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Embryo gene-editing poses inescapable ethical problems, critic says

London, England, Jul 18, 2018 / 07:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Genetic editing of human embryos, even in special circumstances, ignores the complex ethical problems related to creating and destroying human embryos, a Catholic bioethicist has said.

“On first glance, genetic editing of human embryos to treat diseases seems like a laudable project. But the reality is far more complex,” Father Tadeusz Pacholczyk, director of education of the National Catholic Bioethics Center, told CNA.
 
The most likely approach for genetic modification of an embryo or embryos would require their creation through in vitro fertilization, said Fr. Pacholzyck, who holds a doctorate in neuroscience. This step “violates their human dignity and ‘objectifies’ them.”
 
“Humans are entitled to be brought into the world not in the cold, impersonal world of laboratory glassware, but exclusively in the loving bodily embrace of their parents,” he added.
 
Pacholzyck’s remarks were a response to a London-based think tank that called recently for further research into embryonic gene editing.

The Nuffield Council on Bioethics on July 17 took the position that changing a human embryo’s DNA could be morally permissible if it was in the child’s interests and did not worsen social inequality, disadvantage, discrimination or division.
 
“It is our view that genome editing is not morally unacceptable in itself,” Karen Yeung, chair of the Nuffield working group, told The Guardian. “There is no reason to rule it out in principle,” said Yeung, a professor of law, ethics and informatics at the University of Birmingham.
 
The council’s report did not advocate changing U.K. law to allow genetic modification. Rather, it advocated research into the safety and effectiveness of gene editing, along with inquiry into its impact on society, and widespread debate about its implications.
 
The council is an independent body founded in 1991. It is involved in policy and media debates on bioethical issues.
 
Pacholzyck told CNA that proposed genetic treatments would not treat the embryo “as a unique patient, within his or her mother’s womb.” Rather, it would involve “treating the embryo as laboratory fodder.”
 
Many embryos would have to be simultaneously created or thawed out, then “treated as ‘products’ and subjected to genetic ‘treatments’ to see if just a few of them might end up surviving and developing without the disease,” he said.
 
“The use of genetic modification technologies on embryos imposes significant risk for the embryo, simply in terms of the mechanical procedures themselves, the numerous manipulative steps involved, and the risks of potential ‘off target’ genetic changes that might reasonably be expected to occur,” said Pacholzyck.
 
“Permission for research on genetic modification of embryos will “open up the floodgates for further subjugation of vulnerable, embryonic humans, individuals at the earliest stages of their existence who will be created in unsuitable settings, manipulated, manhandled, and will often end up perishing as part of the experiment,” he said.
 
Some experiments indicate that DNA editing of embryos could prevent children from inheriting diseases from faulty genes.
 
However, a newly published study in Nature Biotechnology suggests that Crispr-Cas9, the most popular current tool for genome editing, causes more damage to DNA than scientists previously realized. The editing process could disrupt healthy genes.
 
Regardless of effectiveness, any successful changes to an embryo’s DNA would affect all of its cells, including so-called germline cells, like sperm or eggs. These changes would be inherited by any offspring of the fully-grown human being.
 
Professor Dave Archard, Chair of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, reflected on his report’s recommendations.
 
“Huge advances are happening in genomics research, and whilst we have to acknowledge that genes alone do not shape a person, the possibility of using genome editing in reproduction to secure or avoid a characteristic in a child offers a radically new approach that is likely to appeal to some prospective parents,” adding that in his view close attention must be given to the welfare of those involved, especially any children born after the genetic editing process.
 
Last year, researchers in Oregon announced they had successfully altered genes in a human embryo for the first time in the United States.
 
The ethics of gene editing have been considered for several years. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith addressed the issue in Dignitas personae, its 2008 instruction on certain bioethical questions.
 
“The human being is to be respected and treated as a person from the moment of conception; and therefore from that same moment his rights as a person must be recognized, among which in the first place is the inviolable right of every innocent human being to life,” the instruction says.
 
The instruction says gene therapy for non-inherited cells are in principle morally licit, provided medical treatment ethics are followed. It warned that germ line cell modification that are “considerable and as yet not fully controllable,” and it is not permissible to act in a way that may cause potential harm to resulting children.
 
It warned against a “eugenic mentality” that aims to improve the gene pool, adding that there could be social stigmas and privileges applied to people with certain genetic qualities, when “such qualities do not constitute what is specifically human.”

 

From bartender to priest: 'God is very insistent!'

