to protect our youth. With the Lord’s guidance and love, we will do so.”

The list of those credibly accused as developed with the help of the Diocesan Review Board, which is largely composed of laity.

A credible accusation, a statement from the diocese said, is one that “after a thorough investigation and review of available information, appears more likely true than not in the judgement of the Diocesan Review Board, and is accepted as credible by the Bishop.”

The diocese added that Bishop Rhoades “followed the recommendations of the Diocesan Review Board” in determining credibility, and that the credibility of accusations against religious were made “by the accused priest’s religious congregation.”

It added that it “stands firm in its commitment to investigate any allegation of sexual abuse by a member of the clergy and to listen to and support anyone who has been abused,” and provided contact information for the diocese's victim assistance coordinator and its vicar general.

The credibly accused clerics who have served in the Fort Wayne-South Bend diocese are: James Blume, Michael Buescher, Brian Carsten, William Ehrman, William Gieranowski, John Gillig, Gabriel Hernandez, Edward Krason, Paul LeBrun, CSC, Thomas Lombardi, Robert Mahoney, Eldon Miller, Edward O. Paquette, Cornelius Ryan, CSC, James Seculoff, Richard Stieglitz, Richard Thompson and James Trepanier, CSC.

Of these, seven have died. Of those who are alive, eight have been dismissed from the clerical state, two are Holy Cross Fathers whose faculties for ministry in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend have been removed, and one has been removed from public ministry.

One was ordained in the 1920s, one in the 1940s, five in the 1950s, three in the 1960s, five in the 1970s, two in the 1980s, and one in the 2000s.

UK politicians call for action against sex-selective abortion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prenatal sex detection has been illegal in India since 1994.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Priest faces trial after alleged assault of San Diego seminarian

San Diego, Calif., Sep 18, 2018 / 01:58 pm (CNA).- A California priest has been charged with sexual battery, after he is alleged to have sexually assaulted a San Diego seminarian.

The priest, Fr. Juan Garcia Castillo, is a member of the Congregation of Jesus and Mary, a religious community of priests also known as the Eudists. On May 14, Castillo was charged with one count of misdemeanor sexual battery by the San Diego County District Attorney’s office. A preliminary hearing in his case will take place Sept. 21.

Castillo is alleged to have forcibly groped and made sexual advances toward a seminarian after a parish event in early February. The assault was reported to police and diocesan authorities almost immediately, sources say.

Kevin Eckery, a spokesman for the Diocese of San Diego, confirmed that the diocese had received a report that Castillo engaged in misconduct with an adult. He also told CNA that Castillo no longer has priestly faculties in the diocese.

Eckery said he would not confirm or deny whether the adult was a seminarian.

Castillo, 35, was listed as associate pastor of St. Patrick’s Parish in Carlsbad, California until late March, six weeks after the assault was allegedly reported to the diocese.
 
Although Castillo was the subject of a criminal investigation at the time he was removed from the parish, the diocese did not disclose the circumstances of his departure to parishioners, or make any statement at the time Castillo was charged with sexual battery.

Eckery told CNA that the diocese did not disclose to Castillo’s parish the allegation of sexual assault because “it would be wrong for us to influence the case.”

“We need to see what happens to the criminal case because the issue of consent is so important and if it’s not clear, we wait for that to get made clear,” he added.

The diocese would not explain the priest’s removal from ministry to the parish where he served, Eckery told CNA, without trying first to determine if an act of sexual misconduct took place, and whether any sexual act was “non-consensual.”

“We’re in a holding pattern,” Eckery said.

In an Aug. 27 statement on the crisis of sex abuse in the Church, San Diego’s Bishop Robert McElroy wrote that “This is a moment when the bishops of our nation, in union with the Holy Father, should be focused solely on comprehensively revealing the truth about the patterns of the sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults by clergy in our Church, so that deep reform can be enacted.”

“We as bishops cannot allow the pathway of partisanship to divide us or to divert us from the searing mission that Christ calls us to at this moment. We must make public our sinful past. We must engage and help heal the survivors of abuse. We must develop new, lay-governed instruments of oversight and investigation in every element of how we confront sexual abuse by clergy at all levels in the life of the Church. And we must reject all attempts to subordinate these goals to ideological or personal projects. For if we do not, we will have betrayed the victims of abuse once again,” McElroy added.