Santander, Spain, Jul 18, 2018 / 05:17 pm (ACI Prensa).- How do you go from being a bartender who has not attended Mass for 15 years to becoming a priest?

For Fr. Juan de Cáceres, the answer is that God was persistent in pursing his heart and revealing his call.

Today, Fr. Juan is a priest of the Diocese of Santander in Spain. But he had been away from the sacraments for 15 years when he had a conversion that allowed him to hear God’s call in his life.

After finishing his undergraduate studies, Juan enrolled in law school. However, he was not a good student, and in 2006, at the age of 28, he decided to quit law school to open a trendy bar in Santander.

However, with the onset of the economic crisis in Spain, what had initially promised to be a successful business became the focus of his financial problems, compounded by the crisis of turning 30 and feeling a lack of direction in his life.

“I was really lost, drowning in debt and with the [economic] crisis, there were almost no customers. In addition, my friends quit going out like they used to. They began to get married and stopped dating. I found myself all alone,” he said in an interview with the El Diario Montañés news.

While Juan had stopped going to Mass 15 years ago, a friend invited him to some talks on prayer, which became the turning point that changed his life.

At first, he went to the talks to spend time with his friend. But something within him changed little-by-little: he began to go to Mass again, returned to confession, and re-enrolled in school.

His life started to come together again, until two years after that new beginning, he “felt the call” to the priesthood.

But his first reaction was “to say no.”

“I came up with all kinds of objections: my work, my debts, my life. I thought what I needed to do was to settle down, meet a woman who would make me very happy and have a family. But God is very insistent! And from then on, he would not let that thought out of my heart or mind,” he told El Diario Montañés.

When he decided to discern a vocation, he asked then-Bishop Vicente Jiménez of Santander if he could enter seminary in another city, because “had to keep his distance” from his past life. He entered a seminary in Pamplona, about 120 miles away.

“I was working at the bar up to the day before going to Pamplona, where I spent three fantastic years,” he recalled. During that time, Fr. Juan also worked with the Chinese Catholic community.

He was ordained a priest last January and was assigned to serve four parishes in Santander. He also teaches religion classes three days a week to teenagers.

The experience of being a bartender ended up having value for the priest, who noted that during those years, “I was sort of a confessor to everyone.”

He also helps foster vocations in the diocese because as he explains, “a lot of people have felt the same way I did, but they haven't figured out how to follow up…I'm here to listen and guide.”

 

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

Planned Parenthood sues Idaho over new abortion law

Boise, Idaho, Jul 18, 2018 / 04:15 pm (CNA).- Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit Tuesday opposing a new Idaho law that requires abortion providers to report abortion-related medical complications to state authorities.

The Abortion Complications Reporting Act went into effect July 1. It mandates that abortion providers to report complications that occur during or after an abortion procedure. Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands filed a lawsuit arguing that the law is unconstitutional and requires “invasive reporting that has nothing to do with protecting patient health care."

The act specifies 37 potential abortion complications that clinics must report to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. These include cervical perforation, hemorrhages, and endometritis, as well as any psychological or emotion conditions the patient discloses after the procedure, such as depression, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts.

Patient identity remains confidential in the reporting process, but the physician must be identified. Other information, such as the gestational age of the unborn baby, and the mother’s age, race, and number of previous abortions must also be included, according to the law. 

Planned Parenthood, who filed the suit in Idaho’s U.S. District Court on July 17, stated that the law “violates constitutional guarantees of due process and equal protection by arbitrarily singling out one particular medical procedure” and puts “patient and provider privacy at risk.”

“Previous laws targeting abortion rights have been struck down in Idaho and other states, with some courts saying there isn’t enough information about alleged complications of abortions to justify the laws,” reports the Associated Press.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion research and policy organization founded by Planned Parenthood, 27 states require abortion providers to report post-abortion complications.

The text of the legislation cites the Supreme Court decisions Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey and Akron v. Akron Ctr. for Reproductive Health, asserting the state’s “legitimate interest” in protecting women’s health from “the outset of pregnancy,” and its “legitimate concern with the health of women who undergo abortions.”

The stated aim of the law is to gather “essential” information to enable scientific studies and research on the safety of abortion.

 

Is this cross-shaped WWI memorial unconstitutional?

Washington D.C., Jul 18, 2018 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- A petition has been submitted to the United States Supreme Court as part of an appeal to prevent the destruction of the Peace Cross, a 93-year-old war memorial because it is in the shape of a cross.

The petition was filed by Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, following a ruling by the United States Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in October 2017 that declared the monument unconstitutional.

The cross, erected in 1925 by the mothers of fallen World War I servicemen, is located in Prince George’s County, Maryland, just outside of Washington, D.C. It bears a plaque listing the names of 49 residents of Prince George’s County who lost their lives serving in that war. The seal of the American Legion is prominently displayed at the center of the cross. The sides of the cross are inscribed with the words “valor,” “endurance,” “courage,” and “devotion.”

The monument was the subject of a 2014 lawsuit brought by the American Humanist League. The suit was originally rejected by the District Court, which held that it was “uncontroverted” that the maintenance and display of the memorial was not “driven by a religious purpose whatsoever.”

The American Humanist League appealed the case, and the Fourth Circuit found the memorial to violate the establishment clause of the Constitution, which guards the separation of church and state.

In a divided opinion, the circuit court judgment held that because the memorial was in the shape of a cross - “the preeminent symbol of Christianity” - it lacked any meaningful “connection” to national history and government and was inherently “sectarian.” The decision also held that even minimal expenditure by the Commission to maintain the monument “entangled” the state in religion and would lead “any reasonable observer” to conclude that the state was placing “Christianity above other faiths” or viewed “being American and Christian as one and the same.”

The petition to the Supreme Court argues that there has been no previous challenge to the shape of the memorial, which has been in continuous use by the American Legion as a site for patriotic events in honor of fallen soldiers. Moreover, the petition argues, it has never been used for a religious ceremony and the only known connection of the monument to a religious event was 87 years ago.

The monument has been under the management of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission since 1961, as part of its management of the roadway median where it is located.

Unless the Supreme Court agrees to hear the case, the cross must have its arms knocked off, be moved off public land, or destroyed completely.

Lawyers for the Park Commission argue that the cross was not erected to promote or convey a religious message, but to resemble the World War I cemeteries of Europe. They also point out that the “absolutist” approach taken by the circuit court decision would be immediately applicable to memorials across the country, including Arlington National Cemetery.

Fourth Circuit Chief Judge Roger Gregory wrote a dissenting opinion. He and other dissenting judges noted that the decision, if it stands, would invalidate virtually any public display in the shape of a cross, including military medals, regardless of how longstanding the usage or neutral their purpose.

Public monuments with religious symbols have been repeatedly challenged by secularists, and the Fourth Circuit decision represents a split with earlier court findings which have recognized the passive nature of such memorials and the lack of religious intent by the state in maintaining them. It is expected that this divergence of judicial findings could make the case ripe for Supreme Court consideration.

 

Study questions authenticity of bloodstains on Shroud of Turin

Rome, Italy, Jul 18, 2018 / 02:56 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A study on the Shroud of Turin based on bloodstain pattern analysis used to investigate crime scenes has sparked fresh debate on what is believed to be Christ's burial cloth, saying the marks left by the blood flow are not authentic.

The study, “A BPA Approach to the Shroud of Turin,” was published July 10 in the Journal of Forensic Sciences.

In comments to CNA, the leading author, Dr. Matteo Borrini, said that after doing extensive experiments, the results show that bloodstains flowing from Christ's wrists and a spot where he was stabbed in the side with a spear “are not the blood stains of a man who was crucified.”

The stains “are not realistic” in terms of the direction blood would flow from those type of wounds, he said, adding that he believes that “the stains were done artificially.”

Professor Paolo Di Lazzaro, the director of research at the International Center of Sindonology in Turin, said Borrini's methods, while sound, would require more time and “specific attention” to details in order to be “scientifically valid and authoritative.”

Archbishop Cesare Nosiglia of Turin noted that the study “does not affect the spiritual and religious meaning of the shroud as an icon of the Passion and death of the Lord,” adding that “no one can deny the evidence that contemplating the shroud is like reading the pages of the Gospel tells us about the Passion and death of the Son of God.”

Borrini, a forensic anthropologist teaching at the Faculty Science of the the School of Natural Sciences and Psychology at the John Moores University in Liverpool, is Catholic and is an expert in bloodstain pattern analysis.

Borrini collaborated in his research with Luigi Garlaschelli, a chemist and professor at the University of Pavia, who is also a member of the sceptic educational organization the Italian Committee for the Investigation of Claims of the Pseudosciences.

Based on BPA (bloodstain pattern analysis) tactics used to analyze the shape and flow of bloodstains on objects, clothing or bodies involved in a crime scene, the study is the first to apply BPA techniques to the Shroud of Turin.