Castillo was born in Honduras, and in 2011 was ordained a priest at St. Patrick’s Parish by Cardinal Oscar Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa.

The website of the Congregation of Jesus and Mary’s U.S. region lists Castillo, as of Sept. 17, as “Local Superior of the San Diego Community of the CJM.” He is said to be “working with Eudist seminarians on a family-formation program for the Spanish speaking community.”

Castillo has recently inquired into the possibility of ministry in at least one other U.S. diocese, multiple sources have told CNA.

The Eudists serve at parishes in the Diocese of San Diego and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, as well as in France, Canada, the Philippines, and several South and Latin American countries. As of 2016, there were 560 members of the congregation in 76 houses worldwide. The Eudist community of San Diego occupies two houses in Carlsbad and two houses in nearby Solana Beach.

California’s penal code establishes that “any person who touches an intimate part of another person while that person is unlawfully restrained by the accused or an accomplice, and if the touching is against the will of the person touched and is for the purpose of sexual arousal, sexual gratification, or sexual abuse, is guilty of sexual battery.”

According to a spokesman for the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office, a protective order forbids Castillo from contact with the victim.

A jury trial is scheduled for Oct. 22. If convicted, Castillo could face up to six months of incarceration, and be listed for life on California’s sex offender registry, the spokesman told CNA.

Eckery said that the Diocese of San Diego does not yet know whether Castillo will face any ecclesiastical disciplinary process after his criminal trial. “We’ll be waiting to see the outcome of the criminal case. At that point, we’ll be informed and we’ll know what the next steps are,” he said.

The Congregation of Jesus and Mary did not respond to requests for comment from CNA.

Historic low on US refugee cap lamented as 'deeply disturbing'

Washington D.C., Sep 18, 2018 / 01:18 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Catholic leaders have criticized an announcement that the United States will be reducing its refugee cap to historic lows, while global rates of refugees and forcibly displaced persons are at an all-time high.

“To cut off protection for many who are fleeing persecution, at a time of unprecedented global humanitarian need, contradicts who we are as a nation,” said Bishop Joe Vásquez of Austin, Texas, chair of the U.S. bishops’ migration committee.

He said the lowered refugee limit “is deeply disturbing and leaves many human lives in danger.”

On Sept. 17, the Trump administration announced its intention to cap U.S. refugee resettlement at 30,000 next year, the lowest cap since the nation’s refugee program began in 1980.

The announcement comes as the world continues to witness its highest recorded number of forcibly displaced persons – more than 65 million across the globe, according to the United Nations. The number of refugees is also at its highest recorded level at over 22 million, more than half of whom are under age 18.

The lowering of the refugee cap for the 2019 Fiscal Year comes after the Trump administration previously lowered the cap to 45,000 for 2018, although fewer than half that many refugees have been resettled as the fiscal year comes to a close. In the final year of the Obama administration, the U.S. settled nearly 85,000 refugees.

In announcing the change, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo cited the importance of screening for national security, and emphasized that refugee admissions are only one part of the United States’ global humanitarian assistance efforts, which will also include processing a back-logged system of asylum-seekers and providing foreign aid to refugees overseas.

Responding in a Sept. 18 statement, Bishop Vásquez stressed that the United States is a nation built upon a commitment to welcoming those fleeing violence and persecution, and has the resources to continue doing so.

“In the coming days, we pray that Congress will have the opportunity to engage in the formal consultation process with the Administration that is required by law,” the bishop said. “Congress should strongly urge the Administration to return to a refugee admission level that reflects the local community response and support of refugees, global refugee protection needs, and our long history of compassionately welcoming refugees.”

Jesuit Refugee Service / USA, an organization that works with and advocates for refugees, also criticized the announcement.

“With the world’s refugee population at its highest in recorded history, now is not the time to abandon the U.S. resettlement program,” said Giulia McPherson, director of advocacy and operations for Jesuit Refugee Service / USA.

The organization said in a Sept. 18 statement that “lowering the level of admissions to the U.S. will not only have a detrimental effect on thousands of individuals and families, but will also continue to weaken the leadership role that the U.S. has maintained in meeting the needs of suffering people around the world.” 

It called on Congress and the Trump administration to work toward a new goal of at least 75,000 in the coming Fiscal Year.