Among the most well-known artifacts believed to be connected with Christ’s Passion, the Shroud of Turin has been venerated for centuries by Christians as the burial shroud of Christ, and has long been subject to intense scientific study to ascertain its authenticity, and the origins of the image.

Appearing on the 14-foot long, three-and-a-half foot wide cloth a faintly stained postmortem image of a man – front and back – who has been brutally tortured. The image becomes clear in a haunting photo negative.

It has been venerated by thousands of pilgrims and numerous popes.

Borrini and Garlaschelli first presented their study at the 2014 meeting of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences.

The study was then read by a panel of anonymous experts in the field, who commented on the research and offered suggestions. The two were then required to respond to the comments made as part of their formal article on the study, which was reviewed by the same anonymous panel before its publication last week.

As part of their research, Borrini and Garlaschelli conducted numerous experiments on both live human volunteers and mannequins using BPA methods, which use geometrical techniques to reconstruct the angle of the splatter from each drop of blood when it meets a surface.

This method “is only physical, and morphological,” Borrini said, explaining that it focuses on “the study of the pattern, the shape, of the bloodstain and the distribution of the bloodstains; the physical, geometric distribution.”

“We tried to recreate the flow of the blood and the dripping of the blood from a wound. In this case, the wound from the wrist created by the nails, or the blood from the wound on the side, the wound that was directly done by the spear that was used on the torso of Jesus Christ according to the Gospels. So we reproduced the blood flowing from these two different wounds,” he said.

To track the blood flow, they used a device created to represent arteries and veins which had been damaged by a nail during a crucifixion, and analyzed what direction the liquid, which represented blood, would go and what pattern it would make.

While some might argue that the speed of blood flow or a person's health might impact the pattern of the stain, Borrini said that in this case, only the direction matters.

“If the blood were dripping slower or faster, this would not affect the direction,” he said. “The direction of the blood flow is affected by the position of the body and of course by gravity, because of course, any liquids or solids move according to gravity, so they have to follow the law of gravity.”

This “is why we realized there was an inconsistency in some of the stains, because some of the stains apparently did not follow gravity.” For example, Borrini said some of the results showed that the man whose image is imprinted on the shroud would have had to be standing vertical, rather than horizontal, for the blood flow patterns to make sense.

“For me the shroud is not authentic,” he said, but stressed that he is a Catholic who has taught at several pontifical universities, “and I maintain that we do not need the shroud in order to be Christians, to be Catholic.”

“I did this study, I reached this conclusion, and I feel absolutely in line with the thought of the Catholic Church, and I continue to be strong in my Catholic faith.”

“If someone thinks that I did this work because I am an atheist, it is absolutely untrue,” he said, explaining that the study was balanced, because while he is Catholic, Garlaschelli, his research partner, is an atheist.

However, despite Borrini's insistence on the validity of his scientific research, the results of his study were met with criticism.

Di Lazzaro noted that studies with live human volunteers usually take place on people who are healthy and clean, he said, noting that blood might flow differently on someone who is dirty and who has been sweating, or who has been dehydrated.

“It is not possible to think of reproducing realistic conditions of the way blood drips on the body of a crucifix without considering all of these factors, which influence in a strong way how blood drips,” he said.

Archbishop Nosiglia said numerous studies have been done which either prove or disprove the authenticity of the shroud. However, regardless of the outcome, the archbishop said the guiding principle of any research ought to be “neutrality.”

“If one begins with a preconception and directs the research toward proving it, then it will easily be confirmed”, he said, adding that operating on the basis of a preconception “nullifies the neutrality proper to science with respect to personal convictions.”

“The shroud, which is an object of faith, helps faith itself because it opens the hearts of those who approach and contemplate it to be aware of what was the Passion of Jesus on the cross and therefore of the greatest love that he showed us by suffering terrible physical and moral violence for the salvation of the whole world.”

This, he said, is the reason that millions of people, both now and in the past, have come to the shroud from all over the world to venerate it and to pray, in order to “draw hope for their everyday life.

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.”

Missionaries of Charity express sorrow over scandal, openness to just inquiry

Kolkata, India, Jul 18, 2018 / 11:44 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The superior general of the Missionaries of Charity said Tuesday the congregation is “deeply saddened and grieved” by the alleged sale of several children by an employee of one of its homes for unwed mothers.

“Even while we place our full trust in the judicial process that is underway, we wish to express regret and sorrow for what happened and desire to express in unequivocal terms our condemnation of individual actions which have nothing to do with the Congregation of the Missionaries of Charity,” Sister Mary Prema Pierick said in a July 17 statement.

“We are fully cooperating with the investigations and are open to any free, fair and just inquiry.”

Earlier this month two women affiliated with the Missionaries of Charity, one a religious sister and one an employee, were arrested over the alleged sale of a baby boy.

Anima Indwar, who had worked at the Nirmal Hriday home in Ranchi since 2012, and Sister Concelia (Konsalia), were arrested July 3 and 4. Sister Concelia had been sister-in-charge of the unwed mothers section at the home since June 2017.

Indwar was trusted with escorting the unwed mothers, their babies, and their guardians to hospital and to the Child Welfare Committee office when the religious sisters were engaged with other duties.

Several child protection officers seized admission and attendance registers from Nirmal Hriday June 29, “without providing the receipt for such seizure to the Home,” according to Sister M. Prema.

The officers were interested particularly in the case of Karishma Toppo and her baby, who was born at the shelter May 1. Toppo agreed to hand over her child to the Child Welfare Committee, and Indwar escorted her to surrender her child to the welfare committee.

“Neither Nirmal Hriday nor the Sisters had any way to ascertain whether the child was actually surrendered to CWC. This is so because CWC as a matter of practice did not give any acknowledgment to the Home after obtaining custody of a child from an unwed mother,” Sister M. Prema stated.

Indwar admitted July 3 that Toppo's child had not been given to the CWC, and she was arrested.

The following day Sister Concelia and Sr. Marie Deanne, superior of Nirmal Hriday, were questioned by police, and Sr. Concelia was arrested. The home's 11 unwed mothers, another mother with her child, and a guardian were all taken from Nirmal Hriday by the CWC.

On July 6, another Missionaries of Charity home in Ranchi, Shishu Bhawan, was raided by the police. Records there were seized without receipt, and 22 children living at the home were taken.

“It is distressing that CWC has meted out such treatment to a Home which its officials themselves had described as having an 'excellent environment for the care of children' only about two weeks before,” Sr. M. Prema said in regard to Shishu Bhawan.

Police say that a couple complained to the CWC in Ranchi that a baby boy they received after payment had been taken back. They say the couple reportedly paid Indwar 120,000 Indian rupees ($1,760). They complained that Indwar took their money in exchange for a child, and that she later took the child back from them for some “formalities”, without returning the money.

Indwar has admitted that she sold children.

Sister Concelia described her experience in a video.

“I came to know that a baby, delivered in May, was missing when the Child Welfare Committee came to check,” she said in a video. “We found out that the baby had been sold off by a staffer.”

Sister Concelia has recounted her conversation with Indwar. “When I initially asked the staffer about the baby, she did not want to tell me anything. It was only when I kept pressing for details that they told me the baby had been sold,” she said.

A small portion of the money had been given to the guard, while nine times that amount was given to “a sister.”

Sister Concelia said that Indwar told her she did not take any money.

The nun said she informed authorities about the matter and said the baby should be brought back.

A police source said that Indwar provided to police a handwritten note from Sister Concelia asking Indwar to take the blame on herself, Matters India reports.

Sister Concelia's defenders, including the bishops of India, are asking whether she was an accomplice, or the victim of a coerced confession.

“Nobody was allowed to meet Sister Konsalia in custody,” Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, Auxiliary Bishop of Ranchi, said. “Her advocate could meet her on Wednesday, eight days after her arrest, only after we approached the court,” he said July 12, according to the Hindustan Times. “During the 10 minutes interaction that the advocate could have with her, she said she was forced by the police to give her statement.”

Bishop Mascarenhas had objected that the nun was being treated as a criminal. He said she is diabetic with varicose veins, and wasn’t aware of her statement.

He also condemned the sale. “It shouldn’t have happened. But, accusing the entire congregation of Mother Teresa is wrong.”

India's Ministry of Women and Child Development has instructed states to inspect all childcare homes run by the Missionaries of Charity.

A spokesperson for the Missionaries of Charity has said the order stopped dealing with child adoption in India in 2015, and did not take money for adoptions when it did assist in them. The order is conducting their own investigation about the case.  

Members of opposition parties have accused India's ruling party, the Hindu-nationalist group the Bharatiya Janata Party, of harassing and persecuting the missionaries on the basis of unbelievable allegations.

The Jharkhand police have also called for a Central Bureau of Investigation probe into foreign funds received by Missionaries of Charity institutions. R.K. Mallick, the senior police officer, told NDTV that the recommendation was motivated by irregularities investigators detected.

The Albanian-born Mother Teresa founded the Missionaries of Charity in Kolkata in 1950. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, and canonized in 2016. There are now 5,167 Missionaries of Charity sisters, both active and contemplative, around the world. The order has 244 houses in India.

In addition to the vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience, members of the Missionaries of Charity take a fourth vow pledging “wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor.”

Sr. M. Prema said the order “vows to continue their whole-hearted and free service to the poorest of the poor, by serving the needy and vulnerable even in the middle of the unprecedented and unfounded criticism that it faces today. We have full faith in the courts of law and the investigating authorities and are confident that justice shall prevail.”

“We pray for all those who have been hurt by the recent developments and we ask God to bless all those who are standing by us in these painful and difficult moments, and we lift up to God in prayer all people of goodwill,” she added.

“May our Mother, St. Teresa of Calcutta intercede for us before our Almighty Father.”

Will this young Italian mother be made a saint? Canonization cause gets underway

Rome, Italy, Jul 18, 2018 / 11:09 am (CNA).- A formal call for testimony has been issued, the first step of an investigation into the possible sainthood of Chiara Corbella Petrillo, a young Italian mother who died in 2012.

The call was issued by Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, Vicar General of Rome, earlier this month.

The formal edict, signed July 2, calls Corbella a “Servant of God,” a title used for those under formal consideration for beatification and canonization. It recognizes her “increasing reputation for holiness” and invites “all the faithful, together and individually” to submit any information which could argue “for or against” her cause.
 
The call for testimony comes just over a year after her cause for canonization was announced on June 17 last year, the fifth anniversary of her death on June 13, 2012.
 
Cardinal De Donatis, who handles the day-to-day governance of the Diocese of Rome on behalf of the pope, asked anyone with information which could help church authorities consider her case to send it to the diocesan tribunal of Rome. When diocesan authorities believe they have sufficient testimony, the file will be sent to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Cause of Saints.
 
The edict contains a special request for anything written by the prospective saint to be sent to the Diocese of Rome for inclusion in the case.
 
Chiara Corbella met her husband Enrico Petrillo at Medjugorje in 2002, when she was 18. They married in Italy on September 21, 2008. During the early years of their marriage, the young couple faced many hardships, including the death of two children, who both died only 30 minutes after birth.
 
Corbella became pregnant a third time with their son, Francesco in 2010. However, the news of her pregnancy also came with a fatal diagnosis of cancer for Chiara. Her cancer was an unusual lesion of the tongue, which was later discovered to be a carcinoma.
 
Corbella rejected any treatment that could have saved her life during pregnancy because it would have risked the life of her unborn son. Her treatment only began after her son was born, in May 2011, after the cancer had progressed. It eventually became difficult for Chiara to speak and see clearly, eventually making her final days particularly excruciating.
 
A year after Francesco was born, Corbella died.
 
A biography of her, entitled “Chiara Corbella Petrillo: A Witness to Joy,”  has been published by Sophia Institute Press.
 
“In the story of the Petrillo couple, many people recognize a providential consolation from heaven,” said Simone Troisi and Christiana Paccini, close friends of the Petrillos who wrote the biography.

“Her suffering became a holy place because it was the place where she encountered God,” Troisi and Paccini recalled.

Although many couples face hardships, Troisi and Paccini remembered something different about the Petrillos - they leaned on God’s grace which made their family particularly serene. They made peace with the reality that Corbella would never grow old with Enrico or watch Francesco grow up.

During her last days, her husband Enrico embraced God’s grace just as she did, saying, “If she is going to be with Someone who loves her more than I, why should I be upset?” 

Corbella died on June 13, 2012 at home in her wedding gown, surrounded by her family and friends. Corbella continued to be a witness to joy, even after her death.

Troisi and Paccini believe that Corbella’s legacy is still living on through her witness to the truth that “love exists.” Neither she nor Enrico were afraid of love, marriage, or of committing themselves to their family. However, they were quick to note that Chiara was not “an extraordinary young woman, in a way that makes her different from us.” Rather, she struggled with many human fears and anxieties, especially with thoughts of pain, vomiting, and even of purgatory.
 
“She had the same questions that we have, the same objections and struggles, the same fears,” Troisi and Paccini noted, saying what made her different was her “capacity to cast everything on the Father, to welcome the grace needed for whatever step she had to make.”
 
Corbella has been called “a saint for our times.” Her case remains open in the Diocese of Rome.